Internal video cards have been around as long as the PC—IBM’s original 1981 model had no graphics at all, until you added the IBM Color Graphics Adapter (CGA) and reveled in its 320 by 200 resolution modes in all four glorious available colors. More recently, gaming enthusiasts have driven the market for expensive, power-hungry 3D graphics cards from ATI and NVIDIA, some of them requiring huge cooling solutions, additional power connectors, and even taking up the space normally occupied by two card slots.
Now, both companies are toying with graphics solutions that go to the next level. Some cards are now available, like Asus’ EAX1800XT, that offer an external 80 Watt power supply to ensure that the computer’s own power supply doesn’t get overloaded. The next logical step would be to remove the graphics card from the computer completely, and put it in an external box.
Sound crazy? NVIDIA has just released a monster external graphics solution for people who have exceedingly high demands for pushing pixels. The Quadro Plex 1000 is a set of graphics processors enclosed in its own box, capable of rendering 80 billion pixels per second and powering multiple monitors with a combined resolution of up to 148 million pixels. It doesn’t come cheap: prices start at $17,500, and it is intended primarily as a networked rendering solution. It requires one or two free PCIe slots (yes, you can buy two and run them in SLI mode) to connect it to your computer.