If you’re looking to buy an external graphics card/expansion enclosure, in this guide, we’re taken a look at seven of the best external GPU options currently available.
With the rise of USB-C and Intel’s Thunderbolt interface, external graphics card are now a legitimate option for users who need high-end GPU computing power in a compact and mobile form-factor.
However, there are a number of external GPU enclosures on the market and figuring out which one is the best option for your needs isn’t always an easy task. In this guide, we’ve listed seven different options you have if you are considering getting an eGPU. So, if you are looking at getting an external graphics card, one of the options below should meet your needs.
An eGPU (or, external GPU, or external graphics card) is, essentially, a graphics card that sits in an external chassis apart from the main computer (be it a laptop or a desktop.) It’s basically the same idea as an external storage device (like an external hard drive.) In the same way that, if you plug an external hard drive into your computer you’ll have access to the storage on that device, if you plug in an external GPU to your laptop or computer, you’ll gain the ability to use the external GPU rather than the GPU that your existing laptop or computer is using.
While external graphics cards can give users access to more GPU-computing power, they aren’t without their own drawbacks. Since eGPUs must be connected to your computer or laptop via a cable (USB-C Thunderbolt), there will be a loss in performance. A GTX 1070 inside of an external closure that is connected to a desktop computer won’t deliver as much performance as if that GTX 1070 were installed directly into the PCIe lane inside of the desktop.
So, really, an external GPU is only a viable option for laptop users that don’t have a strong GPU inside of their system. But, unfortunately, for the majority of people who could benefit from the use of an external GPU (users with older laptops), using one isn’t actually possible. That’s because external graphics cards currently rely on a USB-C Thunderbolt 3 connection in order to work. And, most older laptops (or even slightly older budget-friendly laptops) won’t come with a USB-C port.
So, while an external GPU can be an legitimate option for some users, the types of users who could probably benefit from it the most are the types of users that won’t actually be able to use an external graphics card.
Still, though, there are use cases where an external graphics card makes sense. If you have a newer laptop that came with integrated graphics, you could upgrade your GPU-computing power by adding an external graphics card. And, the nice thing about some of the external GPU enclosures out there is that they are upgradeable. So, if you were to ever need an upgrade in the future, you won’t have to buy a completely new enclosure to do so. You’ll likely just have to swap out the graphics card inside of the external enclosure (and maybe the power supply, to.)
In any case, though, if an external graphics card is the right option for you, in this guide, we’ve covered seven of the best eGPUs currently available to help you find the right option for your needs.
For a quick look at our three favorite external GPUs, the table below showcases our pick for the best overall external graphics card, the best value option, and the best budget-friendly option.
Gigabyte Gaming Box
*To read about the eGPUs listed above, click on the “Read Review »” link to skip down to our write-up on that option. For our Honorable Mention picks, keep scrolling down.
Which External GPU is the Best Option for You?
If you’re in the market for an external graphics card to help boost your existing system’s GPU-computing power, then you have a handful of options to choose from. And, really, of those options, there are only a few that stand out as offering a reasonable product at a fair price. In our opinion, your best options are either Gigabyte’s Gaming Box, Akitio’s Node, or Sonnet’s eGFX Breakaway Box. And, if you have a compatible Alienware computer, then Alienware’s Graphics Amplifier is a good option as well.
If an external GPU is not for you, check out the graphics card buyer’s guide listed below for some other potential options: