2021 13" ASUS ROG Flow X13 (GTX1650) [R5K,8C,H] + RTX 3080 @ 64Gbps-XG (XG Mobile) + Win10 20H2 [aquaeatrae] // Quest 2
Yeah, I'm surprised we haven't met more #VanLife RV enthusiasts here. eGPUs fit a perfect niche for power, flexibility and portability. Seems ideal for playful folks living with various power and space limitations. While college students are starting to discover eGPUs, there's also many retirees, boondockers, and road warriors who telecommute from recreational vehicles these days. It's great to be able to play or cut videos while on shore power (campgrounds hookups, etc) yet bounce about carefree otherwise.
In my case, I've had two minivans over the years rigged for car camping. Decades ago, I spent one a college summer homeless and living out of a SUV in the Rocky Mountains. I enjoyed it actually. I've had a healthy career in IT since those days and now rent a room in a suburban home. But for the last decade, I've worked at a mountainside land trust that operates off-grid with a small ~50 kW microhydroelectric power system. Although most of my work is done remotely, I'll sometimes work on-site living out of my van for months at a time. As I go, I slowly build out the van with creature comforts and gizmos. Despite being an hour from the nearest town, work just happens to be located along an old fiber optic backbone. So ironically my gaming latency can actually be better in this remote mountain location than the bustling metropolis I call home.
More recently, I've begun building up a deployable solar charging system for vacations while away from power sources (national parks, etc). I recently bought two Lithium Ion batteries providing 200Ah to my 1250W invertor with Victron Energy management. But with the Flow X13, I believe I'll be able to charge the Asus' 2-in-1 from this tiny 12V USB-C PD adapter for non-gaming use [to be tested]. The DC adapter would avoid wasting lots of power compared to the much larger 120V AC transformer.
The batteries also power an AC/DC fridge, DC heated sleeping pad, a tiny DC swamp cooler / cooling pad, custom security system, HAM radio, and a small AC microwave. I use a small pressurized water sprayer for showers with an InstaPrivy (a pop-up port-a-pottie) where I need privacy. When connected to shore power, I can game freely and use a 1200W Foreman Evolve grill for cooking almost anything. I'm also getting into ultralight backpacking, bikepacking, packrafting, and drones. I'm very lucky to have so many great toys and just need more time to play with them all.
I've been keenly interested in the eGPU movement for years. I have a nice desktop rig at home, but the eGPU concept is so elegant and would fit my #VanLife perfectly. I should be able to extend the lifecycle of this laptop if we manage to build future GPU options for this 8-lane cable [to be tested]. Years ago, I remember defending how then GPUs rarely utilized more than a few PCI lanes but with each new generation that appears less and less true. Thunderbolt 3 and 4 were promising and seem to just manage today's GPUs, but I don't foresee the stadnard expanding bandwidth in the future without optical cables.
For me, the thing that finally got my eGPU investment was seeing all-day ultrabook battery life combined with good CPU performance for gaming ...that and the fact I'd always wanted to try a 2-in-1 form factor. So despite being an Intel fanboy since the days of my IBM PC 8086, I went with my first AMD purchase here. Also, the RTX 30xx generation of GPUs saw the major uplift I'd been expecting. I'm super happy with it so far. Just planning how I'll arrange it in the van (with a mind toward larger eGPU enclosures potentially in the future).
@aquaeatrae, What is your life?! Never have I wanted so badly to sell the house, cars, and dogs to hit the road. Enjoy in good health!
Congrats on your new gear! After couple of years using egpu setup I've decided to sell it and buy 2021 ROG Strix Scar 15 with rtx 3080 Will see how it goes.
BTW, at the modding community we're trying various ways to improve overall performance of our laptops and since VBIOS modding is impossible these days, we are flashing em' from different manufacturers that has higher TDP. But using not ASUS VBIOS has it's cons... some things are just broken.
I wonder if you could help us and extract VBIOS from your EGPU? This could be done either via GPU Z:
or using CMD (admin) and nvflash command "nvflash -b rtx3080backup.rom":
Then just upload to Mega.nz or any other cloud storage.
In case you're opening it up, do you see any space for a larger m.2 drive inside, ignoring that there is no way to screw it in place? A m.2 2242 might fit into the space? 2280 through an extender somewhere?
Could you measure the size of eGPU ports? That might shed some light if those are really Oculink ports.
I haven't opened the case quite yet. Looking at others who have (LaptopMedia disassembly video, NotebookCheck) and how thin the case is (below), I don't see a way to squeeze anything larger than a M.2 2230 in there. For the moment, the included 1TB drive is the largest available in that rare size [although that could change]. Looking at pictures of NVMe extenders, I think you'd have to cut through the case and out the bottom. Or perhaps if you removed the HDMI port and 3.5mm jack a flat cable could extend out the side. I suppose the more elegant solution might be able to 3D print a thicker case for an extender ...after calibrating all the dimensions. That bottom cover is a few inches wider than my printer can handle.
Not OCuLink 8i ? What is OCuLink-2 ?
Physically measuring the eGPU cable, the PCIe male connector appears to be about 17.5mm wide and 3.0mm high. Regrettably, I believe that to be smaller than the SFP-8612 8i connector ...at lease given the specs I was able to find (source "OCULINK 8X RECEPTACLE Right Angle SMT shell leg DIP length 2.9mm tape and reel package"). Below, I've aligned the female port shown on in the diagram with the 300dpi scan and photograph I gathered. According to the diagram, it's about 3mm smaller width. If I try counting the tiny XG Mobile pins, I think I'm seeing 64 pins there whereas there would be 80pins on an OCuLink 8i cable (source).
