https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUg7YyXflhE

You’ve undoubtedly heard of external HDDs and SDDs, but did you know external graphics cards exist too?

Indeed, external graphics cards are a thing, and there are many reasons as to why you might want to get one, and the most common example?

They make gaming on a laptop very easy!

In essence, an external GPU is an independent enclosure containing a power supply, cooling system, and a desktop version of a graphics card.

Now, whether you wish to play games on your laptop or just don’t have any motherboard space to spare on a powerful GPU, we will give you a list of the best external graphics cards of 2018!

The 5 Best External GPUs For 2018

eGPUSupported GPU Supported GPU sizeDimensionsWeight 
Gigabyte AORUS Gaming Box (Editor’s Pick)Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 includedMini ITX3.78 x 6.38 x 8.35 in (96 x 162 x 212 mm)4.4 lbs (2 kg)
Alienware Graphics AmplifierNvidia GTX 600 and up

AMD Radeon HD 5000 and up
Full-length, full-height, double width16.1 x 7.3 x 6.8 in (408 x 185 x 172 mm)7.7 lbs (3.5 kg)
Akitio NodeNvidia and AMDFull-length, full-height, double width22 x 14.3 x 10.1 in (558 x 363 x 256 mm)15.2 lbs (6.9 kg)
ASUS RoG XG Station 2Nvidia – GTX 9-series and up

AMD – Radeon R9 series and up
Full-length, full-height, double width10.5 x 16 x 22 in (266 x 406 x 558 mm)8.6 lbs (3.9 kg)
Razer CoreNvidia – GeForce and Quadro

AMD – Radeon R9 and RX
Full-length, full-height, double width4.1 x 13.4 x 8.6 in (104 x 340 x 218 mm)12.8 lbs (5.8 kg)

Gigabyte AORUS Gaming Box

extermal gpu

About the Product

Unless you’re completely new to the world of computer hardware, then you definitely know about Gigabyte. It was founded back in 1986, and is one of the leading hardware manufacturers today. Moreover, they are a licensed manufacturer of both Nvidia and AMD graphics cards, and these are some of the best variants you can find on the market.

The AORUS Gaming Box is an external GPU casing that comes complete with Gigabyte’s own version of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card. It is a relatively compact metal box with a transparent mesh openly displaying the front of the graphics card itself and further accentuating it with the use of LED lighting.

Features

  • The Graphics Card
    The particular GTX 1070 model that comes with this casing is GTX 1070 Mini ITX OC 8G. It is a more compact version of the standard GTX 1070 which maintains all of the performance power of its full-sized counterpart, albeit resulting in somewhat louder cooling and lesser overclocking potential. Regardless, it is still fully capable of 4K and VR rendering.
  • Connectivity
    Thunderbolt 3.0 – The GPU connects to your computer via the extremely fast Thunderbolt 3.0 USB port which supports maximum transfer speeds of up to 40 Gbps. This is not as fast as PCIe x16 slot, but it’s as close as it gets for now.
    Display – The GTX 1070 Mini is equipped with 1 HDMI port, 1 DisplayPort, and 2 DL DVI-D ports. This provides for more than enough versatility when setting up your portable gaming rig.
    USB – The casing itself is equipped with a total of 4 USB 3.0 slots, one of which supports quick charging. Not only does this make it easy to connect all of your gaming peripherals, but it even lets you charge any wireless ones four times faster than usual.
    RGB Fusion – When it comes to that signature gaming LED lighting, the casing includes Gigabyte’s RGB Fusion. It is capable of reproducing a full spectrum of 16 million colors, as well as displaying them in a variety of regimes such as flashing, breathing or just static light.
  • Portability
    As mentioned above, the casing is compact and very light, weighing only 4.4 pounds (about 2 kg). Thanks to the small frame, it can be comfortably placed on top of a desk without taking up too much space nor attracting too much attention.
    Moreover, the remarkably low weight makes it a breeze to transport. To make this even easier, the AORUS Gaming Box comes together with a carry bag designed specifically for it. All things considered, it is the most portable external GPU on this list.

Downsides

  • Few upgrade options
    Even though the graphics card can be removed, the compact frame of the casing can easily be too cramped for bigger graphics cards. Obviously, this makes the AORUS gaming box a less than ideal long-term choice, as there is no guarantee that it will host future generations of graphics cards adequately, even the smaller ones such as the GTX 1070 Mini.

What We Loved

  • High-end graphics card included
  • Unprecedented portability
  • Plenty of connectivity options

What We Didn’t Like

  • Limited upgrade potential

Alienware Graphics Amplifier

best external graphics card

About the Product

Although Alienware was started in 1996 as an independent company, it only reached its glory days after it was acquired by Dell in 2006. For the most part, the name Alienware had become synonymous with gaming laptops, so it is only natural to see external graphics solutions from them.

The Alienware Graphics Amplifier is a GPU case designed to work specifically with Alienware laptops. It sports a dark and detailed design with a prominent company logo on the front that is the signature of Alienware products.

Features

  • The Graphics Card
    The Alienware Graphics Amplifier does not come with a GPU included, so a graphics card needs to be bought separately. Luckily, it is quite flexible in this regard, as it supports even GTX 600 and Radeon HD 5000 graphics cards which can be considered obsolete by today’s standards.
    Ultimately, this compatibility and a built-in power supply of 460 watts allows for almost any full-sized graphics card to be installed in the casing.
  • Connectivity
    Unlike most external GPU casings on the market today, the Alienware Graphics Amplifier does not use a Thunderbolt 3 port to connect to a user’s computer. Rather, they rely on their own proprietary direct PCIe cable connection which has the upper hand on Thunderbolt 3 by ensuring dedicated bandwidth.
    Other than that, the casing also incorporates four USB 3.0 ports that allow the user to connect and/or charge any of their gaming peripherals.

Downsides

  • Supports only Alienware laptops
    Due to Alienware’s proprietary PCIe ports that the casing utilizes, it can only be connected to Alienware laptops that incorporate that same port. These include the following, as listed on the official product page:
  • Alienware 13 R1, R2, and R3
  • Alienware 15 R1, R2, and R3
  • Alienware 17 R2, R3, and R4
  • Alienware X51 R3
  • Alienware Alpha R2
  • Too large to transport comfortably
    The Amplifier is not overly heavy, but it is definitely bulky and unwieldy. As such, it simply cannot compete with the likes of the Gigabyte with their AORUS Gaming Box, and will most likely stick to the desk where you initially put it.

What We Loved

  • Versatile in terms of GPU support
  • More than sufficient PSU
  • Great upgrading potential

What We Didn’t Like

  • Can only work with Alienware laptops
  • Lacks portability

Akitio Node

best external gpu 2018

About the Product

Akitio is a name many are likely to be unfamiliar with. It is an international company headquartered in California, USA, and their design philosophy prioritizes practicality and reliability above all else. They produce a range of external computer add-ons such as hard drives, GPU cases, as well as related accessories.

As for the Akitio Node, it is a spacious and adaptable external GPU case. Its sheer size and black metal chassis are more reminiscent of a full-fledged computer case than any of the other products on this list, which has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Features

  • The Graphics Card
    Contrary to what the Akitio Node’s weight might imply, it does not come with a graphics card included. And with its powerful 400W PSU, it can support almost any graphics card that can fit – and every graphics card can fit in its interior!
    When it comes specifically to GPU compatibility, the Node fully supports either Nvidia or AMD Radeon GPUs. This, combined with the great power supply capacity and more than sufficient amount of space, allows for maximum flexibility when it comes to picking the ideal graphics card. Although given the size of the case, it is definitely designed with high-end GPUs in mind.
  • Connectivity
    The enclosure itself is quite limited in terms of connectivity, as it only has a single Thunderbolt 3 port that is used to connect it to a computer.
  • Portability
    There is no denying that the Akitio Node is simply massive, as far as external GPU cases go.  It weighs 15.2 pounds (about 7 kg), and that’s excluding the graphics card you will eventually install in it.
    To help make the Node more portable, Akitio has incorporated a convenient handle on the case’s upper back. This goes a long way to make carrying the Node easier, even if it’s still as heavy it is.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBctxfMjXSQ

Downsides

  • Size and weight
    The most obvious downside with the Akitio Node is the one we have just addressed – it’s size and weight that make it difficult to transport. Even though the built-in handle greatly helps with this, something this heavy is bound to get uncomfortable to carry during longer trips.
  • Built-in fan is quite loud
    If you have ever owned a powerful gaming PC with multiple case fans, then the noise coming from the Node’s single PSU fan is unlikely to bother you. On the other hand, laptop users who are accustomed to silent-running computers will definitely find it distracting – especially if it is placed on top of the desk.

What We Loved

  • Can accommodate the biggest and most powerful graphics cards
  • Full support for both Nvidia and AMD GPUs

What We Didn’t Like

  • Almost as big as a desktop computer case
  • Somewhat loud built-in fan

ASUS RoG XG Station 2

best egpu 2018

About the Product

Asus is a company that hardly needs introduction. This Taiwanese giant has expanded into almost all parts of the hardware industry, during which time the Republic of Gamers brand was created. As the name implies, this series of products caters specifically to the gaming community.

One of the products in the RoG lineup is the RoG XG Station 2 which takes the aggressive and attention-grabbing design which is a staple of RoG products and applies it perfectly to an external GPU case. With red highlights and etched black surfaces, this product is recognizable from a mile away. But what does it offer in practical terms?

Features

  • The Graphics Card
    The Station 2’s spacious interior can accommodate for any full-size graphics card, although it only officially supports the two latest series of GPUs from both Nvidia and AMD: the GTX 9 and 10-series, along with the Radeon R9 and RX products.
    What some might find convenient is that Asus ships these eGPU cases either with or without a graphics card included. At the moment, you can get it bundled with a number of GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 variations, all of which are, naturally, Asus STRIX cards.
    And lastly, the Station 2 includes a cutting-edge 600W power supply that can help it handle even dual GPU setups.
  • Connectivity
    Like most external GPU cases, the Station 2 connects to a computer via a Thunderbolt 3 port. On top of that, it includes four USB 3.0 ports to allow for fast and convenient connection of gaming peripherals.
    On top of that, the Station 2 takes it a step further than most other eGPU cases by also including one Gigabit Ethernet port and a type B USB port for added versatility.

Downsides

  • Lack of portability
    Although it is not as big or as heavy as some other cases, the Station 2’s bulky design makes it difficult to handle and carry any further than the rooms within your home. For all intents and purposes, it turns your laptop into a desktop.
  • Price
    Given the features that come packed into this case, it is only natural that it should be expensive. Still, a price tag of over 500 dollars is more than most would be comfortable paying for a GPU enclosure that does not even

What We Loved

  • Top of the line power supply
  • Supports latest GPUs
  • Supports dual GPU setups

What We Didn’t Like

  • Difficult to transport
  • High price tag

Razer Core

best external graphics card 2018

About the Product

Razer is a well-known name in gaming circles. The company had braved a long journey riddled with financial issues since its founding in 1998 until it ultimately became a gaming equipment manufacturer that we know today.

Razer’s products are known to come at quite high price tags, which had also earned them some controversial attention throughout the years. The Razer Core external graphics card enclosure is no different. It sports a clean design and is equipped with Razer’s patented Chroma LED lighting that gives the case that recognizable “gaming flair”.

Features

  • The Graphics Card
    The Razer Core doesn’t come equipped with a GPU out of the box, but it incorporates a powerful 500-watt power supply that can fully support any individual graphics card currently on the market. Moreover, it is spacious enough to comfortably accommodate for any full-sized GPU.
    Furthermore, the case officially supports a range of Nvidia GeForce and Quadro graphics cards, in addition to AMD Radeon R9 and RX series. A full list of the officially supported GPUs can be found on the official product page, listed under the technical specifications.
  • Connectivity
    As most of the other external GPUs, the Razer Core relies on a Thunderbolt 3 port to connect to the user’s computer. Apart from that, it allows up to four gaming peripherals to be connected via USB 3.0 ports, as well as a wired Internet connection via the Gigabit Ethernet port.
  • Razer Chroma
    LED lighting, dynamic or otherwise, has become an unavoidable part of gaming equipment design, a trend that Razer had started in the first place. The Chroma enables full-spectrum lighting, and with a number of dynamic effects that allow for unprecedented customization in this regard.

Downsides

  • Expensive – As is the tradition with Razer products, they come with quite a high price tag attached to them. And when we’re talking just an enclosure, not many would be eager to pay 500$ for one when they could get another that even includes a GPU. That said, only those with 4K ambitions will find the Razer Core appealing.

What We Loved

  • Supports full-sized graphics cards without being too bulky
  • Chroma lighting is great for passionate gamers

What We Didn’t Like

  • High price tag

How to Pick the Best External Graphics Card for you?

Whenever you’re dealing with a range of different products, no matter how mild the differences, it will always be tough pinpointing the very best one, as it will mostly be a subjective matter.

Therefore, before presenting our own take on which of these eGPU enclosures is the best, we will offer some guidelines on how to determine which one would be the best for you.

Are you Gaming on a Laptop or a Desktop?

external graphics card

True, external GPUs are an answer to the need for better graphics processing in laptops, but there are valid reasons as to why you might seek to use one even if you own a desktop. More specifically:

  1. Lack of space – Some graphics cards are quite massive, and if you have a Midi Tower or smaller case, a high-end graphics card won’t physically be able to fit.
  2. Weak power supply – Your power supply might be unable to provide the required wattage for the GPU that you have set your sights on.
  3. Motherboard incompatibility – The latest GPUs rely on PCIe 3.0 as a means of connection, ideally PCIe x16 for maximum data transfer speeds. Whether your motherboard lacks such slots due to it being an older model or the slot itself being defective, an external GPU would save you the trouble of having to replace the motherboard and, likely, other components as well.

When it comes to the above reasons, it is arguably better to wait and save up some money to put together a proper gaming rig. However, there is one definite reason why a desktop owner might want to go with an external GPU. And might that be, you wonder? It’s quite simple…

Get an external GPU if you own both a desktop and a laptop and want to game on both of them

That way, you can seamlessly switch between two devices without noticing any changes in in-game performance. As long as both configurations have decent CPU and memory specs, that is.

Do you Prioritize Power or Portability?

As the saying goes, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. This applies to external GPUs as well – there simply isn’t one that can reach maximum possible performance potential while maintaining low weight and modest size.

It is quite easy to determine which you should prioritize simply by considering where you will play the most.

If you intend on gaming only at home, then portability isn’t that big of a deal. In fact, any external GPU case can be moved rather easily within the confines of your home.

If you want to be able to play games on the go or outside your home, then you should definitely go with a lighter and more compact solution. This is especially important for people who travel a lot.

Make Your Own

egpu

These days, we are accustomed to receiving products that are complete and can be installed with little to no effort. Because of this, we often overlook one very common way that we can cut financial costs: through DIY projects.

It is surprisingly easy to put together an external GPU case by yourself. After all, they are essentially little more than a compact computer case. Therefore, the best external graphics card enclosure for you might just be the one that you put together with your own two hands!

For an in-depth guide on how to assemble a custom external graphics card case, refer to this handy tutorial by TechRepublic.

Conclusion – The Best External Graphics Card

extermal gpuAnd finally, as for which of these external GPUs we have found to be the very best.

It is the Gigabyte AORUS Gaming Box.

While its limited flexibility when it comes to potential future upgrades may be a deal-breaker for some people, this neat little eGPU does everything else right.

The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 that comes with this case is a 4K and VR-ready graphics card that won’t go out of fashion any time soon. What’s more, few laptops these days go beyond a Full HD 1080p display resolution, and this GPU will be more than sufficient in this regard.

More importantly, whenever we think of laptops, we think of mobility. Unlike the other external GPUs currently on the market, the AORUS Gaming Box can perfectly preserve that mobility. No other case can come close to it in this regard, as it is significantly lighter and smaller than the competition.

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