9 Best External Graphics Cards of 2019 – Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

best external graphics cards

Creating a gaming computer is often a matter of making the right compromises in the right places, and if you want to create a portable system, then you’ll have to make a few of them.

You can go for a small form factor build, but a lot of them are still relatively heavy and bulky, especially if you don’t opt for integrated graphics.

So what do you do if you want to game on a laptop or another equally-portable system?

External GPUs are one of the best ways to improve the performance of a computer without needing a bulky case to contain all of the parts. Laptops or cases like InWin’s Chopin are excellent candidates for external GPUs.

However, picking out the correct external graphics card can often be a challenge, especially if you’ve never purchased one before. You’ll have to account for matters like the power supply, portability, cooling, and more.

Today, we’re going to look at nine of the best ones around.

In each of our reviews, we’ll give you a short overview of each product, and then we’ll summarize what we liked about them and what we didn’t.

When we finish reviewing our top nine external graphics cards, we’ll also go over some of the features that you should look for to ensure that you get the best one.

The 9 Best External Graphics Cards

Gigabyte AORUS GTX 1070 Gaming Box

Gigabyte AORUS

Overview

For the price of many other gaming boxes alone, this one from Gigabyte comes with an Nvidia GTX 1070 already installed. Due to the inclusion of the GPU, this one is the perfect choice for customers who don’t already have a video card that they would like to render portable.

There are a few features on this portable GPU that help put it a step above other models in its price range.

To start off with, the looks of this model are aggressive, and they fit the color scheme of the GPU that comes mounted in it. While it’s on, you’ll notice the tasteful RGB lighting emanating from the floor of the box.

This eGPU is also designed to be as portable as possible, so it features a compact design that you can easily pack away.

The Gigabyte gaming box shouldn’t weigh you down, either, as it features a mass of only 4.4 pounds. While Gigabyte cards have a reputation for poor cooling, this one runs quietly and smoothly.

There are plenty of ports on this gaming box that help make it more versatile, and it features a Thunderbolt 3 output, ensuring that you can plug in an play with both laptops and monitors.

This gaming box also supports Quick Charge for laptops, giving you both a power source and extra power.

The inclusion of 3 USB 3.0 ports means that you can plug peripherals directly into this gaming box, making it ideal for smaller laptops that may not have enough of them.

This external GPU also comes with a 450W power supply that features over 90% efficiency, which is comparable to a Gold certification.

What we liked:

  • Customizable lighting
  • Compact design
  • Comes with a GTX 1070

What we didn’t like:

  • Default fan curve is set up for 85 degrees C

Alienware Graphics Amplifier

Alienware Graphics Amplifier

Overview

Coming in at a lower price than our previous model since it doesn’t have a bundled graphics card, the Alienware Graphics Amplifier is one of the better-looking options on this list.

Featuring the company’s trademark Alien logo supported by AlienFX, this sleek eGPU looks great on your desk.

With a 460W PSU, the Alienware Graphics Amplifier is ready to support a wide range of cards, and it’s designed to handle most models newer than the GTX 600 and HD 5000 series.

Keep in mind that compatible cards are limited to 375W power draw, to ensure that the system will remain stable.

This model comes equipped with a proprietary cable that is meant to work with Alienware laptops, making this eGPU perfect for them. One of the only downsides to this Graphics Amplifier is that it can only be used with Alienware products due to this connector.

Due to the dimensions of this eGPU, it can support some of the longest cards on the market, but it isn’t as tall as some of the other options on this list.

While this makes it more portable, it will also be more of a challenge to find a video card that will fit inside of this model, so be sure to do your research.

This box also runs cooler than other external GPUs, ensuring that you can get every bit of performance out of your card before dealing with any thermal throttling.

If it weren’t for the proprietary connection that (rather stupidly) restricts this model for use with Alienware laptops, it would be one of our favorites.

What we liked:

  • Sleek and impressive looks
  • Excellent cooling
  • Long enough for larger cards

What we didn’t like:

  • Proprietary connector only works with Alienware computers
  • Too short for some cards

ASUS ROG XG Station 2

Overview

The XG Station 2 from ASUS ROG is an excellent external GPU for customers who don’t mind spending a little extra money.

This model is priced similarly to other products that come with an included GPU, so it’s expensive, but its wide range of capabilities and features help make it worth it.

Equipped with 5 USB 3.0 ports, you’ll be able to connect a variety of peripherals to this GPU dock, making it the perfect choice for buyers with smaller laptops.

The inclusion of a 600W internal PSU also means that this model can support some of the most powerful cards on the market.

This model is also ready for use with AURA Sync, which allows it to synchronize its RGB with other parts of your system that are made by ASUS.

The exterior of this eGPU is sleek, and it features the typical angular design that you would expect from ASUS’s ROG line of gaming gear.

Due to the inclusion of the Thunderbolt 3 port, this model supports all of the latest displays on the market, and it can also charge your laptop through the same cable.

You can also plug and unplug this portable GPU from your system without restarting it, making it perfect for 2-in-1 PCs.

The XG Station 2 can support cards that are up to 2.5 slots wide, so it won’t be able to handle the largest GPUs on the market, but it’s compatible with the majority of them.

This model also features a Type B USB connection that helps spread the bandwidth between it and the Thunderbolt 3 connector.

What we liked:

  • Compatible with AURA Sync
  • Supports a wide range of cards
  • Huge PSU wattage
  • Extra USB ports

What we didn’t like:

  • Its large size diminishes portability
  • Very pricey

Razer Core V2

Razer Core V2

Overview

The Core V2 is one of two eGPUs that’s made by Razer, and this is their more expensive model. This product can support some of the largest GPUs on the market because of its three-slot compatibility and its large size, which admittedly reduces its portability relative to other models.

Shaped like a miniature computer, this graphics enclosure looks great when it’s positioned next to your laptop, and it features an RGB strip near the bottom. The RGBs are controlled by Razer Chroma, which allows you to personalize the enclosure to your liking.

Using Thunderbolt 3 to connect to your laptop or display, this model can charge and power up your computer at the same time.

With a 500W PSU, this model can support a wide range of cards when you take power into account as well. This model also features plug-and-play functionality so that you won’t need to reboot when you start using it.

While this model has been designed for use with Razer’s Blade, Stealth, and other laptops, it is still compatible with models from other manufacturers (take notes, Alienware!).

There are four USB 3.0 ports on the enclosure that will allow you to connect a versatile array of gaming peripherals to it.

The body of the enclosure is CNC machined out of a solid block of aluminum, giving it an industrial look and making it far more durable than other models. It is also equipped with extra cooling fans that can help ensure that your GPU runs as smoothly as possible at full load.

Overall, we were highly impressed by the build quality of this model, even if the price is a little steep.

What we liked:

  • Excellent durability
  • Enclosure fans
  • RGB strip

What we didn’t like:

  • Relatively pricey

Akitio Node

Akitio Node

Overview

The Akitio Node is one of our favorite budget GPU enclosures, and if you can do without things like RGB lighting, then you’ll love the savings that you can get out of it.

For the more affordable price, you only get a 400W PSU, but it’s powerful enough to run most mid-range GPUs without any trouble.

We would recommend opting for an Nvidia card with this enclosure since they tend to draw less power than AMD models. If you on a tighter budget then we recommend you opt for either the RTX 2060 or RTX 2070. While costing less, they still come with ray tracing.

The external GPU can support two-slot video cards, so be sure that your isn’t any larger, and it features sufficient length for full-sized models, and the height ensures maximum card compatibility.

If your card is too wide, you can always remove the back panel of this enclosure without compromising its structural integrity, making it highly versatile for its price point.

The enclosure even comes equipped with a carry handle that will make it easier to bring around with you.

Using the Thunderbolt 3 connection, the Akitio Node can handle transfer speeds that range up to 40 Gbps.

This is also an excellent eGPU for Mac users, though it will require an additional script so that it can run on that OS. Keep in mind that this model will require a system reboot when it is first plugged in.

Despite the power supply from the Thunderbolt 3 cable, we would recommend plugging your computer in with a charger as the eGPU won’t be able to provide enough juice for heavy gaming.

Overall, this is an excellent budget external GPU for customers who don’t need a wide range of bells and whistles but would still like something reliable.

