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Portables Hardware

External PCI Box for Laptops? 82

cagem0nkey asks: "I am in need of some type of external PCI card box for use with a laptop. I was able to find several different solutions, but these were all WAY to expensive for my wallet (at around $1,000 ea for one PCI slot!). Does anyone know of a cheaper way to add PCI card capability to a laptop? Possibly a USB or Firewire external enclosure?"
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External PCI Box for Laptops?

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  • sorry but.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @07:29PM (#11270233) Homepage Journal
    it's exotic, it's not simple - it's expensive.

    tried to think about how to get around the problem in some other ways, build a mini-itx computer or something similar?
    • The cheapest way I can think of to do this is with a host-to-host SCSI link. It should be doable with 1394 as well, but I have no data there, only theory. The second host can be as big or small, expensive or cheap as he desires. All he needs is a SCSI card for his laptop. He could even use some old(AKA free) PC to host the PCI bus.

      Does he know how to write code or does he need a plug-n-play solution?
  • cardbus (Score:4, Informative)

    by claudius0425 ( 679268 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @07:31PM (#11270248)
    I am unaware of the existance of such a thing, but it would be MUCH, MUCH simpler to implement as a cardbus device, as cardbus is a pure superset of PCI, whilst USB and 1394 are entirely different protocols (with lower bandwidths, at that).

    It could be implemented as a cardbus card which just pulls the wires out to a PCI connector. Not pretty, but perfectly effective.
    • Well... The external PCI slot connectors shown in this original article do function via cardbus (same as PCMCIA, right? If not, correct me)

      Those things would cost less if it would be that simple.
      • Re:cardbus (Score:2, Interesting)

        by reverius ( 471142 )
        not quite the same thing, but the cards are the same size, with the same plug, and most laptops allow cardbus and pcmcia in the same slot.

        pcmcia is older, and is basically ISA

        cardbus is newer, and is (as described) a superset of PCI with more bandwidth than pcmcia (afaik).
      • Uh, the simplicity of the device does not determine the price by any means, except to occasionally make something more expensive. The price is determined by what people are willing to pay crossed by what someone is willing to sell it for. The former is largely determined by the overall demand and the utility of the device, while the latter is a function of greed and cost of production. The complexity is only a portion of that final consideration.

        Anyway there were Zorro II expansion boxes for the Amiga 120

        • If you think the price isn't justified, why don't you start manufacturing your own expansion boxes and undercut them?

          Or maybe you think the government should step in and set prices for these things? I can certainly see that working out real well.
          • I think going from nothing to making those boxes would probably require some intermediate steps. Your second sentence came out of the wromg orifice and as such does not deserve a dignified response. Your third is predicated upon the second, proving that you are an asshat. Good day.
        • Translation: I, drinkypoo, think that the free market should be replaced by an expansion of the military's procurement system.
    • I agree with you 100%. Your a sharp guy. You are 100% correct. That is the only way to do it for the exact reasons that you mentioned. I have actually seen one but do not remeber who made it. The box that I saw was PCI to Cardbus PCMCIA. It would have been used to house a processor card for a high speed 4000 fps camera.
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  • Dell Latitude (Score:5, Informative)

    by ForestGrump ( 644805 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @07:34PM (#11270282) Homepage Journal
    I have a Latitude C640 (thank you work place!)
    and I have a dock station this thing [], I think. In class right now, but its pretty darned close.

    The dock has 2 pci slots, so I plugged in a radeon 7000 card and so I can run 3 displays (2 crt, laptop LCD).

    If you have an insp laptop, it is possible to modify it (and flash with a latitude bios) so that it will work with a latitude dock station.

    Note: the latitude c640 requires a 70 watt power supply, but with the dock it demands a 90 watt power supply. I don't have a 90 watt, so it works with the 70 watt, running the cpu at 1.2 gig instead of 2.4 gig. Doesn't matter for me because my work requires me to do simple graphical and text. No fancy graphics, etc.

