Best External Graphics Card for Laptop 2019 (eGPU)

External graphics cards are now a thing, and they can come in handy by offering a boost in performance for your laptop when you need it without compromising on the portability.

You simply plug in the external graphics card to your laptop for a major boost in performance.

Nevertheless, you can still unplug it and take it anywhere with you just like you would with a laptop.

An external graphics card is an external enclosure that not only includes a graphics card but a power supply as well. These external enclosures can also offer additional features like USB ports.

However, you do need a Thunderbolt 3 port for this to work.

Here we are going to look into some of the best external graphics cards for laptops on the market in 2019 and a few things that you should know when you are in the market for one.

Best External Graphics Card

  • GTX 1070 Graphic Card
  • Thunderbolt 3 Plug and Play
  • 3 Built-in USB 3.0

Premium Pick

  • Multiple GPU Cards
  • Transfer Speed 40 Gbps
  • 400W Power Supply

Budget Pick

  • Great Build Quality
  • 4 Built-in USB 3.0
  • 460 Watts Power Supply

Best External Graphics Card for Laptop 2019

The following are all the external graphics card enclosures that we are going to look into here and some of their specifications that you might be interested in learning about at a glance:

eGPUSupported GPU SizeWeightPSUGraphics Card Included
Razer Core V2Full-length
Full-height
Double-width
4.93 kg500WNoCheck Price
Gigabyte AORUS Gaming BoxMini ITX2 kg450WGigabyte
GTX 1070
Mini ITX
Check Price
Akitio NodeFull-length
Full-height
Double-width
6.9 kg400WNoCheck Price
Sonnet eGFX Breakaway BoxFull-length
Full-height
Double-width
3.2 kg650WNoCheck Price
Alienware Graphics AmplifierFull-length
Full-height
Double-width
3.5 kg460WNoCheck Price
ASUS ROG-XG-Station-2Full-length
Full-height
Double-width
3.9 kg600WNoCheck Price

Top-Rated External Graphics Card

Razer Core V2

Razer has been in the gaming space for a long time and the company is known for making some really great premium products. This is one of them. The Razer Core V2 is the premium graphics card enclosure that Razer has to offer and is more expensive when compared to the more modestly priced Razer Core X.

While the Core V2 is more expensive it has the same dimensions and weight as the Core X but comes with some additional features as well. The Core V2 comes with Chroma RBG lighting which is not something that you get with the Core X. This will allow you to sync the lighting of the graphics card enclosure with the rest of your peripherals and your laptop.

This is a very expensive product but if you need the power and the portability as well then this is something that we can recommend. If you need the mobility when on the move and need the added graphics power back at home then this is an option that you can look into. Remember that a graphics card is not included in the price and that you will need to get one separately. This will add to the cost.

If you already have a Razer laptop then the Core V2 is a great fit for you and will give you’re the extra boost in performance for when you want to play games. Gaming is not the only area where the Core V2 shines. It also provides power if you are interested in editing photos or videos. The enclosure should provide enough graphics power for what you are trying to do with your laptop. The Core V2 also comes with USB ports and an ethernet port which you do not get on the Core X.

The Razer Core V2 supports a wide range of graphics cards but unlike the Core X that can support 3-slot cards, the V2 can only house 2.2-slot cards. The max size of the cards that the enclosure can support is as follows:

    • Width: 1.69” / 43mm
    • Length: 11.81”/ 300 mm
    • Height: 5.71” / 145mm

The enclosure can support a maximum of 375W which is more than enough for modern graphics cards. Some of the compatible graphics cards are as follows:

  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan X
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan Xp
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750
  • NVIDIA Quadro P4000
  • NVIDIA Quadro P5000
  • NVIDIA Quadro P6000
  • NVIDIA Quadro GP100
  • AMD Radeon RX 500 Series
  • AMD Radeon RX 400 Series
  • AMD Radeon R9 Fury
  • AMD Radeon R9 Nano
  • AMD Radeon R9 300 Series
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X
  • AMD Radeon R9 290
  • AMD Radeon R9 285

Pros

  • Chroma RGB Lighting
  • USB Ports
  • Ethernet Port
  • Support Full-size Graphics Cards
  • Easy to Install

Cons

  • Very Expensive
  • Might Not Charge MacBook

Gigabyte AORUS Gaming Box

Gigabyte has been in the PC hardware space for a while now and is one of the major players in the market. The company is known to make high-performance hardware and AORUS is the company’s premium brand, The AORUS Gaming Box is another GPU enclosure that supports Mini ITX graphics cards and one of the selling points of the enclosure is that you do get a graphics card in the price.

The graphics card is the Gigabyte GTX 1070 Mini ITX which has a base clock of 1556 MHz and can boost to 1746 MHz in OC Mode. The card has a base clock of 1531 MHz and can boost to 1721 MHz in Gaming Mode. The graphics card comes with 8 GB of GDDR5 memory which is running at 8008 MHz. The graphics card can support 4 displays at the same time and supports a max digital resolution of 7680×4320.

The AORUS Gaming Box is impressive value for money keeping in mind that you get a GTX 1070 included in the price. This is much cheaper than other products that are available on the market and the product is well thought out. You will be able to play games at 1080p and even at 1440p. If you are interested in getting some serious value for money then this is an option that you should consider.

The enclosure uses the Thunderbolt 3 interface which means that even though it comes with a graphics card out of the box you can switch the card later on for a more powerful one down the line. The design is clean and simple and there is mesh on one side that not only allows you to see the graphics card but also provides additional air flow. The Gaming Box comes with RGB lighting so that you can sync the lighting of your graphics enclosure with the rest of your setup.

There are plenty of connectivity options. The card comes with an HDMI 2.0 port, DisplayPort 1.4 port and two Dual Link DVI-D ports. Other than that, the enclosure comes with 3 USB 3.0 ports and a quick charging port for fast charging other devices such as a smartphone. The case is pretty small and that can be an issue if you are interested in installing full-sized desktop graphics cards. This is something to keep in mind if you are interested in switching the graphics card down the line. You will only be able to use Mini ITX cards with this enclosure.

Pros

  • Not Overly Expensive
  • Graphics Cards Included
  • Can Handle 1080p and 1440p gaming
  • VR Compatible
  • Additional Ports
  • Carrying Bag included

Cons

  • Supports Only Mini ITX Cards
  • Rare Thermal Throttling

Akitio Node

Akitio is not a very well-known company but it is an international brand that deals with storage solutions and external expansion chassis. The company makes products that are practical and reliable and the Akitio Node is based on the same values. The Node looks like a Mini ITX case and is able to house a full-size graphics card. This means that you can install pretty much any graphics card that is available on the market and connect it to your laptop using this external graphics card enclosure.

The size of the enclosure is pretty big which means that it can support bigger cards but that also means that it will take a lot of space and that you are going to have a hard time moving it around. If you are interested in an enclosure to use at home and do not need additional ports then this is something that you can get.

The design is very simple and clean. There is nothing fancy going on here. The enclosure is compatible with a wide variety of graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD. The enclosure does not offer much when it comes to ports and only has the Thunderbolt 3 port that is needed to connect with your laptop. While the connectivity options could have been better, it is relatively inexpensive compared to the other models on this list.

The enclosure is pretty heavy and weighs 7 kg without the graphics card installed. There is a handle which can be used to move around the graphics card enclosure but this is not something that you want to carry with you keeping in mind the weight.

Compatibility

The enclosure supports full-size, full-height, double-width graphics cards but has issues with cards that are wider than 45mm. One such example is the MSI GTX 1080 Ti GAMING X 11G. A list of some of the cards that the enclosure supports are mentioned as followings but if you do not find your card on the list then it might not mean that it is not supported. It could mean that the company has not tested the card yet.

  • AMD Radeon RX 580
  • AMD Radeon RX 580R
  • AMD Radeon RX 470
  • AMD Radeon RX 460
  • AMD Radeon R9 Fury
  • AMD Radeon R9 Nano
  • AMD Radeon R9 300 Series
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X
  • AMD Radeon R9 290
  • AMD Radeon R9 285
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan X
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750

Pros

  • Cheaper Than Other Options
  • Basic Design
  • Supports Full-size Graphics Cards

Cons

  • No Additional Ports
  • Pretty Heavy

Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box

Sonnet is another company that you might not know about but it has been in business since 1986 and deals in expansion cards and Thunderbolt-based products. The Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box is one of the relatively inexpensive external graphics card enclosures on this list. There are different models that come with different power supplies and the cheapest option that you can get comes with a 350W PSU. That is enough for an entry-level card but you will need to spend more money if you are interested in more power.
The Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box is one of the best external graphics card enclosures on the market that you can get in 2019. The price is competitive compared to other options on this list. If you are interested in saving some money and do not want to get something fancy then this could be what you are looking for.

The design is relatively simple. The box is Black and has an LED logo which will light up to show you that it is on. On the front and side, you have mesh that will increase air flow and keep the thermals in check when playing games. The enclosure is light and compact compared to other options that are available on the market.

Compatibility

The enclosure supports full-length, full-height, double-width and also supports 120mm water block coolers. While the compatibility depends on the version that you get, some of the cards that the company has tested to be compatible are as follows:

  • AMD Radeon Pro WX9100
  • AMD Radeon Pro WX7100
  • AMD Radeon Pro WX5100
  • AMD Radeon Pro SSG
  • AMD Radeon Vega Frontier Edition
  • AMD Radeon RX Vega 64
  • AMD Radeon RX Vega 56
  • AMD Radeon RX 580
  • AMD Radeon RX 570
  • AMD Radeon RX 560
  • AMD Radeon RX 480
  • AMD Radeon RX 470
  • AMD Radeon RX 460
  • AMD Radeon R9 Fury
  • AMD Radeon R9 Nano
  • AMD Radeon R9 285
  • AMD Radeon R9 290x
  • AMD Radeon R9 290
  • NVIDIA Quadro P6000
  • NVIDIA Quadro P5000
  • NVIDIA Quadro P4000
  • NVIDIA Quadro GP100
  • NVIDIA TITAN V
  • NVIDIA TITAN Xp
  • NVIDIA TITAN X
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950

Pros

  • Relatively Affordable
  • Clean and Simple Design

Cons

  • High-end Model Can Be Expensive

Alienware Graphics Amplifier

Alienware started off as an independent company but has since then been acquired by Dell. The products are still synonymous with expensive gaming laptops and hence there is an external graphics card enclosure as well. This is an Alienware product so it is not cheap.

If you already have an Alienware laptop then the Alienware Graphics Amplifier is an option that you can consider. It is not cheap and the lack of Thunderbolt 3 does limit compatibility. If you have other devices that are not made by Alienware then you will not be able to use this enclosure with those devices. This is something to keep in mind for long-term use.

A major downside here is that the graphics amplifier has been designed to work with Alienware products and does not use the Thunderbolt 3 technology. Alienware products have a proprietary port that is used for the interface. This means that the compatibility is fairly limited. The product is designed to house a powerful full-sized graphics card and that is one of the reasons why the external graphics card enclosure is neither small nor light. It does offer 4 USB 3.0 ports.

Compatibility

Alienware products have a proprietary port that is used for the interface. This means that the compatibility is fairly limited. This enclosure is compatible with the following devices:

  • Alienware 13 R1
  • Alienware 13 R2
  • Alienware 13 R3
  • Alienware 15 R1
  • Alienware 15 R2
  • Alienware 15 R3
  • Alienware 17 R2
  • Alienware 17 R3
  • Alienware 17 R4
  • Alienware X51 R3
  • Alienware Alpha R2

If you have one of these devices then you should be fine. If not then you should check out the other options on this list.

Pros

  • 4 USB Ports
  • Supports Full-sized Desktop Graphics Cards

Cons

  • Limited Compatibility
  • Beefy and Heavy

ASUS ROG XG Station 2

Asus is known for products that not only perform great but have an impressively unique design. The company has all kinds of hardware products on the market that include graphics cards and motherboards and that is why a graphics card enclosure makes sense as well.

The ASUS ROG XG Station 2 not only delivers impressive performance depending on the graphics card that you use, but it also looks great too. The enclosure is very well put together and well thought out. The enclosure comes with a couple of small fans that help remove heat from the enclosure. The built-in power supply can provide 500W to your graphics card which should be more than enough even for the latest RTX series.

The ASUS ROG XG Station 2 is a beautiful graphics enclosure and comes with a side window and LED lighting so you can see your graphics card as well. If you are interested in spending more money for an enclosure that not only works well but looks great too then this is what we can recommend.

The angular design sets it apart and you also have a side window and LEDs to show off your graphics card that is installed inside. There are plenty of ports as well. It has 4 USB 3.0 ports, a built-in network card and ethernet port. The enclosure opens up on either side and you can slip the card into the middle which looks very cool indeed. This is not something that you see on other enclosures on this list.

Compatibility

The ASUS ROG XG Station 2 can support full-sized desktop graphics cards and there are a couple of devices that Asus makes that the enclosure is compatible with. The following are the devices that the manufacturer has recommended for the GPU enclosure:

  • ROG Strix GL702
  • ROG Strix GL502
  • ROG Strix GL702
  • ROG G701
  • ROG G752VS
  • ROG G752
  • ROG 501
  • ROG 501VW
  • ROG GX800
  • Transformer-3-Pro-T303UA
  • Transformer-3-Pro-T305CA
  • ZenBook Pro UX550VE
  • ZenBook 3 Deluxe UX490UA
  • ZenBook Pro UX501VW
  • Intel NUC

Some of the graphics cards that the enclosure supports are as follows:

  • AMD Radeon Pro WX9100
  • AMD Radeon Pro WX7100
  • AMD Radeon Pro WX5100
  • AMD Radeon Pro SSG
  • AMD Radeon Vega Frontier Edition
  • AMD Radeon RX Vega 64
  • AMD Radeon RX Vega 56
  • AMD Radeon RX 580
  • AMD Radeon RX 570
  • AMD Radeon RX 560
  • AMD Radeon RX 480
  • AMD Radeon RX 470
  • AMD Radeon RX 460
  • AMD Radeon R9 Fury
  • AMD Radeon R9 Nano
  • AMD Radeon R9 285
  • AMD Radeon R9 290x
  • AMD Radeon R9 290
  • NVIDIA Quadro P6000
  • NVIDIA Quadro P5000
  • NVIDIA Quadro P4000
  • NVIDIA Quadro GP100
  • NVIDIA TITAN V
  • NVIDIA TITAN Xp
  • NVIDIA TITAN X
  • NVIDIA RTX Series
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950

Pros

  • Supports Wide Variety of Cards
  • Beautiful Design
  • Fans for Cooling
  • Ample Ports

Cons

  • A Bit Expensive

Round-up

These are the best external graphics card docks that you get can in the market in 2019.

If you are still confused regarding which one you should get then you can go with the Gigabyte AORUS Gaming Box which offers great value for money keeping in mind that you get the GTX 2070 included in the price.

You need to have a laptop that supports Thunderbolt 3 in order to take advantage of the external graphics card but that is the case with pretty much any other option on this list excluding the Alienware dock.

The Gigabyte AORUS Gaming Box has some great features and is easy to use. You will be able to play all games at 1080p and most games at 1440p as well.

Is an External GPU Worth it for Laptops?

External Graphics Card for Laptop

If you are in the market for a new external graphics card dock then getting the most expensive model might not give you the best performance as we have already pointed out. Here we are going to talk about a few things that you should keep in mind when in the market for a new external graphics card enclosure.

How Do External Graphics Cards Work?

An external graphics card is installed in a dock or external graphics card enclosure which has a PCIe port. The dock is connected to your laptop by a Thunderbolt 3 compatible cable. For this to work you need to have a Thunderbolt 3 port on your laptop. Setting up an external graphics card can be as simple as installing the card, installing drivers and rebooting the system. You might need to download custom software to customize the card’s fan curves or RGB lighting. This depends on the manufacturer of the enclosure and the hardware that you are using.

Once this has been set up, the CPU will direct the graphics requests to the external graphics card over Thunderbolt 3 rather than the internal graphics solution. This can give you a major boost in performance is your laptop comes with an integrated graphics solution.

Internal Vs External Graphics Solutions

Thunderbolt 3 does not offer the same bandwidth as native PCIe and with Thunderbolt 3 you are limited to 4 PCIe lanes that is why you will notice that you do not get the same level of performance with an external graphics card compared to if that same card was installed internally. You will notice a performance drop of up to 15% on average depending on the game that you are playing or the application that you are using.

While hooking up an external graphics card will give you a major boost in performance, it will not be as high as you expected. This will further be reduced if you are using other ports on your enclosure. If the USB and ethernet ports are populated then that means that not only is the Thunderbolt 3 connection managing the graphics information but the information sent by the USB ports and the ethernet port.

If you want to improve performance than you can hook an external monitor to the card directly rather then using the laptop screen. This has improved performance by a fair margin in some cases but will depend on the hardware that you are using and, in some cases, will depend on the game that you are playing as well.

The CPU in your laptop will also be a factor here. If your processor cannot keep up with the graphics card then that will result in a less than ideal gaming experience. You should only install an external graphics card with your laptop if you are confident that your CPU will be able to handle the extra load.

The cooling solution used in your laptop is another factor that you need to keep in mind. Adding extra load to your CPU means that it will be working harder and will dissipate more heat. If the temperature is not kept in check then the CPU will thermal throttle and that will result in a bad experience for you in-game. Your system might hang or might cause the game to crash.

External GPU Docks Are Expensive

If you think about it, an external graphics card dock is just a box that has a PCIe port and uses a Thunderbolt 3 interface but you will be surprised to see how much manufacturers charge for it. This is a fairly new concept and is not mainstream yet and that is why manufacturers are able to charge more for the enclosure. These boxes also enable users to have a lot of portability which is another reason why manufacturers can keep the price high and expect buyers to pay more.

In order for this setup to work, you will need an external dock which will cost you at least a few hundred dollars. The chances are that the graphics card itself is not included in this price which means that you will be paying another 300-500 dollars for a graphics card. We are already pretty close to 1000 dollars. This does not include the price of the laptop or any other peripherals or accessories that you might be interested in using.

You might want to use an external display as we have recommended and that will cost you even more. Add all this up and you will notice that all this costs a lot of money unless you already have a decent graphics card and a Thunderbolt 3 compatible laptop.

external graphic card gaming laptop

Research Is Important

If you have made up your mind about getting an external dock then research is going to help you in the long run. Different docks have different requirements which you will need to keep in mind. The Akitio Node for example only offers basic features and is fairly heavy which means that you can use it at home but you will have a hard time carrying it around with you. There are no additional ports either. The HP Accelerator Omen, on the other hand, has additional ports and also comes with a SATA port which can be used to add an additional HDD or SSD.

Compatibility can also be an issue. While USB Type-C is an international standard, not all Type-C ports support Thunderbolt 3 standard which is needed to use an external graphics card. Compatibility can also differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. Alienware, for example, does not use Thunderbolt 3 and has its own port that only works with other Alienware laptops. If you have an Alienware laptop then this might be the only option for you.

The ASUS ROG XG Station 2 does use a Thunderbolt 3 interface and there are a couple of compatible Asus and Intel devices that the company has mentioned on its website but it is unclear which devices support the dock that are not made by Asus or Intel.

There are a couple of resources where you can learn about such things and learn from people that have bought these external docks. The eGPU subreddit is one such example that will help you along the way and give you specific details regarding the matter. The questions section on Amazon will also help you learn more.

Gaming On A Mac

We have already talked about how Thunderbolt 3 does not offer the same bandwidth as native PCIe and with Thunderbolt 3 you are limited to 4 PCIe lanes that is why you will notice that you do not get the same level of performance with an external graphics card compared to if that same card was installed internally. You will notice a performance drop of up to 15% on average depending on the game that you are playing or the application that you are using.

That does not mean that there are no benefits. The increase in performance is there and this is something that you will need if you are interested in gaming on a Mac. The graphics solutions that you get on Mac devices are not ideal for gaming and this might be the only way you will be able to play games at decent settings on Apple laptops. If your laptop is unable to run a game that you really want to play then an external dock is an option that you can go with if you can afford the cost that is.

Should You Get An External Graphics Card Dock?

All the information provided here should give you a basic understanding of whether or not this is something for you. Keeping in mind how expensive this graphics solution is and the kind of performance it has to offer it is safe to say that you will get better value for money and price to performance if you build a gaming PC or workstation.

You can get an external graphics card dock if you want the portability of a laptop but need the graphics power of a desktop. Remember that the performance that you get will be close to an internal graphics card but there is a decrease in performance when you go with an external graphics card. If you would rather spend more money on portability then you should go for it. This is a major investment but if money is no object then I can see a couple of scenarios in which an external dock would come in handy. It does offer a lot of convenience for the price and that is something that some people might be interested in.

External Graphics Cards Will Get Better

We have mentioned what external graphics cards have to offer and that Thunderbolt 3 seems to be the major bottleneck here. Keep in mind that this technology is relatively new and that with the passage of time a new standard will be introduced that will offer better performance as compared to Thunderbolt 3.

The PC hardware market is always evolving and we get new technology each year. GDDR5X used to be the standard for graphics card memory but now Nvidia has released graphics cards with GDDR6 memory. Modern motherboards come with PCI 3.0 ports but AMD has announced that their upcoming motherboards will offer the new PCI 4.0 standard. We might see something similar in the upcoming months for external graphics cards as well.

The new technology might close the gap between external graphics cards and internal ones and that might attract more people. Graphics cards manufacturers want to get their products to more people and that is one of the reasons why I think that this segment could get some improvements in the upcoming months. We will have to wait and see.

What is external graphic card

Final Words

Like everything else, external graphics card enclosures have their advantages and disadvantages. They do offer a boost in performance for your laptop but that boost might not be as great as you expected. They are also expensive and you might end up paying a lot of money on this kind of set up.

All things considered, there are people that might find this attractive and I hope that I have provided enough information here for you to decide whether or not you are one of them. Remember that your laptop needs to have a Thunderbolt 3 port unless you have an Alienware device in order to take advantage of an external graphics card dock.

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Alex West

Alex is a gaming enthusiast with over 15 years of experience, especially enjoying competitive video games. When he's not gaming or watching e-sports he likes to write about gaming and hardware.

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