What we liked:

  • Excellent price
  • Very reliable
  • Removable panel for wider cards

What we didn’t like:

  • Plain exterior
  • Your computer will have to be rebooted when it’s first plugged in

Razer Core X

Razer Core X

Overview

If you want a more affordable alternative to the earlier option from Razer, their Core X is a little more compact, and it lacks some extra features like the RGB strips.

While it may look a little less exciting than the Core V2, this model is also about 40% more affordable, making it ideal for users on a budget.

If you’re looking for supreme value for money, then you’ll love the Core X, as it can work with a wide range of GPUs, and it features the high-speed Thunderbolt 3 connection.

When you’re connected using the Thunderbolt 3 cable, the Core X will be able to improve your computer graphical output and charge it at the same time.

The Core X can support a variety of graphics cards due to its large internal dimensions, with the ability to handle full-length and three-slot cards, which is a rarity in this price range.

The included 650W ATX PSU (designed for the ATX cases seen in our computer case sizes guide) can handle nearly any card on the market when it comes to power draw.

The plug and play functionality of this external GPU makes it more convenient than other models, ensuring that you don’t have to reboot when you connect it.

Since this model features a quick-release handle, you can install a GPU into it without having to worry about the tools that you have on hand.

To ensure that your card runs cool, the Core X is equipped with additional coolers and large vents along the side. The body of the enclosure is made out of aluminum, which ensures that it is both durable and lightweight.

This model is compatible with many of Razer’s gaming laptops and any other system with a Thunderbolt 3 connection.

What we liked:

  • Aluminum body
  • Great cooling
  • Tool-less GPU installation
  • Excellent price

What we didn’t like:

  • The included cable is very short

Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box

Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box

Overview

The eGFX Breakaway Box from Sonnet is one of our favorite budget options, and it features a more affordable price point than many of the models on this list.

Equipped with a 350W PSU, it’s also weaker than many other models when it comes to the wattage that it provides, but there are also 550W and 650W variants available.

With a Thunderbolt 3 port, you’ll be able to connect to all of the latest laptops with as much memory bandwidth as you need. This enclosure can also provide your computer with 15W of charging power, though keep in mind that this won’t be sufficient for longer gaming sessions.

The Breakaway Box features a sleek design with a backlit Sonnet logo on the front of it. This model is large enough to support a variety of GPUs that range from NVidia’s Titan X to AMD’s RX 580. This surprised us, as many affordable eGPUs feature strange dimensions that make them incompatible with some cards.

This model also comes equipped with a variable-speed fan that can help ensure that all of the hot air is being exhausted from the enclosure.

The included fan runs quiet, even when the GPU is producing a lot of heat at high output, so you won’t have to worry about disturbing people around you.

The Sonnet Breakaway Box works just as well with a Mac in Bootcamp as it does with a PC running Windows 10 natively, making it an excellent choice for users of both operating systems.

If you don’t have a GPU on hand, this model can also be purchased with an RX 580 bundled together.

What we liked:

  • Excellent value for money
  • Four variants available
  • Looks good

What we didn’t like:

  • Relatively weak default PSU

HP OMEN GA1-1000 Accelerator Shell

OMEN by HP Accelerator Shell

Overview

The next external GPU that we’ll be reviewing is the GA1-1000 from HP OMEN, and it’s one of the better-looking options that you have available.

Combining good looks with a reasonable price point, the Accelerator Shell provides the user with good value for money and a few extra features.

Using a Thunderbolt 3 port, this model has all of the necessary bandwidth, and it can also charge your computer at the same time. There is even room in this model for an SSD or a laptop hard drive, allowing you to expand the amount of storage on your computer without an external drive.

The enlarged access door makes it easy to access the GPU slot and the drive bay, making it much easier to upgrade.

If you need something that you can improve over time, then we’d highly recommend this GPU enclosure. The included power supply is bronze-rated, and it has 500W ready for the video card.

Since this model has four USB ports, you’ll also be able to connect your peripherals directly to it without having to take up precious ports on your laptop.

Thanks to the updated drivers that HP has released for this model, it no longer requires a system reboot, making it just as convenient as other plug and play models.

While reliability is often a concern at this price point, we had no issues with the Accelerator Shell throughout our testing process.

Overall, this model is about as good as it gets at the price, and the angular look with the red backlighting means that it looks great when it’s on your desk.

