The bane of Integrated Graphics, as the last remaining major hitch to gaming on an otherwise fantastic computer, I made it my mission to find a solution. No longer will the crappy Intel graphics chip (X4500MHD aka GM45) hold me back from fully enjoying contemporary PC games. And just in time too – Starcraft II is just around the corner.
The solution is called a (DIY) ViDock (Video Dock). Subtract the DIY portion and you’ve got a commercial product made by villagetronic. After seeing how outrageous the price was – it was ~$400 – I dug a bit deeper. It turns out that the components that make up the ViDock are pretty simple and easily obtainable.
To guide me throughout the quest I utilized a vibrant DIY community on notebookreview forums spearheaded by a diligent fellow by the alias of nando4. His knowledge hsa allowed the DIY’r spirit to flourish in many, myself included. Plus, the current form in which the technology now exists, it doesn’t take a genius to do what we’ve done.
Interested in using a 3d graphics card such as one produced by ATI or Nvidia? Then read on for a step-by-step account how.
1. Attempt to determine if your laptop can host the DIY ViDock.
This means scouring the forums. Read It All. RTFM, if you will. If, after you’ve read the forum, and searched it, you’re still unsure about the capabilities of your laptop, post a question. Your question should contain a couple key ingredients.
1. An Everest screenshot of your PCI ports, like this
2. Screenshots of your device manager’s I/O and Memory mappings, like this
3. Additional info such as your system’s specs, the GPU you plan to use
2. Order a PE4H or PE4L from hwtools. This is the key piece of hardware that will permit the connection. My experience with the hwtools company was good – decent communication and good product. While the shipping is a bit steep it arrived very quickly considering the distance it traveled (from Taiwan). It cost $108 and about 7 business days from order to a PE4H+EC2C at my door.
3. Choose and get a video card that meets your bang-for-buck ratio. Pay close attention to the amount of power the card will need to draw (TDW). I choose a Nvidia GeForce GT240 because it does not require an additional power supply adapter. Specifically, it requires less than 75W at maximum and does not have an additional power plug on the card itself. And because it was only $50 after MIR – I wanted to keep under $200 for this project.
4. While waiting, you may want to prepare by making a USB bootdisk. Chances are good that you will need one in order to do the PCI resource reallocation. It is necessary if when you plug in the DIY ViDock rig a windows yields error 12: cannot allocate resources. Here are detailed instructions how to do this. This is by far the hardest step that requires at least knowledge of how to read hex-byte memory addresses in order to find a vacant space.
5. All the instructions, pros/cons, possible enhancemets such as x1E or x2 PCIe connect, are all laid out by on the first post of that thread and should answer all questions. If you have any, folks including myself are generally happy to assist, especially with specific inquiries.
6. ENJOY! And do share your experience with the notebookreview DIY ViDock community as well as this blog.
Nothing finer in computing prowess than a ultra-powerful ultraportable like my Thinkpad X200 being equipped with a desktop caliber GPU.