AMD’s XConnect turns external GPU usage into a practical reality

AMD XConnect

AMD’s latest Radeon driver update – 16.3 if you’re counting – adds XConnect support to Thunderbolt 3-compatible external graphics cards, which means you can now connect and disconnect an eGFX like Razer’s Core without the need for a system restart. 

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The XConnect driver also allows systems to switch between external and integrated graphics hardware in real time, and will show you which programs are utilising external graphics so you can close them before removal. Even so, the driver’s designed to keep systems functional even if you remove the GPU without warning.

Although right now it’s just the Razer Blade Stealth laptop and Core GPU that you can test the functionality out on, the driver support extends to both mobile and desktop machines.

For future devices to enjoy compatibility, they’ll need to be runningWindows 10 build 10586 or newer, and ACPI extensions for eGFX in their BIOS. AMD says it’ll be possible to patch in those extensions via BIOS updates. Thunderbolt firmware v .16 is also required, likewise a Thunderbolt 3 port and 40Gbps cable.

Thunderbolt operates over 4 PCI lanes, rather than the 16 you’ll obtain by hooking up a discrete GPU directly to a desktop PC’s motherboard – so there are limitations. But for gaming on a laptop, the idea of connecting and disconnecting a powerful external graphics card as and when you need it seems more practical than putting the powerful hardware inside, where it bulks up the machine and adds noise, heat and weight.

Thanks, Anandtech.