Revised proposal for modular dock with GPU


#1

This is a revision of the earlier modular concept EVE Modular 'Box' Concept (includes eGPU/Mini tower PC/Docking station/ AiO and more)

This discussion follows on from the following thread To eGPU or not to eGPU?

As you may be aware I’m quite keen on a modular design for Donald Dock (DD), because I believe it is a best of all worlds solution. But modularity poses some problems especially when you consider that all of the components in eGPU enclosures are completely different sizes, lengths, thicknesses etc, this makes it really tricky to design uniformly sized modules that stack together neatly and can accommodate a full sized graphics card.

The main issue is finding a volume large enough to accommodate a full size GPU + power supply and combining that with a much smaller dock and ancillary modules.

I don’t think Eve should make a custom GPU because that would be way too much work and would only work with Donald Dock (DD)

I also agree with @eldelacajita that we should use a PCI-e bridge instead of having a separate thunderbolt controller in the egpu module (this means you have to own the dock, the egpu module cannot work standalone). This is a much cheaper solution with much better performance because the egpu isn’t being daisy chained but is directly connected to the docks PCB via a pcie extension.

Here are some options:

Option 1 :

  • vertically mounted GPU
  • power supply at the bottom (heavy power supply should be nice for balance too)
  • smallest foot print for full size GPU
  • quite tall though

Option 2 :

  • horizontally mounted GPU
  • power supply on the top left
  • large foot print for full size GPU
  • may be slightly better for cooling.

Option X : (not currently viable but maybe in the future)

  • custom GPU PCB with custom power supply and custom cooling
  • tiny foot print
    *only viable at large sale volumes

Another cool future option would be to have a full PC module to take the place of the dock (think Intel NUC). This results in a modular PC with a Modular GPU.

On balance I much prefer option one for Donald Dock.

I will do I quick diagram showing how all the connections work (especially the PCI-e connection), sorry for the crude drawings I did them on the bus to work :D. I am very confident that this solution works but I want the tech savvy amongst you be very critical of it, find any obvious mistakes I might have missed. For example I am aware of the issue of routing display cables to the back of the GPU, currently the solution is just to create a void, this may need work.

Also do you guys like/dislike the way it looks aesthetically?


To eGPU or not to eGPU?
An eve desktop pc
[Donald Dock][Step 2.2] [SUMMARY/DISCUSSION] Potential product type
#2

I’d argue that the eGPU should be able to be used standalone without a dock.


#3

Very much agree with this because of the cooling. The sizes are just so different…


#4

Yeah this is where things get murky because it would mean a thunderbolt 3 controller in both the dock and the GPU module which would dramatically increase the price of the GPU module (it currently only has a power supply, fan and PCI-e bridge).

The GPU module (without GPU) should cost around £100 and the dock around £300 conservatively speaking. If you add a thunderbolt controller to the GPU module the price jumps to £300 which isn’t competitive.

You could merge the dock and GPU modules into one module but then where does that leave everyone who just wants a TB3 dock.

Also another issue with the thunderbolt controller is performance degradation when daisy chaining, you already giving up around 10-20% performance by using an eGPU over thunderbolt 3. If you use it whilst chaining through a tb3 dock surely you’d loose another 10% maybe more.

So I think on balance having a eGPU module that only works with the dock is the best option.


#5

How do you think you will lose less performance by connecting an eGPU to a dock which connects to the V via thunderbolt rather than connecting an eGPU to the V through thunderbolt?

What about people that want an eGPU without a dock? I’m not buying a simple dock for 300$, I might think about it with an eGPU.

If anything I would connect an eGPU to the V and a dock to the eGPU but not the other way around.


#6

Because daisy chaining degrades performance as you increase the chain, so the closest device to pc will always have best performance.

Yup that would solve the problem :slight_smile:

The cheapest you can buy a proper thunderbolt 3 dock with daisy chaining is $200-250 or so. It makes more sense for the dock to be the main module and the GPU to be the add on module because I'm sure there's more people who want **just** a dock than **just** an egpu. If you put thunderbolt controllers in both modules your looking at 600 for both without the graphics card.

I’m not saying your point isn’t valid, just that it might not be a primary concern but I could be wrong.


Modular dock with Egpu version 3
#7

And that is why I don’t want my eGPU connected to the dock but directly to the V instead. How you want to do this without thunderbolt is a mystery to me.

I don’t even see a huge need for the dock to use tb3 while the eGPU needs it. I’m not denying the fact that more people want a dock than a eGPU. I honestly think these are 2 different products and should be independent of one another. I can’t see myself buying these two expensive modules. But if only one should have tb3 and the other one shouldn’t, it should be the eGPU not the dock.


[Donald Dock][Step 2.2] [SUMMARY/DISCUSSION] Potential product type
#8

Yep, I also would pledge for two different bases - one with an eGPU, one without. If you can daisy chain the bases all the better.

I don’t see the performance drop as a killer: It would be nice being able to play some games with a good framerate, but if I want performance/best graphics, you cannot circumvent a desktop (or hilarious priced gaming notebooks which are noisy and clumsy).


#9

I see it: USB docks cannot support higher resolutions (and framerates) on external displays (attached to the USB dock). For example running 2x 2k displays on 60hz. And the protocol of sending display data trough USB is totally proprietary and runs over the CPU - which results in much higher CPU use even when moving the cursor on the external display.

