If you say ‘Thunderbolt GPU’, it makes it sound like a PCIe device with a Thunderbolt output. Rather than go in this direction, ASRock has developed a GPU + Thunderbolt connection like an eGPU, but all on one PCB. This means that this is an eGPU designed for internal applications, like mini PCs and GPU-accelerated monitors. Confused yet?

Just imagine an external GPU that connects through Thunderbolt. In most designs, the GPU is replaceable. What ASRock has done is to move all the ‘Thunderbolt’ hardware in the external chassis directly onto the GPU board itself. This means that the price of the chassis can be much cheaper, and the GPU can be used a wide array of devices, not just external GPU boxes (or in this case, a standard box). ASRock is aiming for the OEM market with this first design, using an RX 570 as the base graphics card that can be used to accelerate any number of Ice Lake designs coming later this year which will have integrated TB3.

Like a standard external enclosure, on the same board as the GPU comes with some extra Ethernet and USB ports. In order to enable this, the board actually has two TB3 controllers in its initial design: one to connect to the host, and the other to provide the Ethernet/USB. Power for the graphics card comes through an external power brick, which could easily be built into any chassis that an OEM wants to use.

ASRock tried pitching the new design as a ‘Thunderbolt GPU’, which I think is a little misleading. It’s an eGPU design, but built for any number of simple mini-ITX style chassis. This simplifies anyone wanting to build their own GPU box, however with the extra hardware on the GPU, it makes each GPU itself a little more expensive to upgrade. That is the tradeoff.

ASRock is looking to finalize the design later this year, and sell to OEMs. I’ve told ASRock that the best way forward is to provide a reference design for some of its customers, to showcase what sort of implementation they can do. We will keep abreast of what happens.

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  • PeachNCream - Wednesday, June 5, 2019 - link

    Seems like it could just be on PCIe instead if its going to be internal anyhow.
  • The Chill Blueberry - Wednesday, June 5, 2019 - link

    I think the point was to put the GPU in the monitor, being external to the laptop but not another box taking space on the desk.
  • bryanlarsen - Wednesday, June 5, 2019 - link

    The other use case is a non-upgradable eGPU box. Making it non-upgradable makes it substantially cheaper. Probably most of the savings is in the power supply.
  • PeachNCream - Wednesday, June 5, 2019 - link

    Well now that Spunjii kindly converted the article into something coherent enough to understand... Maybe, but this is going to be a custom single board GPU solution tied to a TB controller so all of the costly parts are still present plus there's the low volume nature of a niche graphics card design so I'm not sure how much savings we would see at retail for a hypothetical graphics product.
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, June 5, 2019 - link

    I think they kinda mangled the description here - this is still a solution for externally adding a GPU to your existing TB3 capable device.

    The difference between this and your average eGPU solution is that rather than having a large box that takes a standard graphics card in a PCIe slot, they've merged the GPU and the TB3 controller onto one board. That's been done before, though, so I'm not sure why they're talking about this as if it's a new concept.
  • PeachNCream - Wednesday, June 5, 2019 - link

    Ah, that makes more sense. I'm glad someone has an Anandtech-to-English translator that works.
  • 29a - Wednesday, June 5, 2019 - link

    Thank you. I had no clue what this thing was after reading the article.
  • MrSpadge - Thursday, June 6, 2019 - link

  • Retycint - Wednesday, June 5, 2019 - link

    Yes exactly. Pretty sure Lenovo has had this sort of integrated non-upgradeable box before, with the 1050 Ti if I'm not wrong
  • ToTTenTranz - Wednesday, June 5, 2019 - link

    I think this is a good idea.
    TB3.0 cases that take mini-ITX GPUs are ridiculously expensive.
    This way people can buy ASRock's mini-ITX fitting eGPU and put it into a regular Mini-ITX case that will be much cheaper.

    It all depends on how much ASRock will be charging for the GPU+TB3 "motherboard", but since the TB3 eGPU cases are horribly expensive it might be a cheaper alternative to many end users.

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