The perfect alternative to desktop-level performance on your laptop. Check out these external graphics cards tailor-made for eGPUs.
The only alternative to enjoy the desktop-level performance while having a highly functional lightweight laptop is using an external GPU enclosure.
eGPUs provide extra graphics processing power much like an external hard drive does for data storage.
The eGPU doesn’t necessarily come with an installed GPU. Instead, these are just a case with the necessary interface to directly cycle the graphics card.
Whether or not, an eGPU is suitable for your needs, depends only upon the intended purpose. eGPUs are a great option for saving space and turning your regular laptop into a gaming and editing powerhouse.
Are eGPUs worth it?
eGPUs are a boon for people who want a gaming system but don’t have space for a bulky gaming tower. The benefit of using a graphic enclosure is particularly connected with two main variables –
A full-size gaming tower requires a lot of space, which everybody doesn’t have. Then there’s the budget part of it. But using an eGPU provides the flexibility to upgrade your normal laptop into a gaming rig.
You can further upgrade the enclosure with the latest graphics card much like in a gaming PC. This flexibility is not available with a gaming laptop as the GPU there is integrated with the motherboard.
Consider a gaming laptop like the Acer Predator Helios 300 with RTX 2060 graphics card. It weighs in at 5.1 pounds while a Macbook Pro having similar specifications with the exception of a graphics card weighs just 3.1 pounds.
An office goer or traveler is more likely to consider a lightweight portable laptop – more functional and easier to carry around. At the same time when they return home, they can plug in their external video card for laptops toenjoy desktop-level gaming performance.
Graphics cards in eGPUs require a dedicated power source though, apart from the PCIe interface it needs to work with the laptop.
Hence these units are available in two form factors, viz. –
Integrated Power Source –
eGPUs with integrated power sources are bulkier as the power adapter is integrated within the eGPU case. These devices also generate more heat, not welcome in case you’re looking for a few hauls on Warzone Battle Royale.
External Power Source –
eGPUs with a charger-type external power adapter make the actual GPU much lighter and compact. The adapter can further be placed on the ground to save space. However, you will still have to carry it around. Considering portability, eGPUs with integrated power sources fit easily in a conventional laptop bag.
How to Use an External Graphics Card to a Laptop?
Despite the number of available methods to connect an external graphics card with your laptop, the process itself is quite long and complicated. Apart from an eGPU, you can use a graphics card dock to use a graphics card with your laptop. These docks come with a power adapter, PCI Express slots, USB cable, and HDMI ports.
Using such an unconventional connection method requires establishing a manual connection with internal ports using mini PCIe cable, NGFF cable, or m.2 cables.
You will have to open the access door and unplug the WiFi-LAN card or remove the SSD from the M.2 slots to connect the card. Most such connections will require you to create a hole on the access panel to pass the wires. Or, you will have to remove the access panel altogether and proceed.
You will also need an external power source to run the graphics card, preferably 20-30% higher capacity than the power capacity of the GPU. Even then your work desk will be a mess full of tangled wires and open circuits.
After completing the connection, you will have to manually disable some BIOS settings and install the latest graphics driver to enjoy gaming on a budget.
The worst part is that there is no documentation or connection module provided with graphics docks making it highly user-unfriendly. It makes the entire process of connecting the GPU with your laptop a risky job as one short circuit can fry your entire laptop or damage your internal devices.
The best possible way is to use a thunderbolt 3 EGPU enclosure.
Wait up though.
These are just the basics of using an eGPU with your laptop for gaming or editing. Optimizing performance, finding that sweet spot between peak performance and low wear needs a bit more in-depth know-how.
Learn all you need to know about turning your laptop into a performance powerhouse here.
How to Choose an eGPU? Buyer’s Guide
There is a wide range of graphic cards/eGPUs that you can purchase on the market. While the basic connectivity includes a power and Thunderbolt 3 USB connection, the governing factor of any graphic card with an eGPU setup is the power output.
For example, the Razer Core X Chroma comes with a 700-watt PSU, making it powerful enough to accommodate graphic cards with a dedicated power requirement of up to watts.
Most eGPUs come with a minimum power supply of 300-400 watts, enough to run low and midrange GPUs. Hence the eGPU you choose will limit the graphic card compatibility.
We recommend buying an eGPU with at least 400 watts of power supply for further upgrades.
With the release of high spec GPUs, eGPU manufacturers also release compatible versions soon after.
7 Best External Graphics Card Enclosure for Laptops
7. Akitio T3N2AA0002Y00U Node Duo
Best Versatile eGPU Enclosure
Akitio Node Duo is a simplistic graphic enclosure with multiple handling options because of its holding slot design. Akitio comes with a pre-installed graphics processor enough to embark on resolving smaller and fresh issues.
It is powered by AMD FirePro 2270 and 2 PCIe slots supporting mini cards, both OC and no OC versions. It also supports PCI-E 3 and displays port devices. The wire-mesh design will ensure that heat is easily displayed without harming the device itself.
Akitio Node Duo is available for just a price of just under $300. This expansion box is quite powerful and easily capable of upgrading your old laptop into a gaming laptop.
Straight from DELL’s gaming attache, this Alienware amplifier supports graphic cards smaller than 9.8 inches in length. It looks the part and is among the most popularly bought eGPUs for laptops.
