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Cheap alternative to Thunderbolt 3 docking or KVM.

MastiniuS
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Hi guys,

As this is my first post.  i hope this is the right section to ask my question.

I am planning to do the same as what Linus did with his personal rig from 2015. 

So building 2 pc's into rackmounted 4U server chassis and use it with other equipment like NAS, Router and patch panel in a server cabinet somewhere where the noise is isolated.

Linus used a thunderbolt 3 cable to a docking station in a seperate room, which connects all his peripherals + monitor.
Those thunderbolt cables are very expensive at 15 to 30 meters, which got me thinking: What would be a cheap alternative to above solution?
 

  • Thunderbolt docking stations are between 200 to 300 euro's, and another 300 - 600 euro for the OWC thunderbolt cable itself (10m or 30m) 
    Thats about a minimum of 1000 euro for the perfect solution for 2 pc's.
     
  • USB 3 docking station are 100 euro's more or less.  The active usb 3.0 cables itself are very cheap: between 25 to 100 euro for the premium brands. (15m)
    Total costs would be around 350 euro's for 2 pc's. 
    *I'm not sure if Freesync would work via a usb dock..
     
  • My other option would be buying an long HDMI or DP cable for each monitor that i am using (34'''ultrawide 1080p) together with an usb cable + hub.
    The cables would be 20 - 80 each and a USB hub with RGB for extra power is as cheap as 10 euro. 
    So 4 cables + 2 hubs would be 150 to 200 euro in total.

 

Thunderbolt is capable of 40Gbps
USB 3.0 is capable of 5Gbps
HDMI and DP is around 10gbps

I want to benefit from freesync up to 75hz and want it to look neat, so might be getting additional wall mounts as well. 
For more convenience I want to use wake-on-lan or just start the pc up with the press of a button on my keyboard.

Is there anything I am missing here? is there a better solution available? and what would you guys do if you want your gaming system seperately.

The pro's of course are no noise, more space available and it just looks neat.

Con's are that in order to make any hardware adjustments, you would have to go to your server cabinet. same goes for giving it a hard reset.

 

Suggestions?

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This isn't just about how much Gbps bandwidth there is available.

It is about what circuitry and data protocols are being used.

 

Any display you run from a USB port will have much higher latency, will have framerate and resolution limitations, will use a lot of CPU power, and probably won't work with freesync.

Active USB cables still have a distance limitation. Going so far will limit the bandwidth you can reliably transmit, so probably no display or capture devices.

 

A good quality HDMI/DP cable should be able to do 15m+, but then you do need the USB extension too for peripherals.

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If only you lived in the US. I have a used Thunderbolt 3 docking station on eBay for $75 USD + shipping :( 

Laptop: 2019 16" MacBook Pro i7, 512GB, 5300M 4GB, 16GB DDR4 | Phone: iPhone 13 Pro Max 128GB | Wearables: Apple Watch SE | CPU: R5 2600 | Mobo: ASRock B450M Pro4 | RAM: 16GB 2666 | GPU: ASRock RX 5700 8GB | Case: Apple PowerMac G5 | OS: Win 10 | Storage: 480GB PNY SSD & 2TB WD Green HDD | PSU: Corsair CX600M | Display: Dell 27 Gaming Monitor S2719DGF 1440p @155Hz, Dell UZ2215H 21.5" 1080p, ViewSonic VX2450wm-LED 23.6" 1080p | Cooling: Wraith Prism | Keyboard: G610 Orion Cherry MX Brown | Mouse: G303 | Audio: Audio Technica ATH-M50X & Blue Snowball
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3 minutes ago, Enderman said:

This isn't just about how much Gbps bandwidth there is available.

It is about what circuitry and data protocols are being used.

 

Any display you run from a USB port will have much higher latency, will have framerate and resolution limitations, will use a lot of CPU power, and probably won't work with freesync.

Active USB cables still have a distance limitation. Going so far will limit the bandwidth you can reliably transmit, so probably no display or capture devices.

 

A good quality HDMI/DP cable should be able to do 15m+, but then you do need the USB extension too for peripherals.

So i guess an USB docking station is no option, which is fine.. because its not the cheapest option.

Does the latency issues occur with an active usb 3 extension cord of 15m connected to a usb hub?
And active HDMI cable would basically give me the same performance right? but uses more cpu power if using longer length cables?? or does it only apply to usb docking station?

