Notebookcheck

Acer Graphics Dock with Nvidia GTX 960M Review

Sebastian Jentsch (translated by Vinay Pradhan), 10/19/2016

Surprise! A graphics card in an external case - familiar. In the past, this technology has not worked as intended. In this review, we put all that aside and take a look at what the GPU is capable of. Update 10-15-2016: Aspire Switch 12S does not turn into a gamer.

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For the original German review, see here.

Many notebooks have great technological features, but lack power in a certain department: graphics. This is especially true for the new 2-in-1 convertibles, which are composed of a tablet and a keyboard dock. Quite often these devices have very strong Intel processors which are paired with relatively weak on-board graphics, which means that the system is incapable of running games. The Acer graphics dock has an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M, which will run most games. The dock can be connected via Thunderbolt 3.

This solution is not unique to Acer. Asus and Razer both offer graphics cases, such as, the Asus ROG XG Station 2 and the Razer Core case. However, both of these are much larger: Razer Core measures 310 x 152 x 44 mm (~12.2 x ~6 x 1.7 in). In contrast, Acer offers a flat, compact package, thanks to the GTX 960M being soldered into the dock. The notebook GPU does not need as much cooling as the Razer case, which allows users to install desktop GPUs in it. 

Currently, Acer has said that the dock is only compatible with the Aspire Switch 12 S and the Aspire R13, which was announced at the start of March 2016. We used the TravelMate P658-M-59J7, which boasts an i5-6200U and HD Graphics 520. This model was reviewed with an SSD here: Acer TravelMate P658-M-537B.

This Acer device will cost 265 to 320 Euros (~$298 to ~$360). Asus has not named a date for the OG XG Station 2 yet. At least the Razer Core is available in North America for 500 US dollars (since April 2016), but without a graphics card. Currently, neither the Razer Core nor the ROG XG Station 2 are available in Germany, which makes the Acer graphics dock the only option available to buyers for 300 Euros (~$338).

Update 10-15-2016

Aspire Switch 12S am Graphics Dock
Aspire Switch 12S am Graphics Dock

We have tested the Acer Aspire Switch 12S when connected to the Graphics Dock (variant with Core m5, SW7-272-M0JS) and have complemented the text. With its Core m5 6Y54 (2x 1.10 GHz) and 8 GB of DDR3 RAM, the Aspire Switch 12S certainly is not a slow Windows device for surfing, however we could also not detest the 12.5-inch device high performance for all possible applications. This is all the more true for the Intel HD Graphics 515:

The Aspire Switch 12S is unsuitable for modern 3D games. The SoC could possible handle a few games - if it wasn't for the fact that it never runs at full power, which in turn means that the frame rates don't reach their theoretical limit.

Can Acer's Graphics Dock help here and change this unfortunate state; at least when the device is used on the desk?

Connectivity

The graphics dock weighs 700 grams (~1.5 lb) and then there is the 135-W power adapter. The box has 3 USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, an HDMI interface and two DisplayPorts. The device can be connected to the laptop via the Thunderbolt 3 port, which is in the form of a USB Type-C port. PCIe transfers picture and audio data via this port.

 

GPU Dock Acer Graphics DockAsus ROG XG Station 2Razer Core
CompatibleThunderbolt 3 Device, Switch 12S, Aspire R13, TravelMate P658Thunderbolt 3 Device, N.N.Thunderbolt 3 Device, Razer Blade Gaming Laptop
Connection overUSB-C (Thunderbolt 3)USB-C (Thunderbolt 3), alternatively Asus proprietary portUSB-C (Thunderbolt 3)
Power adapter3-Pin 135W power adapter with EU power cableBuilt-in and offers 680 WBuilt-in and offers 500 W
Measurements245 x 130 x 22.8 mm (B x T x H)3x USB 3.0, 1x USB-C Gen 2 (with Thunderbolt 3)
Weight700 grams4,940 grams
USB3x USB 3.0, 1x USB-C Gen 2 (with Thunderbolt 3)4x USB 3.0, 1x USB-C Gen 2 (with Thunderbolt 3)4x USB 3.0, 1x USB-C Gen 2 (with Thunderbolt 3)
Display interfaces2x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI2x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI, 1 x DVI1x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI, 2 x DVI
Others1x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x headphones jack  (3.5mm port)1x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x headphones jack (3.5mm port)
Price / availability300 Euros / available in Germanynot available yet500 Dollars / US Market