    • --I have a Dell Latitude CP (P166) that also has a 2-PCI-slot dock. Works in both Linux and Windoze. Bought the laptop a few years ago for ~$200; the docking station was on Ebay for less than $50 but I had to move quick 'cuz I lost the 1st one I bid on.

      Also have a P166 Toshiba Tecra 520CDT with 3-slot PCI/ISA docking station, but the dock only works in Win98 and not Linux. (For the curious, I did try contacting a kernel developer about 1 1/2 years ago but he never got back to me. Appears to be a broken
  • Usage? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Komarosu ( 538875 ) <nik_doof@n[ ] ['ikd' in gap]> on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @07:36PM (#11270304) Homepage
    Depends what your using them for!

    If its a simple SCSI interface, network card / fiber interface, or summat pritty standard you could probably spend the dollars on a USB/Firewire bit of kit. If your using something really specialised (special render cards) then your probably better getting a desktop and spended the extra money on sync software.

    Only laptop i know of that supports some PCI is Dell laptops which had 2 PCI slots on a riser card in a docking station.
  • Cardbus is the PCI standard miniaturized for laptops. Sounds like your trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. -- Open Source Operating System for North America (
    • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @08:00PM (#11270523) Homepage Journal
      Not if the hardware he's trying to use comes in PCI and not Cardbus. In that case, it doesn't help him that Cardbus is a kind of PCI. Still, it would help if we knew why he needed PCI in the first place.

      That's the problem with a lot of Ask Slashdots: people focus on the technology they want to use, rather than the task they're trying to use it for. Cliff really ought to bounce back stories like this with the request that they fill in such details.

      • That's the problem with a lot of Ask Slashdots: people focus on the technology they want to use, rather than the task they're trying to use it for. Cliff really ought to bounce back stories like this with the request that they fill in such details.

        A problem I have with a lot of Ask Slashdots is that even though a simple straightforward question is asked, readers are not satisfied to simply either answer the question that was asked, or not post a reply, but instead insist on a either answering a differen

        • by Alereon ( 660683 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @11:19PM (#11272048)

          A problem I have with a lot of Ask Slashdots is that even though a simple straightforward question is asked, readers are not satisfied to simply either answer the question that was asked, or not post a reply, but instead insist on a either answering a different question, or berating the person who asked the question.

          Simply answering someone's questions is a very poor way to help them do what they want to do. In this case, I suspect that the original questioner MEANT something like "what is the cheapest, most portable, and easiest way to do foo." By telling us what foo is, we can come up with a better solution than they had even thought of.

          For example, think of someone asking how to run a long run of CAT6 accross a highway in a safe, secure, and weather-proof manner. Rather than offering them methods of running CAT6 in this manner, suggesting that they instead use wifi and directional antennae would better meet their needs.

          In the case where the original questioner DOES have the best solution in mind and just needs implementation advice, explaining the situation helps us know that they HAVE done their homework.

          • I agree, but I could certainly use a device like the one he's hoping for. I do a lot of video processing from a laptop. The video capture components market is pretty small to begin with, and the video capture market for laptops is a niche within a niche. It would be nice to be able to throw in the latest greatest PCI tuner card into a box the size of a typical external IDE case, then use it with my laptop.
        • A problem I have with a lot of Ask Slashdots is that even though a simple straightforward question is asked, readers are not satisfied to simply either answer the question that was asked, or not post a reply, but instead insist on a either answering a different question ...

          There are plenty of places people can go with simple technical questions: Usenet, discussion web sites, Yahoo groups. Slashdot pretends to be more than that, with editors who are supposed to filter out the low-interest items and promote

        • A software developer explained, "When someone wants a 6mm drill, they don't actually want a 6mm drill. What they want is a 6mm hole in the wall".