Both the male and female ends came with black plastic covers which I placed on the platen of my scanner (300dpi) for the best accuracy.
A QR code on the male cover simply reads "6017B1599801A010000000ZF". I assume that's an Asus internal SKU for the plastic cover.
Mind you, I'm still not completely clear about the OCuLink connector (a use of the "MiniLink" connector apparently), its exact relationship with "SFF-8611" and "SFF-8512". Are these just "OCuLink-1" perhaps? I believe the "8i" designator is for 8-lane implementations. I was tempted to ship myself a desktop OCuLink PCIe adapter (PE0805 $80 USD) and dual NVMe expansion (PD893A $169 USD) just to experiment against, but if my measurements are correct they won't fit ...much less detect the toggle switch and be pinned out correctly.
I think it was @itsage who posted on reddit about these being "OCuLink-2" cables, but with a proprietary pinout. Did that Asus Director offer any more specifications? The only mention of "OCuLink-2" I've found were here and here (cable pictured with 80pins I think). @joevt once compared the bandwidth of OCuLink vs OCuLink-2 here in the forums. Perhaps they know more.
@aquaeatrae, it seems unlikely that it's an OcuLink connector. It appears to have 62 pins - 31 pins per side, dimensions: 18 mm x 3 mm.
oculink 4X 42 pins - 21 pins per side, inside shell: 12.85 x 2.83 mm
oculink 8X 80 pins - 40 pins per side, inside shell: 22.35 x 2.83 mm
I can't find much info about OcuLink-2. There's an article at https://www.connectortips.com/oculink-connectors-cables-support-new-pcie-standard/ with a bunch of pictures but none are of OcuLink-2.
- SFF-8611 MiniLink 4/8X I/O Cable Assemblies
- SFF-8612 MiniLink 4/8X Shielded Connector
- SFF-9400 Universal 4/8X Pinout
- SFF-9401 Universal Multi-Protocol Single Cable for SAS/PCIe
- SFF-8087 Mini Multilane 4X Unshielded Connector Shell and Plug - SFF-8448 SAS Sideband Signal Assignments
- SFF-8613 Mini Multilane 4/8X Unshielded Connector (HDun)
- SFF-8654 0.6mm 4/8X Unshielded I/O Connector
- SFF-9402 Universal Multi-Protocol Dual Cable for SAS/PCIe
- PCI Express® OCuLink Specification Revision 1.1 (1.0 is downloadable from elsewhere)
@aquaeatrae, your build has had considerable interest. We'd love to see some pics of the laptop and eGPU in action.
@nando4, bear with me. I hear ya.
I had gone without a functional work laptop for almost four months prior to buying the Flow X13 thanks to Dell's delayed service of a recurring battery problem (an Alienware 13 R3). Now that I've got the Flow X13 setup with WSL2 and Docker Desktop, I'm slammed with catch-up work plus some volunteer projects. I've barely been able to play one or two games a week! 🙁 But I certainly haven't forgotten you all here (flash image from the Mobile XG, photos, and more curious experiments).
One point worth noting here... I'm reading that Asus is expected to refresh the Flow X13 in Q2 with an internal RTX 3050 Ti to replace the GTX 1650. These may be announced during a May 13th event that's coming up, hitting the stores over the following months. In my case, I was desperate to get a laptop again and don't regret it jumping on this one. But I may be looking to trade up to the 3050 Ti ...more so to get a 32 GB RAM configuration than anything else. The GTX 1650 handles Photoshop, Illustrator, and Blender fairly well already [my first tablet, plus stylus!]. I'm just finding 16GB of memory is feeling a bit tight for Chrome and my bigger docker projects. I wouldn't mind the extra 10-15% CPU for the 5980 if I could find one of those "Supernova" varieties too.
I'm still scouring the webs looking for news about the eGPU cable now that we know it's smaller than the OCuLink-2. No one else seems to have uncovered anything more than we had here. I'm hoping and praying that we can eventually open this protocol up to future GPUs and even larger desktop eGPUs. I don't mind if Asus does it for us or if we figure it out ourselves, but that's the future I'm aiming to invest in.
PS: Here's a thorough disassembly video I came across.
ROG Flow X13 (GV301) DISASSEMBLY and UPGRADE OPTIONS (Storage, Thermal Paste) by MakaiTechReviews
First of all, thanks for this thread - lots of useful information.
Unfortunately, I have some bad news. Not sure if someone has found this already, but it looks like it's a custom connector or at the very least pinout. Unless someone here has enough experience to reverse engineer it, this is probably where the idea of connecting other PCIe devices to the laptop dies.
Of course, youtube isn't exactly the best source of information on the internet, but seeing as nobody has been able to find out what this connector even is (and it's clearly not Oculink), it's probably accurate.
Maybe ASUS will release a dock for it at some point? Wishful thinking
Quick update: Asus' Unleash the Tiger event confirmed that the Flow X13 will come with RTX 3050 or RTX 3050 Ti internal GPU [ignore the Intel sponsor, unrelated]. It's been hinted at in non-US store listings for a while.
Now, we're just waiting to see these pop up in stock somewhere. Good luck!