This Alienware requires both a PCI express-slot and a USB thunderbolt connection. Once you get that part done, this device will be ready to churn out higher frames and exquisite graphics. This graphic enclosure comes with a pre-installed GeForce GTX graphics coprocessor so you’re better off with NVIDIA GTX series cards.
Priced at around $200, this device is sufficient enough to help your laptop run most modern games at moderate-to-high settings.
The Sonnet Breakaway Box is the dark horse in the eGPU segment. With a rated power supply unit of 550 watts, this eGPU is best compatible with laptops with a Thunderbolt 3.0 connection.
While both Windows and Mac users can use this Breakaway Box, Mac users get the better deal since you can simultaneously run two Breakaway box enclosures with a single MacBook. However, Windows users can opt for eGPU acceleration, something a Mac user can’t.
The Sonnet Breakaway Box comes with a Thunderbolt 3 port other than substantial wattage as well. For just under$250, this is easily one of the best Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosures you can buy.
Product Dimensions: 17.01 inches x 11.46 inches x 10.83 inches | Weight: 2.6 pounds | Wattage: 550 watts
The ASUS ROG XG Station 2 is the upgraded version of its older sibling with a solid power upgrade now up to 500 watts. You get a single USB Type-C cable for connectivity with your laptop. It is also capable of charging your laptop by dedicating up to 100 watts of power there.
This eGPU can transform your laptop with multiple connecting ports, namely 4 USB ports to connect keyboard, mouse, VR headset, monitor, and internet.
The XG Station 2 is one of the few eGPUs that can double up as a full-blown gaming hub and that’s the beauty of it. It also comes with RGB support by ASUS called Aura Sync technology offering up to a million colors and five different effects.
The ROG XG Station 2 is capable of handling full-sized graphic cards with ample cooling. Add in the best graphics cards for laptops without worry – this eGPU enclosure can even run an NVIDIA RTX 2080 while keeping it’s cool.
Available for under $240, this is one of the most popular external GPU enclosures for laptops and computers alike.
Product Dimensions: 18 inches x 10.9 inches x 6.2 inches | Weight: 8.56 pounds | Wattage: 600 watts
The Razer Core X comes in two variants, RGB and non-RGB. This eGPU comes with an internal power supply of 650 watts. Of this, 100 watts is reserved for laptop charging. It can support any graphics card with a rated power requirement of up to 500 watts.
This device is compatible with MacOS High Sierra 10.13.4 or later and RS5 or later versions of Windows 10.
Mantix MZ-03 is perfect for higher capacity graphics cards with overclocking capabilities. This one is compatible with laptops running on the operating system either Windows 10 2016 or Mac OS Catalina 10.15.3.
This eGPU features some extreme design features, with fans running only when the temperature spikes over 55 degrees C. It is also compatible with liquid cooling graphics cards – users only need to replace the fan with a radiator.
With a power internal power supply of 750 watts, this EGPU is capable of handling the higher requirement of OC cards such as the latest NVIDIA RTX 3090 and this is one of the few eGPU enclosures that can!
To add on the RTX 3090 is the best external graphics cards for laptops now. It comes with the best ray tracing on any graphics card plus a lot more. Run any game at ultra-settings and extreme resolutions without breaking a sweat using the 3090 inside this Mantiz MZ-03.
For around $300, that’s a lot of sheer performance available and nearly unbeatable. But we do have an even better eGPU enclosure for the best external graphics cards for laptops.
Finding an eGPU powerfulenough to run the best graphics cards for laptops does limit the choices. But if you are willing to spend that bit extra for the best external GPU enclosures for laptops, look no further than the Razer Core X Chroma.
The latest version of this eGPU is also tuned to be compatible with Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics cards and AMD Radeon XII GPU cards. As this device supports Thunderbolt 3, it is also easily compatible with MacBooks and other Apple laptops.
Connectivity with just a single Thunderbolt 3 port provides control over desktop peripherals, Gigabit Ethernet, Chroma RGB lighting.
Its 650-watt internal power supply leaves you enough room to accommodate even more powerful cards of the future.
You can take the freedom to overclock the best external graphics cards for laptops today, like the NVIDIARTX 2080 or the AMDRX 5600 XT without crashing or overheating.
The best part?
Razer originally redeveloped with Core X Chroma for one very specific graphics card – the NVIDIA GeForce Titan V, currently rated as the world’s most powerful graphics card.
You know you’re in the big league if you have this external GPU enclosure for your laptop!
It is compatible with Mac devices having OS above High Sierra 10.13.4 or later and with Windows laptops running Windows 10 RS5 or later.
Expectedly, the Razer Core X Chroma is priced at around $400, at least a $100 than the closest competition. But for that 100 dollars, you get access to an eGPU enclosure that can run the best graphics cards on laptops overclocked!
And it looks brilliant while doing it with Razer’s excellent Chroma RGB lighting. For us, it’s more than worth it.
An eGPU is a functional piece of equipment but only for those who don’t mind spending the bucks for add-on graphics processing power. The cost of just the enclosure is higher than a motherboard to house a graphic card. But it is a great choice to gaming performance to your laptop without tinkering with what’s inside it.
Some advice – always try to opt for eGPU enclosures with internal power supplies above 550 watts. You can get a cheap eGPU enclosure, there are many on the market (not on this list!) But you increase the chances of losing out on power and crashing midway through the game, causing hardware and maybe even software damage.
Either way, eGPUs and eGPU enclosures for laptops are more than worth it. Get one today!