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Using PCI Cards With A Laptop? 14

Lardmonster asks: "My laptop is P3-750, 192Mb, large hard-disk. It would be ideal for games & LAN parties, except the graphics chip is an 8Mb S3 3D-Savage MX. These folks make a PCI to PCMCIA Adaptor, but prices start at $695! I could build a new rig for that! Anyone know any cheaper alternatives? I'd dearly love to be able to use a Voodoo3 PCI (or similar) with the laptop." Something like this looks promising, but is this really the answer for better graphics on a portable computer? Are there PCI cards that will not work well with this adapter?
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Using PCI Cards With A Laptop?

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  • by bconway ( 63464 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @08:59AM (#511485) Homepage
    Perhaps before buying a power laptop like that you should've waited for the GeForce 2 Go from nVidia []. It features all the full GPU support of the GeForce 2 MX (it's less powerful than the GTS, but come on, it's a laptop), features full 3D acceleration, and when you plug it into any monitor, you've got the ideal LAN party computer. They are due out imminently from Toshiba [] and other manufacturers as well. Go nVidia!
  • by Anonymous Coward
  • Are there any PCMCIA based Graphics cards out there?
    Are There any that are also 3D accellerators?

    I Always wondered why 3dfx never made one of thier goofy pass-thru video cards in a PCMCIA form factor. Laptop users could really benefit.
    That Zoomed Video Port Crap many manufacturers were so fscking enamoured about could have even provided a pathway to the video ram that could support 3d accellerators.

    if WE all TYPED our messages like ANDRE HEDRICK things would BE VERY scary! ;)
  • by wobblie ( 191824 )
    you need the docking station with a pci slot. Don't think you'll ever have a way of using AGP cards, though

  • Is PCMCIA even fast enough for a modern video card? I don't think so. You might be able to get ISA speeds out it, but I doubt you get anything anywhere close to modern PCI or AGP speeds, and you'll need at least a good sized fraction of that speed for any decent 3D card.

    The only way to get a fast enough interface to the computer would be to put it in the docking station, which would be specific to the brand of laptop.

    Many old laptops used to actually put ISA (and later PCI) slots in their docking stations. Of course, these docking stations tended to be massive, but that's the price you pay. Nowadays, that doesn't seem to be done anymore.

    Still, your laptop as it is now has a lot better 3D than mine :)

    It seems to me that if you're looking to lug your computer over to a LAN party, your best bet is a full sized computer (with your GeForce2 GTS Ultra or whatever) and a LCD screen if you can afford it (or a 17" monitor if not.) Yes, it's heavy, but at least it won't suck like a laptop will.

    Or, as the other poster suggested, wait for the laptops with the GeForce cards in them. *drool*

  • by Guppy ( 12314 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @11:02AM (#511490)
    "It features all the full GPU support of the GeForce 2 MX (it's less powerful than the GTS, but come on, it's a laptop)"

    One cautionary note -- Apparently, it will be used in several different configurations. The high-end configurations of their mobile chip will supposedly support a 128-bit DDR bus. However, most of the laptops you'll actually see for sale will probably be equipped with a 64-bit or even 32-bit bus, and I'm not sure manufacturers will be entirely honest about which version it is you'll be getting (Just like how some companies leave the "m64" off of their TNT2-m64's).

    BTW, Slashdot reported the GeForce mobile [] back in November.
  • by InitZero ( 14837 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @11:46AM (#511491) Homepage

    I've got an IBM 600E ThinkPad (which replaced my 770). With it I bought an awesome docking station for less than your PCMCIA to PCI adapater.

    The docking station has three PCI slots, two external drive bays, one internal bay, all ports (USB, serial, parallel, keyboard, mouse, audio, etc.) replicated, two more PCMCIA slots and SCSI built in. Summary: it rocks!

    People mock me because I spent a bit more money to buy an IBM ThinkPad and a bit more pm top of that to buy a docking station. Those same people, however, constantly have laptop problems, lack expandibility, have no upgrade path and are generally unhappy. But, they saved a few hundred bucks.

