Expresscard 2.0 eGPUs – pros, cons and candidate notebooks

Expresscard 2.0 (EC2 or 4Gbps-EC2) is a lower cost and lower bandwidth eGPU interface alternative to Thunderbolt found in older 2011-2013 PC notebooks. In this article you’ll find the pros, cons , adapters; and a full listing of EC2 equipped notebooks including recommended notebooks provided to help decide if this is the right eGPU interface for you. Here ◄ are eGPU.io user submitted EC2 eGPU implementations as an additional reference.

Update: two (expensive) 2015 6th generation Lenovo workstations have a rare Expresscard 3.0 (8Gbps-EC3) port here . They each also have Thunderbolt 3 ports.

 

Above: A HP 2560P 4Gbps-EC2 eGPU implementation using an ATX PSU to drive a NVidia card

 

Pros of an EC2 eGPU solution

  • ready availability of cost-effective EC2 candidate notebooks. Many are durable business grade systems being offloaded by companies, still in good condition, on the second hand market. 3rd/4th-gen quad-core systems still performance competitive against even the newest 7th gen quad-core equivalents (example).
  • is a hotpluggable interface. Important due to NVidia’s GTX10xx cards requiring this for functionality which prevents mPCIe/M2 wifi or PCIe SSD slot interfaces from being used to host a eGPU (reference).
  • is a direct PCIe interface often yielding a plug’n’play solution, or may require minor Windows error 12 tweaking. Comparatively, Thunderbolt is PCIe interposer silicon so can present more challenging eGPU detection issues.
  • availability of an affordable EC2 eGPU adapter starting at US$47

Expresscard 2.0
adapter
EXP GDC Beast 8.4d BPlus PE4C-EC060A 3.0
Appearance
Price US$
$47 $128
Max PCIe bandwidth 8Gbps – x1 3.0 (6th gen i-core CPU or newer)

4Gbps – x1 2.0 (2nd-5th gen i-core CPU)

2Gbps – x1 1.1 (1st gen i-core CPU or older)
Input PSU source ATX, Dell DA-2, or DC jack ATX, Dell DA-2, or DC jack
Cable type socketted soldered
USB port
Spare cable mPCIe EC M.2
Vendor page Cloud Hero (CN) BPlus (TW)
Implementations
link
 

 

Cons of an EC2 eGPU solution

  • it’s 4Gbps of bandwidth delivers compromised performance compared to a desktop, 32Gbps-TB3, 16Gbps-TB2 or 10Gbps-TB1 Thunderbolt system. 16Gbps (x4 2.0) deemed necessary to hit 85% desktop-level performance (reference).
  • an external monitor attached directly to the eGPU is required to maximise performance on the narrow 4Gbps eGPU bandwidth (reference).
  • candidate notebooks are older and thicker often with poorer LCD colors, viewing angles and resolutions; and slower storage than newer systems.

 

Which EC2 system to choose?

Suggest avoiding 2nd-gen i-core systems due to their lack of native USB 3.0 support and the quad-core CPU variants will TDP throttle well before reaching their 4-core turbo performance limit due to their more power hungry 32nm lithography.

That then leaves 4th and 3rd gen systems, with little separating them other than the latter maybe using mSATA SSD technology, newer dGPUs and perhaps better LCD technology. Some even have a Thunderbolt2 (TB2) or Thunderbolt1 (TB1) port.

Dell Latitude/Precision systems are the easiest to configure for eGPU use and so are the pick of the bunch.

HP Elitebooks/Probooks with dGPUs do not have the iGPU wired so cannot provide NVidia Optimus accelerated internal LCD mode. Aim for an iGPU-only Elitebook if that is a desirable feature.

 


A listing of EC2 eGPU candidate notebooks

2015 – 6th generation 14nm i-core (Skylake) (Note: 8Gbps-EC3)
2013 – 4th generation 22nm i-core (Haswell)
2012 – 3rd generation 22nm i-core (Ivy Bridge)
2011 – 2nd generation 32nm i-core (Sandy Bridge)


2015 – 6th generation 14nm i-core (Skylake)

System
Weight/dimensions/dGPU/LCD/quad-core CPU capable?
17″ Lenovo P70 7.94lbs (3.60kgs). 1.20″ thick. TB3,  i7-quad cpu, M3000M, FHD-IPS.
15″ Lenovo P50 5.71lbs (2.59kgs). 1.16″ thick. TB3,  i7-quad cpu.  M2000M, FHD-IPS.

Lime are recommended EC3 eGPU candidate systems
Note: model variation means you should confirm an EC3 slot is in the system before making your purchase.

 


2013 – 4th generation 22nm i-core (Haswell)

System
Weight/dimensions/dGPU/LCD/quad-core CPU capable?
17″ Dell M6800 7.85lbs (3.57kgs). 1.59″ thick. i7-quad, M6100/K5100M, 1080P.
17″ HP ZBook 17 G2 7.70lbs (3.50kgs). 1.33″ thick. TB2, i7-quad, K5100M/M6100, PCIe SSD slot, 1080P.
15″ HP ZBook 15 G2 6.20lbs (2.82kgs). 1.20″ thick. TB2, i7-quad, K2100M/M5100, PCIe SSD slot, 1800P.
15″ Lenovo W541 5.57lbs (2.53kgs). 1.06″ thick. TB2, i7-quad, NV Quadro, NGFF M.2 slot, 1620/1080P.
15″ Lenovo W540 5.57lbs (2.53kgs). 1.06″ thick. TB1, i7-quad, NV Quadro, NGFF M.2 slot, 1620/1080P.
15″ Dell M4800 6.34lbs (2.88kgs). 1.37″ thick. i7-quad, M5100/K2100M, 1080P/1800P.
15″ Dell E6540 , M2800 5.64lbs (2.56kgs). 1.31″ thick. i7-quad, HD8790M/W4170M, 1080P.
15″ Dell E5540 5.29lbs (2.40kgs). 1.17″ thick. 1080P.
15″ Lenovo T540p 5.45lbs (2.48kgs). 1.06″ thick. i7-quad, GT730M, NGFF M.2 slot, 1620/1080P.
15″ Lenovo L540 5.50lbs (2.50kgs). 1.22″ thick. i7-quad, NGFF M.2 slot, 1080P.
15″ Toshiba A50 5.72lbs (2.60kgs). 1.37″ thick. 37W Dual-core, GT730M, 1080P
15″ Toshiba W50 5.95lbs (2.70kgs). 1.37″ thick. i7-quad, K2100M, 1080P.
14″ Dell E6440 4.68lbs (2.12kgs). 1.25″ thick. i7-quad, HD8690M option, RAID-0 storage, 1080P/900P.
14″ Dell E5440 5.06lbs (2.30kgs). 1.10″ thick. 900P, GT720M options..
14″ Lenovo L440 4.98lbs (2.26kgs). 1.04″ thick. i7-quad, NGFF M.2 slot, 900P.
14″ Dell 5404 6.77lbs (3.07kgs). 1.75″ thick. Rugged.
13″ Toshiba R30 3.40lbs (1.55kgs). 1.00″ thick.
12″ Fujitsu T734 tablet 3.96lbs (1.80kgs). 1.48″ thick. i7-quad option.

Lime are recommended EC2 eGPU candidate systems
Note: model variation means you should confirm an EC2 slot is in the system before making your purchase.

 

2012 – 3rd generation 22nm i-core (Ivy Bridge)

System
Weight/dimensions/dGPU/LCD/quad-core CPU capable?
17″ Fujitsu NH532 6.60lbs (3.00kgs). 1.79″ thick. i7-quad, GT640M-LE, 900P/1080P.
17″ Dell M6700 7.77lbs (3.50kgs). 1.46″ thick. i7-quad, M6000 (~HD7850)/K3000M-K5000M. 1080P.
15″ MISC PREMIUM BUSINESS
Dell E6530 , M4700
HP 8570P , 6570B
Lenovo W530 , T530
i7-quad, M4000(~HD7750M), K2000M (~GT640M), 900P/1080P.
15″ Fujitsu AH532 5.25lbs (2.40kgs). 1.43″ thick. i7-quad, GT640M-LE, .
15″ Fujitsu A512 5.50lbs (2.50kgs). 1.44″ thick. i7-quad upgradable
15″ Acer P453 5.72lbs (2.60kgs). 1.00″ thick. i7-quad upgradable
15″ Dell Vostro 3560 5.75lbs (2.61kgs). 1.28″ thick. i7-quad, HD7670M. 1080P.
14″ MISC PREMIUM BUSINESS
Dell E6430
HP 8470P, 6470B
Lenovo T430
i7-quad, NVS5200M(~GT550M), 900P.
14″ Toshiba R940 4.20lbs (1.91kgs). 1.00″ thick. HD7570M/900P opt. HD7570M opt is not switchable gfx.
14″ Lenovo T430s 3.89lbs (1.77kgs). 1.02″ thick. NVS5200M. 900P. TB1 on some i7 models.
14″ Dell E6430s 4.59lbs (2.08kgs). 1.2″ thick.
13″ Dell E6330 4.29lbs (1.95kgs). 1.2″ thick.
13″ Toshiba R930 3.26lbs (1.48kgs). 1.00″ thick.
13″ Clevo W130EW 3.92lbs (1.78kgs). 1.26″ thick. i7-quad option.
13″ Acer P633-M 4.20lbs (1.90kgs). 0.98″ thick. i7-quad.
12″ Dell E6230 3.50lbs (1.59kgs). 0.97″ thick.
12″ Fujitsu P702 3.30lbs (1.50kgs). 1.26″ thick. 1280×800 LCD.
12″ Lenovo X230 3.40lbs (1.55kgs). 1.36″ thick. IPS LCD option. mSATA.
12″ HP 2570P 4.20lbs (1.90kgs). 1.29″ thick. i7-quad cpu and RAID-0 storage upgradable.

Lime are recommended EC2 eGPU candidate systems
Note: model variation means you should confirm an EC2 slot is in the system before making your purchase.

 

2011 – 2nd generation 32nm i-core (Sandy Bridge)

There is no native chipset USB 3.0 controller so machines with USB 3.0 use a Renesas/NEC USB 3.0 controller.

