(Idea) Graphic Card installed via M.2?!?!

Seriously, would this be possible? Before you tell me " are you stupid? OF COURSE A GPU WON'T FIT INTO AN M.2 SLOT", thank you, i'm not that much of an idiot.

But what about manufacturing an adapter for PCIE M.2 (not the sata version) to PCIE x16? Of course, you'll need an external power supply to power the GPU, or else the motherboard used will be friend, as well as a long PCIE x16 ribbon cable, but would this idea work, or have a chance of working? In my mind, it makes sense that it would work because you'd be running the GPU off of the PCIE lanes of the chipset, from the M.2 slot.

If it could theoretically work, that means new laptops with PCIE M.2 but no dedicated graphics CAN get a dedicated graphic card, with a bit of modding and tinkering.

M.2 is a by four connection at gen 3 speeds so it is technically possibly. Nobody has made an adapter so that would have to be done, but technically because it is a pcie connection it could be done.

1 Like

I'm sure that's how at least one external GPU solution could work. but it would be a pain to connect in the average laptop as most don't have exposed or easily accessible M.2 drives.

You'd probably need the laptop to be elevated for the wires + ribbon cable to run underneath it.

NEXT QUESTION: Would there be firmwares on the laptop, stopping this from being possible? When booting up the machine, would the motherboard detect that there is an external GPU connected VIA M.2, and not allow it to post/disable the M.2 slot until it's removed? Would this just be manufactured dependant, or should it theoretically work on all machines unless a computer manufacturer purposely disabled this?

Brilliant idea. Combine it with a USB3 hub and the right enclosure, and you've got a modern docking station for laptops. You could add a dock-dedicated PSU, some extra cooling, some extra storage, and suddenly your laptop can compete with desktops to a point.

M.2 does not specifically have to be SSD based. There are keyed versions of it for other general use so I don't see why it would be a firmware lockout on it.

And it has been done in the past with mPCIe for WiFi cards in laptops broken out to full size PCIe and plugged GPUs in.


Technically a laptop maker could deny this from taking place on a firmware level, but it is very unlikely that this would happen. I do know that some laptop makers such as Lenovo will implement a white-list of hardware. This is why you cannot switch out the wifi card on a Yoga series laptop. For the manufactures that do not implement a white-list system, you should be fine. There are a couple companies that sell a thunderbolt dock for laptops, usually targeted at macbooks. Obviously there are the proprietary offerings from companies like Alienware, but these are usually not compatible with other makers laptops.

I did have the thought that maybe a laptop could be made with the U.2 Mini-Sas style connector, and that this could be used to attach an external solution. Think about using the plug on this riser card as the connector to attach the gpu dock:


1 Like

Brilliant idea, indeed! However, I do not have enough circuitry + programming know-how to be able to design this. If someone on this forum DOES create this, remember my name and make sure to send me one of your units. HINT HINT ;)

Because the M.2 slot runs on the PCIE interface, there's so much you could do. For most things, you won't need an external power supply (such as the USB 3 hub idea that you suggested, most likely), but for some things you will (GPU, external Intel NVME SSD, etc).

1 Like

A couple years ago I remember reading about the Mini PCIE adapters to install graphics card on a laptop, but I didn't bring it up just in case I was remembering something wrong lol.

Yeah, those were kind of borky, the only issue with a GPU on M.2 is power supply. That's why they have that MXM GPU stuff on laptops. I was also exploring the same thing for a while for laptops, but now that Asus and I believe Razer has come out with a thing that runs over USB 3.1 (and hopefully 3.0, but slower) if those solutions work for other laptops and Asus or Razer isn't a bunch of asswipes, it would be a really nice upgrade for laptops in all ranges.

I may have this wrong but I believe this would only work on 3.1 and not 3.0 as 3.1 has higher through put and crucially thunderbolt built into the standard and thunderbolt is the part that allows the PCIe pass through. 3.0 does not have this, it is just fast usb.

My understanding is that USB 3.1 is just higher bandwidth 3.0. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USB#USB_3.0

It just happens taht 3.1 has double the bandwidth of 3.0 (or 3.1 Gen 1... stupid name). So in theory it is possible to run a GPU over USB 3.0, just slower. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PCI_Express#History_and_revisions

USB 3.0 is pretty much equivalent to one lane of PCI-e Gen 2. So it would pretty slow, but possible. Not sure exactly how much bandwidth a GPU uses these days, maybe you can run older cards without bottleneck.

I am not sure about the thunderbolt thing... I don't know if thunderbolt is built into USB 3.1, but I don't think it is. I have no clue on this one.

3.1 definitely has thunderbolt 3 as part of Type C built in or at least can there are many differing version. EDIT: Or rather better wording would be that Type C supports both 3.1 and Thinderbolt 3, not that Thunderbolt 3 is part of 3.1, but that both use the same Type C connector.

That is why there is much hype about Type C. But other wise you are right 3.1 by itself is just faster.

My thinking as to why USB 3.1 alone will not is that it goes through controllers and such and is not itself part of the PCI standard where thunderbolt is.

Oh I see, it is specific to the Type C standard. There are two different reports on the Asus solution that I'm not even sure if it is using Type C or a normal 3.1 jack. I believe Linus in his overview said that it was a USB Type C connector, and there was someone else at the same CES Asus Suite that said it was USB 3.1. So... I don't know. Hopefully there will be more info in the future.

I think it could be done if the lines used for the M.2 slot are not given by the chipset. In that case I guess they could be limited to host only storage devices. I hope notebook manufacturer could implement it instead of proprietary connectors for GPU dock. You had a crazy genius idea :D

Proprietary connectors for laptops were a stopgap measure while waiting for Type C connectors to.come along. They are, more or less, here now and can carry a GPU just fine by the looks of things.

This may still be a higher end option for a while as it needs Thunderbolt to be built in, something which is strikingly missing from PC at the moment, so the M.2 idea could step in to help out there but again M.2 on a laptop will be an equally high end feature. So 6 of one half dozen of the other it looks like for now.

I'm currently going to college for computer hardware engineering and I also work in the I.T. field with a specialization in hardware repair. On the hardware side this is completely doable as long as the motherboard and m.2 slot are configured right. The software side would most likely give you the most issues? But, I'm not an expert on software/programming. Though making a ribbon cable to do this, in theory, wouldn't be too difficult to fabricate. I would probably do this in desktop at first. Mainly due to the fact you'll have a plenty of power and room to play with.

m.2 runs with 4x pcie gen3 speed, possible, but probably not worth the effort IMO, especially since you will need an external power supply as well and some place to put both of them unless you are with having them just sitting there. Watch out so you dont burn your house down with an AMD card

I did find some chinese company selling a NGFF to PCIE solution that includes a power brick. Link is below.