My desire to run a laptop with an external video card began in 2015, when I started looking for PC games – a popular pastime that I had neglected since my childhood.
But the only PC I had a Lenovo ThinkPad X220 from 2011 with Intel HD 3000 graphics card. That just would not do it for a real PC game. Certainly, the laptop alone is good enough for older titles like Diablo III especially on the laptop's tiny display with a resolution of 1366 x 728, but more graphics-intensive modern games on an external 1080p monitor. Therefore, I decided to investigate external video card setups (eGPU).
And indeed, I found whole communities of people creating DIY setups that connected desktop graphics cards to their laptops via ExpressCard or MPPCIe slots to play games on an external monitor. It is not difficult to configure, and the use of desktop graphics cards with a laptop has become even easier lately. The wide availability of Thunderbolt 3 in combination with external video card docks has further simplified the process for users of a modern notebook.
Many DIY enthusiasts who use Thunderbolt 3, ExpressCard, or mPCIe get a plug-and-plug experience that requires little to no modification-although some research is required. When this is done, however, you will be charged with a PC gaming setup with console top-up at about the same price as a new Xbox One S, depending on which graphics card you choose. This is much cheaper than building a completely new gaming desktop, and you can still use the portability of your laptop by disconnecting the eGPU hardware.
We'll walk you through the DIY process to configure an external graphics card later in this article. along with the sudden increase in streaming PC games from the cloud. First, the modern approach of using a graphics card dock via Thunderbolt 3 is addressed.
Thunderbolt 3 graphics docks
Thunderbolt 3 (TB3) is Intel's high-speed external input / output connection, capable of up to 40 gigabytes per second (GBps) through a compatible USB-C connector. In resource-intensive activities like games, a quick connection between your laptop and an external graphics card is a big performance boost.
Earlier attempts at external video adapters were there, but they were over-priced using proprietary connectivity technologies. Thunderbolt 3 has the same requirements, and several companies now offer TB3-based graphics card docks with dedicated power supplies, additional ports, and of course space for desktop graphics card slots.
Everything in the world is not perfect from Thunderbolt 3 graphics cards though. Housings are usually still an expensive offer – much more than the DIY method, which we outline later. You also need a relatively new notebook that comes with a Thunderbolt 3-compatible USB-C port. Today, most Thunderbolt 3 laptops and graphics card enclosures work well together with Intel's Thunderbolt 3 external graphics compatibility technology, which the PC maker must explicitly enable.
If you are in the market, you are on the market with a laptop compatible with an external graphics card dock, the HP Specter x360 and the Lenovo Yoga 730 are some great options. However, Nando, an eGPU expert who is an eGPU.io administrator, recommends searching for the laptop model you want to check for compatibility to make sure you have a graphics card cage.
When you've finished your laptop, it's time to choose a graphics card dock. We can not cover all possible enclosures here, since virtually every major PC graphics card manufacturer launches its own graphics dock, but we'll be looking at some of the key products on the market.
Razer Core and Core X
When we looked at the original Razer Core, this was the first large TB3 case to make an Ace Splash, apparently designed for Razer Blade laptops, but compatible with any compatible TB3 system. It was also priced at a whopping $ 500. Since then, the Razer Core has split into two distinct models: Core V2 and Core X.
The Core V2 costs the same $ 500 as original. This is still a lot more than most other external graphics docks, but this luxurious model has four USB 3.0 ports for gaming peripherals, a 500W internal power supply, and Ethernet. It's also nice to look at with a CNC milled aluminum exterior and the Chroma RGB lighting system from Razer.
The Core X has a less expensive price of $ 300 and a 650-watt power supply, but it lacks USB and Ethernet ports. It also lacks the custom-made features of the Core V2, as it relies almost exclusively on standard components. The Core X is suitable for larger cards with up to three slots. We did not check it, but Macworld loved it.
PowerColor Gaming Station
PowerColor's Devil Box based on Thunderbolt 3 was a similarly chic box that was sold for $ 450 in the first four days of graphic docks. It's still listed on the PowerColor website, but it's not easy to find. The preferred housing of PowerColor is the simply named Gaming Station ($ 300 at Newegg). The newer box offers 550 watts of power, Ethernet and five USB 3.0 ports.
PowerColor maintains a list of supported graphics and host systems in the specification section of its Gaming Station website. Make sure you check it before buying!
Akitio has taken all-in for external graphics card docks by offering three models rather than three models: Node, Node Lite and Node Pro. A major difference between most of Akitio's products and the other graphics card packages we've seen is that the exception components, with the exception of the original Intel node, are not certified as external graphics devices (eGFX). Instead, they are general-purpose PCIe boxes. We will not go into the award here, but you can read about it on Intel's Thunderbolt blog.
The original node contains a 400 watt power adapter and costs $ 230 on Amazon. It does not provide any additional ports for connecting peripherals, but the less expensive sibling of the case The Node Lite currently costs around $ 224 at Amazon . It is a PCIe certified box with a DisplayPort port and an additional Thunderbolt 3 port for peripherals. But you also have to bring your own power supply. Both docks support half-length, full-height, and double-width maps.
Finally, the Akitio Node Pro (currently priced at $ 330 by Amazon) also has a DisplayPort input and a second Thunderbolt port, a 500 watt power supply
These are not the only eGPU boxes in the area. Gigabyte sells the Aorus RTX 2070 Gaming Box, which ships with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 preinstalled for $ 650 at Amazon or a version with a GTX 1070 for $ 550 at Newegg . Zotac sells the Amp Box and Amp Box Mini PCIe enclosures. Heck, even Apple has MacBook users with MacOS 10.13, High Sierra, supported for eGFX boxes. And for those who have a compatible Alienware laptop, there is also the Alienware Graphics Amplifier, which uses a proprietary connector, but costs only $ 230 on Amazon.
Asus, HP, Lenovo and many other companies also offer Thunderbolt 3-based graphics card docks. It's safe to say that external GPUs are now a full-fledged trend – albeit in a niche.
Let's turn older notebooks into gaming machines with our eGPU home improvement guide for Thunderbolt 3.
Next page: Dive into external graphics for home use.