SilverStone / ASUS SG Station 2 External Thunderbolt Video Card Hands-On

Written by  Thursday, 09 January 2014 11:37

We first heard about SilverStone’s Thunderbolt-enabled external video card solution last year, but haven’t heard much about it since. The company was demoing the SG Station 2 at CES this year – a collaboration between SilverStone (power, enclosure) and ASUS (PCB, electrical) – and had a functional rig connected to a laptop for external graphics computing.

silverstone-1

The product is primarily an aluminum enclosure with steel structural support and stands in tower-like stature; it ships with a 450W 80 Plus Bronze PSU, has 2xThunderbolt outputs, and 2x Expansion slots. The SG Station 2 has a couple of interesting use case scenarios. As a user, you’d be mounting your own aftermarket video card (in this case, AMD) in the enclosure, connecting it via Thunderbolt to an enabled device (laptop), and then effectively exporting your video processing to the discrete GPU.

This is useful for a few reasons. In situations where you want a light/portable laptop, but need some gaming or video encoding prowess when home, you’ll be able to connect the external video card at home and convert your laptop into a desktop. That’s the idea, anyway.

The enclosure has a single 120mm intake fan toward the bottom and exhausts heat out the top, where a handle is present for easy transport. As standard, the PSU has its own closed-loop cooling with external-facing fan and is of SFX form factor. The power supply wattage is a bit overkill and might be dropped to a lower wattage in the future, but we’re presently unsure of the finalized specs.

The revised Thunderbolt interface (20Gbps V2; 10Gbps per channel V1) is fast enough that throttling should generally not become an issue.

silverstone-2

Unfortunately, the SG Station 2 has been pretty transient in its appearances at shows and hasn’t really received a firm release date or MSRP. My speculation is that this is due to the Thunderbolt standard, which has licensing requirements for any companies that intend to offer interfacing with the connection standard. Thunderbolt is owned by Intel and has caused similar issues with other companies in the past, so it would not be unheard of for that to be the case here; if you’re interested in the product, let people know to encourage finalization and shipping.

We were told that ASUS is working to further enable Apple / Mac support, but there are presently no guarantees.

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