External Video Card

Is there such a thing? If so, where can I get one? If not, Why not?

I don’t think they make motherboards to handle that. Why do you want one?

I need it because I have a dell inspiron 2500 laptop, and it has only a 2MB video card that is non-upgradeable… Found this out after an extensive conversation with the people at Dell. The only way I can get a better video card is to get a new computer.

I’ve found a few USB video capture cards, but nothing like what you want. I can’t recall ever seeing one, either. I have a sneaking suspicion they don’t exist, but I’d be interested if I was wrong about that.

take a look at these usb external tv-tuner cards:


i had once used a PCI tv-tuner card to upgrade the graphics capabilities of my PC. The onboard graphics chip had very limited graphics support and wasn’t too good. The BIOS had an option to set the tv-tuner card as the default video card, and so i had no problem in using the tv-tuner card as my primary video card. I’m not sure whether the usb external tv-tuner cards can in some way be made the default video card for your laptop, but it doesn’t seem entirely impossible. Perhaps someone in here with a USB external video card can answer the question definitively. Or perhaps you could write to the manufacturers of these video cards and ask them.

There’s no way you can move enough data through the USB port to generate decent graphics. Standard USB (pre-2.0) ports operate at 12Mbps, IIRC. That’s 12 megabits per second, not megabytes. What good is an 8MB video card if it takes 6 seconds to fill up that memory?

I’ve seen video cards that plugs into PC card slots. I’m afraid I’ve never used one and don’t even remember who makes/made them. But that’s the only option for you, if you can find one.

The critical bandwidth areas in your computer are the CPU, memory, and video. A simple 640x480 16 color display takes up 600k of memory, so if you want to update that at 30 frames per second (where your eye starts to notice the jitter) that’s roughly 18,000,000 bytes (18 MB) per second. To put it in perspective, CD quality sound is 44,000 samples per second, and at 2 bytes per sample, 2 channels for stereo, you get 176,000 bytes per second for your sound interface. The mouse and keyboard need roughly 100 bytes per second. Video is by far the most demanding part of your system just because of the huge amounts of data involved to make an image. The only thing more critical to your overall system speed is the CPU/memory core of your system. To answer your question, the reason you can’t get an external video card is that there isn’t any high enough bandwidth port available on your laptop. The serial port is about 10,000 bytes/sec, the parallel port about 100,000 bytes/sec. USB is the only one that even comes close, and it maxes out at about the same overall throughput as the old ISA bus. You might be able to get the equivalent of a VGA card on it, but this has less capability than what you have internal to the laptop.

Of course, if you aren’t trying to run a fancy game or anything then the video data isn’t being updatead all that quickly. But then, if this is the case, you don’t need a fancy shmancy video card either.

Laptop video usually isn’t anything to brag about anyway. Why do you need/want a better video card?

It was possible to get a factory upgrade to the video memory on some dell systems - from 2mb to 4mb, but that may not be possible after purchase.

In any event, a laptop with a celeron processor is not the best machine to be doing heavy graphics or processing. So if you can get hold of a desktop machine, this would be better but idf you can’t I’m afraid that there isn’t much light at the end of the tunnel.

I need a better graphics card because the company that I work for develops software that is semi graphics intensive (8MB required, 16 Recomended), and I do QA testing. If I had a decent graphics card, they said that I could intall the program on my laptop, and work from home if I so chose. That would be extra convenient for me to avoid having to drive for an hour and a half every day.

You can get a “breakout box” (try www.magma.com, for instance) – one end plugs into an empty PCI slot and the other end consists of an array of empty PCI slots, sitting outside your computer.

Of course if there are no PCI video cards adequate for your purpose, that won’t help you much. (As far as I know there do not exist any AGP breakout boxes).

You can also get breakout boxes for laptop computers.

fooey. I didn’t realize vBulletin was going to automatically URL that for me (incuding the spurious comma). OK, if we’re doing links let’s do them right:


You should be able to put together a cheap system for next to nothing these days, with say a 500 Mhz PIII or Celeron. Check out eBay or www.techbargains.com. www.computergeeks.com has a Celeron 633 system for $244; add some more memory and a monitor and you’re good to go. IMO this is a much better solution than trying to get your laptop to do something it was not designed for. And if it’s going to save you 1.5 hours per day, it’s definitely worth the money.