In this guide, we present to you the best external graphics card available now.
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The Best External GPU Enclosure is ;
Read our external graphics card reviews below this table.
|Best eGPU||Latest Price (Amazon)||Interface||Compatibility||OS Support||Card Support|
|Gigabyte AORUS Gaming Box|
|Thunderbolt 3||Most* w/TB3||Windows/OSX*||12.2”|
|Alienware Graphics Amplifier|
|Proprietary Connection||Alienware Only||Windows||Most*|
|Thunderbolt 3||All Laptops w/ TB3||Windows/OSX||Most*|
|Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box|
|Thunderbolt 3||All Laptops w/ TB3||Windows/OSX||12.2”|
|HP Omen Accelerator|
|Thunderbolt 3||All Laptops w/ TB3||Windows/OSX||Most|
|Thunderbolt 3||All Laptops w/ TB3||Windows/OSX||"Full-length"|
* Most cards are supported with these boxes. The manufacturer(s) only specification is “full-length double-wide cards.” The Razer Core natively only supports Razer products, but users report the enclosure working fine with other, non-Razer TB3 laptops.
* The Razer Core and PowerColor Devil Box show no official support but users have reported enabling functionality through unsupported methods in OSX.
Tired of dealing with sub-optimal frame rates or needing to slide down a few frustrating resolutions on your expensive gaming laptop, just to be able to play that newest AAA title? Ever wonder what budget gaming on the go would be like if you could switch out mobile graphics, the way you may with most desktop systems? If anything along these lines has crossed your mind at some time or the other; you might find what you’re looking for below.
E-GPU enclosures are capable of breathing new life into your laptop, but they aren’t the ultimate solution by a long run. Most modern laptops come outfitted with Thunderbolt 3 or USB Type-C to accommodate E-GPUs to some extent; but only about a handful of older machines, such as mobile workstations and premium gaming laptops would support MPCI or Express-card slots that can be retrofitted to interface with an E-GPU. Even with a Thunderbolt-3 connection (32GBPS), you’re going to experience stunted performance on your E-GPU, compared to your desktop’s PCIE (126gbps) connection; but don’t let this dissuade you from getting a better card as desktop graphics tend to be far more efficient and powerful than their mobile counterparts.
We’ve gathered some of the best consumer-friendly E-GPU enclosures and set them against each other to find out which of their kind would best be worthy of your backpack, with only the greatest making it on to this list. Below, you’ll find the best E-GPU closures of 2017, all stacked into a neat little pile for your viewing pleasure.
What is the eGPU
At this point, it’s safe to bet that you know what to look for, but just in case, we’ll go over it one more time.
When buying an External GPU Enclosure, look for one that supports Thunderbolt 3 over USB Type-C, if your laptop supports it. If you only have access to USB 3.0, then do that if you absolutely have to. Note though that this is the last resort, as the bandwidth offered over USB 3.0 is not nearly enough for modern graphics amplifiers.
Buying a product like this can be daunting, what with how many variables there are to ensure you have a comfortable experience. From brand-exclusive enclosures to interfaces and other conditions for compatibility, buying something like this isn’t nearly as simple as buying a new graphics card, computer case or power supply. To help alleviate some of this, we’ve laid out a few product recommendations to get you started.
When you click on “Check Price on Amazon.com” you will be redirected to Amazon.
Gigabyte AORUS Gaming Box
The Gigabyte AORUS Gaming Box is unique in that it comes with everything you’ll need to get started. I mean everything. After pulling it out of the box, you’ll find that there’s already a GPU installed. It’s a Gigabyte GTX 1070, and it’s already plugged in, into the included PSU. Included in the box is the enclosure, a PSU cable, a carrying case, a Thunderbolt cable, as well as a driver CD. This thing is small, it’s compact, and it’s ready to roll whenever you are. Installation is simple, you don’t have to buy anything extra, and the included GPU is going to be more than capable of playing most anything you could throw at it. Truly, this is an interesting product that will catch the eye of many.
ASUS ROG-XG-STATION-2 External GPU Review
The ASUS ROG-XG-STATION-2 is less of an external GPU enclosure for your laptop, and more like a computer that’s only missing a handful of internals. Boasting a 600W PSU on board, 5x USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet and even an external thunderbolt connector, the ASUS ROG-XG-STATION-2 is a massive overhaul to not only your laptop or gaming tablet’s graphics horsepower but also it’s I/O. While the gamer aesthetic may not be appreciated by many, there’s no argument here that this will transform any device you hook up to it. As mentioned previously, when paired with a good graphics card, this is practically an entirely new computer. It’s no wonder this thing took so long to become available.
