The graphics card on a computer was once seen as largely immutable. Along with the CPU, these were some of the hardest components to swap out, and unlike with RAM or storage space, you were largely stuck with a “What you see is what you get” mentality. But new technology and the Thunderbolt 3 protocol have changed the market significantly.
While they can offer a significant boost for gaming, video editing, and other graphically intensive tasks, an eGPU isn’t cheap. But we’re here to help you navigate the market. Not only do we provide reviews for 10 of the best eGPU models in production today, but we also provide you with the knowledge you need to decide whether you need an eGPU and what qualities you should be paying attention to.
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The 10 Best eGPUs - Fall 2020:
- Razer Core X Chroma eGpu
- Blackmagic eGPU Pro
- Alienware Graphics Amplifier (9R7XN)
- AORUS Gaming Box GTX 1070 Graphic Card
- Razer Core V2 eGpu
- ASUS ROG XG Station 2 2 Thunderbolt 3
- Akitio Node – Thunderbolt3 eGPU
- PowerColor Mini Pro RX570 8GB eGPU Thunderbolt
- Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box
- OMEN HP Accelerator Shell GA1-1000
1. Razer Core X Chroma eGpu
Razer is one of the leading producers of products for gamers, and you can expect their typically colorful swagger to be on display with this eGPU. It offers full RGB lighting that can be synced up with your other Razer accessories, and it makes use of a substantive 700 watt power supply to ensure it can handle even the beefiest graphics cards. In addition, it comes with a generous selection of port hubs. While the Core X is hooked up through your Thunderbolt cable, you'll also have access to an ethernet and four USB ports. The enclosure is sturdy and well designed with some really hefty cooling systems in place.
2. Blackmagic eGPU Pro
The octagonal tower design of the BlackMagic Radeon Pro 580 cuts an impressive figure, but it's what's inside that really counts with this eGPU. The RX Vega GPU built in isn't the best graphics card in terms of raw power, but it's going to be more than enough for most gamers, and you won't have to buy a separate card for this model like you would with the Razer eGPU reviewed above. The 85 watt power delivery system allows you to charge your laptop at full speed while still receiving the impressive graphical performance this eGPU provides, and the cooling systems built in are nearly silent. HDMI and DisplayPort adapters are available in addition to the two Thunderbolt ports and the four USB outlets included.
3. Alienware Graphics Amplifier (9R7XN)
Despite some common misconceptions, an external GPU enclosure doesn't always have to be prohibitively expensive. While the storage capacity and maximum wattage of the Alienware Graphics Amplifier don't meet the expectations of the best models, it can still provide a lot of juice to your graphical performance for a relatively meager cost of under $250. And the support for double wide cards means that you can continue to expand your graphics even as the technology develops beyond what you're using now. It also comes with some of the most exhaustive RGB lighting options with tons of colors and the ability to set up exceedingly complex lighting triggers.
4. AORUS Gaming Box GTX 1070 Graphic Card
Aorus has built a reputation for packing as much technology into their tech as possible, and that's no different with this eGPU enclosure. It uses a respectable Nvidia GTX 1070 that should constitute a significant graphical improvement for most users with a need for an eGPU, and it sports a very simple plug and play design that allows even the most technically disadvantaged users to get this Aorus GTX external graphics enclosure up and running in a matter of minutes. There are also three ports for USB 3.0 devices, so this external GPU can serve as a hub for charging or for your favorite gaming accessories as well.
5. Razer Core V2 eGpu
The Razer Core V2 may be an expensive eGPU, but you get what you pay for. This is one of the best eGPUs we've found anywhere, and despite the raw depth of its capabilities, it's both incredibly versatile and appropriate even for users that don't have any technical experience at all. Setup is as simple as plugging this device into your Thunderbolt 3 port, but you have a lot of variety in terms of what cards you want to use. The compatibility with this eGPU is wide, and you can reasonably expect it to remain a part of your collection even if you find yourself needing to swap out new cards periodically over time. It supports AMD Radeon cards of RX series or later and the Nvidia GTX 10-series and later.