Ports

Technology and Specifications

A GeForce GTX 960M runs inside of this graphics dock. The GPU is based on the Maxwell v1 chip GM107 with 640 shaders, 1096 MHz base clock speed (1176 MHz Turbo clock speed) and a 128-bit memory interface. The system is cooled with an active fan, which is fine as the GPU has a thermal loss of 65 W. 

The primary interface of the dock is Thunderbolt 3 (in the Type-C USB 3.1 port). The Acer dock needs at least a 3.1 Gen 2 with Thunderbolt 3, otherwise it will not work. The GPU shows up in the device manager as if it were internally installed. Of course, simply disconnecting is not an option, as this will crash Windows and send the user to the famous blue screen. The same happened to us when we wanted to remove a USB 3.1 storage device, which we had connected to the dock. As such, the user must be careful when disconnecting peripheral with the dock and should use the "remove device" option.

Source www.thunderbolttechnology.net
Source www.thunderbolttechnology.net
Device Manager GTX 960M
Device Manager GTX 960M
Systeminfo HWinfo / GPU-Z GTX 960M
Systeminfo HWinfo / GPU-Z GTX 960M
Systeminfo GPU-Z HD Graphics
Systeminfo GPU-Z HD Graphics
Nvidia Controls
Nvidia Controls
 

Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M Features

GPU NameNvidia GeForce GTX 960M
ArchitectureMaxwell-v1-Chip GM107
Shaders640
Core clock speed1096 MHz + Boost
Memory typeGDDR5
Memory inteface128 bit
Memory clock speed1258 MHz
Bandwidth80 GB/s
InterfacePCI Express 3.0
DirectX Version12
OpenGL4.5
FeaturesOptimus, BatteryBoost, GPU Boost 2.0, GameStream, ShadowPlay, GameWorks, CUDA

Configuration Notebook/Tablet

DeviceAcer TravelMate P658-M-59J7Acer Aspire Switch 12S SW7-272-M0JSDell XPS 13 Kaby Lake
Display15.6", 1366x76812.5", 1920x1080tba.
SoCIntel Core i5-6200U, 2x 2.30GHzIntel Core m5-6Y54, 2x 1.10GHz
iGPUIntel HD Graphics 520Intel HD Graphics 515
RAM4GB DDR3L8GB DDR3L
Memory500GB HDD256GB SSD 
USB3x USB 3.0, 1x Thunderbolt 3 + USB 3.1 (Typ-C)1x Thunderbolt 3 + USB 3.1 (Typ-C)
Weight2.3 kg1.5 kg
Price850 Euros1,350 Euros
Discussion

Monitor Pairing

This dock is very convenient for office use, as the graphics card and all the peripherals attached to the dock can be connected to the laptop via a single cable. The dock supports up to three external monitors, which, when added to the notebook display and the HDMI/VGA out of the TravelMate, raises the number of monitors which can simultaneously be used to 5. This maximum setting could not be tested, as we did not have enough monitors. However, a TFT panel attached to the HDMI interface worked flawlessly.

The graphics dock can be connected to the notebook via USB-C (Thunderbolt 3). This can even be done while the computer is on. The screen flickers a little, but then a new graphics card is registered on the system. Furthermore, the graphics dock will process all the content displayed on the external monitors and the laptop display. 

All input and output devices can be connected via one of the three available USB 3.0 ports. External monitors can be connected via the notebook (HDMI, VGA and DisplayPort) or via the dock with HDMI or DisplayPort. Theoretically, the user could have up to 5 monitors at a time.

Performance

System Performance

TravelMate P658-M: Despite a bottleneck HDD, the graphics dock provides a 12% increase in performance for the Acer TravelMate P658-M in PCMark 8 Home. In PCMark 8 Work, the GPU has less impact, which leads to the TravelMate SSD model (without dock) placing ahead by 11%.

Aspire Switch 12S: The system performance - measured with PC Mark 8 - is completely unaffected by the Graphics Dock. The scores of the Switch 12S with Core i3 are only marginally lower. However, this might also be due to poor Turbo Boost usage, which we detected in the Switch 12S Core m5.

PCMark 8 Home v2 ohne Dock (HD 520 @P658-M)
PCMark 8 Work v2 ohne Dock (HD 520 @P658-M)
PCMark 8 Home v2 am Dock (GTX 960M @P658-M)
PCMark 8 Work v2 am Dock (GTX 960M @P658-M)
PCMark 8 Home v2 am Dock (GTX 960M @Switch 12S)
PCMark 8 Work v2 am Dock (GTX 960M @Switch 12S)
PCMark 8
Work Score Accelerated v2
MSI GS73VR 6RF
GeForce GTX 1060 (Laptop), 6700HQ, SanDisk SD8SN8U1T001122
4774 Points ∼73% +19%
Acer TravelMate P658-M-537B
HD Graphics 520, 6200U, Kingston RBU-SNS8152S3256GG2
4467 Points ∼69% +11%
Acer TravelMate P658-M-59J7 Graphics Dock
GeForce GTX 960M, 6200U
4013 Points ∼62%
Acer Aspire F15 F5-573G-53V1
GeForce GTX 950M, 6200U, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0
3970 Points ∼61% -1%
Acer Aspire V15 Nitro BE VN7-592G-79DV
GeForce GTX 960M, 6700HQ, Lite-On CV1-8B512 M.2 512 GB
3964 Points ∼61% -1%
Lenovo Ideapad 510-15ISK
GeForce 940MX, 6200U, Seagate Momentus SpinPoint M8 ST1000LM024 HN-M101MBB
3907 Points ∼60% -3%
Acer Graphics Dock GTX 960M - Aspire Switch 12S
GeForce GTX 960M, 6Y54
3769 Points ∼58% -6%
Acer Aspire Switch 12S SW7-272-M3A0
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, Lite-On CV1-8B128
3596 Points ∼55% -10%
Home Score Accelerated v2
MSI GS73VR 6RF
GeForce GTX 1060 (Laptop), 6700HQ, SanDisk SD8SN8U1T001122
4012 Points ∼67% +3%
Acer TravelMate P658-M-59J7 Graphics Dock
GeForce GTX 960M, 6200U
3885 Points ∼65%
Acer Predator 17 G9-791-75PV
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, Lite-On CV1-8B256
3880 Points ∼65% 0%
Acer TravelMate P658-M-537B
HD Graphics 520, 6200U, Kingston RBU-SNS8152S3256GG2
3475 Points ∼58% -11%
Acer Aspire F15 F5-573G-53V1
GeForce GTX 950M, 6200U, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0
3390 Points ∼57% -13%
Lenovo Ideapad 510-15ISK
GeForce 940MX, 6200U, Seagate Momentus SpinPoint M8 ST1000LM024 HN-M101MBB
3294 Points ∼55% -15%
Acer Aspire V15 Nitro BE VN7-592G-79DV
GeForce GTX 960M, 6700HQ, Lite-On CV1-8B512 M.2 512 GB
3154 Points ∼53% -19%
Acer Graphics Dock GTX 960M - Aspire Switch 12S
GeForce GTX 960M, 6Y54
2659 Points ∼45% -32%
Acer Aspire Switch 12S SW7-272-M3A0
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, Lite-On CV1-8B128
2536 Points ∼42% -35%
PCMark 8 Home Score Accelerated v2
3885 points
PCMark 8 Work Score Accelerated v2
4013 points
Help

Graphics Card

GTX 960M@1,188 MHz (Cinebench R15 OpenGL)
GTX [email protected],188 MHz (Cinebench R15 OpenGL)

In the synthetic 3DMark tests, the Acer dock struggles to reach the performance provided natively by GTX 960M Laptops, such as, the Aspire V15 Nitro BE VN7-592G. The test model is behind by a mere 5 to 7%. On the other hand, the dock can match the Cloud Gate standard graphics score of the V15 Nitro. In summary: the Acer product is very powerful and can offer the performance of a GTX 960M laptop, despite having a 15W CPU when paired with the TravelMate.

3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance GPU
MSI GS73VR 6RF
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (Laptop), Intel Core i7-6700HQ
14904 Points ∼29% +200%
Acer Predator 17 G9-791-75PV
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M, Intel Core i7-6700HQ
9902 Points ∼19% +99%
Acer Aspire V15 Nitro BE VN7-592G-79DV
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i7-6700HQ
5304 Points ∼10% +7%
Acer TravelMate P658-M-59J7 Graphics Dock
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i5-6200U
4967 Points ∼10%
Acer Aspire F15 F5-573G-53V1
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M, Intel Core i5-6200U
4239 Points ∼8% -15%
Lenovo Ideapad 510-15ISK
NVIDIA GeForce 940MX, Intel Core i5-6200U
2343 Points ∼5% -53%
Acer TravelMate P658-M-537B
Intel HD Graphics 520, Intel Core i5-6200U
1347 Points ∼3% -73%
Acer Aspire Switch 12S SW7-272-M3A0
Intel HD Graphics 515, Intel Core m3-6Y30
730 Points ∼1% -85%
3DMark
2560x1440 Time Spy Graphics
Acer TravelMate P658-M-59J7 Graphics Dock
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i5-6200U
1158 Points ∼9%
1920x1080 Fire Strike Graphics
MSI GS73VR 6RF
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (Laptop), Intel Core i7-6700HQ
11506 Points ∼29% +180%
Acer Predator 17 G9-791-75PV
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M, Intel Core i7-6700HQ
7594 Points ∼19% +85%
Acer Aspire V15 Nitro BE VN7-592G-79DV
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i7-6700HQ
4314 Points ∼11% +5%
Acer TravelMate P658-M-59J7 Graphics Dock
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i5-6200U
4109 Points ∼10%
Acer Aspire F15 F5-573G-53V1
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M, Intel Core i5-6200U
3555 Points ∼9% -13%
Lenovo Ideapad 510-15ISK
NVIDIA GeForce 940MX, Intel Core i5-6200U
1580 Points ∼4% -62%
Acer Aspire Switch 12S SW7-272-M3A0
Intel HD Graphics 515, Intel Core m3-6Y30
494 Points ∼1% -88%
1280x720 Cloud Gate Standard Graphics
MSI GS73VR 6RF
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (Laptop), Intel Core i7-6700HQ
67791 Points ∼41% +150%
Acer Predator 17 G9-791-75PV
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M, Intel Core i7-6700HQ
51939 Points ∼32% +92%
Acer TravelMate P658-M-59J7 Graphics Dock
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i5-6200U
27117 Points ∼17%
Acer Aspire V15 Nitro BE VN7-592G-79DV
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i7-6700HQ
27075 Points ∼17% 0%
Acer Aspire F15 F5-573G-53V1
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M, Intel Core i5-6200U
21635 Points ∼13% -20%
Lenovo Ideapad 510-15ISK
NVIDIA GeForce 940MX, Intel Core i5-6200U
8541 Points ∼5% -69%
Acer TravelMate P658-M-537B
Intel HD Graphics 520, Intel Core i5-6200U
6963 Points ∼4% -74%
Acer Aspire Switch 12S SW7-272-M3A0
Intel HD Graphics 515, Intel Core m3-6Y30
3982 Points ∼2% -85%
3DMark 11 Performance
4597 points
3DMark Cloud Gate Standard Score
8828 points
3DMark Fire Strike Score
3475 points
3DMark Time Spy Score
1198 points
Help

Gaming Performance

TravelMate P658: We tested all the games with the Game Ready Driver 372.70. High to maximum settings were possible for most games. Full HD was possible on external monitors, as the test notebook has only an HD panel (1366x768 pixels). This is the reason why it could not be used in the game check routine. The good gaming performance is especially surprising, as most GTX 960M laptops have a 45 W HQ processor (often Skylake). This confirms our hypothesis: mobile gaming does not need HQ processors. As the docked GTX 960M is recognized as an internal graphics card, the GPU should be capable of processing the video content for the laptop display. We tested “Thief” at high settings (1366x768 pixels resolution) and found it to run at the same frame rate (35.3 FPS @High).

Aspire Switch 12S: Despite Thunderbolt 3, the Graphics Dock cannot turn the Aspire Switch 12S from an office tablet into a gamer. We compare the results from the TravelMate P658-M and the Switch 12S: Playability falls by one or two levels in almost all games. While the TravelMate runs most games smoothly with high settings, this is only possible with minimum settings here. There are hardly any exceptions, for example Shadow of Mordor or Alien: Isolation. Black Ops 3 falls from 38 FPS (high) to 25 FPS, Thief from 36 to 19 FPS. What is the reason?

Bottleneck processor: The Switch 12S could run its Core m3 6Y30 at 1.5 to 1.6 GHz (muli-thread) and 2 to 2.2 GHz (single thread) in our review. The clock rates remained that high even after the fifth run. This is true for the model with Core m3. Our current Switch 12S uses a Core m5 6Y54 (1.1 GHz), which only clocks at 1.3 to 1.4 GHz in the Cinebench R15 multi test. While this is within the Turbo range, is far below the possible 2.7 GHz. The performance falls during constant load - as is the case in games. After 10 minutes, the SoC only clocked at 1.0 to 1.1 GHz in the multi-test, that is throttling occurs (at a temperature from 62 C at the SoC).

Bottleneck USB memory: Our steam and origin libraries are on external USB media. In our Switch 12S, several games were heavily slowed down in the realms of FPS and loading times. Docking the USB-3.0 directly on Acer's Graphics Dock slightly improved the situation. Apparently, the USB 3.0 port on the keyboard of the Switch 12S is slightly slowed down.

Verdict Gaming As the article is updated with additional Thunderbolt systems, the performance comparison will expand further. We will test the Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake soon. Until now it seems clear that the docking GPU can provide a similar performance to laptops with this GPU installed internally. However, the Acer Graphics Dock can only keep this promise if the SoC is powerful enough. A 4.5 Watt Core with throttling is definitely too weak.

