AMD plans external graphics module for laptops

AMD and Fujitsu Siemens are developing an external graphics module that can be used with Puma notebooks.

Advanced Micro Devices and Fujitsu Siemens Computers are developing an external graphics module that will boost the graphics performance of laptops based on its Puma chip platform.

"It's just a tiny little box that has our latest graphics (chip) in it," said Rick Bergman, senior vice president and general manager of AMD's Graphics Products Group.

The external graphics module is basically a graphics card with its own power supply. Plugging it into the laptop gives the user a big boost in graphics performance while sitting at a desk, without compromising the slim design or battery life of the machine when the user is on the move.

To make this work, AMD had to develop a new connector for an eight-lane PCI-Express link, Bergman said. USB 2.0 and IEEE1394 (Firewire) do not have the bandwidth required for the external graphics module.

Bergman hopes to get the connector design approved by a semiconductor standards body. "We're trying to get it passed through JEDEC," he said.

The module takes advantage of AMD's Hybrid Crossfire X technology, which allows the ATI graphics core in the chipset to work together with a separate, or discrete, graphics chip.

The technology is designed so that when users are plugged in they can use both the chipset and graphics processor together. When the laptop is not plugged in, only the chipset is used to conserve power and extend battery life.

"When you're walking around mobile, you don't have to worry about cooling or the power for that graphics chip. Come home, and you want to game, and you just plug (the module) in," Bergman said.

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