 

1 minute ago, DrMacintosh said:

If only you lived in the US. I have a used Thunderbolt 3 docking station on eBay for $75 USD + shipping :( 

It would be perfect if it comes with a 10m thunderbolt cable as well ?, and since I need 2 of them its still an expensive option..  75$ for a that docking station is a steal.. in The Netherlands they are pretty expensive.

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7 minutes ago, MastiniuS said:

So i guess an USB docking station is no option, which is fine.. because its not the cheapest option.

Does the latency issues occur with an active usb 3 extension cord of 15m connected to a usb hub?
And active HDMI cable would basically give me the same performance right? but uses more cpu power if using longer length cables?? or does it only apply to usb docking station?

How far are you trying to go?

Avoid active stuff if possible, except for USB which you'll probably need since it can only do 5m max passive.

NEW PC build: Blank Heaven   minimalist white and black PC     Old S340 build log "White Heaven"        The "LIGHTCANON" flashlight build log        Project AntiRoll (prototype)        Custom speaker project

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Ryzen 3950X | AMD Vega Frontier Edition | ASUS X570 Pro WS | Corsair Vengeance LPX 64GB | NZXT H500 | Seasonic Prime Fanless TX-700 | Custom loop | Coolermaster SK630 White | Logitech MX Master 2S | Samsung 980 Pro 1TB + 970 Pro 512GB | Samsung 58" 4k TV | Scarlett 2i4 | 2x AT2020

 

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1 minute ago, Enderman said:

How far are you trying to go?

Avoid active stuff if possible, except for USB which you'll probably need since it can only do 5m max passive.

Well I guess about 10m is enough, just thought 15m would be perfect so that it gives me a little extra for future use.

I have not decided yet where to put the server cabinet, if cable length really becomes an issue I guess i will put the server cabinet right above or below the room with the monitors.  

Worst case scenario i will put an HDMI + USB wall mount in both of the rooms with shortest cable length possible, and then use additional cables from the wall mount to the server cabinet and vice versa.

These are the mounts i'm talking about:
image.png.52fccb82ec1069704f9d2340ae7d4fb7.png
It's in dutch but you probably know what i mean.

Is this gonna give me latency issues even more? because i use multiple cables? 

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3 minutes ago, MastiniuS said:

Well I guess about 10m is enough, just thought 15m would be perfect so that it gives me a little extra for future use.

I have not decided yet where to put the server cabinet, if cable length really becomes an issue I guess i will put the server cabinet right above or below the room with the monitors.  

Worst case scenario i will put an HDMI + USB wall mount in both of the rooms with shortest cable length possible, and then use additional cables from the wall mount to the server cabinet and vice versa.

These are the mounts i'm talking about:
image.png.52fccb82ec1069704f9d2340ae7d4fb7.png
It's in dutch but you probably know what i mean.

Is this gonna give me latency issues even more? because i use multiple cables? 

Every point of connection can degrade the signal further so ideally it would only be one cable connected at each end, but for 15m only it should probably be fine.

You will have to try and find out though.

NEW PC build: Blank Heaven   minimalist white and black PC     Old S340 build log "White Heaven"        The "LIGHTCANON" flashlight build log        Project AntiRoll (prototype)        Custom speaker project

Spoiler

Ryzen 3950X | AMD Vega Frontier Edition | ASUS X570 Pro WS | Corsair Vengeance LPX 64GB | NZXT H500 | Seasonic Prime Fanless TX-700 | Custom loop | Coolermaster SK630 White | Logitech MX Master 2S | Samsung 980 Pro 1TB + 970 Pro 512GB | Samsung 58" 4k TV | Scarlett 2i4 | 2x AT2020

 

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2 minutes ago, Enderman said:

Every point of connection can degrade the signal further so ideally it would only be one cable connected at each end, but for 15m only it should probably be fine.

You will have to try and find out though.

I guess i do :P Will try to keep the cables as short as possible, thank you for your advice.

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Quick update:

As it turns out, HDMI will not produce input lag.

For the USB cables i would need to use these guys:
image.png.c9bd028f328268c6c1060a31f35a4f2c.png

With usb over ethernet there are no amplifiers which could cause input lag,

So I guess the last option is the cheapest option compared to a 1000 euro thunderbolt connection.
The last thing to do is to compare those 2 options.. but unfortunately I'm not able to do that kind of testing.

I hope this is useful for anyone who would try to game on a remote location in his/her house.

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