[Unboxing] Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock
Ever since seeing this Lenovo TB3 Graphics Dock at CES 2018, I've been waiting for the production unit. It's now available on Lenovo website and Amazon in North America. Mine arrived this afternoon. Here are some unboxing pictures and my first impressions.
The retail box is shrink-wrapped and looks very tidy. There's a sticker that says this TB3 eGFX dock is optimized for the Ideapad 720s (Model 720s-KBR).
Opening the box reveals a Quick Start Guide. I'd highly recommend following the instructions on this piece of paper. I didn't and it was not fun. This is the first eGPU enclosure I've used that requires its own software in order for Windows to properly detect the graphics card. Without the Lenovo TB3 Graphics Dock software, the status light in the front of the enclosure never turned green. It's red when plugged into a power source. Amber when there's a Thunderbolt connection. Green when it detects Lenovo software to initiate the eGPU. It may behave differently with a Lenovo host computer.
Rear I/O consists of the power plug, two DisplayPorts, one HDMI, and one Ethernet port. The rear vents take up nearly 40% of this space. There are one audio port and three USB-A ports in the front. The status light is at the right front corner. A single Thunderbolt 3 port is on the right side of this Lenovo dock.
Air intake is through the bottom of the unit. The footprint is smaller than a piece of printer paper. Its external 170W AC power adapter is a nice size as well.
I connected this dock to my 2016 15" MacBook Pro and can confirm Power Delivery is 65W. Thunderbolt firmware version is 26.1, same as the enclosures released in late 2017, early 2018.
I've tried pairing the Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock with three laptops: 2016 15" MBP, 2017 Alienware 15 R3, and 2018 Razer Blade Stealth. I struggled with eGPU detection on all three machines. macOS was not able to see the GTX 1050 eGPU at all. After installing Lenovo software for this dock, the AW15R3 was able to detect the dock but Nvidia drivers would crash repeatedly because this laptop has a GTX 1070 dGPU. I was only able to get it going with the RBS after installing Lenovo software.
As soon as I ran Unigine Valley, the cooling fan inside this dock kicked in. It's very audible. As seen in the sound meter, the fan noise registered 60 dB at the exhaust vents. The right side of the enclosure is warm to the touch. This is a behavior I notice at Lenovo suite during CES 2018. I thought it was due to a crowded environment and the unit was hooked up to a VR headset. It seems the Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock is trading noise for its compact form factor. I will be doing tests for a full review of the this eGFX. Please let me know if I left out any information you’d like to know.
So then it doesn’t work at all on macOS? Interesting.
Would love to see the disassembly.
Yeah there's something funny going on, it needs the Lenovo - released drivers so MacOS drivers don't work and from what I understand, regular nVidia Windows wouldn't either.
Still, it doesn't re-recognizes it when I wake my laptop, needs a hard kick (unplug-replug either Thunderbolt or power). Once my budget recovers from the blow of the dock, I plan to get a Bestek energy saving power strip -- it has a power outlet which controls the rest, when the laptop wakes on the desk and it's on charger then it'll power the dock too. And the outlets can be switched from controlled to always on so the laser printer won't get a (loud) power cycle every morning.
If I run the 400MB+ driver package through the
strings utility then I see things like
InstallPath="C:\\NVIDIA\\383.07" Title="NVIDIA Graphics Driver (383.07) Package" ExtractTitle="NVIDIA Graphics Driver (383.07)"
Lenovo ThinkPad 25 -- GALAX SNPR TB3 1060 -- Lenovo Graphics Dock -- Benq BL2411PT - - two PackedPixels - Dasung not-eReader backer
I tried setting up the Lenovo TB3 Graphics Dock this morning with my 2016 15" MBP in Boot Camp. First step was to install the drivers from Lenovo website as I learned from the experience yesterday. Unfortunately it still didn't work. The eGPU show up in Device Manager as Microsoft Display Adapter but the Nvidia drivers never loaded.
Rather than wasting more time getting it to work with the MBP, I decided to take this thing apart. A word of caution, don't attempt this unless you have experience with fixing smaller electronics. Lenovo glued the entire top cover to the middle housing. The 8 Phillips screws are accesible once the top cover comes off. Here are the photos:
It wasn't a fun process taking this enclosure apart. The top cover is sheet aluminum so it's easy to bend but hard to come back to its original shape. The plastic bottom cover is not only held in place with screws but also reinforced by several tabs. Nvidia GTX 1050 chip is soldered onto the main board.
Based on my struggle with pairing this TB3 eGFX Dock to different hosts and the way the enclosure is put together, it's hard to recommend it to anyone but supported Lenovo users. It's sad to see Lenovo took this approach in limiting its eGFX to only certain configurations.
At this price tag and with all the limitations, this is one hard-to-recommend eGPU. Even if you have a supported Lenovo system, your resell value is poor, and the lack of ability to upgrade anything is another minus. About the only thing it has going for it is the small size and Lenovo-matching aesthetic.
"Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done, and why. Then do it."- Robert A. Heinlein, "Time Enough for Love."
Thank you for sharing these first impressions.
In your review, I would appreciate it if you could evaluate this unit's performance as professional dock? For example:
- Are USB connections reliable?
- Is it relatively quiet when not under load / gaming?
- Does it wake up / turn on when host PC turns one?
I'm very interested in replacing my Lenovo Thinkpad TB3 dock with this unit. I would proceed if the TB3 Graphics Dock performs as well as the TB3 in its Thinkpad Dock functionality.
- CHX's problems with sleep/wake functions
- Lack of Power-On button on the Graphics Dock means I can't wake a sleeping PC via Dock? Is this correct? Does this mean you always have to power on / wake the computer then connect to the Dock? At my desk, I keep my PC with the lid closed. I love just connecting my X1 Carbon to my current TB3 dock and pressing the dock's power on button to activate everything.
- Does the Graphics Dock accelerate / enhance normal Windows 10 desktop performance? I do not game - I'm interested in the Graphics Dock to enhance full-screen Excel performance on dual 4K display running at 60hz. Excel (and Windows 10 overall desktop performance) is currently sluggish driven off of the X1 Carbon's HD620. For example: alt-tabbing between apps takes a second or so to respond. NOT the case when the same desktop environment is ran on the X1 internal 1080p screen (lighting fast in that case). Objective: to have Windows 10 on dual 4k displays run as fast as on a single 1080p driven by HD620.
- On the last point: can the Graphics Dock be set up to enhance Windows 10 permanently / indefinitely? I.e. to be "on" regardless of what app is run. I imagine I could disable the internal HD620, but don't want to have to mess with this every time I disconnect the host PC from the dock.
Pending: Add my system information and expected eGPU configuration to my signature to give context to my posts