Testing the Acer Graphics Dock with the Dell XPS 13 (9360)
The Acer Graphics Dock is a slimline docking station containing a GTX 960M with 4GB of GDDR5 memory.
Here we unbox and try out the dock with a Dell XPS 13 (9360).
The dock was Purchased from Amazon Germany on the 28th of November and arrived in the UK on the 5th of December.
The dock was shipped in its own packaging. The primary focus of the packing was Nvidia branding over Acer. The front of the packaging was covered due to the shipping label being applied directly to the box.
The back of the box features some information about the dock.
Upon opening the box, the first thing present is the warranty information.
Removing this cardboard, the dock is visible for the first time.
Next, we remove all the contents from the box .
In the box is:
- 135w PSU
- 0.5m LINTES branded Thunderbolt 3 cable
- EU to C5 power cord (not shown)
- Warranty Booklets
Setup on Windows
The XPS 13 was booted into Windows 10 Anniversary Update, and the dock powered on and plugged in. Immediately the laptop started charging over the Thunderbolt 3 cable, and the USB hub, and audio devices were detected.
The latest available Nvidia driver (376.19) was downloaded and installed, and when prompted for, the laptop was restarted.
Following this, the GPU was detected and initialised properly.
To test games were indeed running on the Acer Graphics Dock’s GPU, Borderlands 2 was launched.
This went well to begin with, however after a short amount of playing the game crashed to desktop with no error message. When this happened, the light on the dock temporarily flashed off, and Windows played the hardware disconnected message.
The first troubleshooting step was to switch the Lintes Thunderbolt 3 cable for Cable Matters 0.5m cable, which did not seem to make any difference, as the crash occurred again.
The next step was using the XPS 13’s power brick to power the laptop, so the Dock was no longer powering both the laptop and its self. This seemed to solve the problem for half an hour of playtesting, with both the Lintes and Cable Matters Thunderbolt 3 cable.
The conclusion from this is the dock cannot power a Dual Core Ultrabook and its’ self at the same time, whilst playing demanding games.
The same issue was recorded with Cities:Skylines, crashing to desktop instantly after loading into a game with the laptop powered from the dock; no such issues were found with the laptop powered from its own power supply.
Team Fortress 2 and the awesome twin stick shooter Waves were tested and did not experience the same instability while powering the laptop from the dock over Thunderbolt 3.
Setup on Linux
The Dell XPS used here is a Developer Edition, and such is set up to Dual Boot Ubuntu 14.04.
Upon booting Ubuntu and logging in, the GPU appeared in the “Additional Drivers” application, and the Proprietary Nvidia drivers were selected and installed. The system was then rebooted.
Once this has been done, the Nvidia X Server Settings shows that the 960M is being used to render the session:
It is also possible from the X Server Settings to choose between the Intel and Nvidia GPU. Ubuntu does not support hotplugging of the GPU like Windows does, as the GPU renders the whole session. To unplug the GPU, the system must be completely powered down.
With the Nvidia GPU selected, any application or game run will be rendered on the GPU in the dock..
Performance and Overclocking
Using Nvidia Inspector, the GPU clock was increased by the maximum of 135MHz. In testing, no instability was introduced, hinting with appropriate modification, even more performance could be obtained.
More testing will be carried out and the tables updated accordingly.
|Benchmark||Internal||Internal OC||External||External OC|
Planned benchmarks are:
- Team Fortress 2
- Dota 2
- League of Legends
- World of Warcraft
- Starcraft 2
- Borderlands 2
Please feel free to leave a comment with any other games you would be interested in hearing about.
The Acer Graphics Dock provides a sleek, stylish way to add gaming power, and an almost perfect docking experience to an XPS 13 9360 running either Windows 10, or Ubuntu 14.04.
The performance level of the dock is perfect for Casual/Esports gamers who wish to boost their Thunderbolt 3 Enabled Ultrabook up to a capable gaming machine.
It showcases the flexibility and power of Thunderbolt 3, and represents a huge milestone in Off-The-Shelf eGPU products.
The Acer Graphics Dock is not without its shortcomings.
Firstly, the issue of the GPU restarting under heavy load whilst powering the laptop is non ideal. This does require further investigation, however even if it is a genuine problem, having to use the original power brick with the laptop is not the end of the world.
In addition, the GTX 960M inside is around level in performance with a 750Ti, a mid range GPU from February 2014. A 1060 or even 1050Ti would elevate the product considerably.
Any takers, OEMs?