Why buy an external GPU?
For the longest time, laptop users had to accept the fact that they’re sacrificing horsepower for mobility. While desktop gamers had different options for enhancing their specs, people using laptops to play games or use demanding software had little choice other than to buy a new machine if they hoped to keep up. Suffice to say, it was hard to take laptop gamers seriously since their machine would be unable to play the latest titles efficiently in no time.
Today, external GPUs offer an alternative source of power so you can continue gaming on your laptop for years to come. Thanks to the rise of Thunderbolt 3.0, a simple USB-C port makes it easier than ever to hook up an eGPU and play with more speed, pixels, and power.
What exactly is an external GPU & how does it work?
An external GPU is an enclosure that contains a video card used to connect to either a PC or laptop. By using the power of the graphics card connected via the eGPU, the gaming desktop or laptop can now utilize more power, resulting in better visuals and speeds. While a dedicated power supply is guaranteed among the average GPUs, some also include extras like their own cooling system or a PCI Express slot to connect video cards.
Will any external GPU work with my laptop or desktop?
Nope. Doing your own research is very important since not every eGPU is compatible with just any computer or graphics card. Once you see a product from our list that tickles your fancy, study up on it via other online resources because every external GPU has its own specific compatibility requirements.
Basically, the two main things to look at when choosing an external GPU are the allowed card sizes and connections/ports. For example, the Akitio Node is stated to support everything from full-length, full-height, and double-width cards. The OWC Mercury Helios 3, on the other hand, only accepts cards that are 7.75″ in size.
Also look at whether the external GPU you’re interested has Thunderbolt or USB ports, or if it required a proprietary connector. Some eGPUs, like the HP Acceletaror Omen, allows you to plug in both solid-state and hard drives via a SATA port. Most importantly, there are eGUPs stated to only work with specific devices, like the Razer Core only working with Thunderbolt 3 computers.
By doing research online you might even discover that, despite the official product’s list of compatible products, a certain eGPU does in fact work with your gaming device with a few tweaks.
Even if your gaming laptop already packs a punch but still needs a little kick to match the demands of the latest games, check out our recommended best external GPUs below:
Have you always dreamed of playing games in 4K resolution on your gaming laptop? What about demanding VR games? If this sounds like you, the Akitio Node – Thunderbolt3 eGPU is a worthy option, especially if you’re looking for a way to get the most out of your external graphics card without breaking the bank.
The extra GPU power delivered by Thunderbolt 3 means your laptop or mini PC can now do things it couldn’t before. You’ll be able to play technically demanding games without having to worry about frame rate or other visual issues that can affect your experience. Aside from gaming, you can also now run programs like video editors and 3D software without having to wait forever to render footage.
The Thunderbolt 3 eGFX box gives you fast transfer speeds of up to 40 Gps, one PCle (x16 with up to 75W of power) slot that supports full-length, full-height, double-width cards, and has a roomy enclosure so any standard and large graphics cards can fit. Other features include: a 4 lane PCI Express 3.0 compliant interface, carry handle for seamless transport, removable back panel for 2x width cards, and an integrated 400W SFX power supply for more power to the GPU.
If there’s one brand you can count on when it comes to enhancing your gaming computer’s performance, it’s Alienware. They’ve been leaders in the video game industry for a while now, and for good reason. As far as eGPUs go, this Alienware Graphics Amplifier (9R7XN) is arguably one of their best products available. Before moving on, remember that this one is only compatible with desktop graphics cards that aren’t longer than 10.5″ in length.
Also worth mentioning is that the Alienware Graphics Amplifier is compatible with an Alienware 13, 15, and 17 R2, notebooks LCDs, and on any external display. Simply use the single proprietary cable to plug things in and get ready for a supercharged gaming experience. It offer support for full-length, dual-wide graphics cards and features a built-in 4-port USB 3.0 hub. Like most Alienware products, you can also make your system look cooler than ever by setting triggers, morphing lights between different colors, and making your system glow in sync with your game.
Last but not least, Alienware throws in a 1-year return for repair with non-accidental damage as well as a 1-4 year accidental damage service.
The Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box does the trick if you want an external GPU that’s easy to install and improves your life as a laptop gamer. This Thunderbolt 3 to PCIe card expansion solution was made with bandwidth-intensive graphic video cards in mind but is also compatible with any PCIe card that supports Thunderbolt.
Although this is one of the cheaper external GPUs out there, don’t be fooled: the Thunderbolt 3 delivers an impressive 2750 MB/s of bandwidth along with the power of 40Gbps. Supported graphics cards include: AMD Radeon R9, AMD Radeon RX, and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 7, 9 and 10 series. The x16 PCI Express 3.0 slot can handle pretty much any size card— from full-length and full-height to single or double-width.