HP Omen External Graphics Card
Unfortunately, not much can be said for HP’s upcoming Omen Accelerator, as it’s yet to be released and not many have had their hands on it. However, HP has been known for their impressive build quality and features at an affordable price, so if we’re to go by instinct, we’re likely in for a good show when the Omen Accelerator finally drops. It shares its aesthetic with HP’s other Omen lineup of products, including their Omen X desktop PCs. According to many news outlets, the Omen Accelerator will offer not only external graphics but also additional I/O, as well as external SSD support.
Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box Review
Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box is another great external GPU on the market that offers impressive build quality, support for a wide range of GPUs, Thunderbolt 3, and comes in at an excellent, affordable price. The blue LED on the front is subtle, but is a nice little touch to add a bit of visual flair to the product. Another nice detail is that the Breakaway Box also comes with a Thunderbolt 3 cable, so you won’t need to buy one separately to get started. With a massive panel for ventilation, you won’t have to worry about your graphics card overheating, Lastly, the enclosure supports Macs, which not many enclosures do.
Alienware Graphics Amplifier Review
The Alienware Graphics Amplifier is well-built, has support for a variety of GPUs, and is relatively inexpensive. Unfortunately, this comes at the price of Alienware opting to use a proprietary connector for the enclosure, which means the device will only be supported on Alienware devices. However, this proprietary connector boasts performance comparable to Thunderbolt 3, so you shouldn’t have to worry about bandwidth issues with any modern GPU.
AkiTio Node Review
You can read our review on the AkiTio Node soon. The AkiTio Node is an interesting product, in that it boasts a very sharp, clean design with minimal branding and works near-seamlessly on both Windows and Mac. Many users report that it simply “works.” Drop in your card, plug it in and download your drivers and you’re off to the races. The Node does not offer expanded I/O, but this helps its case as well. The Node comes in at a very competitive price point of $329, which is $200 less than the Razer Core. Sure, you lose your additional ports, but the Node, unlike the Core, works without issue on most setups. It also uses Thunderbolt 3 ( Thunderbolt 3 external GPU ), which means your graphics card won’t be starved for bandwidth. The only real downside to the Node is that it can often take a long time to ship to the United States. Estimated shipping varies between two and three weeks from date of processed order. This is to be expected with a relatively small and unknown company. This could also be the best one easily.
The AkiTio Node is an interesting product, in that it boasts a very sharp, clean design with minimal branding and works near-seamlessly on both Windows and Mac. Many users report that it simply “works.” Drop in your card, plug it in and download your drivers and you’re off to the races. The Node does not offer expanded I/O, but this helps its case as well. The Node comes in at a very competitive price point of $329, which is $200 less than the Razer Core. Sure, you lose your additional ports, but the Node, unlike the Core, works without issue on most setups. It also uses Thunderbolt 3, which means your graphics card won’t be starved for bandwidth. The only real downside to the Node is that it can often take a long time to ship to the United States. Estimated shipping varies between two and three weeks from date of processed order. This is to be expected with a relatively small and unknown company.
In conclusion, whether you’re buying Alienware Graphics Amplifier or AkiTio Node, there are many options on the market for you. Alienware laptops dominate the gaming market, and this means that a majority of customers with high-end laptops are likely to own one of these brands, enabling access to a really nice product that they know will just work. And while AkiTio is not as affordable as the Graphics Amplifier by Alienware but it is much more affordable than the other brands, and it’s the only enclosure on our list that stands with glowing reviews, touting how it “just works.”
In the future, as more laptops hit the market with better mobile CPUs for better prices, the market for an external graphics card dock is only going to grow. Here’s hoping.
What is An external GPU for a laptop?
Because you’re reading this article, it’s safe to assume that you’re interested in external video cards. Whether you’re a laptop owner and you’re interested in getting more out of your laptop, or you’re on a desktop and are just curious. Regardless of what the case may be, External GPU graphics amplifier rare a really cool concept hindered only by a small market. Below, we’ll go over what they are.
A Brief explanation says “An external GPU for a laptop is a box that plugs into your laptop and you can put a graphics card in it” wouldn’t be wrong, but there’s so much more to it than that. The enclosure itself is rather simple —
To say “An External GPU Enclosure is a box that plugs into your laptop and you can put a graphics card in it” wouldn’t be wrong, but there’s so much more to it than that. The enclosure itself is rather simple — usually, they’re just some form of a box with ventilation. Some variants will offer expanded I/O for your laptop. Extra USB ports, HDMI / DisplayPort, SD Card Readers, Ethernet and more. These are intended to act as an aid, as most laptops only have a very small amount of I/O. This is especially true with laptops that offer USB Type-C ports, which we’ll be focusing on a lot more later down in the article.
