Company Seeks to Develop Thunderbolt-Based Dock for Graphics Cards

Village Instruments Proposes Thunderbolt-Based External Graphics Cards for Macs

by Anton Shilov
08/05/2011 | 04:47 PM

Village Instruments, a designer of expansion chassis for notebooks, proposes to develop external docs for graphics cards for Apple Macintosh computers equipped with Thunderbolt port. The success of the endeavor is not cast on stone and the owner of the company now asks Facebook users whether they would actually use such a dock.


Village Instruments develops ViDock docking boxes for add-in cards for notebooks and similar devices. The company has proposed to design an external docking device for graphics boards with Thunderbolt interface [which uses PCI Express protocol] for systems featuring appropriate technology. The idea is definitely interesting, but it does not seem that there is enough market for it.

“We had a lively discussion here on Facebook if there is a large enough market for a Thunderbolt ViDock. I was convinced that there is not. But there have been so many passionate promoters that there will be a large enough Mac Community who would want to buy a Thunderbolt ViDock, that I now leave the final decision to you,” said Hubert Chen, chief executive officer of Village Instruments.

At present the head of the company is asking over at Facebook what kind of system do Mac owners have, how they would to use an external Thunderbolt dock and what kind of implementation would they like.

Village Instruments is not exactly designing a Thunderbolt-based dock for external graphics cards. The company is trying to find out whether it makes sense to develop one. What is clear, though, is that Thunderbolt is capable of handling graphics boards.

Given the fact that Apple Macintosh computers lack of Direct3D/DirectX support, which are application programming interfaces that are underneath of all modern games, Mac owners simply cannot play the latest games. As a result, they do not need truly advanced graphics cards with high performance and world-class feature-set.

Previously known as Light Peak, Thunderbolt technology supports two low-latency communications protocols - PCI Express for data transfer and DisplayPort for displays. Thunderbolt technology works on data streams in both directions, at the same time, so users get the benefit of full bandwidth in both directions, over a single cable. With the two independent channels, a full 10Gb/s of bandwidth can be provided for the first device in the chain of the devices. All Thunderbolt technology devices share a common Mini DisplayPort connector. Intel's Thunderbolt controllers interconnect a PC and other devices, transmitting and receiving packetized traffic for both PCIe and DisplayPort protocols and thus makers need to develop or use additional controllers to make their products compatible with the TB I/O interface.

Not a lot of devices these days can take advantage of Thunderbolt. Only external graphics cards, external solid-state drives as well as RAID-based storage solutions, professional equipment and some other applications need 10Gb/s demand. As a result, USB 3.0, which can theoretically provide up to 5Gb/s bandwidth, will continue to serve the majority of devices that exist today.

Apple did not comment on the news-story.