Setting up eGPU for Thinking X220

After my X220 arrived to my place through numerous troubles, I still didn’t find time to reinstall its system and use it heavily. But I have time to waste elsewhere: several hours spent on investigating how to make eGPU (external Graphics Processing Unit) working for X220.

Here are my findings. It is totally workable for X220 and does not require too many skills to set up. You only need the right hardware and the software.

Hardware:

  • Graphic card: Zotac Geforce GTX560 Ti 1GB GDDR5. A nVidia card is preferred to an ATI one.
  • Interface: PE4L ( PCIe Adapter ver2.1b ) connects the graphic card and the express card. PE4L 2.1b is capable of transferring 5Gb of data. This is a good match for X220, which has Sandy Bridge platform and Express Card version 2.0.
  • Power supply: Corsair CX430
  • Cables that connect the graphic card with the monitor (Maybe I will just use the default DVI cable. Not sure if this affects performance)

With these gigs, the bandwidth is x1.2Opt which means x1 lane and interface 2.0, and nVidia optimus is helping compressing the data. This is supposed to perform significantly better than x1.1Opt. This information can be found in the section of “Bus Interface” in GPU-Z .

Software:

  • New bios 1.23 and above for X220
  • nVidia Optimus driver for displaying image on the internal LCD
  • no need to restart the system if using Windows 7

I am not longer a gaming person and the only game I can think of playing is Need for Speed. If I can get the papers done, I will implement it and hook it to my TV and play.

The benchmark results of this configuration should be similar to this:

Set-Up: X220 i5 2520m, 8 GB RAM, GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores, PE4L v2.1b

3D Mark 2006: 17.879
Resident Evil: 143,6

3D Mark Vantage GPU: 17.973
Devil May Cry: 181,4

3D Mark 2011: 4.560
Heaven: 1306

 

4 Replies to “Setting up eGPU for Thinking X220”

  1. Great setup specs!

    Do you have the hardware on hand yet?

    I am still trying to figure out a nice compact enclosure for the video card (a GTX 460 in my case) and the PSU…

    1. Not yet. This is what I would buy if I want to tinker with the eGPU. I am no longer a gaming person, but the possibility to empower my new laptop is still intriguing.

  2. hi – I have the EXACT same hardware (x220 2.7ghz, gtx560ti, pe4L 2.1b), latest certified nvidia drivers (from may i think), and my resident evil 5 benchmarks are about 60 fps. any thoughts on why they might be so low when everyone else with this setup is reporting fps closer to yours?

    gpu-z confirms a pcie 2.0 link… hm… i wonder if optimus isn’t working somehow
    thx – s

  3. Glad to hear your project was successful. I have a Thinkpad T520 (very similar) and I’m planning to do the same thing. I was wondering about a couple things:

    1. Where did you buy the PE4L hardware?
    2. Did you need the eGPU Setup 1.x software, or were you fine without it?

    The reason I ask is because the documentation is kind of shotty, as I’m sure you know. I’ve posted on the notbookreview forums and nobody has replied. The FAQ says that you get the software for free if you buy the hardware from Harmonic Inversion Technology, but their website doesn’t say anything about it, they won’t answer my emails, and their phone number rings busy/off hook.

    Thanks 🙂

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