System
Weight/dimensions/dGPU/LCD/quad-core CPU capable?
17″ Macbook Pro 6.60lbs(2.99kgs). 0.98″ thick. TB1HD6750M, 1200Pi7-quad.
17″ Dell Vostro 3750 6.62lbs (3.00kgs). 1.46″ thick. GT525M. 900P.
17″ Dell M6600 7.77lbs (3.50kgs). 1.46″ thick. 1080P. M8900 (~HD6970M)/2000M/3000M/4000M/5010M.
17″ Fujitsu NH751 8.16lbs (3.71kgs). 1.79″ thick. 1080P. GT525M.
15″ MISC PREMIUM BUSINESS
E6520 , M4600
HP 8560P , 6560B
Lenovo W520 , T520
900P/1080P, i7-quad option.
15″ Fujitsu E751 5.50lbs (2.50kgs). 1.38″ thick. 900P option.
15″ Fujitsu AH531 5.50lbs (2.50kgs). 1.43″ thick. GT525M
15″ HP 4530s 5.55lbs (2.51kgs). 1.12″ thick. HD6490M option. 900P/1080P LCD user upgrade.
15″ Acer 8573G 5.61lbs (2.55 kg). 1.22″ thick. GT540M.
15″ Lenovo Y560p 5.94lbs (2.70kgs). 1.33″ thick. HD6570M. mSATA. i7-quad option.. Not switchable gfx
15″ Dell M4600 6.15lbs (2.79kgs). 1.44″ thick. M5950 (~HD6770M). 900P/1080P.
14″ MISC PREMIUM BUSINESS
Dell E6420
HP 8470P , 6460B
Lenovo T420
i7-quad, NVS4200M(~GT520M), 900P.
14″ Lenovo T420s 4.03lbs (1.83kgs). 1.05″ thick. NVS4200M/900P option. mSATA.
14″ Fujitsu LH701 4.18lbs (1.90kgs). 1.27″ thick. GT520M
14″ Toshiba R840 4.20lbs (1.91kgs). 1.00″ thick. HD6450M/900P opt. HD6450M opt is not switchable gfx.
14″ Lenovo Y460p 4.85lbs (2.20kgs). 1.33″ thick. HD6550M. mSATA. i7-quad option.. Not switchable gfx
14″ HP 4430s 4.88lbs (2.22kgs). 1.12″ thick. HD6490M option.
14″ Dell E5420 5.06lbs (2.30kgs). 1.28″ thick. 900P option.
14″ Lenovo L420 5.06lbs (2.30kgs). 1.26″ thick.
14″ Lenovo E420 5.25lbs (2.39kgs). 1.43″ thick. HD6630M option. mSATA.
14″ Dell Vostro 3450 5.35lbs (2.43kgs). 1.28″ thick. HD6630M option.
14″ Toshiba M645 5.40lbs (2.45kgs). 1.39″ thick.
14″ Fujitsu S751 5.40lbs (2.45kgs). 1.46″ thick. 900P option.
14″ Asus B43 5.46lbs (2.48kgs) 1.38″ thick.
13″ Fujitsu SH76 3.20lbs (1.45kgs). 0.91″ thick.
13″ Toshiba R830 3.26lbs (1.48kgs). 1.00″ thick.
13″ Fujitsu S761 3.85lbs (1.75kgs). 1.26″ thick. GT520M option.
13″ Fujitsu SH561 4.18lbs (1.90kgs). 1.40″ thick. GT520M
13″ Dell E6320 4.29lbs (1.95kgs). 1.2″ thick.
13″ HP 6360B 4.65lbs (2.11kgs). 1.33″ thick.
13″ HP 4330s 4.70lbs (2.13kgs). 1.10″ thick. HD6490M option. i7-quad capable.
13″ Fujitsu T901 tablet 4.73lbs (2.16kgs). 1.42″ thick. NVS4200M option. i7-quad capable.
12″ Fujitsu P771 3.10lbs (1.41kgs). 1.18″ thick. 1280×800 LCD.
12″ Lenovo X220 3.20lbs (1.45kgs). 1.36″ thick. IPS LCD option. mSATA.
12″ Fujitsu P701 3.30lbs (1.50kgs). 1.02″ thick. 1280×800 LCD.
12″ Asus B23E 3.40lbs (1.55kgs). 1.1″ thick. Boston Power Sonata 48Whr 3cell.
12″ Dell E6220 3.50lbs (1.59kgs). 0.97″ thick.
12″ Samsung Series-4 3.83lbs (1.74kgs). 1.3″ thick.
12″ 2760P tablet 3.97lbs (1.80kgs). 1.27″ thick. AFFS 1280×800 LCD option.
12″ HP 2560P 4.24lbs (1.92kgs). 1.29″ thick. i7-quad capable.
12″ Fujitsu T731 tablet 4.40lbs (2.00kgs). 1.54″ thick..
10″ Panasonic J10 2.35lbs (1.07kgs). 1.38″ thick.

Note: model variation means you should confirm an EC2 slot is in the system before making your purchase.

 
 

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