          The point being that presumably the poster doesn't neccesarily want to plug a PCI card into a laptop. He simply wants some of the capabilities of a specific PCI card, and some of the capabilities of a laptop. If its posted to Ask Slashdot, people will try to think outside the box, and try to solve the actual overall problem rather than the immediate problem.
  • $1000?!?!??!?! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by m0rph3us0 ( 549631 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @08:03PM (#11270552)
    If the project is important enough to warrant an external PCI card surely it is worth $1000 to buy an adapter? You've probably wasted more money by waiting for /. to respond. On /. everyone wants 100K / year in order to work but doesn't think anyone elses time is worth more then $2.50 / hour. I know this may confuse some /. readers but time is worth money, at least, my time is worth money.
    • Re:$1000?!?!??!?! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by GigsVT ( 208848 )
      What kind of crazy logic is that? If your time is so valuable, why did you click through the story, and spend the time to post a rant about it?
    • hahahahahahahhahaaaa you're assuming some kind of alter-wierdo ego, right?

    • Re:$1000?!?!??!?! (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      " If the project is important enough to warrant an external PCI card surely it is worth $1000 to buy an adapter?" Especially not if there's a $200 solution, which is what he's asking. Also, he never said "a project".
    • If the project is important enough to warrant an external PCI card surely it is worth $1000 to buy an adapter?

      I'm guessing you work for the government as a budget advisor.
      • Re:$1000?!?!??!?! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Detritus ( 11846 )
        The government would waste hundreds of man-hours in committee meetings discussing the problem and looking for a solution, rather than spend $1000 to solve the problem. This also holds true for many corporations.
  • Luchbox... (Score:3, Informative)

    by harrkev ( 623093 ) <> on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @08:17PM (#11270706) Homepage
    You might also want to consider a lunchbox PC. These generally have a few PCI slots built-in. They are also likely to be smaller than having a separate laptop and PCI box. And this IS a comodity item (more or less). Even though the market for these is small, it is larger than a separate PCI box. This should keep the price down.

    Here are some random sites which were the first hits off of Google using "Lunchbox Computer":
    • A contract I was working on put me in a similar problem to the poster; I needed a portable way to get a machine with a PCI port.

      I put a mini-ITX machine together in an ammo box after reading an article somewhere on the web. You can cram everything in there, and it is very durable. The total cost of the project was under $400 CDN.

      Rather than carry a screen around, I installed a VFD display on the front of the case to tell me that the system was ready for use. You could do this with a simple LED connected t
  • by complete loony ( 663508 ) <{Jeremy.Lakeman} {at} {}> on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @08:20PM (#11270734)
    Why not put together a small desktop just for this card. I'll be cheaper than $1000 and probably more useful. It could have lots of connectivity options like ethernet. It can run the supplied hardware drivers (which could be doubtful for an external enclosure).
  • Best Bet (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Buy the 13-slot for $1900 and return 12 of them for a return of around $1753. Then, you'd have one slot for around $147

    ::avoids tomatoes::

  • * It has to be portable?

    * You are certainly sure that you need to plug it directly in your notebook?

    I mean if yes than you are focused on bandwith from/to this device, but you've mentioned about firewire and USB - they do not have awfully big bandwith as PCI so this would be a bottleneck...

    IMHO for $1000 you surely can get equivalent of PCI device (what is this device?) on either USB, firewire or PCMCIA. If not you can get small case (mATX?) with two PCI slots as external device and export this PCI devic
  • I'm selling [] a much cheaper solution with 2 PCI slots on Ebay right now. If you're interested, I also have an extra docking station available.
  • by dstone ( 191334 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:03PM (#11271121) Homepage
    I don't claim to be an expert in PCI or MiniPCI, but any notebook I've seen comes with a MiniPCI slot, and since I -think- MiniPCI is a "bus" in the true sense of the word, can this simply become a (carefully designed) cabling & connector problem? ie, extend your MiniPCI bus out into several MiniPCI (or ideally even PCI) slots?

    Just thinking out loud.
    • I used to hack webplayers, and there was this one guy who got the PCI and Mini-PCI pinouts, and got soldering, with little jumper wires between Mini-PCI slot and PCI card. Although it *looked* like a dog's breakfast, it rather amazingly did seem to (almost!!) work. There were details of it on the net once... aha, bless you, here it is []

      But surely *someone* sells the proper mini-pci-to-PCI-via-a-ribbon-cable type adaptor?

