Have you ever felt like your laptop’s GPU wasn’t optimal, or maybe your laptop could use a SAS controller? [Rob Rogers] felt that way too, so now it’s got the only business-class Dell Latitude laptop that’s paired with an AMD RX580 GPU – and more. Made possible by a PCIe link he hijacked from the WiFi card, he managed to get a SAS controller, a USB 3.0 expansion card, the aforementioned GPU, and a dual-port server network adapter, all in a single desktop configuration, as shown in the video.
First, we see a PCIe packet-switching card based on a PLX chip, wrapped in blue tape, splitting a single PCIe x1 link into eight. Traditional USB 3.0 cables carry x1 links downstream to the four attached PCIe cards, all arranged on [Rob]office. [Rob] demonstrates that all the cards are indeed working correctly – the SAS controller connected to a server backplane with 22TB of storage, a few peripherals plugged into a USB 3.0 card, an Ethernet cable with an active link in the network card, and ending the video showing the RX580’s 3DMark results clearly associated with the laptop’s mobile processor. There are four more slots on the PCIe switch board, so if you wanted to hook up a few NVMe SSDs without the expensive USB enclosures that usually entails, you absolutely could!
Now, there’s a reason why we don’t see more such hacks. It appears to be a Latitude E5440 and the card is plugged into a mini-PCIe slot which means the whole contraption is tied together by a single PCI-E Gen2 x1 link which greatly offsets any gains you would get of an external GPU when, say, gaming. However, when it comes to peripheral types and quantity, it can’t be beat – if you want to add an external GPU, high-speed network, and SAS controller to the same computer you usually carry around, there really isn’t a docking station you can buy for that!
Our collection of cool PCIe hacks has grown, with hackers adding external GPUs via ExpressCard and mini PCIe, installing PCIe slots where the factory refused to supply one, and expanding onboard M.2 slots for PCIe cards full size. These days, with these packet switches, it’s easier than ever to outfit any PCIe-enabled device with a whole host of features – like this Raspberry Pi Computer Module Motherboard with Eleven The PCIe slots demonstrate this. Wondering how PCIe works and why it’s all possible? We wrote an entire article on it!