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Going the distance..

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While sitting in an ATI briefing this morning, I started wondering about what affects physics processing would have on the mobile market. Right now you can get notebooks that equal a desktop machine in performance, but assuming physics processing is going to take off as much as everyone thinks - for the first time in quite a few years mobile gaming will be at a severe loss. So what is the solution?

With Havok now being supported by both nVidia and ATI graphics solutions and potentially offering more processing power than current Ageia solutions, it is plausible that this may become the physics API of choice. So an SLI notebook has an obvious advantage. But there is only so much you can keep bolting on to a notebook before it becomes about as portable as a desktop.

One solution is the use of a dock. On the road, your notebook would be a light, high-powered long lasting notebook. But when you get home, the dock would have PCI-E slots with one, two, three or even four graphics cards ready to game with, or even a dedicated PPU should the market steer that way. Naturally the machine would need some sort of DVI input in order to get a signal from the graphics card, but this is a function that notebooks need to be adding in anyway.

I’m not a big fan of gaming notebooks for many reasons, but mainly because of the lack of upgrade possibilities. With a dock, there will be the same upgrade potential and performance as a desktop machine, without having to lug around a 6kg beast.

As far as I know, doing this has so far been difficult because of signal degradation over distance. That is, until Pericom came along. Pericom has created a chip called the ReDriver that can boost the signal and allow for the PCI-E slot to be moved up to 25ft away without any loss in bandwidth or performance.
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Above you can see the crazy demonstration plugged in to a motherboard and using a solid PCB. However, this could be done with a flexible ribbon which could be very useful for HTPC chassis, or even with a cable.

Now, for a notebook dock you wouldn’t need to go this sort of distance, but what about on a desktop? Instead of having to put up with the noise of an X1900 CrossFire setup, you could house the cards in an entirely separate box and move the noise away from you. Got a spare draw in your freezer?

Pericom inform me that there is already one company who will be utilising its chips in universal notebook docks. It will be interesting to see if anyone else takes advantage of this innovative technology.

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