With a TB3 dock, all is good :slight_smile: I won’t buy any USB dock anymore.

And yes, if you have a eGPU attached before the dock, the displays are plugged to this one instead and you won’t have a problem. But everyone else without the eGPU would have the problem :wink:


#10

I see what your saying but perhaps I should word my stance differently because I don’t think we actually disagree :smiley:

Your saying it would be nice for certain people (who favour GPU) for the modules to be separate and work separately. I agree in so far a the usage scenarios goes. What we differ on is the implementation, but hopefully you’ll realise that were actually proposing the same thing.

In my design its best not to look at the egpu and dock as separate devices. The dock module + GPU module = EGPU. And will be roughly the same price as an egpu (your not buying something you don’t need, I’ve just moved what you need, a thunderbolt controller, into a separate Box).

Hopefully this will help.

This is what’s inside a razor core:

  • thunderbolt mainboard with ports and PCI-e slot (probably a $150 component)
  • large power supply
  • fan

This is what’s inside a thunderbolt dock:

  • thunderbolt mainboard with ports (probably a $150 component)
  • small power supply (usually external)

What I’m proposing is to converge the thunderbolt mainboards into one main dock module. And to move the GPU specific parts (basically the big power supply) into a separate module.

So don’t think of the GPU module as the egpu, think of the GPU module + dock as the egpu because those two modules combined have the same components as the razercore (the only difference is a $20 PCI-e extension cable). So both modules combined should cost roughly the same as competing egpu enclosures.

Don’t think of it as your being forced to by a separate thing. Its just that the thing you originally want is now in two boxes that hard link together via a PCI-e extension cable like this one

kincover

So the dock would have a PCI-e slot at the bottom and the GPU module would have a PCI-e extension cable that mates with the dock, on the other end of the extension is a full sized GPU that’s connected to a large power supply.

You can also substitute any PCI-e card for GPU, like a PCI-e ssd.

Also if you look at the first images by far the most expensive component is the thunderbolt controller so I would strongly advise against daisy chaining or creating separate docks (one with GPU one without) because it’ll start getting very expensive very quickly. I’m trying to look for a low cost solution that benefits everyone and I strongly feel this would work.


#11

Not sure if this is contributing to the conversation but I was under the impression that if the PCIe cable is too long then the tb3 speeds are actually not going to be hit.
Would adding another cable into the mix result in us needing a shorter one to be connected to our V?


#12

I’m confused by what you mean by this

As for your question about needing a shorter tb3 cable to connect to the V, the answer is no, because the distance from the thunderbolt controller to the v doesn’t change, only the distance from the Graphics card to the thunderbolt controller (via a PCI-e extension).


#13

I thought I saw somewhere that the cables can’t be longer than 3ft or the performance begins to drop. But if you’re saying that it’s fine as long as it connects to the thunderbolt controller then okay.
Does the overall distance (from V to TB3 controller and TB3 controller to GPU) to the egpu not affect the performance?


#14

I actually saw a video some time ago where this was tested using multiple pcie raisers. They got to a few meters before noticing any difference if I remember correctly so this shouldn’t matter much.


#15

For out purposes it shouldn’t be an issue if we increase the distance between tb3 controller and GPU via PCI-e extension cables.


#16

No, there is active conversion taking place. The way between V and dock and between dock and GPU are competely separate and independant. The max TB3 cable length is specified in TB3 specification and it won’t change. The max length for PCIe extension cables ought to be stated somewhere too, but changing one of them doesn’t mean the other should be changed too.


#17

Why not just make maybe 2 docks, and a eGPU? One dock can be TB3 which can work with the eGPU, and the other dock just USB-C, which would be considerably cheaper. So if some consumers want a nicer dock, with the potential of an eGPU (and whatever other TB3 specific features), they can buy that. For those that only want a simple dock for power, keyboard, mouse, usb, ethernet, and one or two monitors, they can just buy the cheaper dock.

Specifically what I have in mind are the two dell USB-C docks:


Also, what would be cool, is if they supported not only USB-PD (and had 2 or 3 ports for that), but also had a Qualcomm Quick Charge port I could use for my phone.

It may take up a little more room on the desk having a dock and an eGPU, but it’s not much. Plus, all can use the USB-C connector, so no need for special engineering/proprietary parts. I guess the biggest problem is it wouldn’t be all that different from what’s currently on the market, but it seems to be the most practical option in my mind.


#18

Sure the Base dock (red in the concept sketches) can be any kind of dock in truth. So a standard usb-c dock and a thunderbolt dock are options. It could even be a mini PC (like a Mac mini).

I’m more championing the modular design rather than what the modules are. I don’t want a desk cluttered with loads of boxes. Rather have them neatly stack together.

I use a surface pro 3 dock and have a portable hard drive, a non portable hard drive, hmdi display adapter and occasionally a wacom bamboo tablet. If you add an egpu enclosure to the mix it starts getting really messy and a very inefficient use of space. If everything (except the wacom) stacked neatly together it would lool alot better and work alot better (one cable).

Of course if the modularity thing is too hard to do then well have to settle for simple separate boxes.p


#19

Bright concept, dark price.


#20

I entirely agree on wanting to remove the number of boxes, but wouldn’t all of those boxes have to be purchased from Eve? I thought we were trying to avoid the Apple mantra of “buy all of our products, and only our products”.

Or could Eve also sell “empty” modular boxes, so I can add whatever other non-Eve components I want to?