Switch 12S: R15 Loop with only 1.0-1.1 GHz
Switch 12S: R15 Loop with only 1.0-1.1 GHz
Switch 12S: Load of the SoC at several origin downloads @45 %
Switch 12S: Load of the SoC at several origin downloads @45 %
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset (HD Package)
Acer Aspire VN7-591G-727P
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i7-4720HQ
31.9 fps ∼20% +12%
Acer TravelMate P658-M-59J7 Graphics Dock
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i5-6200U
28.5 fps ∼18%
Dell XPS 15-9550 i7
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i7-6700HQ
27.71 fps ∼17% -3%
Asus G501JW
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i7-4720HQ
27.1 fps ∼17% -5%
Acer Graphics Dock GTX 960M - Aspire Switch 12S
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core m5-6Y54
26.8 fps ∼17% -6%
Dell XPS 15 2016 9550
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i5-6300HQ
25.9 fps ∼16% -9%
HP Pavilion 17-ab004ng
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i5-6300HQ
24.2 fps ∼15% -15%
Rise of the Tomb Raider - 1920x1080 High Preset AA:FX AF:4x
MSI GS73VR 6RF
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (Laptop), Intel Core i7-6700HQ
72.4 fps ∼40% +194%
HP Pavilion 17-ab004ng
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i5-6300HQ
26.2 fps ∼15% +7%
Acer TravelMate P658-M-59J7 Graphics Dock
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i5-6200U
24.6 fps ∼14%
Acer Aspire V15 Nitro BE VN7-592G-79DV
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i7-6700HQ
23.9 fps ∼13% -3%
Acer Graphics Dock GTX 960M - Aspire Switch 12S
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core m5-6Y54
22.6 fps ∼13% -8%
Acer Aspire F15 F5-573G-53V1
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M, Intel Core i5-6200U
21.1 fps ∼12% -14%
Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12 SA5-271-56HM
Intel HD Graphics 520, Intel Core i5-6200U
6.1 fps ∼3% -75%
Hitman: Absolution - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:4xMS AF:16x
Acer TravelMate P658-M-59J7 Graphics Dock
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i5-6200U
36.9 fps ∼38%
Acer Aspire F15 F5-573G-53V1
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M, Intel Core i5-6200U
36.3 fps ∼37% -2%
Acer Aspire VN7-591G-727P
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i7-4720HQ
25.5 fps ∼26% -31%
Acer Graphics Dock GTX 960M - Aspire Switch 12S
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core m5-6Y54
19 fps ∼20% -49%
Ryse: Son of Rome - 1920x1080 High Texture Res. + High Graphics Quality (Rest Off/Disabled) AF:8x
Asus G501JW
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i7-4720HQ
27.6 fps ∼25% +5%
Acer TravelMate P658-M-59J7 Graphics Dock
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i5-6200U
26.3 fps ∼24%
Thief - 1366x768 High Preset AA:FXAA & Low SS AF:4x
MSI GS73VR 6RF
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (Laptop), Intel Core i7-6700HQ
77.5 fps ∼59% +112%
Dell XPS 15 2016 9550
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i5-6300HQ
52.5 fps ∼40% +44%
Dell XPS 15-9550 i7
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i7-6700HQ
50 fps ∼38% +37%
Asus G501JW
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i7-4720HQ
43.8 fps ∼33% +20%
Acer TravelMate P658-M-59J7 Graphics Dock
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i5-6200U
36.5 fps ∼28%
HP Pavilion 17-ab004ng
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i5-6300HQ
35.5 fps ∼27% -3%
Acer Aspire F15 F5-573G-53V1
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M, Intel Core i5-6200U
32.8 (min: 19.8) fps ∼25% -10%
Acer Graphics Dock GTX 960M - Aspire Switch 12S
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core m5-6Y54
19.2 fps ∼15% -47%
Acer Aspire V3-372-50LK
Intel HD Graphics 520, Intel Core i5-6200U
11.7 fps ∼9% -68%
Fallout 4 - 1920x1080 High Preset AA:T AF:16x
Dell XPS 15-9550 i7
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i7-6700HQ
30.5 fps ∼20%
HP Pavilion 17-ab004ng
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i5-6300HQ
30.5 fps ∼20%
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 - 1920x1080 Extra / On AA:T2x SM
Dell XPS 15-9550 i7
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i7-6700HQ
35.6 fps ∼23% +5%
Acer TravelMate P658-M-59J7 Graphics Dock
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core i5-6200U
33.9 fps ∼22%
Acer Graphics Dock GTX 960M - Aspire Switch 12S
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Intel Core m5-6Y54
9.6 fps ∼6% -72%
Acer Graphics Dock (GTX 960M) @Acer TravelMate P658-M-59J7 Core i5
low med. high ultra4K
Hitman: Absolution (2012) 40.736.9fps
Thief (2014) 36.522fps
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (2014) 35.628.5fps
Alien: Isolation (2014) 49.1fps
Ryse: Son of Rome (2014) 26.324.7fps
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 (2015) 37.733.9fps
Fallout 4 (2015) 27.822.2fps
Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016) 24.620.2fps
Acer Graphics Dock (GTX 960M) @Acer Aspire Switch 12S SW7-272-M0JS Core m5
low med. high ultra
Hitman: Absolution (2012) 28.524.324.119fps
Crysis 3 (2013) 28.621.612.5fps
BioShock Infinite (2013) 1076147.632.2fps
Battlefield 4 (2013) 27.524.71316.8fps
Thief (2014) 33.525.419.212.4fps
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (2014) 46.733.526.8fps
Alien: Isolation (2014) 42.9fps
Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014) 36.213fps
Battlefield Hardline (2015) 18.211.411.9fps
FIFA 16 (2015) 64.630.724.7fps
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 (2015) 26.225.19.6fps
Star Wars Battlefront (2015) 1416.713fps
Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016) 40.422.619fps
Deus Ex Mankind Divided (2016) 22.517.713.3fps
Mafia 3 (2016) 24.515.1fps

