Need a performance boost? You can now experience the power of a cutting-edge gaming PC, with 240 FPS and stunning graphics, using your current rig. How? Anything is possible with one of the best external graphics cards.
The best external graphics cards connect to your laptop (or desktop) to provide the same benefits as a dedicated GPU. That means fantastic resolution, multi-monitor support, and VR-ready quality–all in one portable & convenient package. Whether you’re on a two-year-old laptop or an aging desktop, there’s no need to settle for anything less than the best.
This article takes you through the five best external GPUs and eGPU enclosures on the market. We’ll also walk you through the technology to help you find the perfect fit for your rig. Ready for top-tier graphics? Let’s get started.
What to Look for in an eGPU
An external graphics card is a dedicated GPU that connects to your computer via a specialized enclosure or eGPU case. These enclosures house the graphics card and feature the technology necessary to connect it to your machine and boost its graphical capabilities.
External graphics cards are typically used for laptops, but they’re also ideal for desktop users whose motherboards can’t handle a GPU, whether that be for compatibility issues or a lack of space.
As you’d expect, external graphics cards come in many shapes, sizes, and styles. But no matter what your reasons for grabbing one, there are three primary considerations when choosing an external GPU.
1. Graphics Card
The term ‘external graphics card’ is something of a misnomer. The fact is that most external graphics cards are the same ones you’ll find within popular gaming rigs, e.g., GPUs from NVIDIA and AMD.
So what makes external graphics cards unique? Their enclosures.
Naturally, external GPU enclosures vary in features. The primary difference between models is whether or not they come with a graphics card out of the box. If so, you’re good to go (as long as the enclosure is compatible with your device–see below).
If not, you’ll need to purchase the enclosure, as well as an NVIDIA GeForce or AMD Radeon graphics card to put inside it.
All modern external graphics cards share one thing in common–they connect to your rig using Thunderbolt 3 technology. That’s because Thunderbolt 3 boasts transfer speeds up to 40GB/s. These high speeds are crucial to ensuring the proper functioning of today’s high-powered graphics cards.
But despite their shared technology, not all external graphics cards are universally compatible. Some only work with PCs and others with Macs. Only a handful of top-tier models feature the necessary drivers to work with all types of builds.
There are tons of high-end eGPU brands competing for your business. As such, you’ll find eGPU enclosures that boast portable form factors, LEDs, slick cooling systems, and more. Each model features a unique spec sheet to woo you towards that buy button.
Compare your favorite models carefully before making a final decision. To make the process easier, we’ve outlined the major specs, pros, and cons of each model. Let’s check ‘em out.
Zoom In: The 5 Best External Graphics Cards in 2021
Without further ado, let’s inspect the 5 best external graphics cards on the market.
Manufacturer: Dell | Compatability: Alienware PCs / NVIDIA & AMD | Graphics Card: Sold Separately | Dimensions: 16 x 7.5 x 7 inches | Weight: 7.5 lbs | Price: 💰
Seeking a cheap external GPU enclosure that doubles as one of the best external graphics cards for laptops? If so, the Alienware Graphics Amplifier will rock your world.
Designed exclusively for Alienware gaming rigs, this powerful enclosure houses full-length graphics cards up to 10.5 inches in length. Simply plug it into your machine and watch as your performance skyrockets to (inter)stellar proportions. Though a GPU isn’t included, this external enclosure does come with a dedicated 460-watt power supply and extensive USB 3.0 hub. A fantastic offering for Alienware gamers.
✔ Universal GPU compatibility
✔ Cheap external GPU enclosure
✔ 460-watt power supply & built-in USB hub
✘ Noisy cooling system
✘ Only works with Alienware products
Manufacturer: Razer | Compatability: PC & Mac / NVIDIA & AMD | Graphics Card: Sold Separately | Dimensions: 6.5 x 14.5 x 9 inches | Weight: 15 lbs | Price: 💰💰
Razer is the world’s premier gaming
overlord corporation, and the Core X is the best external video card for gaming on the market.
This baby is an absolute beast. Using cutting-edge Thunderbolt 3 technology, the Core X supports NVIDIA and AMD graphics cards up to 3 PCIe slots wide. The plug-and-play design works with Windows 10 and MacOS, and the portable form factor is perfect for laptop gamers seeking a little extra juice. The best part? The Razer Core X comes in two style configurations, with an optional LED Chroma model delivering stunning RGB lighting.
✔ Plug-and-play w/ Thunderbolt 3
✔ Supports GPUs up to 3 PCIe slots wide
✔ Powerful 650W PSU w/ 100W charging
✘ No USB hub
✘ GPU sold separately
Manufacturer: Sonnet | Compatability: PC & Mac / AMD | Graphics Card: Radeon RX 570S | Dimensions: 6 x 5 x 2 inches | Weight: 4 lbs | Price: 💰💰💰
Break the mold with the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck. At just 6 x 5 inches, this is one of the smallest external graphics cards on the market. But big things come in small packages.
The Puck comes pre-loaded with a powerful Radeon RX 570S external graphics card. Plug this bad boy into your PC or Mac via Thunderbolt 3, and instantly raise your performance to that of a cutting-edge gaming PC. This eGPU is highly portable and even delivers 60W of power for charging your devices. It’s the best external GPU for Mac on the market, and a must-have for dedicated gamers.
✔ Delivers 60W charging
✔ Extremely portable form factor
✔ High-powered Radeon GPU built-in
✘ No pass-through
✘ Generates a lot of heat
Manufacturer: ASUS | Compatability: PC / NVIDIA & AMD | Graphics Card: Sold Separately | Dimensions: 6.2 x 10.9 x 18 inches | Weight: 8.5 lbs | Price: 💰💰💰💰
Republic of Gamers, unite! Line up behind the ASUS ROG XG Station 2 to experience the best external graphics card for gaming money can buy.
Built exclusively for gamers, this machine lets you upgrade your laptop or tablet’s performance to that of a high-class gaming rig. Load it up with a GeForce GTX or AMD Radeon graphics card and watch as the sparks fly.
This external gaming GPU features a 600W internal PSU that charges the GPU and your device. Our favorite features? The insanely versatile I/O port and built-in AURA Sync tech that provides a dazzling light show when paired with ROG graphics cards.
✔ Versatile I/O panel & AURA Sync
✔ Powerful external gaming GPU setup
✔ Convenient Thunderbolt 3 technology
✘ Quite loud
✘ Tricky installation
Manufacturer: Gigabyte | Compatability: PC / NVIDIA | Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 1070 | Dimensions: 6.5 x 4 x 8.5 in | Weight: 5 lbs | Price: 💰💰💰💰💰
If the name AORUS Gaming Box doesn’t send shivers of excitement up your spine, we’re not sure what will. After all, it’s the best external GPU of this year.
That’s right–the Gaming Box comes equipped with a GeForce GTX 1070 external graphics card that’ll crank performance up to 11. Connect to your laptop using Thunderbolt 3, then get ready for max FPS on the highest settings. This thing is a monster. We’re talking WINDFORCE 3X cooling, composite heat pipes, and a 450W PSU with over 90% efficiency. And for all you design sticklers? This ultra-portable unit boasts RGB Fusion for over 16.8 million customizable LEDs. Hell yes.
✔ WINDFORCE 3X cooling w/ 3D Active Fan
✔ Equipped with one of the best external GPUs
✔ Plug-and-play w/ Thunderbolt 3 & Quick Charge
✘ Very expensive
✘ Occasionally disconnects