The Best External GPUs
If you are shopping around for a new graphics card, you’ll no doubt see how much choice there is out there. Not only are there hundreds of different cards and manufacturers, but there are also different types of GPUs and graphics solutions.
In this post, we’ll be covering external GPUs, including what they are, why you may want to choose them, and some of the best options out there.
External GPU Vs. Standard GPU
First of all, what is an external GPU? An external GPU, also known as eGPU for short, is a box that combines a desktop-style power supply, an open PCIe slot, and a full-sized graphics card that you can plug into your laptop.
If you have a laptop and are really noticing the onboard graphics card is holding back your gaming activities, then an external GPU could be just the solution you’re looking for. It’s a handy alternative to buying a whole new gaming laptop if you decide you want to upgrade your current one to handle more games.
While external GPUs are more commonly used for laptops, they can be used for desktop PCs too. It could also be an alternative if the graphics card you want won’t fit in your current PC case.
The downside to the convenience of an external GPU is that you might experience a loss of performance. When compared to standard installed GPUs, you can lose around 10% to 15% of performance if you’re using an external card. This won’t be an issue for many people, but it’s definitely worth bearing in mind if you’re looking to play demanding games on ultra settings.
How To Choose The Best External Graphics Card
First of all, choosing a graphics card can be a hard decision because it is vital to any good gameplay experience.
There are a number of different things to consider, which we will go into below. After we’ve covered the basics of what to look for in a graphics card, we’ll look at some of the external solutions for installing them.
This is the speed that the GPU processes information which is measured in cycles per second or megahertz (MHz). This is one of the most important factors which contributes to performance which is why it’s often one of the main concerns for consumers.
This is the RAM onboard your graphics card which can have a huge impact on performance. Ideally, you should have enough VRAM so that your graphics card doesn’t rely too much on the CPU to grab the information that it needs to run your games smoothly.
If you want to push your graphics card for more performance, you might want to look into overclocking. This is essentially pushing the card beyond its usual limits to squeeze more performance and frames per second out of your gameplay.
If you’re striving for a good performance output with a touch of overclocking, you’ll need to pay attention to the cooling in your GPU.
High performance equals high temperatures, which need to be kept as cool as possible to prevent overheating. Most graphics cards will come with adequate cooling systems built-in, but if you want to overclock, you might have to go that extra mile and invest in some more cooling systems.
Some external GPUs also offer cooling solutions on top of whatever your graphics card has, so keep an eye out for those.
Best External GPUs
ASUS ROG XG Station 2
ASUS ROG was bound to be on this list somewhere, and here it is, right at the top. This model has a hefty price tag attached, which may put off those looking for a budget deal. However, if you’re already a fan of ASUS ROG graphics cards, this could be perfect for you.
This eGPU is one of the easiest ones on the market to open up and features enough ports to support a solid graphics card and other connectivity solutions. The ports include four USB 3.0 ports, one USB 3.0 Type-B port, as well as Gigabit Ethernet and a Thunderbolt 3 to connect your eGPU to your laptop.
This eGPU can support a powerful enough graphics card to comfortably let you play VR games, connecting to devices such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
In terms of design, ASUS has really got this nailed down. The eGPU has an eye-catching, futuristic design that looks like something out of a modern art exhibit. When a graphics card is added to the box, and it’s connected to a laptop, the red Tesla coil springs into life, and the box is lit up with a pulsating red glow.
This external GPU supports the latest Nvidia GeForce and AMD Radeon graphics cards with no issue.
Razer Core V2
The Razer Core V2 is a great solution for those who wish to turn their laptops into a VR-ready desktop-style gaming rig.
This external GPU is built to support the larger and more powerful graphics cards you’ll find on the market, so it’s a good move for anyone looking for top performance or for those who are struggling to fit a monster graphics card in their machine.
This model features the world’s first dual Thunderbolt 3 design, which provides dedicated lanes for graphics and I/O.
One good thing about the Razer Core V2 is that it allows you to plug and game, which means you won’t need to reboot your laptop every time you connect it to the eGPU.
In terms of connectivity, the Razer Core V2 offers four USB 3.0 ports and Ethernet ports alongside the dual Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Gigabyte AORUS GTX 1070 Gaming Box
Now, if you’ve been looking at the above options and wondering how much it’s going to set you back to buy an eGPU box AND a graphics card, this next option comes with both.
The AORUS GTX gaming box from Gigabyte comes with a GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card installed already. So if you were wondering why the price tag is so much, it’s because this one actually comes with the graphics card already.
If you’re looking to invest in both a graphics card and a case to hold it for your laptop, this is one of the best value solutions for you. If you already have a graphics card you want to use, this might not be the best option for you.
Value aside, this is an impressive eGPU in itself. The case is a more portable size than some of the others on this list, which makes it perhaps better suited for those who wish to game on the move.
For connectivity, there are three USB 3.0 ports for several peripheral devices as well as a Thunderbolt 3 port to plug and play quickly.
The design is equally impressive, featuring Gigabyte’s RGB Fusion 2.0 technology to give you a lot of customization freedom.
Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box
If you are looking for more of a budget solution, you might want to consider the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box.
Described as a “no-frills” solution, the Sonnet eGFX won’t stand out on your desk for its design. However, it’s a practical solution in terms of price and the ability to open it up and connect a graphics card with ease.
Connectivity options are minimal, including a Thunderbolt 3 port and a port for the AC power cord. However, the box supports a range of the latest graphics cards, including AMD Radeon RX, RX Vega, and Pro WX lines plus GeForce GTX 10 and RTX 20 series from Nvidia.
It also boasts a good cooling solution onboard, which will work together with the graphics card to keep the whole box cool. For more options, Sonnet offers two types of Breakaway Box, the 550 and the 650 which support different types of cards
If you are looking for an alternative GPU solution, it’s always worth looking into the external GPU market. There are plenty of options out there that can suit several different cards, from budget lines to more powerful GPUs from the big names like AMD and Nvidia.
While you won’t get the same performance out of an external GPU as you would from an installed GPU, it should be enough to improve gaming performance on your laptop beyond the standard in-built card it came with.
The main thing to consider when looking at external graphics card solutions is that, in most cases, you will still need to fork out to buy a graphics card separately. That can end up setting you back a significant chunk. That’s why it’s important to spend some time weighing up the pros and cons of eGPUs versus gaming laptops, and desktop builds in terms of price and performance.
If you do go ahead with an external graphics card, the best value one is probably the Gigabyte AORUS GTX 1070 Gaming Box, because you don’t have to worry about buying a separate card. If you have a graphics card already, the ASUS ROG is an impressive solution with design and performance to match.