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An external graphics card or eGPU is a great solution for Ultrabook and MacBook users whose laptops have a Thunderbolt 3 port in them. eGPUs allow you to use a desktop graphics card with a system that cannot support one, such as modern laptops and small form factor computers.
Best External Graphics Cards (eGPU) Reviewed
There aren’t as many options for eGPUs as there are for internal GPUs in the market. Many of them are old enough to be considered obsolete, as they don’t provide the space, power, and/or connectivity required in modern times.
There are a few great eGPU cases and kits available though that offer a fantastic combination of value, features, and portability. We’ve reviewed the four best high-quality external graphics card and eGPU boxes available right now.
Before we get into it, it’s important to know a little about eGPUs and what to consider before buying one.
Buying The Best External Graphics Cards – Things You Need to Consider
Why Buy an eGPU
eGPUs are great solutions to empower modern, ultra-thin Ultrabook laptops and MacBooks with gaming capabilities. This is especially true if you already own a modern gaming system with a powerful graphics card. Provided the eGPU kit can accommodate the said graphics card, you can whip it out of your desktop gaming pc and put it in your external GPU kit and run videogames on your Ultrabook or MacBook laptop.
Additionally, eGPUs can also be used with Mac desktop computers, which are notorious for being inefficient rigs for gaming. Of course, you shouldn’t expect the same level of performance even with a full-sized GPU in the kit because the connection port cannot deliver data as fast as a dedicated PCIe lane.
eGPU vs Gaming Laptop
Modern gaming laptops have become extremely capable machines that can run the latest videogames at great framerates without too much hassle. Even though they aren’t portable like slim Ultrabook and MacBook laptops, gaming laptops of the highest end still offer better portability than eGPU kits.
However, gaming laptops can cost several thousand to match the performance of even mid-ranged gaming desktops, because the graphics cards in these laptops are massively underpowered compared to desktop GPUs. Portability gets thrown out of the window for the most part for many because of this, though some laptops from Razer, Gigabyte, and ASUS offer portability and power as well.
eGPU in combination with a high-quality sub $2000 Ultrabook can potentially offer better or on-par performance to gaming laptops that cost several hundred more. Furthermore, you can retain the portability of the Ultrabook or MacBook when you’re not gaming, which makes eGPU a great modular solution for laptop users who game sparingly.
Power vs Portability
When buying an eGPU kit, you have to make a sacrifice. Many of the kits come without a full-sized GPU in them, and they’re designed to house the bulkiest and lengthiest modern graphics card. This makes them rather less portable. This is completely fine if you want to play videogames within the confines of your home.
For those looking for more portable external GPUs, there are fewer options available. You’ll have to make-do with the likes of Gigabyte AORUS Gaming Box if you want a portable solution with an integrated, customized GPU in it. However, the portable option will limit you to a specific set of graphics cards.
External GPU vs Internal GPU
Although you can use a full desktop GPU in an eGPU kit, you shouldn’t expect the same kind of performance. While Thunderbolt 3 is ridiculously fast for an external port, it can’t reach the speeds of a motherboard’s PCI Express lane. For this reason, data flows slower from your eGPU to your laptop or computer, which will bottleneck the performance to some degree. Thunderbolt 3 allows for speeds up to 40Gbps, which translates to roughly 5000MB/s. A single PCIe lane can transfer at 985MB/s, and graphics interface use x16. You can do the math yourself there. Basically, the PCIe interface offers around three times the speed of Thunderbolt 3 interface.
Case vs Kit
External GPUs come in two forms: cases and full kits.
Cases are external GPUs that house no graphics card when you buy them but give you the option of adding any graphics card within the physical and power constraints of the case. This means that you’ll have to buy a graphics card separately for such cases, which isn’t a big deal for those who own a desktop gaming PC with a dedicated graphics card to begin with. eGPU cases have an in-built power supply for the graphics card, as well as various ports for added connectivity that few Thunderbolt 3 powered laptops can provide.
Full kits offer a more ready experience, though they’re generally more expensive because of the integrated GPU. Furthermore, many of these eGPU kits have a customized cooling and power delivery system for the graphics card, which means swapping out your GPU after a few years isn’t possible. Additionally, few eGPU kits are available with the latest series of Nvidia and AMD high-end graphics cards.
Our Top Pick
Gigabyte AORUS Gaming Box
The Only Portable eGPU
The Gigabyte AORUS Gaming Box comes integrated with either an Nvidia GTX 1070 or an AMD Radeon RX 580 graphics card. This eGPU has the graphics card permanently integrated into it, so swapping them out isn’t possible. However, this also makes it the most portable eGPU in the market right now.
Although it comes with previous generation cards, the Gigabyte AORUS is an affordable and portable solution for anyone looking to give a massive graphics performance boost to their un-upgradable laptop or desktop computer.
- Graphics Card: Nvidia GTX 1070 or AMD Radeon RX 580
- PSU: 450W 80 Plus Gold
- RGB: Yes
Gigabyte has a great reputation as a board partner for AMD and Nvidia to design fantastic graphics cards at varying rates. They’re also one of the few tech giants who make high quality motherboards. Gigabyte’s knowledge of GPU cooler and power design make them the ideal candidate to design external GPUs, and in our opinion, they’ve designed the best one available with the AORUS Gaming Box.
Instead of offering a case that can fit any modern GPU within the limits of the integrated power supply, Gigabyte does all the work for you and offers the gaming box with an integrated Nvidia GTX 1070 with. Yes, it’s true that this is an older GPU, but the GTX 1070 is still capable of running every game smoothly on 1080p and many on 1440p as well. You can also get a version with the AMD Radeon RX 580 if you want to save a few bucks, but we recommend the GTX 1070 version because it is vastly superior.
Gigabyte’s eGPU is also one of the most portable cards, precisely because it’s specifically designed to house the graphics card it comes with. It weighs only 4.4 pounds (around 2kg) and has a small footprint.
Specialized cooling solutions combined with efficient power delivery through its 450W Gold Plus PSU ensure the 1070 never runs at uncomfortable temperatures. Furthermore, this eGPU also offers great RGB LED lighting that peers out of the transparent mesh that also displays the front of the graphics card.
At the back, you’ll find a generous number of ports with various connectivity options. There are two DVI ports, a single HDMI port, and a single DisplayPort to connect your laptop or portable desktop with. The USB connectivity is generous as well, with four USB 3.0 ports, with the red-colored port being a quick charge port for modern fast-charging capable smartphones.
Gigabyte adds in a neat carrying bag designed for this eGPU if you wish to take it around wherever you want. Thanks to its great balance of power, performance, value, and portability, the Gigabyte AORUS Gaming Box is our top pick among eGPUs.
Understated and Underrated
This eGPU box lacks greatly in the looks department, it looks like a plain old CPU from the late ’90s, it does not have much going on inside either, but for the price point, we do not get much better, the Akito Node is made by a U.S. company and can support a variety of cards.
There is not much going on with the Akito Node, but except the fact that it is an eGPU that will support a full-size GPU in it, from NVIDIA to AMD, it will support almost all full-sized cards without issues.
- Graphics Card: Purchased Separately
- PSU: AC 100-240V, 50Hz-60Hz
- RGB: No
With just one Thunderbolt 3 port on the back, just shows that the Akito Node means business and nothing more. It is cheap, and under the price point of $265, it also supports MacBook using AMD cards.
The Akito Node has a 400W SFX power supply that will fulfill all the power needs of your GPU easily, no matter how power-hungry your GPU might be.
It is plug and play, it just starts working as soon as you plug in the Thunderbolt 3 cable into your laptop, making it incredibly convenient. The metal enclosure can be a pain to carry but with a handle, it is not that much of a problem.
The perforated design for the front helps passively cool the GPU while a mesh on the side acts as an exhaust for the GPU fans to throw off the heat from the card itself.
The enclosure inside is 12.6 inches in length and 6.7 inches in height, so any cards that fit that clearance can be installed in the Akito Node.
With Thunderbolt 3’s 40GB/s speed, you can get some pretty neat FPS performance on your work laptop that does not have a GPU of its own.
HP Omen Accelerator
Big but Spacious
The HP Omen Accelerator is a large eGPU box that has enough space for a full-sized GPU as well as a hard drive or SSD. It has a plethora of advanced ports on offer as well that lets it double as a hub for slim laptops that lack an adequate number of connectivity options.
Though it’s certainly giant and there to stay in one position, the sheer features and options the HP Omen Accelerator offers makes it hard to ignore when considering the best eGPUs out there.
- Graphics Card: Purchased Separately
- PSU: 500W Bronze
- RGB: No
If you’re in the market for a portable eGPU system that you can take around, then the HP Omen Accelerator is definitely not for you. If, however, you’re in the market for an eGPU that offers way more than just a house for your graphics card, then the HP Omen Accelerator might be what you’re looking for.
This behemoth isn’t shy of acknowledging just how thick and large it is. Weighing roughly 12 pounds (almost 5.5kg), the Omen Accelerator is heavy and large. It does have a very sleek design, however, and you can get away with having it in your office or at home.
Inside, you’ll find plenty of space once you remove the top from the system. The Omen Accelerator comes with enough space to cram in the biggest Nvidia/AMD graphics cards, and also leaves enough room to slot in a 2.5 inch hard drive or SSD. This means you can reserve your laptop or computer’s storage for other purposes and store all your games within the eGPU, which is a feature we adore.
The eGPU is not shy of offering a generous number of ports either. All of the ports are located at the back of the box, and there’s a large array of them. You’ll get four USB 3.0 Type-A ports, a single USB Type-C port, a Thunderbolt 3 port to connect your laptop, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a secure lock slot.
That’s more ports than any other eGPU out there, and we’re fans of this setup. This makes online gaming on fast connections possible thanks to the Gigabite Ethernet port.
There’s no much else to say about the Omen Accelerator other than how great the features are. With an integrated 500W power supply and plenty of space, you can have a full gaming experience with it with great convenience.
The Razer Core V2 is more expensive than its bulkier brother (Razer Core X), but it offers gorgeous RGB lighting combined with a great set of ports to offer a premium experience.
- Graphics Card: Purchased Separately
- PSU: 500W
- RGB: Yes
It was a toss-up between the Razer Core X and the Razer Core V2, but there are many products that have a similar price to the former yet offer so much more, such as the HP Omen Accelerator. The Razer Core V2 is a little different. It’s actually smaller than the Razer Core X, but it manages to take care of everything that the Razer Core X lacks.
We’re talking about a generous number of ports, a sleeker look, and most important of all: RGB. Razer is using its successful Chroma RGB here, with gorgeous lighting at the front and sides for the distinct gaming look.
This eGPU kit can handle the most powerful graphics cards available in the market right now thanks to its high-quality 500W power supply. Even if you want to use an RTX 2080 Ti, you have the option to do it with little worry. The power supply does tend to get loud though, which is something you should consider when purchasing if you’re aurally sensitive.
Razer states that even though this is a smaller eGPU box than the Razer Core X, it can support triple-slot cards. While that is technically true, we’d recommend sticking to double-slot ones to allow the GPU to breathe more easily.
One of the biggest issues with the cheaper and larger Razer Core X is how lacking it is in the connectivity department. The Razer Core V2 ameliorates this by offering four USB 3.0 ports at the back as well as a Gigabit Ethernet port. To connect your display, there’s also a single HDMI, a single DisplayPort, and a single DVI port available.
Neither of the two Razer Core series of eGPU kits are portable. The premium price tag is a combination of Razer’s reputation (aka Razer tax) and the high-quality Chroma lighting. If you have the cash to splurge, this is the eGPU to get.