Wolfepack is a Cambridge, MA-based startup that aims to manufacture and market the Wolfe external graphics card for use with Thunderbolt-equipped laptops. Before them, a few hardware manufacturers tried to go this route, with Dell releasing the Graphics Amplifier and Razer recent offering of their Core external graphics card enclosure, just to name a few. To my knowledge, no other manufacturer has ever tried to market a complete, pre-assembled solution, which would make this product an attractive purchase for those professionals, like graphists and video editors, that would benefit from graphics hardware acceleration in programs like Photoshop or Premiere. In order to fund production, Wolfepack is launching a Kickstarter campaign today.
The unit is going to be made from molded ABS plastic in a either a silver or black tint resembling that of Apple MacBooks and will measure 199.5 mm l x 137.5 mm w x 67 mm h. Judging from these figures, it appears obvious that the Wolfe is going to come with an ITX graphics card inside it, because there’s no way to fit a full-length desktop GPU inside that enclosure. Wolfepack aims to offer a model sporting a GTX 950 and a Pro model with a GTX 970, two previous generation models by NVidia, with versions equipped with 10-series graphics cards once the availability of ITX versions of those improves. I’m a bit puzzled by the difference in weight between the two units, seeing how the difference in weight between those two graphics card isn’t all that high. Maybe the figures reported by Wolfepack are just indicative, or maybe I’m missing a piece of the puzzle.
Both models connect to the computer through Thunderbolt. Wolfepack says the device is compatible with both Thunderbolt 2 and Thunderbolt 3. They claim that every unit will come with a Thunderbolt cable (and thank goodness, because those are expensive), although what revision is not specified. Judging from a picture on their website, it would appear to be a Thunderbolt 3 connector, meaning users of previous generation laptops will need an expensive third-party adaptor to connect the unit; at the same time, their teaser (most likely depicting a mockup) shows clearly a Thunderbolt 2 cable. The same picture depicts a standard 8-pin PCIe connector, commonly found on desktop computer power supply units. This worries me a bit because I don’t know of any external power bricks with a PCIe connector, meaning that replacements will probably have to be purchased from Wolfepack directly. The unit will provide the usual connector offerings: a single Dual-link DVI port, an HDMI 1.4, and three DisplayPorts.
Wolfepack claims that it’s possible for two Wolfes to work concurrently to improve performance. I’m skeptical of this, because NVidia graphics cards do not support multi-GPU setups through the motherboard, requiring the GPUs to be connected through a specially-made SLI bridge. AMD’s competing technology, CrossFire, does indeed work through the motherboard, but Wolfepack does no offer models with AMD products inside.
According to the company’s press kit, the pricing for Kickstarter backers will be starting from 399 USD. No information about neither that for backers of the Pro model, nor for regular retail prices. If I was to hazard a guess, the early bird price for the Pro model will fall in the 450-550 USD range. I’ll follow the development of the Wolfe and will review it once it’s out.
Update 23/08/2016 19:00
The Kickstarter campaign for the Wolfe is now live, running for 32 days until September 24th.
The campaign details the prices for early adopters.
The Wolfe is available for 399 $ and the Wolfe Pro for 549 $ for early birds. Each is limited to 100 and 50 units, respectively. Once these run out, the Wolfe will be available fro 449 $ and the Pro for 599 $. No information regarding street prices yet. The base model is also available as a DIY kit, available at 269 $ for 100 backers. The first units are expected to ship on in February 2017.
The campaign page specifies that both models are available with either a Thunderbolt 2 or a Thunderbolt 3 connector.
Update 25/08/2016 10:30
The Wolfe Kickstarter campaign is going to surpass the 180,000 $ mark.