Testing: Acer Graphics Dock + XPS 13 9360

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.

Unboxing

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.

Acer Graphics Dock Box Front
The (covered) front of the dock’s box.

The back of the box features some information about the dock.

Acer Graphics Dock Box Back
The back of the dock’s box.

Upon opening the box, the first thing present is the warranty information.

Acer Graphics Dock Warranty In Box

Removing this cardboard, the dock is visible for the first time.

Acer Graphics Dock inside box
The dock in its box.

Next, we remove all the contents from the box .

In the box is:

  • Dock
  • 135w PSU
  • 0.5m LINTES branded Thunderbolt 3 cable
  • EU to C5 power cord (not shown)
  • Stand
  • Warranty Booklets
Acer Graphics Dock box contents
The important contents of the box laid out.

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.

Acer Dock Install Stage 1
Basic Display Adaptor shown in Device Manager

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.

Acer Dock working
The 960M in Device Manager.

 

Acer Dock GPU-Z
GPU-z Screenshot of the Dock’s GPU.

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.

Dell XPS with Acer Graphics Dock
The dock connected to the XPS 13

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.

Ubuntu additional drivers application
The Ubuntu additional drivers application showing the 960M.

Once this has been done, the Nvidia X Server Settings shows that the 960M is being used to render the session:

Nvidia GPU Info under Ubuntu
Nvidia GPU info under Ubuntu

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.

Nvidia GPU Selection on Linux
Choosing which GPU to use.

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.

Synthetic Benchmarks

Benchmark Internal Internal OC External External OC
3DMark11 4661 4906  4786  5111
3DMark11 Graphics 4809 5201  4995  5445
Heaven 4.0 803 852  879  911
Overclocked Heaven Benchmark results and settings
The overclocked Heaven Benchmark results with the settings used.

Gaming Benchmarks

Coming soon.

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.

Conclusion

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?

16 thoughts on “Testing: Acer Graphics Dock + XPS 13 9360

  1. Jaewoon Kang Reply

    All the reviews say that this product is compatible only with the aspire R13 and switch 12 S. Do you think it could be used with aspire v13? And where did you buy it?

  2. polo Reply

    notebookcheck test this dock with Acer TM P658 without any problem.
    I own P648 i hope it works too.

  3. concernedbuyer Reply

    Can you test to see if the 9360 gets the full tb3 bandwidth? I just read that the 9350 only supports up to 16 Gb/s, but I can’t find anything on this model, I want to know as I was about to pull the trigger on this laptop

  4. Ben Reply

    Thinking of getting one of these for my dell xps 13 9360 and want it delivered to the uk. Was an adapter required for the power plug ?? Also if i buy it from the German Amazon if it doesnt work can i send it back ?

    • Richard Post authorReply

      It should work with a 9360 (mine is). You will need to purchase or use an existing C5 power cable which can be plugged in to the PSU.

  5. James Kwon Reply

    I would buy it instantly if it had gtx 1050ti or above for $500. For such a light weight and amazing performance? Why the hell not.

  6. Ed F-D Reply

    Hi Richard,
    Thanks for the review. I’ve been trying to find one of these for sale everywhere but have had no luck. Long shot but if you’re not getting much use out of yours I’d be happy to offer you a good price for it.
    Alternatively, has anyone seen this in stock anywhere?
    Ed

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *