5 Best External GPUs for Laptops

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It’s no secret that laptops can’t compete with desktops in regard to sheer power. But on the other hand, laptops take the crown when it comes to portability. What if you want a portable and powerful setup for both work and gaming? Well, you can either wait for laptops to be on the same level as desktops or go for an external GPU setup.

This guide is for those who find the latter option to be more appealing. Here, we’ll introduce you to the best eGPU enclosures, from budget options to products manufactured by some of the most recognizable brands in the business.

Budget
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Sonnet eGFX Breakaway
4.2/5.0
Weight: 7.1 lb
Connection: Thunderbolt 3
Compatible with AMD and Nvidia graphics cards.
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Best Value
best-value-External-GPU
Asus XG Station Pro
4.4/5.0
Weight: 6.5 lb
Connection: Thunderbolt 3
Low noise level, and sleek and subtle design.
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Top Pick
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Gigabyte AORUS GTX
4.6/5.0
Weight: 5.2 lb
Connection: Thunderbolt 3
Includes a graphics card, and multiple connection options.
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External GPUs: A Brief Introduction

An external GPU (eGPU) setup is composed of a graphics card and a dedicated eGPU dock or enclosure. The eGPU enclosure contains a power supply unit (PSU) and a cooling system and uses a high-speed connection to make things work, with the Thunderbolt 3 connection being the most commonly used. Some units also include other input/output options, allowing you to connect peripherals.

The benefits of external GPU docks are obvious. With such a setup, you can turn your laptop into a more powerful machine capable of running graphics-intensive games and other demanding tasks. Since both your laptop and the eGPU box are compact enough, you don’t need to reserve a large space for your rig. That’s good news for those living in a small or crowded room with barely enough space for a work desk.

Most importantly, an eGPU setup offers more portability. You can easily move it when changing apartments or dorms. While some are a lot bulkier than others, most eGPU docks are compact enough to fit inside a small bag for easy transport. They are much lighter than full-sized desktop system units, considering the chassis size and the fact there are fewer components inside.

But just because eGPU docks are relatively less complicated than desktop systems doesn’t mean shopping for one is a walk in the park. There are several aspects you need to consider before you open your wallet, such as the PSU rating, the physical dimensions, and whether or not it has additional input/output options.

Keep in mind that not all laptops with a Thunderbolt 3 port can connect with an eGPU dock. Some can pair without any issues. Others either require a bit of tinkering or don’t work at all. It’s important to check whether or not your laptop is actually compatible with the eGPU you’re seriously considering buying.

On a related note, not all external GPU enclosures are equal when it comes to graphics card compatibility. Some of the best ones have the required interior space and power to accommodate some of the most powerful graphics cards out on the market. As with laptop compatibility, make sure to double-check whether or not your chosen GPU will work with the enclosure. Some eGPU docks come with a detailed GPU compatibility list. Others require you to ask around at online forums or communities.

Lastly, it’s worth pointing out that most eGPU enclosures on the market don’t come with a graphics card. So when you buy one, you’re just getting half the setup, with the actual GPU being a separate purchase. Choosing the GPU is an entirely different matter – it depends on your budget and what you’re going to do on your laptop.

For casual gaming and other relatively light workloads, entry-level and mid-range GPUs, the ones under $200, should be enough for an external GPU setup. Obviously, for extremely hardcore gaming, you’ll want to look at expensive high-end models selling for well over $400 – but make sure you pair it with a dock capable of accommodating it.

When shopping for external GPU docks, consider also the price of your target GPU, along with its compatibility. Go with the best pair that’s right in line with both your budget and needs. For the eGPU dock, we already got you covered with this guide.

5 Best External GPU’s(eGPU) Comparison Table

Make and ModelWeightGPU SizeGPU Max PowerPrice
Gigabyte AORUS GTX 1070 Gaming Box5.2 lbMini ITX225WCheck Price
Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box7.1 lbFull-length, full-height, double-width300W, 375W, 475WCheck Price
Asus XG Station Pro6.5 lbFull-length, full-height, double-width300WCheck Price
AKiTiO Node10.8 lbFull-length, full-height, double-width375WCheck Price
Razer Core X14.3 lbFull-length, full-height, double-width500WCheck Price

1. Gigabyte AORUS GTX 1070 Gaming Box

Gigabyte AORUS GTX 1070 Gaming BoxView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.6/5.0

At the moment, the Gigabyte AORUS GTX 1070 Gaming Box is widely considered the best external GPU setup on the market. It sells for over $500, making it one of the most expensive items on this list. But before you laugh incredulously at that massive price, consider that the package also includes a built-in graphics card. In other words, it’s not just an enclosure for an external graphics card; it’s the full setup.

Concerning casing design, the AORUS Gaming Box is as simple as it can get. Gigabyte placed more focus on function than cosmetics, which can’t be said for some manufacturers. Although it has LED lighting, it’s not as attention-grabbing as other products. It comes in a tough metal box with large airflow windows. Compared to the other products in this guide, the AORUS Gaming Box easily takes the crown as the most compact, not to mention the lightest, checking in at just 5.2 pounds.

The AORUS Gaming Box includes a number of ports, all of which can be found at the rear. It has a pair of DVI-D ports, an HDMI port, a DisplayPort, and four USB ports, one of which (the orange one) is for quick charging. The Thunderbolt 3 port sits next to the USB ports, with the power socket right above it.

As mentioned, this eGPU setup already includes a built-in graphics card, which makes that expensive $500+ price sound a lot more reasonable. And we’re not just talking about any graphics card. Inside the casing is a powerful Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1070 Mini ITX, which allows you to play some of the most graphics-intensive games, including VR games.

The integrated graphics card is both a blessing and a curse, though. On one hand, you get a full eGPU setup out of the box, allowing for a plug-and-play operation. But on the other hand, you can’t just switch to a different graphics card in the future, especially the big ones. The case is specifically designed for Gigabyte’s GTX 1070 Mini ITX. In short, the AORUS Gaming Box offers unparalleled value at the moment. But in the future, when games become even more demanding, you’ll need to switch to a different eGPU setup.

Overall, the AORUS Gaming Box is the perfect external GPU setup for those who want to be able to play graphics-intensive games on their laptops. It’s one of the most compact rigs out on the market, with Gigabyte throwing in a carry bag for easy transport. It has a straightforward design with multiple connection options and, most notably, comes already equipped with a powerful graphics card.

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Tech Specs
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070
GPU Size: Mini ITX
PSU: 450W
GPU Max Power: 225W
Connection: Thunderbolt 3
Size: 8.4 x 3.8 x 6.4 in
Weight: 5.2 lb
The Pros
Compact and lightweight
Unparalleled value
Includes a graphics card
Multiple connection options
The Cons
Limited GPU upgrade options

2. Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box

Sonnet eGFX Breakaway BoxView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.2/5.0

The Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box is a simple, no-nonsense eGPU enclosure capable of accommodating some of the most powerful AMD and Nvidia graphics card on the market. Sonnet offers different PSU options for this product, with the 350W model being the most affordable at just around $200. The 350W model will be our focus here.

The eGFX Breakaway Box is significantly larger than the Gigabyte AORUS Gaming Box, featuring a lengthier and wider case. But as with our top product, this eGPU enclosure is free of head-turning cosmetics. It has a clean frame with an all-black finish, with the S-shaped LED out front being the only notable decoration. It has grills for airflow and a removable top cover.

The eGFX Breakaway Box does not include an integrated GPU and lacks USB 3.0 ports for other gaming peripherals and quick charging. At the rear, the only sockets are for the Thunderbolt 3 and the power. Speaking of which, the included Thunderbolt 3 cable is on the short side, so be careful when moving the unit around on your gaming desk.

Setting up the eGFX Breakaway Box is simple. Although screwed in place, the top cover is easy enough to remove. Once the cover is off, just install the graphics card in place, re-install the top cover, and prepare for a lengthy gaming session. It can easily fit different graphics cards, including some of the larger ones, though it would have been better if Sonnet had gone for full-sized airflow grills on the sides.

What easily sets the eGFX Breakaway Box apart from most other eGPU gaming stations is the quiet main cooling fan. Even when running a powerful graphics card built for recent games, the main cooling fan has a low noise level, which is good news if you prefer to play at night, when everyone’s asleep.

In all, Sonnet’s eGPU case is a recommended product for those who just want a simple, economical unit that can get the job done in a reliable manner. It runs a quiet operation, regardless of the graphics card used, and is easy to set up out of the box.

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Tech Specs
GPU: AMD Radeon RX 400/500 series, Radeon Pro WX 5100/7100; Nvidia GeForce GTX 900 and 10 series, Quadro, Titan X/Xp/V
GPU Size: Full-length, full-height, double-width
PSU: 350W, 550W, 650W
GPU Max Power: 300W, 375W, 475W
Connection: Thunderbolt 3
Size: 13.4 x 7.3 x 8 in
Weight: 7.1 lb
The Pros
Low price
Easy to set up
Quiet main cooling fan
Compatible with AMD and Nvidia graphics cards
The Cons
Short Thunderbolt 3 cable
Limited input/output options

3. Asus XG Station Pro

Asus XG Station ProView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.4/5.0

Asus is a company that needs little introduction. When it comes to PC gaming hardware, the Taiwan-based outfit is basically a household name. But even a well-known company with a good record is prone to occasional product misfires, as evidenced by the Asus XG Station 2, a powerful but flawed eGPU enclosure.

The Taiwanese company was quick in addressing that hiccup though, releasing the improved XG Station Pro earlier this year. In terms of design, the XG Station Pro is sleeker and more elegant than its attention-grabbing predecessor, boasting a more professional and subtler frame. It’s got none of those outlandish decorations seen on the XG Station 2. Other than the subtle branding, this eGPU dock is free of any marks, resulting in a more grown-up design. It has an all-new aluminum chassis with an excellent cooling system, a product of a collaboration between Asus and In Win.

While thinner than the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box, the XG Station Pro is far from being as compact as the Gigabyte AORUS Gaming Box, featuring a tall and lengthy frame. But on the plus side, this dock has the second-lightest frame among the other products in this guide, right behind Gigabyte’s eGPU setup. Additionally, it has a long Thunderbolt 3 cable, with the cable measuring out to almost 60 inches.

At the rear, the XG Station Pro has a USB 3.1 Gen 2 right beside the Thunderbolt 3 port, giving it one more input/output port than the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box. Both the power button and the power socket sit right above them. This eGPU enclosure comes with an external AC power adapter with a proprietary plug, separating it from the other products on this list.

The XG Station Pro runs a much better operation than the XG Station 2. It has a more optimized cooling system and is quieter. Compatible with both Nvidia and AMD graphics cards, this eGPU enclosure offers an easy setup and the ability to seamlessly work with many Asus laptops, including over a dozen models in the ROG Gaming Series.

Asus made the wise move by prioritizing functionality instead of doubling down on cosmetics and pushing the XG Station 2’s outlandish design down everyone’s throats. And the results are brilliant, with the XG Station Pro quickly establishing itself as one of the best external GPU enclosures on the market. At just around $330, it’s a lot more affordable than its predecessor, too, which is another big plus.

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Tech Specs
GPU: AMD Radeon RX 580/570, Radeon Pro WX 7100; Nvidia GeForce GTX 900 and 10 series, GeForce RTX 2070/2080
GPU Size: Full-length, full-height, double-width
PSU: 330W
GPU Max Power: 300W
Connection: Thunderbolt 3
Size: 14.8 x 4.2 x 8.1 in
Weight: 6.5 lb
The Pros
Low noise level
Sleek and subtle design
Long Thunderbolt 3 cable
Cheaper than XG Station 2
The Cons
Bulky frame

4. AKiTiO Node

AKiTiO NodeView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.1/5.0

Compared to Asus, AKiTiO is not as popular, but when it comes to external enclosures for graphics cards, the California-based company gets it. Of the company’s lineup of eGPU docks, the Node stands out and is the most recommended, especially for the budget-conscious. AKiTiO sells it for just a little over $200, making it one of the most affordable products in this guide to the best external GPUs.

The Node is in the same mold as the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box in that it puts more emphasis on function rather than cosmetics. It has a no-frills design with minimal branding, featuring an easily removable cover for quick graphics card installation. It has a built-in 400W PSU and, conveniently, a carry handle at the rear, which allows for easy transport. The back panel includes a Thunderbolt 3 port, a power switch, and a power socket – the standard trio for most eGPU enclosures.

In terms of overall size, the Node is bulkier and heavier than the Asus XG Station Pro and the Sonner eGFX Breakaway Box – the chief reason we’re grateful AKiTiO was thoughtful enough to include a carry handle. When placed next to a laptop, the Node can pass off as a mini desktop system unit, so make sure you got enough space for it.

On the plus side, the Node’s roomy interior means it can easily fit most graphics cards on the market without compromise, and that includes full-length and double-width units. It has a well-mounted front fan – explaining the holes on the front panel – that doesn’t make the interior too cramped, even with a large GPU onboard.

Our biggest gripe with the Node is the noise level. Or more specifically, the PSU fan’s noise level. Compared to the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box, this eGPU enclosure runs a louder operation, though it can be solved with just a few modifications. Ignoring the noise issue, the Node is a solid unit, offering excellent long-term value.

Sturdy and reliable, the Node is another great eGPU enclosure priced under $300, placing it in the same neighborhood as the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box, our budget pick. It’s not as portable as you might expect based on marketing materials, but it gets the job done.

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Tech Specs
GPU: AMD Radeon RX 400/500 series, Radeon R9 Nano/390X, Radeon Pro WX 7100; Nvidia GeForce 900 and 10 series, Quadro, Titan X/Xp
GPU Size: Full-length, full-height, double-width
PSU: 400W
GPU Max Power: 375W
Connection: Thunderbolt 3
Size: 16.9 x 5.7 x 8.9 in
Weight: 10.8 lb
The Pros
Low price
Compatible with a wide range of GPUs
Good customer support
The Cons
Loud PSU fan
Limited connection options

5. Razer Core X

Razer Core XView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.3/5.0

Razer is another brand that requires little introduction. The company has its fingerprints all over the PC gaming scene, offering a wide selection of products, from headsets to keyboards. For those in need of an external GPU setup, Razer has the Core X, the Core V2’s big brother.

At first glance, the Core X doesn’t seem like the kind of product Razer usually comes up with, considering its understated design. Razer products are known for being head-turning, complete with RGB lights in several instances. That’s not the case here. The Core X is surprisingly subtle, featuring a clean aluminum chassis with minimal decorations.

Even more surprising is the Core X’s price tag, considering Razer products are notorious for being overpriced. It’s significantly more affordable than the Core V2, selling for around $300. This puts it close to the Asus XG Station Pro in price. While the lower price translated to fewer features, the Core X works well enough with what it has in the box.

The Core X is easily the heaviest among the other products on this list, weighing 14.3 pounds, which is almost triple the Gigabyte AORUS Gaming Box’s weight. And at 9.1 inches, it’s also the tallest, edging out the AKiTiO Node by a slim margin. In short, it’s not the most portable unit out there, but that doesn’t mean it’s less competent.

Inside the case, the Core X packs a 650W ATX PSU, a GPU carrier, and a cooling fan mounted on the front side. The ATX PSU puts the Core X in rare territory, as that kind of PSU is not usually featured in eGPU enclosures. The back panel includes a handle, a Thunderbolt 3 port, a power switch, and a power socket. Unlike with the Core V2, no other input/output options, like USB ports, are onboard, preventing you from hooking up other gaming peripherals.

The coolest thing about the Core X is the sliding GPU carrier. Using the back panel handle, you can actually pull out the GPU carrier without any tools, allowing you to easily remove or install a GPU and check the other components. The module slides out smoothly, with no noticeable resistance or alarming metal noises.

In regard to performance, the Core X is much better than the Core V2. It’s got a fantastic PSU and a better cooling system and can handle some of the most powerful AMD and Nvidia graphics cards out on the market. It’s easy to set up and connect to a compatible computer and is as reliable as the other top products mentioned in this guide.

While the Core X’s price makes it appealing, especially for a Razer product, keep in mind that there’s no graphics card included in the package. Once you add the cost for the actual GPU, your total expenses will still be close to or above $500. The same thing can be said about all the other products mentioned here – except for Gigabyte’s product, which comes with an integrated graphics card.

Overall, the Core X is an excellent product and definitely one of the best external GPU enclosures currently out. It’s got a well-built frame, comes with an improved PSU, and boasts an easy-to-access GPU carrier. Unlike with some Razer products, buying the Core X won’t make you feel like you spent an unnecessary amount of money – it’s that good.

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Tech Specs
GPU: AMD Radeon RX 400/500 series, Radeon R9 300 series, Radeon R9 Fury/Nano, Radeon R9 200 series, Radeon Vega RX 64/56, Radeon Pro WX 7100/9100; Nvidia GeForce GTX 900 and 10 series, GeForce GTX 750/750 Ti, Titan X/V/Xp, Quadro
GPU Size: Full-length, full-height, double-width
PSU: 650W
GPU Max Power: 500W
Connection: Thunderbolt 3
Size: 14.7 x 6.6 x 9.1 in
Weight: 14.3 lb
The Pros
Intuitive sliding GPU carrier
Improved PSU
Compatible with some of the most powerful GPUs
Reasonable price for a Razer product
The Cons
Large and heavy
Limited connection options
4.8/54 ratings