Alienware has something special for mobile gamers. The gaming division of Dell is unveiling its Alienware Graphics Amplifier today as an accessory that brings high-end desktop graphics to an Alienware 13 laptop, which is also launching today.
The sleek black graphics amplifier has a full-fledged desktop graphics card that connects to the laptop via a proprietary Alienware cable. It essentially allows the laptop to tap the power of the desktop graphics card to run games on the laptop screen or an external display.
“This lets you future-proof your laptop,” said Ray Watkins, configuration management senior analyst at Alienware, in an interview with GamesBeat. “This is a first for the industry. You get desktop graphics performance and output to several displays. It’s one bad-ass little box.”
The $29 amplifier can produce better graphics because it can run at 375 watts, or a power level that only desktops can handle. The device can run a single Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 graphics card at full power. It has multiple universal serial bus (USB 3.0) ports in the back so you can plug in a keyboard, monitor, and mouse to it.
“If you go out with your laptop and then come back home to get some hardcore gaming in, all you do is plug this in,” Watkins said. “This is an idea that came from our customers.”
The amplifier has no on-off button itself, as it connects via PCI Express.
“It’s like having a direct connection to the motherboard of the laptop,” said Eddy Goyanes, global product marketer at Alienware, in an interview. “A lot of our customers have a budget. They have to choose between a desktop for performance or a laptop for mobility. With this, they can have a laptop and bring it home to have a desktop experience. You can even connect a 4K display to this. You can have a notebook and desktop graphics.”
The device supports AMD graphics as well. It supports any full-length, double-wide PCI Express x16 graphics card. The graphics suppliers are PNY and VisionTek. The device weighs 7.3 pounds.
“This is for someone who doesn’t want a desktop tower anymore,” Watkins said.
An Alienware 13 laptop can run Tomb Raider with full settings at 45.5 frames per second. With the Alienware Graphics Amplifier (outfiitted with an AMD Radeon HD 290X), the game runs at 105.9 frames per second.
Future Alienware laptops will come with the proprietary connector. Goyanes said that it took a long time to create the amplifier because it required a lot of software integration.