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Increase the gaming ability of your laptop with an eGPU – Review Geek



  A photo of the Razer Core X eGPU
Photo courtesy of Razer.

Even the best laptops are a bit limited. If you want to push your laptop in the field of high-end desktop gaming, you must purchase an external graphics processing unit or eGPU.

What is an eGPU?

Special graphics cards (also called) GPU & # 39; s ̵

1; graphics processing units) are essential for any gaming installation. They process visual data faster than integrated (built-in) graphic chips, and they are usually the separation factor between unplayable and excellent game performance.

Although desktop gamers can replace their graphics card every year or two, laptop gamers aren't happy. Clearly call me Captain Ob, but full-sized desktop GPUs are too large to fit in a laptop, and gaming laptops with built-in GPUs are impossible to upgrade.

But that's where eGPU & # 39; s come in. An eGPU is simply a desktop graphics card that is outside of your laptop (hence the name eGPU or "external" GPU). eGPUs have their own power supply and housing, and they are occasionally full of additional video, USB, and Ethernet ports for your monitors and accessories.

Most modern eGPUS are universal. They are sold as enclosures (without graphic card) and they work with most Thunderbolt 3 equipped laptops. However, old-fashioned eGPUS are patented, meaning they are built for to use specific laptops and non-standard cables. From now on, Alienware is the only manufacturer whose laptops work with proprietary eGPUs.

Some eGPU options work without a Thunderbolt 3 port or its own connector. However, these options are too complicated for most people and may invalidate your laptop's warranty, so instead we focus on Thunderbolt 3.

eGPU Compatibility

  A photo of two stacked graphics cards to test .
Alfa Photostudio / Shutterstock

Getting an eGPU to work does not have to be harder than connecting a phone or keyboard to your laptop. But there is a chance that your laptop and eGPU do not enjoy playing together. Some Thunderbolt 3 ports are not built to Intel's eGFX standards, and as you would expect, proprietary GPUs only work with a handful of specially crafted laptops.

So before you buy an eGPU, first look at Google to see how well it works with your laptop. Make sure your laptop actually has a Thunderbolt 3 port (and not just a USB-C port), and confirm that all eGPUs are certified for your laptop.

There is also a chance that your eGPU housing will not work with whatever graphics card you purchase. If you have ever bought a GPU for a desktop, you already know the exercise. Make sure a GPU fits in your eGPU housing before you buy it (since length and power consumption are the limiting factors here) and check Google for compatibility issues between the two products. [19659006] MacBook users must also stay with AMD cards. NVIDIA graphics cards are not officially supported by macOS.

The best Thunderbolt 3 eGPU housings

  A photo of the back of an Akitio Node eGPU.
KenSoftTH / Shutterstock

It doesn't matter if you use a MacBook, a Dell XPS 13 or a cheap Acer Swift 3 – any laptop with a good Thunderbolt 3 port should work with a Thunderbolt 3 eGPU. This means that shopping for an eGPU housing is actually fairly easy. You only have to decide how many graphics cards you need.

The Razer Core X is one of the most popular, versatile and universal eGPU enclosures. It is not too expensive, it works with Windows laptops and MacBooks and it supports most full sized graphics cards, including enthusiastic cards with three slots. In addition, it supports 100-watt pass-through charging, so that your laptop never runs out while playing. (Razer also sells an RGB version of the Core X with built-in USB and Ethernet ports.)

Of course, the Razer Core X can be overkill for some gamers. If you are only looking for a small eGPU enclosure, then the Sonnet Breakaway or the Akitio Node may be a better option for you. These enclosures work with Mac and Windows laptops, they support pass-through charging and they work with most full sized graphics cards. (Again, check the compatibility before you buy.)

The best Thunderbolt 3 eGPU housing

The last remaining eGPU

  A photo of an Alienware gaming laptop.
Lastroll / Shutterstock [19659003] Own eGPUs are far from universal, but they are just as effective as Thunderbolt 3 eGPUs. Unfortunately, Alienware is the only company that still produces its own eGPU. It's called the Alienware Graphics Amplifier and it's a pretty great piece of hardware (especially for the price). It has one PCIe slot for a full-size graphics card, and it works with most Alienware laptops.

Some other eGPU & # 39; s are floating around the internet, but there is little chance that they will actually work with any laptop made after 2015. The MSI Shadow Dock, for example, is very difficult to find and only works with one laptop.

If your laptop does not work with own or Thunderbolt 3 eGPU & # 39; s, then a laptop upgrade may be your only option. That is, unless you are willing to go down in the Thunderbolt 2 and DIY rabbit hole.

The Last Proprietary eGPU

Alienware Graphics Amplifier (9R7XN)

The Alienware Graphics Amplifier is legendary. It's affordable, it works just as well as any Thunderbolt 3 eGPU and is compatible with most Alienware laptops.

Other options: Thunderbolt 2 and DIY eGPU's

  A photo of the LAN card of a laptop.
MMXeon / Shutterstock

If your computer does not have a Thunderbolt 3 port or other eGPU inputs, you are usually screwed . Some options for low bandwidth and do-it-yourself exist, but they are not very accessible, up-to-date or guaranteed not to work with your computer. For example, Thunderbolt 2 enclosures are expensive, understaffed, and difficult to erect. But they exist . We don't think this path is worth walking (because it's too janky and expensive), but if you are committed to using an eGPU with your old MacBook, then a Thunderbolt 2 case is your best choice .

You can also break open your laptop, remove your WLAN card and build your own eGPU. This is not the easiest task on the planet – it requires a little tinkering, frustration and research. But if you really want to improve the gaming performance of your old laptop, then this may be your only option.

Fortunately, there are some great DIY eGPU communities and video guides that float around the internet, and DIY solutions rarely require a serious hardware change.

The best Thunderbolt 2 eGPU housing


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