AMD just made connecting an external GPU a whole lot easier with XConnect

Like it or not, external graphics adapters are back in style, and AMD isn’t going to be left behind. With the newest release of the Crimson software package, AMD will enable XConnect, a tool that will allow R9 300 and Fury Series owners to easily connect their cards to systems with Thunderbolt 3.

External graphics aren’t a bad idea on paper. Carry around one laptop that’s light, with great battery life, but a decent processor, and just plug in the GPU when you want to play games. One of the biggest sticking points is always how it actually works though. Proprietary options like the Alienware Graphics Amplifier are only compatible with one manufacturer’s systems, and often changing the configuration requires rebooting or tinkering with drivers.

Razer Blade Stealth and Core
Brad Bourque/Digital Trends
Brad Bourque/Digital Trends

But with AMD XConnect, attaching or unplugging an external graphics solution is as easy as using a USB flash drive. In fact, AMD includes a management interface in Crimson that shows which programs the GPU is power, with quick access to settings and an eject button.

Taking advantage of XConnect requires a few elements to line up correctly. Only the R9 300 and Fury cards are validated for use over Thunderbolt 3, and the cable has to support 40Gbps. The computer needs to have Radeon 16.2.2 or later, with Windows 10 Build 10586 or newer, and the manufacturer has to include BIOS ACPI extensions for external GPUs.

And as it turns out, there’s already a system on the market that checks all of those boxes. The Razer Blade Stealth. We reviewed the gaming brand’s Ultrabook and found a quick processor, beautiful screen, and solid construction, although the battery life left something to be desired.

Razer Blade Stealth and Core
Brad Bourque/Digital Trends
Brad Bourque/Digital Trends

Regardless, the upcoming Razer Core will be the first opportunity for AMD to show off the XConnect technology in action. AMD cards will support choice of external displays, or gaming on the Stealth’s screen, which is available in both 1440p and 4k.

That’s not all, either. Crimson 16.3 includes some impressive optimization updates for Hitman, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. The last title in that list has, in particular, come under fire for poor performance, even on high-end gaming systems. AMD claims the update will improve performance up to 60 percent on Fury X cards, and up to 44 percent on R9 380 cards over the previous version of Crimson.

XConnect is a result of months of effort by Radeon, Razer, and Thunderbolt to create a comprehensive solution for simple, seamless external graphics management, and now it’s starting to come to fruition. Whether this is actually a feature gamers want is another question entirely, but it’s one that we can’t answer until there’s a really solid offering out there. This might just be it.

Product Review

The Lenovo Legion Y740 brings RTX 2080 graphics power for under $2,500

Coming with the Intel Core i7-8750H processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD, the Legion Y740 one big beast. But priced at under $2,500 how does Lenovo’s Legion stand up against the crowd?
Computing

G-Sync and FreeSync can make your games look better, but which is best?

There are some subtle differences between the two adaptive refresh technology offerings, and they affect cost, performance, and compatibility. Nvidia may have released it's feature first, but in recent years AMD has stepped up to the plate…
Buying Guides

Apple has powered up its iMac lineup, but which one should you opt for?

With new processors and graphics cards for both the 4K and 5K models, the iMac feels like a good option for creatives again. But which should you buy? Here's our guide to choosing the right Apple all-in-one for your needs.
Computing

Nvidia’s rumored 7nm Ampere graphics could debut next week, but not for gamers

Nvidia's next-generation 7nm Ampere graphics could debut as early as next week at the GTC show as part of an effort to catch up to rival AMD, which announced a competing 7nm Radeon GPU earlier this year.
Computing

Secure your Excel documents with a password by following these quick steps

Excel documents are used by people and businesses all over the world. Given how often they contain sensitive information, it makes sense to keep them from the wrong eyes. Thankfully, it's easy to secure them with a password.
Computing

Get the best of both worlds by sharing your data on MacOS and Windows

Compatibility issues between Microsoft Windows and Apple MacOS may have diminished sharply over the years, but that doesn't mean they've completely disappeared. Here's how to make an external drive work between both operating systems.
Computing

Intel teases 9th-generation Core i9 mobile processors at GDC 2019

Intel teased its new 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processors at GDC 2019. The company offered few specifics about the hardware, but a leak from late February provides insight into what the new processors might offer.
Computing

Give your MacBook Air some added style with one of these great cases or sleeves

Whether you’re looking for added protection or a stylish flourish, you’re in the right place for the best MacBook Air cases. We have form-hugging cases, luxurious covers, and padded sleeves priced from $10 to $130. Happy shopping!
Computing

Intel Command Center lays foundation for next year’s ‘Arctic Sound’ GPU

Intel revealed its new Command Center driver software at GDC 2019. The updated interface will control current Intel integrated graphics and also lays the groundwork for next year's Intel video card.
Web

How much!? British Airways glitch results in $4.2M quote for family vacation

Website errors sometimes cause flight prices to display at way below the correct price. But British Airways recently experienced the opposite issue when it tried to charge a family more than $4 million for a vacation in Mexico.
Computing

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.
Computing

Problems with installing or updating Windows 10? Here's how to fix them

Upgrading to the newest version of Windows 10 is usually a breeze, but sometimes you run into issues. Never fear though. Our guide will help you isolate the issue at hand and solve it in a timely manner.
Computing

Delete tracking cookies from your system by following these quick steps

Cookies are useful when it comes to saving your login credentials and other data, but they can also be used by advertisers to track your browsing habits across multiple sites. Here's how to clear cookies in the major browsers.
Computing

Get the Surface Pro 6, with keyboard included, for $1,000 at Microsoft

Thinking of buying a Surface Pro 6? Microsoft is currently running a deal on its latest Windows 2-in-1, letting you bring one home for $1,000 with the keyboard included in the price.