    This advice is mostly directed at those who don't have laptops yet; the rest of you are probably already screwed. When you buy a laptop, don't go cheap. But an IBM ThinkPad. Trust me.


  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm told that the newer CardBus standard looks to the computer as basically a PCI slot, only it's in PCMCIA form factor. On my laptop I have 2 CardBus slots, and a 10/100 CardBus ethernet card, and the system just sees it as an PCI ethernet controller.

    They make PCI bridges for what you're describing, but as you've already found, they can be quite expensive. When you shop in laptop land, be prepared to get reamed to hell and back with regards to price.

    Nvidia's GO chipset looks promising.. I'd love to have a fully capable portable gaming system, even if it is hidiously overpriced.. :-)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Actually, these guys make a PCI->Cardbus adapter. Cardbus (if I remember correctly) is an extension of the PCI specification that uses the PCMCIA form factor, and allows hot-plugging of cards. Cardbus also probably has different standards for power delivery, which I would imagine are significantly below that of an onboard PCI bus.

    PCMCIA is a *VERY* different beast. The cards look the same, but the manner of talking to them is completely different. In Cardbus/PCI, you typically send out memory accesses or I/O's which are interpreted by the device you wish to deal with. In PCMCIA, you actually talk to an intermediary device which in turn talks to the PCMCIA card. In theory (and possibly in practice, I don't know) you could put a PCMCIA adapter on a PCI bus, but putting a PCI adapter onto a PCMCIA interface would be a major pain in the tookus.

    This thing is probably expensive simply because of volume. They aren't going to be selling a lot of these, no demand. Other than expanding your video, I can't really think of any mass-market device that I'd want in a laptop that's not already available in a Cardbus form.
  • As far as I know, PCMCIA is a form of ISA, with a different connector.
    If true, that would explain the speed (or lack of speed.) But then what's this `32bit cardbus' stuff I hear about? I guess it really doesn't matter ...

    Another reason why a passthrough connector wouldn't work -- passthrough to what? You could do this if you used an external monitor, but to pass the signal back to the LCD would require some wiring that just isn't there.

    Any PCMCIA 3D card would have to work like the Matrox M3D card - a 3D `co-processor' of sorts. It has no video in or out (in fact, the only plugs it had was the PCI slot plug) -- the cpu gives it 3D work to do, and it gives it's results back to the CPU or maybe directly to the video card via the PCI bus. Much slower than the `real' 3D cards out at the time (like the Voodoo^1) but still better than software 3D, assuming your games supported it (few did. The only game I remember getting working with it was the Hexen game that came with it.)

    Of course, I don't think PCMCIA is fast enough to make this worthwhile -- and it wasn't even that worthwhile with PCI :)


    Never be afraid to spend more for something better...

  • Mobility Electronics [] sells a []
    universal docking station, which you attach to one of your notebook's pcmcia slots. It has 3 PCI slots, a usb hub, ps/2,seriell and parallel connectors, but I guess it's not exactly what you are searching for as it's nearly the size of a normal mini tower, which doesn't make it portable (imho (well, of course you may run around with a tower, but I don't think you want to :9)). Another major drawback of this device is its price of $599 :/. If it would be less expensive, I think I'd get one ....
  • bconway:
    Perhaps before buying a power laptop like that you should've waited for the GeForce 2 Go from nVidia
    Well, it's a work machine, and it would have been hard to justify the GeForce2Go for a lowly Server-side Java programmer!


    you need the docking station with a pci slot. Don't think you'll ever have a way of using AGP cards, though
    Yes, but the Asus/HiGrade docking station is really only a port expansion jobbie, so not very useful at all. I wasn't expecting to be able to use AGP - I had Voodoo3-type thing in mind, with one of those pass-thru connector things...

    Thanks for the info, guys - I guess I'll just have to cart the home-rig around :)

    matthew f

  • Yes, there are at least two PCMCIA video cards. Actually, "Cardbus PC Card". The specs for the Margi Display-to-go 4MB [] card are not very specific, but I don't think it and its little brother have 3D acceleration.

    They're marketed toward specialized display interfaces, not as speedy graphic devices. But apparently Cardbus has indeed been used for graphical output devices.

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann