Before we talk about our Alienware Graphic Amplifier review, first, we need to know a little about the brand. Alienware has been a company that has partnered with Dell to create amazing gaming laptops. They are amazing not only because of the specs but also because of that famous out-of-this-world look. Even though they are pretty amazing specs-wise and with its aesthetics, it is still a laptop.
What I mean by this is that a laptop cannot be upgraded like you would a desktop PC. This means that when you buy a laptop, you’re pretty much going to be stuck with the same specs until its lifespan is fully depleted.
And, since games have become increasingly demanding every year, the GPU is going to be the bottleneck in every laptop. Your high-end GPU this year will be obsolete in 2-3 years’ time and the only way for you to be able to enjoy those AAA games to its fullest extent is to buy another gaming laptop that is capable of handling the demand.
Alienware knows this and they do not want their own gaming laptops to become obsolete in a few years. That is why they’ve created their very own eGPU enclosure, the Alienware Graphics Amplifier.
To put it bluntly, the Alienware Graphics Amplifier looks like a toaster. If it weren’t for its grilles and additional flair, this eGPU enclosure would definitely look like your standard toaster. Kidding aside, the Alienware Graphics Amplifier is big. It has dimensions of 185.42 x 408.94 x 172.72 mm. It is pretty big, but it is actually a good thing since you can basically slot in your favorite desktop graphics card inside.
When you pry open the graphics amplifier (by sliding the switch at the back of the enclosure), you will be greeted with a 460W power supply that can run pretty much all of the graphics cards currently available on the market. You also get to see a full PCIe x16 slot wherein you can plug slot in your favorite graphics card. You can also find the necessary 8-pin and 6-pin connectors and you can use them based on the power requirement of your graphics card.
At the back, you will find four USB 3.0 ports and the cable that plugs into your laptop to give it some extra punch. The cable that the amplifier is using is a bit controversial given that it is just a PCIe 3.0 x4 cable. Why is this a big issue? That is because the cable can only send a maximum bandwidth of 30GB/s which can be detrimental to the overall performance of the graphics card. More on this later.
The Alienware Graphics Amplifier have ample vents for proper ventilation. There are vents on the left side of the enclosure specifically tailored for the GPU and there are vents at the back and on the front for proper airflow. There is also a single fan inside the enclosure as well that acts as an intake.
Setting up the Alienware Graphics Amplifier is pretty straightforward. Open the eGPU enclosure, plug your graphics card of choice in the PCIe Slot, plug the appropriate power connectors, close the eGPU, and then plug the amplifier into a socket. Plug in the cable to your laptop and everything should work accordingly.
Do note that if you want to make use of an external monitor, plug them directly into the graphics card you put in. The company said that there is a performance degradation when using external monitors as opposed to your laptop’s own display. So bear that in mind.
Once everything is plugged up, it is best that you update the laptop’s drivers as well as the graphics card’s drivers as well.
So, how does the Alienware Graphics Amplifier perform? Well, first off, the amplifier can only perform well if you put in a competitive graphics card. If you’re using AMD graphics cards, you may want to get a Radeon RX 470 or 480. These cards perform perfectly well in 1080p.
If you want a more powerful graphics card, you may want to get a GTX 1070 from Nvidia. If you have the money to spend on a more powerful graphics card, the GTX 1080Ti is a good choice at $700. When using more powerful GPUs, I suggest that you do not overclock the card as it not only draws more power, it can also be detrimental to the environment the GPU is in.
You see, despite having a lot of air vents, the graphics card can get a little hot. Furthermore, it would be best that you use a GPU with a blower-style cooler to complement the inside of the eGPU. The GPU can get really hot hovering around 80C at maximum load. Since it gets this hot, the fan needs to work doubly hard which equates to it being noisy. If noise is a big point of consideration for you, then this might put you off from buying this eGPU.
However, performance-wise, the Graphics Amplifier is a surprising performer. When using a relatively powerful graphics card (like the ones I’ve mentioned earlier), you can get a sizable performance boost over the Alienware laptop’s internal GPU. You’re seeing about 95% power from the discrete graphics card you’re using. Despite the cable used, that is still a pretty good performance boost, if you ask me.
The Alienware Graphics Amplifier is a pretty good eGPU enclosure with some limitations. First of all, this eGPU can only support Alienware gaming laptops; so for people who have a non-Alienware laptop can look for another eGPU.
Second, the eGPU can get really hot, especially if you’re not using one of those blower-style coolers. Always ensure that you do not overclock the GPU in any way.
Despite these quirks, I am impressed by the performance boost of the eGPU. Remember that it using a PCIe cable that has a throughput of only 30GB/s. Even though this is the case, you’re going to see a 95% boost depending on the graphics card you’re using.
So, if you want to amplify your current Alienware gaming laptop, then the Alienware Graphics Amplifier is for you. This eGPU enclosure costs $175.
- Compatible with a large number of graphics cards
- Robust build
- Can only be used in Alienware Gaming Laptops