6. ASUS ROG XG Station 2 2 Thunderbolt 3
The "Republic of Gamers" is serious about creating some of the toughest equipment available, so ti's not a huge surprise that their eGPU is a beefy enclosure with some of the best capabilities around. The first thing that sticks out about the Asus RoG XG Station 2 is how cool it looks. The entire enclosure opens upward like a crocodile's mouth turned upward so you can insert your card and access the insides easily, but the max PSU of 680 is impressive, and the compatibility here is especially strong. The Asus RoG XG Station 2 also offers top shelf connectivity thanks to the 5 USB 3.0 ports that are included.
7. Akitio Node – Thunderbolt3 eGPU
The Akitio Node is another cost effective solution that offers above average performance. Akitio may not be the most well known name in tech, but they bring the goods with the Akitio Node. This eGPU makes use of a 400 watt source for respectable performance, although its compatibility with Mac computers is a bit lackluster. It only supports AMD cards, but if that's what you plan on using anyway (or you're using a Windows PC where the compatibility is much broader), you'll get a phenomenal deal with the Akitio Node. The Thunderbolt connection boasts connection speeds of up to 40 gigabytes per second, and the Akitia Node even comes with a carrying handle for easy transport.
8. PowerColor Mini Pro RX570 8GB eGPU Thunderbolt
Most eGPUs that come with a graphics card built in make use of a Nvidia processor, and that's natural. But if you'd prefer an AMD chip, you may want to look at the PowerColor Mini Pro. The AMD Radeon RX570 in here comes packed with a full 8 GB of RAM for graphical processing , and it's designed to work at an operating temperature of anywhere from 0 to 45 degrees Celsius. It also comes with both an ethernet port that supports a gigabyte transfer rate as well as two USB 3.0 ports for charging your devices or plugging in your most important gaming accessories without having to use up the limited ports on your laptop.
9. Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box
The Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box is proof that you can find a decent eGPU enclosure for a relatively inexpensive price, and it's a strong contender for the best eGPU for users working on a smaller budget. The 550 watt supply ensures that this eGPU breakway box supports even high end graphics cards like the Nvidia RTX series without having to spend a small fortune, and the Breakaway Box even comes with its own Thunderbolt 3 cable so you can get up and running with the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box right away. It doesn't offer close to the best raw performance, but it offers support for some capable graphics cards along with reliable charging for your laptop via a Thunderbolt 3 port.
10. OMEN HP Accelerator Shell GA1-1000
The HP Omen lined produced one of the best laptops of 2020, so it shouldn't be a big surprise that it's also the source of one of the best eGPUs available today. The Accelerator Shell features an incredibly bold design featuring a rectangular enclosure propped up on two legs. But it's more than just a pretty face. This eGPU includes enough space for a 2.5 slot GPU, but it also includes room for a solid state drive or traditional hard drive if you're looking to upgrade your storage at the same time. And the large and easy access door means that installing your GPU and hard drive is a painless and easy to follow task.
eGPU Buyer’s Guide
What is an eGPU? If you’ve made it through our review list and still find yourself confused, we’re here to help. We’ll start by breaking down the specifics of what exactly an eGPU is and who they’re best suited for then provide you with some information on what qualities you should pay the most attention to before we address some of the questions we hear most frequently.
eGPU stands for external graphics processing unit, and that’s largely self explanatory. An eGPU allows you to attach an external graphics card to your computer in the same way you would an external hard drive, and the enclosure provides all the cooling and power necessary to avoid drain from your laptop. So who would need this? Generally, an eGPU is an asset for gamers who want to play the latest AAA titles at the highest graphical settings and creative professionals working in highly detailed visual art, design, or video.
Any computer that needs to achieve graphical tasks outside the purview of their existing graphics card can benefit from an external graphics card, but these cool devices get the most mileage when connected to laptops. The compact design of laptops and the dramatic power usage required by a high end graphics card means that even high end gaming laptops are often behind the pack in terms of performance. An eGPU enclosure with a powerful chip like the Nvidia Geforce GTX 1070 setup will give you the juice you need without running the risk of frying your laptop’s components.
External graphics card enclosures come in two varieties: those that are just enclosures and require you to install your own GPU and those that come with a GPU pre-installed. The advantage of the latter is obvious: you get everything you need for a single price and don’t have to worry about installation. But being able to customize your GPU setup is one of the big advantages of a gaming box device.
