The Accelerator - HP Jump Into External Graphics Enclosures
US PC System Manufacturers HP aren't exactly the first brand which comes to mind when someone brings up PC gaming. The recently announce Omen - a high-performance PC with both gaming-grade component credentials and the less neutral aesthetics we associate with gaming systems - is an attempt to flip the script somewhat; however perhaps their most intriguing roll of the dice is the new Omen Accelerator. Lets break this new device down.
The Omen by HP Accelerator is an external graphics card enclosure and I/O expansion device intended primarily for laptops equipped with Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. Its sizable chassis has plenty of room for a full-sized dual-slot GPU alongside an internal 500W PSU, the latter of which can drive pretty much any discrete graphics card on the market right now. Basic model are barebones into which the end-user would then need to install a card, but HP are also planning models with selected graphics and other components pre-installed. The Accelerator also includes space for additional storage in the form of a 3.5" HDD or SSD, so it appears that HP are wisely leveraging that enclosure for as much functionality as possible.
In addition to PCI-Express graphics, the Accelerator adds an RJ45 Ethernet port, four USB 3.0 ports and one USB 3.1 Type-C port. The unit is also capable of laptop charging over the USB 3.1 up to the tune of 60W, so long as the laptop is capable of such.
Intel's Thunderbolt 3 specification supports up to four PCI-Express 3.0 lanes for a total bandwidth of 40Gbit/s, a connection which the requirements of high-performance graphics is likely to saturate. High bandwidth storage and peripherals will however also share in that total, potentially starving the graphics of bandwidth. Benchmarks for this system configuration, especially when storage is added and written to during said tests, will make for a fascinating read.
HP's rivals Dell also offer their own external graphics solution in the form of the Alienware Graphics Amplifier, but compatibility for their device is limited thanks to the use of a proprietary 'direct hardware connection' to the enclosure for data transmission. Closer analogues to the Accelerator are the Razer Core and ASUS ROG XG Station 2, each of which feature both Thunderbolt 3 connectivity and charging.
The Accelerator could be either restricted to compatibility with HP systems or be supported by any laptop with Thunderbolt 3, that particular wrinkle has yet to be ironed out. It's due to be available from August starting at ~$300 for a barebones model, with optional SKUs including graphics and storage pre-installed at suitably higher price points.
Image via TweakTown.com