So Banggood got in touch recently and asked me whether I’d like to try out a product they sell. When I saw what it was I thought that many of you would find it interesting, as it certainly was for me. The product in question is a PCIE to laptop adapter. This is great for gaming, obviously, because it means that you can use a full sized desktop graphics card on a laptop. Tutorial editing should also be much smoother thanks to hardware acceleration. I’ll be using my now ancient Dell D420 for this experiment. It wasn’t even powerful back.
In its day with its measly 1.2ghz processor, so it remains to be seen how well it will perform at gaming, assuming that the adapter even works. Unfortunately it didn’t come with a manual, but it seems pretty straight forward to set up. So I’m going to plug the adapter’s data cable into the spare mPCIE slot on the laptop. Most laptops only have one slot, meaning that in most situations the wireless card has to be removed to use the adapter. The other end of the data cable strangely uses an HDMI connector, but I’m guessing it.
Would be a bad idea to plug it directly into a TV. Now it’s time to plug in a graphics card. It’s a bit wobbly without a case, but it seems secure enough. A powerful graphics card like this needs plenty of juice in order to run. The adapter has a 12v dc jack for less powerful cards, but for more powerful ones it has an 8pin socket so it can be hooked up to a standard ATX power supply using the included cable. This cable plugs into the 20 pin motherboard connector, and the 4pin cpu connector.
Gaming on a Laptop using an External GPU
As with most cards it needs additional power through the PSU’s PCIExpress power connector. So now it’s time to boot it up. Sure enough, in device manager the card appears to be detected, and whilst installing the nvidia drivers the screen suddenly switches to my main display on the graphics card’s output. With everything appearing to be working it’s time to try a game. I’m going try an old favourite of mine. As the laptop doesn’t have its own optical drive I used an external one. Interestingly plugging it in caused the display to go blank for a few seconds, recovering soon afterwards.
The same thing happened when I plugged in my external hard drive, but other devices that don’t need external power like USB sticks work fine. I’m assuming this has something to do with power grounding, but it’s not too much of an issue. So now the moment of truth. It’s worth noting that this game doesn’t even launch when using the laptop’s inbuilt graphics card, so anything more than that is a success. And we’re in! The game runs smoothly and looks grapically splendid, which is one of the reasons I chose to try it.
At first I was a bit concervative with the resolution, but surprisingly bumping it up from 720p to 1440 did not affect the framerate, indicating that the laptop’s 1.2Ghz processor is indeed a bottleneck here. I confirmed this later when I ran Unigine’s Heaven benchmark where the score actually improved with more graphically demanding settings. The average framerate was 34 lower than when the gtx660 was my desktop pc, which isn’t too bad considering the laptop’s measly specs. Even more modern games like Skyrim and Grid 2 were playable at 1080p. Remember this is.
All on an ultraportable business class laptop that’s nearly 9 years old. So overall I was suprised that the adapter works as well as it does. It’s certainly a neich product but it does have its uses, and for me it makes laptops a viable option to have as a desktop replacement. I’d like to revisit this in the future to see how much of a performance hit there is running a card through this adapter, but for that I’ll need a more powerful laptop. Big thanks to Banggood for sending me this adapter, as this tutorial wouldn’t have.