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Thursday, 24 April 2014


External Graphic Card for Laptop

Laptop graphics have always been something of a joke performance wise. Nvidia and AMD do try, but cramming all those millions of transistors into a low-power, compact package just leads to massive expense and an inability to upgrade.
Wouldn't it be perfect if you could simply use a standard external graphics card to power your laptop's 3D graphics?
The good news is that you can. The suitably technical-sounding PE4H is just that; a passive PCI-e x16 to x1 adaptor, which enables you to plug an external graphics card into a laptop's ExpressCard slot. The dealers of the PH4H cards can be easily found on online stores like ebay or amazon costing you around $80-$100.
I'd like to say it's as simple as that, but this project does have a few sticking points. The first I've already mentioned: a laptop with an ExpressCard slot.
The second is Windows 7, as it handles multiple display drivers far more adeptly than anything else. We're told Windows XP is next best with Vista being least desirable.
Also if your laptop has more than 2GB of memory a 64-bit installation is also required, as otherwise you'll hit the 4GB address space limit hard. The big issue here is that it'll cause the allocation of memory for the graphics card to fail
The PE4H comes with the adaptor itself, an ExpressCard, data cable, Molex power cable and ATX power switch. Alongside this you'll need a suitable power supply, the adaptor can take a 12 to 15v supply but for higher-end cards you'll need a desktop PSU anyway.

The walkthrough below details putting together a system. The main thing to be aware of is before plugging the ExpressCard into the laptop, you will need to have Windows fully booted and to have the graphics card powered up. It's important to do this so Windows can recognise and install the correct drivers. If everything goes smoothly you'll have multi-card, multi-monitor system, where there was none before.
This might not be evident but it has happened, check the Display Properties Control Panel to see if the new display is detected and active.

1. The kit you will need to make your adaptor

The catchy named PE4H from amazon comes with a x16 PCI-e adaptor, the ExpressCard interface, an ATX power switch, plus the necessary Molex power cable and PCI Express data cable.

2. Grab a passive PCI Express adaptor

The adaptor that takes the PCI Express graphics card is called a passive adaptor, which is actually not doing any processing or routing, it's simply connecting two buses together.

3. Connect the GPU to the ExpressCard  
Getting started is easy enough, plug the graphics card into the adaptor and connect the data cable to the first PCI-e port and to the ExpressCard, not forgetting the power cable.

4. Get a PSU powering your graphics card  
So you can use a standard PC system power supply for your graphics card an ATX power adaptor is supplied, which will attach to the 20/24-pin power cable of the PSU.

5. Everything hooked up and ready to go 

With a basic PCI Express graphics card the set-up looks a little like this (with or without a loop in the cable). At this point you don't want to connect the ExpressCard but you can boot your laptop.

6. Now, power up the pixel pusher 
Before you go ahead and connect the ExpressCard to your laptop, you must make sure that the graphics card is powered up, so turn on the ATX switch and power up the PSU.

7. Get in on some ExpressCard action  
With your Windows OS laptop up and running along with external graphics card, you can now safely push the ExpressCard into its slot, being careful not to knock over the graphics card in the process!

8. Displays ahoy, as far as the eye can see
If you have a compatible laptop, then after a flicker or two and perhaps a reboot, the laptop should detect the new graphics card and automatically start installing the driver.

9. Control, multimonitor is a go  
If everything has worked correctly then you will now have a multimonitor system that you can configure from the Windows Display Control Panel.

So this is all that is to be done to setup an external grpahic card setup for your new or even old laptop. Just make sure that you stay patient while letting the OS recognize the installation as it an attempt or two.
Do leave a comment if you want to make any suggestions to it & as always your queries regarding the same are welcome.

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  1. Hi,where can i get PE4H in India

    1. Hello,
      Unfortunately its not available in India. You will have to import it to India if you want it.