Hands-on with Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock  

 

theitsage
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January 11, 2018 4:05 pm  

Lenovo didn't want to be left out of the eGPU fun and made a surprise announcement at CES 2018 of its first Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock. This dock follows the growing trend of smaller footprint enclosures with external power adapters. The new Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock reminds me of the Acer graphics dock from a year or two ago.

It didn't take long to locate the dock once I got inside the Lenovo suite. I immediately went after the external power adapter. It's surprisingly reasonable in size. I placed my iPhone SE on top of the power brick for scale. A helpful Lenovo representative answered most of my questions about the unit. The output is 170W. Power Delivery is 65W. The graphics card is a MXM GTX 1050 with 4GB of VRAM.

Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock 170W power brickLenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock

Here's what I gathered on the Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock:

  • Dimensions: 130 x 248 x 22.6mm (5.12 x 9.76 x 0.89 in)
  • Weight: 1.51 lbs (686 g) for the enclosure only
  • Full-feature Thunderbolt 3.0 port: data, video & power delivery (65W)
  • MXM GTX 1050 4 GB GDDR5 graphics card
  • Up to three 4K displays: 1 x HDMI 2.0, 2 x DisplayPort 2.0
  • 1 x always on USB 3.0, 1 x USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0
  • 1 x 3.5 mm audio port
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet port
Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock front portsLenovo Graphics Dock rear ports

Lenovo connected this eGPU dock to one of its new VR headsets. It was running full speed in order for the headset to work. The enclosure felt warm to the touch and the cooling fan was audible through the rear exhaust vents. Lenovo didn't specify the length of the included Thunderbolt 3 cable. What I saw on display was a .5m Thunderbolt 3 cable.

Lenovo Graphics Dock Thunderbolt 3 portLenovo Graphics Dock vents

MSRP is $399, and it should be available at the end of January. According to the User Guide for this Lenovo Graphics Dock, it's been in testing since July 2017. The decision by one of the world's largest PC OEMs to release this product at the beginning of 2018 is a clear sign it's prime time for external graphics.

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Rycco
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January 11, 2018 4:43 pm  

Looks like a cheaper option with integrated GPU. Do you think its possible to run games like Overwatch in 2k 60fps with a gtx 1050?

mid-2017 15" Macbook Pro RP555 + GTX1080i@32Gbps-TB3 (Mantiz Venus) + macOS & Win10


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Eightarmedpet
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January 11, 2018 8:51 pm  

Love the look of this! If it does as a 1060 or above I’d have my cash in hand... CES is looking exciting.

2017 13" MacBook Pro Touchbar + GTX1060@32Gbps-TB3 (AKiTiO Thunder3) + Win10
2017 13" MacBook Pro Touch Bar + GTX1070@32Gbps-TB3 (Sonnet Breakaway Box) + Win10
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chinsteig
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January 11, 2018 8:54 pm  

http://gpu.userbenchmark.com/Compare/Nvidia-GTX-1050-vs-Nvidia-GTX-1070/3650vs3609

looks like it should be able to.

Mid 2012 15" MacBook Pro > Thunder2 > GTX 1070 > 34" 2560x1080 Ultrawide
Mid 2017 15" MacBook Pro > Thunder2 > GTX 1070 > 34" 2560x1080 Ultrawide


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jonah765
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January 11, 2018 9:21 pm  

agreed. the 1050 is a little underpowered imo. atleast a 1050ti would be nice


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Rycco
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(@casey_toney)
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January 12, 2018 7:04 pm  

No version without a built-in GPU, bummer.

I've had my eye on the ASUS XG Station Pro since they announced it but was excited to see another new contender enter the fray (especially one with a slim form factor and minimal design).


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BryanL
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January 13, 2018 4:16 pm  

WIll it work with Macbook pro natively with High Sierra + Davinci Resolve ? If yes, please take my money now.


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theitsage
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January 14, 2018 2:05 pm  

@bryanl Nvidia eGPU in macOS requires a workaround so unfortunately it is not a natively supported solution.

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BryanL
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January 15, 2018 5:28 am  

Thanks for the info. The work around seems easy ......right ? Any how mostly i just want a small footprint to be used main for davinci resolve to render videos faster. Does this work for this reason ?


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generalheed
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January 16, 2018 5:33 pm  

I found the official Lenovo documentation for this eGPU, but it claims that it doesn't support other non Lenovo 720S devices. Is that just Lenovo saying they don't officially support this device on other PC's or will it physically not work on anything but a Lenovo 720S? I'm very interesting in getting one for my Intel Skull Canyon NUC and I remember awhile ago Acer made similar claims about their own now-discontinued graphics dock but it turned out that it still worked on quite a range of non Acer devices. I don't think this Lenovo graphics dock is on sale yet, but has anyone gotten the chance to try it on non Lenovo hardware yet or does anyone know if it'll even work on non Lenovo hardware?


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 chx
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January 16, 2018 8:29 pm  

Thunderbolt 3 is a complicated standard for sure but I have yet to hear a TB3 compliant device not working with a compliant host. I mean, I heard of it but all of them turned out to be PEBKAC.

In other words, I have a ThinkPad 25 and I will buy this dock and I know it will work.


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generalheed
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January 16, 2018 9:38 pm  
Posted by: chx

Thunderbolt 3 is a complicated standard for sure but I have yet to hear a TB3 compliant device not working with a compliant host. I mean, I heard of it but all of them turned out to be PEBKAC.

In other words, I have a ThinkPad 25 and I will buy this dock and I know it will work.

Alright, hopefully it does work then cause I could really use a graphics upgrade for my Intel Skull Canyon NUC since the Intel Iris Pro 580 on it can only do so much. I might also get it just to find out for sure and worst case scenario, I'll just return it and take a hit with Lenovo's 15% restocking fee, unless somebody tells me definitively before then that it definitely won't work on my computer. Hopefully Lenovo starts selling this soon, I'm really anxious to try it out.


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generalheed
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January 23, 2018 1:38 pm  

Any word on when this will be released? They said end of January and it's pretty much around that time now.


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theitsage
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January 23, 2018 6:02 pm  

I have not heard any updates on availability.

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generalheed
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January 24, 2018 1:40 pm  

Alright, hopefully there's more information soon. I'm worried that this will end up being vaporware like a lot of things shown at CES in the past... The Acer graphics dock had a similar fate and was almost non existent.


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(@martynas_prokopas)
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January 25, 2018 11:48 am  

More powerful GPU = bigger dock size OR more noise / heat. There is always a compromise. If you want better power and don't mind bigger size, you can get Aorus Gaming Box GTX 1070. This one is for maximum portability. GTX 1050 is OK for running graphics applications and even modern games in 1080p on medium settings.


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generalheed
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January 25, 2018 1:46 pm  

Yeah what I need the most is in fact the compact size and portability. I don't have the space to use a huge graphics dock with my Intel Skull Canyon NUC. It'd defeat the whole purpose of getting that NUC. With this Lenovo dock, my NUC PC can sit right on top of the dock. As far as performance goes, the GTX 1050 is more than sufficient for my NUC as far as graphics intensive and gaming applications go. The Intel Iris Pro 580 GPU in my NUC is already pretty decent for an Intel GPU, so a GTX 1050 would be more than enough power for what I need.


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 chx
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February 22, 2018 1:37 pm  

It's available on the USA and the Canada sites now. Promises 5-7 business day shipping time. I put my order in 🙂 we will see.


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theitsage
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February 23, 2018 3:21 pm  

This Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock is now available on Amazon too.

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 chx
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March 1, 2018 1:26 pm  

I posted first impressions and unboxing pics to https://www.reddit.com/r/eGPU/comments/80zm6x/lenovo_graphics_dock_mixed_first_impressions/


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theitsage
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March 1, 2018 2:15 pm  

@chx Thank you for sharing your first impression and unboxing. Can you confirm the power delivery wattage? How's the cooling system? When I was at Lenovo booth, this dock was running some VR app with a headset. The fan was going full blast.

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 chx
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March 1, 2018 10:38 pm  

I do  not really know how to measure the PD wattage. Is there  a program which shows how many watts the  laptop consumes? Perhaps I could borrow a kill-a-watt and check the difference when the laptop is plugged in and when it's not (my laptop has separate power input, not just USB C).

One more thing which I haven't tested yesterday: after sleep-resume, the dock didn't come back online, needed a power cycle (I guess replug would've worked too). I am not happy with that.


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theitsage
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March 3, 2018 1:32 am  

@chx I've used a few software in Windows but haven't found anything good. It's much easier in macOS but that's irrelevant. I'd recommend getting a USB-C Volt & Amp meter such as this one from Pluggable.

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 chx
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March 3, 2018 1:56 am  

Alas, after spending 500 CAD+ on the dock and another 500 CAD+ on the warranty for my new laptop any more spending for the foreseeable future will go through a very strict evaluation and rejected (by myself).

Like, the dock doesn't come up after restoring the laptop from sleep and I considered buying a power outlet with individual switches but that's another 40 CAD  and -- nope. Need to stop. That 25 CAD toy would be nice, sure but then again, it's more spending. Need. to. stop. 😀


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theitsage
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March 3, 2018 2:10 am  

I hear you. I will check for the wake from sleep behavior when my unit gets in tomorrow.

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theitsage
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March 5, 2018 2:42 pm  

@chx I let the Razer Blade Stealth in sleep mode overnight with the Lenovo TB3 eGFX plugged in. It woke up fine and resumed working normally.

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 chx
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March 5, 2018 9:04 pm  

This morning it woke as well. First morning it did... usually it doesn't.


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rodrisanz
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March 5, 2018 10:08 pm  

Hi CHX.  Thank you for sharing your experience.  I suspect this eGPU may solve a frustrating problem with my setup – I would love your input with the following questions:

  • Does the eGPU accelerate a normal Windows desktop?  Or is it only activated when running a demanding application? 
  • Can you force the eGPU to run regardless of the application?
  • What kind of fan noise would the eGPU generate in this scenario?  

BACKGROUND INFO FOR CONTEXT:

I use a Lenovo X1 Carbon 5th Gen (i7-7500U CPU, 16GB, HD620) running Windows 10 with latest drivers. This light PC is almost a dream machine:

  • I have weekly daytrips (MDE-BOG-MDE), and the X1’s battery lasts just long enough so that I can leave the power adapter at home.
  • The laptop’s keyboard feels almost as good as my desktop’s Das Keyboard Ultimate.
  • It is quiet - fan noise of any kind drives me nuts.
  • I DO NOT game on this machine.
  • TB3 means I can hook up the X1 to TWO 4k 28 inch displays running @60hz using the Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 dock at the office.

The TB3 dock works great – as long as I keep the dedicated VRAM of the X15C at 256MB (issues arise when bumping VRAM to 512MB on the BIOS).  The problem is that the X15C struggles to drive the dual 4K displays. 

I am an Excel power user (Private Equity / financial modelling).  I require Excel to run as fast as possible to be as productive as I can, given my significant MS office keyboard-shortcut skills.  The problem with the Dual 4K setup is that Excel slows down.  I don't mean when crunching numbers.  I mean Excel's response to user keyboard input: there’s a lag when moving around the worksheet (i.e.  with PgUp/PgDn, or CTRL+Arrows)… To say nothing of tracing precedents or formula auditing with Macabacus Pro.  That kind of lag drives me crazy. 

  • This lag is NOT apparent when I work on the same Excel file using the X15C’s internal display. 
  • The lag is also NOT apparent when I set up the displays to run at 1080p.  This results in terrible image quality (WORSE than native 1080p monitors).  Obviously I lose the screen real estate and defeats the purpose of 4k. 

This makes me suspect the culprit is the X1’s Intel HD 620 gpu.  Additional evidence:

  • There’s a similar lag when full-sizing hi-res images.
  • GPU utilization on Task Monitor spikes when the aforementioned Excel lag shows up.

My current workaround has been to work with the active Excel window taking up only half of either 4k display. 

Since discovering this Lenovo Graphics Dock, my IDEAL workaround would be to replace my TB3 Dock with the Graphics Dock, so long as it PERMANENTLY accelerates my Windows 10 desktop without the dreaded “Delta Server” fan noise. 

I.e. my questions to you are:

If you think this eGPU will NOT serve my needs, do you have another recommendation? Perhaps the 1070 Gaming Box…  I will NOT travel with the eGPU.

THANKS!!!!


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(@john_chang)
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April 13, 2018 12:54 pm  

Were you able to charge your Lenovo with the dock?


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