What we liked:

  • Affordable price
  • Upgradeable
  • SSD and HDD slot
  • Great aesthetics

What we didn’t like:

  • Driver updates are necessary
  • Takes up a lot of space

Mantiz Venus MZ-02 eGPU

Mantiz Venus MZ-02

Overview

The final model on our list is the Mantiz Venus MZ-02, which is another relatively affordable model, though it comes from a less well-known manufacturer than some of the competition.

This product is available in either silver or space grey, making it an excellent accompaniment to a Mac.

Working through a Thunderbolt 3 port, this eGPU is just as quick as an installed graphics card, and it also features a range of ports for peripherals. For example, the five USB 3.0 ports allow you to attach mice, keyboards, joysticks, and more without having to use a USB splitter on a laptop.

There is also a SATA port on this GPU enclosure, which allows you to attach an SSD to it for additional storage capacity.

Keep in mind that this GPU enclosure is not capable of hot plug and play, so you’ll have to reboot your system every time you connect it or unplug it.

This model is designed to support the newest GPUs on the market, including Nvidia’s 20 series and anything from AMD up to the Vega 64.

The 550W PSU on this model is capable of supporting cards with a TDP of up to 375W, and it features an 8+8 pin connector.

87W of power are dedicated to charging your computer, so laptops will be able to run for longer before needing to be connected to a dedicated power source.

Overall, this model has a few too many disadvantages to be recommended over other excellent budget models like the one from HP OMEN or Razer.

What we liked:

  • A large number of USB ports
  • Similar to Mac color schemes
  • Accepts a wide range of cards

What we didn’t like:

  • No plug and play capabilities

Buying Advice

Is the GPU Included?

The first thing that you’re going to have to account for when picking out the best external GPU on the market is whether or not it has a video card already installed.

If you already have a GPU and you aren’t looking to upgrade, then one that comes included will be little more than a waste of money.

Most video card enclosures don’t come with a GPU, as that will allow you to select the ideal model for your system and install it yourself.

The ones that do come with graphics cards usually feature a midrange model like the GTX 1070 or the RX 580, though a select few come with more powerful cards.

Cooling

Up next, you should take a look at the GPU enclosure’s cooling capabilities, especially if you’re going to use a high-powered card.

Most of the time, a GPU’s cooling fans should be sufficient, but cards that run hot will often need extra fans in the enclosure, and the majority will come with at least one of them.

Along with the included cooling fan, you’ll want to be sure that your enclosure is sufficiently ventilated, and a lot of them will feature holes for air along the sides.

You should also account for how loud the cooler is going to be and whether or not that would disturb anyone around you.

Portability

The whole point of an external GPU is to be more portable than a full gaming setup, but it won’t be too helpful if it’s essentially the size of a small computer. You’ll have to strike a balance between the enclosure’s compatibility with cards of various sizes and portability.

Some models will be compatible with the longest three-slot cards, but they will sacrifice quite a bit of compactness so that the GPU can fit in the first place.

You’ll also want to be sure that the enclosure isn’t too heavy, and you should account for the weight of the GPU that you’ll be adding.

Aesthetics

The looks of your external GPU can contribute to your overall gaming setup, and you’ll want to think about how important they are to you.

Better-looking products are usually more expensive than plan GPU enclosures, and some of them will come equipped with RGBs controlled by proprietary software.

If you need a budget model, then you can sacrifice looks for superior capabilities at a lower price. You should also consider whether or not your GPU comes equipped with any RGB elements and whether or not they’ll be visible through the enclosure when it’s installed.

Power Supply

Finally, you’ll have to account for the power supply unit that comes installed in your external GPU, as the video card will still need a power source.

Most eGPUs will be equipped with a PSU that can provide anywhere between 300W to 650W of power, with the upper limit typically being more than sufficient.

Keep in mind that the power rating of the PSU is not analogous to the power draw of the GPU that you’re installing, and you’ll usually want about 100W of headroom (more if you’re overclocking).

Conclusion

Picking out the best eGPU doesn’t have to be a challenging matter, and we hope that we’ve been able to prove that throughout this guide.

Thank you for taking the time to read through our reviews, and we’d argue that any of these nine enclosures would be perfect, depending on your specific needs.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons