On its own, the Alienware Graphics Amplifier is a great and relatively inexpensive way to boost your laptop’s graphics performance. The biggest drawback is that it is only compatible with certain Alienware laptops, plus it’s not as portable as some other eGPU cases.
In recent years, external GPU cases have become quite popular, despite the prices that seemed absurdly high for what is essentially a small computer case. But the truth is, they are the best way to get near desktop-level graphics performance on a laptop, so it’s not difficult to see why many are still willing to dish out a serious amount of cash for an eGPU case.
Among the more popular eGPU cases, we have the Alienware Graphics Amplifier. As you are probably aware, Alienware is a Dell brand best known for its pricey gaming laptops, and this case shares a lot of the design elements commonly seen in these laptops. But surprisingly, it’s not all that expensive!
In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at this external GPU case, its features, and see whether it’s worth buying in 2020.
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You can spot an Alienware product from a mile away, and the Graphics Amplifier is no different. This bulky case features a prominent Alienware logo on the front; it is heavily detailed and boasts a sleek black exterior without any popping highlights.
All in all, it looks quite good, though its biggest drawback is, ironically, a lack of portability. As mentioned above, it is quite bulky and doesn’t feature any built-in handles, so it’s not exactly easy to carry around. The case alone sits at 7.72 pounds (about 3.5kg), not accounting for the weight of whatever graphics card you’d install inside, so it can’t exactly be called light either.
Features and Compatibility
The Alienware Graphics Amplifier is fairly easy to use. The top cover pops right up, as you can see from the image above, exposing the internals. Inside, you’ll find a single full-length PCIe slot, along with enough space to fit any full-length dual-width graphics card. Moreover, it has a 460-watt power supply, which will be more than enough for any modern GPU.
On the back of the case, you’ll find four USB 3.0 ports that can be used to connect and/or charge peripherals such as a mouse, a keyboard, a headset, etc.
Additionally, while most eGPU cases use Thunderbolt 3 as a means of interfacing with a laptop, the Graphics Amplifier utilizes a proprietary PCIe connector. Alienware claims that this technology is faster than Thunderbolt 3, and while that may be true, it heavily limits the versatility of the Graphics Amplifier, which is its primary drawback.
The way that the Alienware Graphics Amplifier works is quite simple – once it is connected to a compatible laptop, the laptop’s internal GPU shuts down and the external GPU takes over until it is powered down or disconnected.
The external GPU cannot work with the internal GPU via CrossFire or SLI, so you can’t get extra performance by matching up the internal and external GPU models.
Furthermore, the Graphics Amplifier can be used with either the laptop’s integrated display or with an external monitor. The latter can be connected either to one of the laptop’s output ports or directly to the external graphics card. VR is also supported, provided that the graphics card and the laptop can actually handle it.
Now, as we have stated above, the Graphics Amplifier uses a proprietary connector instead of Thunderbolt 3, so it is certified to work only with the following Alienware laptops, as listed on the official product page:
- Alienware 13 R1, R2, R3
- Alienware 15 R1, R2, R3, R4
- Alienware 17 R2, R3, R4, R5
- Alienware m15
- Alienware m17
- Alienware Area-51m
- Alienware X51 R3
- Alienware Alpha R2
Overall, the Alienware Graphics Amplifier is a solid external GPU solution, but it does come with its fair share of drawbacks.
We have already mentioned the two most important ones: its lack of portability and the fact that it is only compatible with a relatively small selection of Alienware gaming laptops. As such, it is not as easy to transport as some other cases are, and it’s a no-go when it comes to gaming laptops manufactured by other companies.
On top of that, the Graphics Amplifier might have some potential GPU compatibility issues with newer GPUs, though this is usually fixed quickly via driver updates. At the moment, Alienware claims that the Radeon RX series and the GeForce RTX series are fully supported, but there may be some short-lived compatibility quirks with future GPUs when they are released – just something to keep in mind.
Apart from that, we have no other major qualms with the Alienware Graphics Amplifier specifically, but there is still some stuff that applies to eGPU cases, in general, i.e. the hefty prices and the limited performance compared to desktop PCs.
But ultimately, an eGPU is as close as you can get to PC-level performance in a laptop, and this particular eGPU is cheaper than ever at the moment – when it launched, it was going for a hefty $300, but now you can find it for almost half that price. As such, if you own one of the Alienware laptops listed above and want to give them a big performance boost, now may be a good time!
On the other hand, if you’re not an Alienware laptop user and are wondering about alternatives, check out our selection of the best external graphics card enclosures of 2020 – you are bound to find something that fits both your requirements and your budget. And if you’re looking for a graphics card, too, then you might also want to take a look at this article as well.
- Sleek exterior design
- Ample internal space
- Powerful PSU
- Four USB 3.0 ports on the back
- Good value for Alienware users
- Size and weight make it difficult to transport
- Proprietary connector limits compatibility