An External graphics amplifier typically contains these elements: an enclosure for the GPU itself, expanded I/O, ventilation for the card, and sometimes a fan(s) for additional cooling, a standalone PCB for the external graphics card dock to interface with, and a power supply to deliver additional power to the card if necessary. The enclosure will terminate a single cable that will plug into your laptop. These pieces all come together to create a seamless piece of hardware offering an elegant solution to enhance your laptop’s graphical capabilities. Unfortunately, this comes at the price of a few headaches along the way.
If the concept of a single box with a single cable to make your laptop much faster sounds too good to be true, you’d be somewhat right. Between inconsistencies between enclosures, only one type of interface really is worth using, and driver issues, not to mention whether or not your laptop even supports the interface, there’s a lot of hoops to jump through before you can get right into picking what enclosure and card you want. That is, of course, unless you’re on a Razer Blade using a Razer Core, or a few Alienware models using an Alienware Graphics Amplifier.
While we’ll go over it in more detail later, it’s worth mentioning now that USB Type-C with Thunderbolt 3 is the best — and in some respects only way to go when it comes to using an external graphics card dock. The Thunderbolt 3 interface supports data transfers of up to 40Gbps. This is nearly equivalent to PCI-E 3 4x speeds. Anything below this, and you’ll find that your card harshly underperforms. Your framerates will be much lower than they otherwise would be, and in some cases, you might even encounter frame skipping and stutters.
Next, you’re going to want to ensure that your laptop not only has USB Type-C but that it also has Thunderbolt 3 support, which uses the USB Type-C interface. If you have USB Type-C, it might only have SuperSpeed USB support, which is roughly equal to 10gbps bandwidth, or 25% of Thunderbolt 3. There are only a few laptops available with Thunderbolt 3 support as of now, but that should change going into the future.
With all of this said, we have a few tips for you to ensure that your experience is as pleasant as it can be.
- Ensure your laptop has USB Type-C support.
- Ensure that your USB Type-C is Thunderbolt 3.
- Note that not all enclosures will work on all systems, and some enclosures claiming to work only on one brand might work on others.
- Ensure the enclosure you purchase uses the Thunderbolt 3 interface.
- An external GPU for a laptop might not benefit you if your laptop’s CPU is very old or slow.
- Keeping all of this in mind, your experience as a shopper should be pleasant and painless.
What Type of Graphics Amplifier do I want?
Above, I tried to drive home how important it is that your enclosure and laptop both support Thunderbolt 3. This is true, but I wanted to take the opportunity to go over a few types of interfaces you’re likely to see while shopping for an enclosure.
Arguably the worst solution out of all current enclosures, USB 3.0 offers the bare minimum in bandwidth for the GPU: 5gbps. This is the only 1/8th of what is offered on Thunderbolt 3 and is roughly equivalent to PCI-E 2.0 1x speeds. This would simply starve the card for bandwidth and result in an awful experience. That being said, it will be a step up from integrated graphics, so in an absolute bind, it is a possible solution.
Bear with me here, it’s about to get confusing.
USB Type-C is different than Thunderbolt 3 in that Thunderbolt 3 is an interface which can be adapted into USB Type-C. However, USB Type-C can also be using the SuperSpeed USB interface. This will result in speeds of either 5gbps (same as USB 3.0) or 10gbps, about 25% of the bandwidth possible through Thunderbolt 3. If your enclosure only supports SuperSpeed USB Type-C, you’re going to be limited in the amount of bandwidth your GPU has access to, and this will hurt your experience. However, if the interface is 10gbps and not 5, it won’t be quite as bad.
It’s important to note that Thunderbolt 3 is not a connector type. It’s actually a type of interface which is often used by USB Type-C. This enables data rates of up to 40gbps, the power delivery of up to 100w, and it can be adapted into many USB ports or other interfaces. Having an enclosure support USB Type-C is important, as this will allow your GPU to have full access to more than enough bandwidth for modern GPUs. This interface can also transfer enough power over Thunderbolt 3 to allow low-power cards to be powered without an additional power supply.
While these explanations are simple and only scratch the surface of the technical background behind these connectors and interfaces, it should give you more than enough information about what to look for when buying an enclosure.
Learn more about GPUs on Wikipedia
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