      It's probably easier to just go buy a cheap-o desktop PC and an inverter t
  • by tang ( 179356 )
    It looks like you've marked this one as too expensive. I thought they were around $500. Still pricey , I agree. I have used the single PCI version under linux (need 2.6.5 kernel or higher for some PCI cards), for cards that only need prefetch memory and under 4M ( I think) It will work with 2.4 kernels. Support under Windows is also good. Will be using it under mac soon as well.
  • by capsteve ( 4595 ) on Thursday January 06, 2005 @12:39AM (#11272511) Homepage Journal
    for interfacing a commercial grade digital camera back to the mac for previewing, capturing, and "developing" captured images. it was basically an custom scsi card built specifically for that brand cameraback. it looked very much like the 2 slot solution from magma(posted elsewhere in this thread). the photographer who owned the unit chose this paticular model to hook into a powerbook via the pc-card slot for portability sake, versus going with the stright pci card in a standalone g4. he was going to various locations, so the portability of a laptop and a pci box seemed attractive. the problem is, with most of the work he was doing, and all the crap he was shleping around, he would have been better off with the g4 tower... more horsepower, more RAM, more disk space. he traded a lot for portability's sake(and wasn't too happy with the final results. it turned out to be barely adequate).

    you don't really say what this mysterious pci extension box is for, other than the fact that it'll hook up to a laptop. try to be a little more descriptive in your needs assesment and application before asking next time... a more descriptive scenario/needs assesment might have produced some creative esponses from this audience. instead, your vague question only brings more questions to my mind...

    consider what your environ will be: will you have access to a power outlet? will you ever need to change or replace pci cards? how much are replacement parts for the pci expansion box? are there software requirments for the host computer in order to use the expansion box? would a stand alone computer be a better choice? is this really a true need, or is it a status object? can the solution be reached another way?

    in the final analysis, the fact is you'll need additional power for the expansion box, and the expansion box is bulky enough to require it's own transporting container, you're gonna be lugging this whole thing in something bigger that a laptop bag. it not like you'll be using you laptop with expansion box off of battery power. maybe a SFF computer and a 15" lcd display would be a better option.
  • Easy on a thinkpad: Buy the high end dock.. you can get them for about 30-40 dollars on ebay.. and it has a PCI slot built in.

    course, now you have to cart that around...

    My old omnibook 5500/5700's had docking stations with pci/isa slots as well.
  • firewire based pci break out boxes?
  • It its just portability you need, an ITX case should solve the problem. Some cases even have carrying handles.
  • UGH? Docking Station (Score:4, Informative)

    by haplo21112 ( 184264 ) <haplo&epithna,com> on Thursday January 06, 2005 @10:26AM (#11274844) Homepage
    Most Laptop makers offer at least one model of Docking station that adds these capabilities to the system. The One I am using right now has 2 PCI slots(one of which I have populated with a second old video card to give me a second Monitor), a 50 Mini SCSI(Burner, HP scanner), firewire, USB(Mouse), PS2 connectors for mouse and Keyboard, Drive bay, serial, Printer Port, sound plugs and Network.
  • A quick Google search turned up this company [] which seems to make exactly what you're looking for. You have to have a Mini PCI Type III connector and it only supports 3.3v PCI cards, however. It's a development tool so the cost might be high. You'll have to contact them for details.

    You might also have trouble getting that to fit in a laptop. I'm sure you could buy raw Mini PCI sockets and boards and wire your own extension.
    • And, you'll either have to have the laptop 6" above the desk if the Mini-PCI slot is on the bottom, or you'll have no keyboard if it's on the top (and it'll be hard to see the screen).
  • by tyen ( 17399 )
    You can pick up a used unit [], or if that disappears, just wait long enough and the Magma units show up from time to time. Now if you demand a new unit, or like-new, that you can have right away, and cheaply...well, sorry, you're breaking a variation of the fast-cheap-right rule.
  • [] cardbus to pci enclosures, everything you need. 1 caveat: some (newer) bus-mastering pci cards dont take too kindly to multiple bridging as used in these types of boxes. other than that they should cover you fine

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.