The Sonnet EGFX Breakaway Box is also a good option if you want a quiet eGFX box that can also stay cool. This is done thanks to its variable-speed, temperature-controlled fan that makes sure the installed card stays nice and cool while keeping your environment noise-free.
This powerful external GPU was only just released in September 2017, which means it’s one of the newest products in the industry. It’s clear that HP spent plenty of time and effort into making their own option competitive by making it particularly attractive. The HP Omen Accelerator is a no-brainer if you want choice that’s not only heavy on features but also surprisingly affordable.
This impressive eGPU does its job of injecting a serious boost of performance to laptop, making your portable gaming experience better than ever. Since it fits pretty much any of the latest graphics cards and storage devices, the HP Omen Accelerator makes it so your laptop can play games the way their developers intended you to. It also doesn’t hurt that the Thunderbolt 3-certified USB-C connectivity also serves as a way to charge your USB-C laptop.
Another major benefit HP was smart to add is allowing for enough room for either a hard or solid-state drive. With today’s best games averaging around 50Gbs in size, every laptop gamer will eventually need a separate storage solution to hold all their titles. The ability to store your HDD or SDD inside the HP Omen Accelerator is a valuable convenience if you like to move your gaming laptop around from place to place.
The big easy-access door also lets you access your graphics card slot, replaceable power supply, and 2.5″ drive bay without any hassle. If you have a Windows-based PC with a Thunderbolt 3 port. the HP Omen Accelerator is one of the best external GPUs you can buy. HP also has a wide range of products perfect for your enhanced Omen-powered laptop, including a gaming mouse, keyboard, headset, and cursed monitor.
This external GPU enclosure is highly recommended for its impressive range of compatible products and expansion ports, not to mention its thin design. If you have a laptop with a USB-C port for Thunderbolt 3, you have all you need to grab this excellent Mantiz product and transform your gaming life forever.
The Venus MZ-02 allows for up to 40Gbps, which means full 2,750 MB/s of PCIe of bandwidth. With that kind of power you can run modern video games with the highest frame rate available. Also notable is the whopping six expansion inputs, including two front USB 3.0 ports, three rear USB 3.0 ports, and one Gigabit Ethernet port. You’d be hard-pressed to find another external GPU that offers this kind of versatility.
As if that weren’t enough, the Mantiz Venus’ full aluminum body with anodizing treatment also gives you a way to expand your storage capacity via an internal SATA III connector, plus enough space to old your 2.5″ hard or solid-state drive. Another reason this external GPU has become so attractive to laptop gamers is due to the fact that it still works on systems not actually designed to support it.
Razer is another trustworthy name in the computer gaming world that has a reputation for crafting excellent products. Providing an attractive design, plenty of power, and easy set up, the Razer Core is certainly no exception. While it isn’t the most affordable external GPUs out there, it’s certainly worth the cash if you have a compatible device that can handle it.
Boasting a sleek metallic design, serpent logo, and customizable light settings, this is arguably one of the best external GPUs out there in terms of look. Chroma backlighting compatibility also means you can use Razer’s Synapse to create lighting effects with up to 16.7 million colors. As far as setup goes, inserting your GPU into the Razer Core is incredibly easy. Simply grab the quick release handle and pull it to open the interior housing, then remove the holding screw to insert your graphics card. ONce done, replace the screw, slide the housing back into the case, and connect the needed plugs.
Speaking of comparability, it’s clear from the get-go that the Razer Core was designed for the Razer blade Stealth ultraportable gaming computer. Other laptops that can also get an incredible boost in performance— Alienware 13, MacBook Pro 13, And Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon, to name a few. Just keep in mind that not every gaming laptop with a Thunderbolt port will work with the Razer Core, such as the HP Spectre x360 or Dell XPS 13.
When it comes to compatible desktop graphics cards, the Razer Core works fine with a wide range. It also comes with its own power supply, can fit into most Nvidia or AMD desktop-grade graphics chips, and offers a set of extra Gigabit Lan and 4x USB 3.0 ports.
Where to find more advice on external GPUs?
Did you already take a look at our recommended external GPUs but still have questions on your mind? You’re not alone. To be honest, the eGPU market is fairly new and only recently became a reality after dwelling merely as a fantasy among laptop and desktop gamers. Fortunately, there are plenty of people already experimenting with the latest external GPUs who are usually more than willing to share their knowledge.
Our top suggestion is checking out the /r/eGPU subreddit