2 in 1 - Universal fast dock with eGPU for laptops and an SFF case

Pendra

Caliper Novice
Original poster
May 4, 2017
23
23
After some discussion in the other eGPU thread, Aibohphobia mentioned that this concept may warrant a separate thread.

The idea is to have a quick and easy docking solution for laptops that have no centralized docking feature with added eGPU support, extra laptop CPU cooling and hidden cabling all in one flat package. Practically, you slide the laptop in, close the sides and you are good for gaming. Same for removal, just open the sides, slide the laptop out and you are ready to move. Plus, it should work for all laptops in any size and configuration.

In order to explain the concept, I made two short videos.
This one is an short overview of the layout.

This longer video shows more about the various elements.

Updated the pictures a bit:



The suspension system to hold the various cables and plugs. The system holds the plug firmly in the the X and the Y axis. On the USB plug, you tighten the Y axis. Then you slide in the parts for the X axis. You tighten the bottom bolt but not completely. You should still be able to move the plug up and down with some force applied.

Three axis movement with pics:
Z axis:


Y axis:


X Axis:



Then place it into the docking unit, slide in the laptop and insert the plug into the corresponding socket.
Now you can add the two top bolts. Press them together firmly while you tighten the bolts. This should lock the plug in place on every axis. Do this for all other plugs, like power, LAN, USB, eGPU etc for the back and the sides. You can slide the laptop out or back in, the plug(s) will line up to the socket(s).

For this rendering, I modeled one of these:
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/EXP...47733.html?spm=2114.10010108.1000023.3.ml06pK
A normal size GPU and an SFX PSU.

The quick docking works with ECard and TBolt3. In order to make the quick dock work with M.2 and mPCIe, another piece is needed:


A DVD player shaped module that replaces the DVD in the laptop. The yellow ribbon cable should be flat enough to fit inside the laptop and connect to the M.2 or the mPCIe. This way, you can have the convenience of ECard type eGPU connection on laptops that have M.2 or mPCIe only. You just need to install this once. You can also retain the SSD over the DVD SATA.

Oh, just to stay on topic. With the docking sections disconnected it would fit an mITX with a low profile cooler and a short GPU no problem. So it would double as a SFF box as well.
The size in this case would be 50x20x7 and 7L. It fits a SFX PSU, a ITX mobo with a flat cooler, an ITX GPU, a slim DVD and two 2.5 HDDs.

 
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Runamok81

Runner of Moks
Jul 27, 2015
340
382
troywitthoeft.com
I like it. Second video demonstrating the "connections on rails" approach clears up some of the mechanical and pluggable questions I had. So, this would allow any laptop to be docked AND enhanced with an external PCIe graphics card. Laptop's eligible for eGPU enhancement must have connections that work with one of the four EXP GDC versions, yes?

Mini Pci-e Version
Express Card Version
NGFF M.2 A key Version
NGFF M.2 M key Version

How would we handle making the PCIe interface pluggable? Wouldn't users still have to manually open and attach EXP GDC PCIe interface to those INTERNAL connections above? Am I party pooping?

 
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jtd871

SFF Guru
Jun 22, 2015
1,166
847
How many laptops have ExpressCard slots anymore?!

If the whole dock doubles as a SFF case, why wouldn't you just game on the SFF box and call it a day?!

It seems to me that you end up basically spending enough money to buy EITHER
1) a modest desktop gaming system ($1500-$2000) + mainstream laptop ($500-$1000),
2) a powerful gaming desktop replacement laptop ($2000) + monitors and accessories ($500-$1000), OR
3) a dockable (but middling-performance gaming) mainstream laptop ($1000-$1500) + GPU, monitors and dock ($1500-$2000).
 
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Pendra

Caliper Novice
Original poster
May 4, 2017
23
23
With ethernet plugs locking in place, how would you go about fixing that?

Very interesting concept!

Yes, that can stick in. Easy solution, cut the locking plastic piece off from the connecting cable. The laptop and the cable will be held securely in place anyway. It won't fall out.



I like it. Second video demonstrating the "connections on rails" approach clears up some of the mechanical and pluggable questions I had. So, this would allow any laptop to be docked AND enhanced with an external PCIe graphics card. Laptop's eligible for eGPU enhancement must have connections that work with one of the four EXP GDC versions, yes?
Mini Pci-e Version
Express Card Version
NGFF M.2 A key Version
NGFF M.2 M key Version
How would we handle making the PCIe interface pluggable? Wouldn't users still have to manually open and attach EXP GDC PCIe interface to those INTERNAL connections above? Am I party pooping?

Yes, it was designed for external plugging interfaces in mind. Like the ECard and the TBolt. However, there may be a way to turn the mPCIe or the NGFF to simple external sockets. This is highly and purely theoretical as I haven't dissected quite enough laptops.
I'm thinking something like this:

A simple DVD-SSD adaptor with a HDMI type connector to its outer side and a thin, ribbon cable connector to the inside like this:

It should be thin enough to fit inside the closed laptop and only long enough to reach the internal mPCIe/NGFF connector. You install it once and it is good to go. This way, you may still retain an SSD connector through the DVD SATA.



How many laptops have ExpressCard slots anymore?!

If the whole dock doubles as a SFF case, why wouldn't you just game on the SFF box and call it a day?!

It seems to me that you end up basically spending enough money to buy EITHER
1) a modest desktop gaming system ($1500-$2000) + mainstream laptop ($500-$1000),
2) a powerful gaming desktop replacement laptop ($2000) + monitors and accessories ($500-$1000), OR
3) a dockable (but middling-performance gaming) mainstream laptop ($1000-$1500) + GPU, monitors and dock ($1500-$2000).

The notion is completely understandable. Why have a laptop docking/eGPU unit that doubles as a SFF case? Makes little sense. This is just my way of thinking, I always go for the generic solution. The eGPU box is just the right size for the ITX board, the SFX PSU and an ITX GPU. Then why take away the option to use it in such manner? It only takes like 8 extra screwholes for the MoBo and the PSU and probably 2 cover plates. For a negligable extra cost, you get a complete secondary role. If you decide that eGPU is not for you, you don't need to toss the whole thing to the bin. Remove the laptop plate and use that as a laptop cooler and the box as a small HTPC or similar. You still get some value out of it even if you don't eGPU.

Now onto the Gaming laptop vs Gaming desktop vs weaker laptop+eGPU.
An older DELL E6540 comes with a pretty good I7 and 16GB RAM at $600. A 1080+SFX PSU is $600. The eGPU is around $100. Say this thing is $200. Then, for $1500, you have a pretty powerful system which is mobile when you need and and plays AAA games at max res if you need it. You can't build a desktop with similar capabilities any cheaper.
The 2000 USD gaming laptop gets old. Especially the GPU. Your only option would be to bite the bullet and sell your existing for half price and buy a new one for 2000 again. With the eGPU, you can keep your laptop as long as the CPU is going strong, and replace only the GPUs for half price.
 
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Pendra

Caliper Novice
Original poster
May 4, 2017
23
23
Seems to me that this needs a more focused scope.
At this point this is just a wild brainstorming and conceptualization thread with no particular scope to it and with a high chance that it will never see the day of light :).
However, if idea proves to be feasible, I can produce the results without problem and do an Indiegogo campaign.
 

DocH

G4G
Apr 2, 2017
311
305
At first I thought this was an external gpu enclosure with cooler involved and thought that was really cool, because laptops get really hot while gaming and the growing external gpu market. Then thought man would you have to Shell out to Intel to used thunderbolt 3 ports. Finally I realised it's a case with a cooler. It's a unique idea but I am not so sure if there will be enough takers. I guess if your trying to maximise your desktop space.
 

Pendra

Caliper Novice
Original poster
May 4, 2017
23
23
At first I thought this was an external gpu enclosure with cooler involved and thought that was really cool, because laptops get really hot while gaming and the growing external gpu market. Then thought man would you have to Shell out to Intel to used thunderbolt 3 ports. Finally I realised it's a case with a cooler. It's a unique idea but I am not so sure if there will be enough takers. I guess if your trying to maximise your desktop space.

It is all in one small package that you may need for eGPU gaming :). A cooler for the CPU, a quick docker for people who move the laptops frequently, a case for the eGPU and a way to hide all the cables lying around for a clean desk. And now this external connect/disconnect mPCIe/M.2 to make that option as convenient as ECard and be compatible with the quick docker.
The SFF case option is just thrown in as a bonus because it is possible, too.
 
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DocH

G4G
Apr 2, 2017
311
305
It is all in one small package that you may need for eGPU gaming :). A cooler for the CPU, a quick docker for people who move the laptops frequently, a case for the eGPU and a way to hide all the cables lying around for a clean desk. And now this external connect/disconnect mPCIe/M.2 to make that option as convenient as ECard and be compatible with the quick docker.
The SFF case option is just thrown in as a bonus because it is possible, too.
Ahh gotcha. Yeah the egpu is pretty slick. You may want to think of ways for it to be easily transported which is another reason why egpu are used so much. Like you could just remove that back egpu enclosure and take it with you on trips. Leaving the rest behind making it modular.
 
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Pendra

Caliper Novice
Original poster
May 4, 2017
23
23
I made a higher quality model with more parts and better renders and updated the OP with them.
Thank you for the feedback so far, they were very useful!
 
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