Temperatures

The temperature emissions of the dock are low when compared to the performance it offers. The surface reaches slightly above 30 degrees Celsius (~86 degrees Fahrenheit). It is important to note that in the case of this dock, the temperatures are heavily influenced by the fact that the case does not need to cool a CPU alongside the GPU as well.

Heatmap Load @Gaming
Heatmap Load @Gaming

Verdict

Power up your device: Acer Graphics Dock with GTX 960M
Power up your device: Acer Graphics Dock with GTX 960M

The graphics dock promises the performance of a GTX 960M and delivers this level of performance in all the games we tested (with the latest driver, ForceWare 372.70). We are excited to see whether other Thunderbolt 3 systems will produce the same results as the Acers TravelMate P658-M-59J7 with its 15 W SoC. Soon we will add the Switch 12S convertible and the new Dell Kaby-Lake XPS 13 to the comparison table. 

Unfortunately, this solution does not provide top-end graphics yet. However, the GPU performance delivered via Thunderbolt 3 to tablets and slim subnotebooks is impressive. In the end, the owners of an Aspire Switch 12S tablet or a Thunderbolt 3 subnotebook do not have a choice: their compact devices have no space for a dedicated GPU. 

As the Asus and Razer products (ROG XG Station 2 and Core) are not currently available on the German market, Acer is the sole provider of this segment. The Razer Core is available for 500 US Dollars in North America, but it comes with a graphics card. As such, we expect the device to be priced much higher than the Asus product, when it is released in Germany. Despite the much higher price, the Razer Core promises higher performance for a longer time, as the graphics card in the case can be swapped out once it is outdated. 

The Acer Graphics Dock is not only for gamers. It offers significant graphics performance and various, useful ports.

The dock comes with 3 USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI interface and 2 DisplayPorts. An audio jack and a GBit LAN port are also included. All of this can be connected to a notebook / tablet / convertible via the single interface of the dock. Currently, the Acer Graphics Dock is available on Amazon for 309 Euros (~$348).

Future updates: the Acer Graphics Dock is compatible with every laptop with a Thunderbolt 3, just like the Razer Core. We plan to add additional devices in future. For now, the Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake and the Aspire Switch 12 S (tablet) are the only upcoming additions.

Update 10-15-2016

Aspire Switch 12S
Aspire Switch 12S

We have also tested a system with Core m when connected to the Graphics Dock now. The 12.5-inch tablet Aspire Switch 12S with Core m5 6Y54 (Skylake) only provides poor gaming experiences. Gaming performance on the level of a GTX 960 was not possible due to too low CPU performance. The SoC only ran at just above the base clock, which was not sufficient for many games.

Those who want to make a device gaming capable with the Graphics Dock, should better not use a Core m or at least ensure constant Turbo usage on a high level. However, users do hardly have any impact on the latter. Attaching big cool pads to the rear side of the tablet is not a solution.

Note: Under Kaby Lake, only the Core m3 7Y30 (TDP 4,5 Watt) is called Core m any longer. The manufacturer assigns the faster 7Y54 and 7Y75 to the i5 and i7 series. Hence, customers cannot see at the first glance, whether a system comes with a weak SoC.

In view of the results, we recommend using the Graphics Dock on laptops or convertibles with Thunderbolt 3, which at least come with 15 Watt Core i processors.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Acer Graphics Dock with Nvidia GTX 960M Review
Sebastian Jentsch, 2016-10-19 (Update: 2016-10-17)