Keep in mind whether the cards packed into a pre-built enclosure are capable of supporting all of your needs, and consider going bigger than what you precisely need. Investing in an RTX instead of a GTX, for instance, will future proof your computer for a while, and it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll only be getting about 90% of the max performance from cards with eGPUS than if you had cards installed directly inside your desktop.
The first thing to pay attention to when seeking out the best eGPU is whether or not the card you ultimately decide to use will work with your eGPU enclosure. If an eGPU doesn’t come with a graphics card already installed, most external graphics card manufacturers will reveal how much space there is for installing external graphics cards and also list the maximum wattage output the enclosure supports. If you want a decent card, we recommend the Nvidia GTX 1070, but investing in a new Nvidia RTX GPU will ensure that your computer is ready for cool new technologies like ray tracing and A.I. assisted rendering that represent the future of gaming technology.
One of the biggest problems of trying to pack a powerful GPU into a laptop is that it’s going to use a lot of power and run hot, requiring noisy fans that hog power. It stands the reason that an eGPU is going to face the same issues. That’s why it’s important to find a Thunderbolt enabled eGPU with a strong cooling system. Look for models that use a fan or multiple fans that are designed to run quiet but still provide you with the wattage that you need, and you should be fine.
GPUs are resource hogs, and that’s true whether it’s installed in your computer or connected via a Thunderbolt cable. Pay attention to the max wattage used by the eGPU version you’re looking for, but also be sure to pay close attention to the largest GPU wattage it supports. This will be one of the biggest factors in determining whether or not an eGPU can hndle the graphics cards that you want to use.
While the main reason for getting an eGPU product is that it allows you to establish an external graphics card connection with your laptop, that doesn’t mean that’s the only feature they offer. While the features listed below shouldn’t be your primary reason for purchasing an eGPU, they can push one over the edge if you’re comparing two models and can’t determine which is more worth your time based on a review alone.
- Additional ports are one of the most common inclusions in an eGPU, and they’re a useful one to have. Whether you’re talking about basic USB 3.0 ports or an ethernet port, they allow you to more readily connect your favorite gaming or work accessories, and they can be used for charging in a pinch.
- It’s pretty common for an eGPU enclosure to include its own RAM. This dedicated VRAM can further bolster your graphical performance and spare your computer’s internal memory the burden of having to do too much heavy lifting.
- Enclosures are essentially big power batteries at their source, and so it makes sense that most can double as an external battery for your computer. Many manufacturers will list the maximum watt output available for charging your laptop.
- Some enclosures can work double duty as a means for holding both a graphics card and a storage device for laptops. If you want an all in one solution, an enclosure that can also hold an SSD or HDD can be a huge asset.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is an eGPU Worth It?
That depends on your needs. While we suggest pulling the trigger and investing in a professional rig if you’re a serious gamer or a professional who needs a top shelf graphics card, an eGPU can serve as a great workaround, especially given the limited space available in notebook computers, and if you decide to build a new rig sometime in the future,, you can take the card out of most eGPU enclosures and use them in your new machine when it comes time for an upgrade.
How Do You Set Up an eGPU?
That’s going to vary from gaming box to gaming box. While some eGPUs are simply enclosures that require you to provide your own graphics cards, others come with Nvidia cards already built in. People who are uncomfortable about how to make their external GPUs run like they should might be best off looking for eGPUs like like the AORUS Gaming Box that come with their own cards and employ basic plug and play designs.
Do You Need Thunderbolt 3 for an External GPU?
Yes. For a quality graphics card like the Nvidia GTX to work properly, it needs some pretty quick data transfer, and the only technology capable of accomplishing that right now is what you get through a Thunderbolt 3 port. Until a data transfer process that can compete comes around, you’re going to need a computer that supports a Thunderbolt 3 port to get reasonable usage out of an eGPU enclosure or the Nvidia graphics card you might want to use with it.
If you want to get powerful graphical performance without having to invest in new laptops entirely (and you have a compatible Thunderbolt 3 port), an eGPU gaming box can be one of the best ways to game or engage in high level video editing. While these devices aren’t perfect, they offer you to keep your laptop portable without giving up on the option for high-power graphical performance. This technology may be new, but the models we’ve presented here represent the best of the best. If you decide you want to invest in an external GPU enclosure, be sure to check out our guide to the best GPUs, so you can find a comparable card that’s well suited to your needs.If you liked our article on egpu, please share and comment below what your favorite product is.