External GPUs (eGPUs) are growing in popularity as of late as several laptop users look to gain more performance for gaming. With these types of GPUs, users can gain desktop performance on their laptops, so there is little need to purchase or create a desktop gaming rig.
Things to know before buying an external GPU for your PC
The question is, are these GPUs truly capable of walking in the same lane as desktop GPUs, and should potential users waste their time acquiring these devices? Well, there are a few things to take in before we can come to a conclusion.
At the end of the day, though, eGPUs are very useful, so one should not write them off because we expect the technology to improve significantly in the years to come.
How do external GPUs work?
For those who are wondering, external GPUs do not simply connect to your laptop. A dock is required for everything to work and run smoothly. For example, the GPU is connected to the dock via a PCIe port, and then the dock connects to the computer via a USB-C or Thunderbolt cable.
The dock is easy to use so we do not expect anyone to have problems where complexities are concerned. Then again, strange things do happen from time to time.
After the eGPU is attached and the dock is plugged in, the computer will automatically push graphic requests to the external GPU instead of the default option. This should give users much better graphical performance since laptops in general are not capable of delivering desktop-grade GPU performance, though many have tried.
What does an eGPU do?
An external graphics processing unit (eGPU) is primarily the same as a typical graphics card found in every computer. The main difference is that it is external, which means, it is housed outside of the computer rather than inside.
External GPU performance is not perfect
Here’s the thing, you will indeed see an increase in graphical performance when an eGPU is in play. However, one should not expect these things to stack up on equal footing against desktop GPUs at all. Estimates have shown that performance losses do happen, and such losses sit around 10 to 15 percent, which is quite a lot if you think about it.
This is likely not a major problem for some users because they would still be experiencing better performance than what they’re used to from a gaming laptop. But those expecting more will be disappointed because laptops were not built to handle desktop-grade power. And in the rare instances where a laptop can stack up, chances are it has a built-in GPU, and the entire device won’t be as mobile as you’d like.
Furthermore, we must point out that the base laptop being used has a say in the overall performance folks must expect from their eGPU. You see, if the laptop is old, you won’t get a far improved gaming experience, but if the laptop is modern, then things should turn out much better.
External GPU docks aren’t affordable
In some cases, an eGPU doesn’t come packaged with a dock, so it is then up to the consumer to go out and get one. The problem is that docks are expensive, so if you’re running low on cash, you’ll be in for a hard time.
We have to look at the cost of the laptop, then the cost of the GPU itself, and then when you factor in the dock you are looking at, possibly, thousands of dollars right there.
But that’s not all because some docks are only compatible with certain brands of laptops, therefore, should the time ever come, you’ll have to purchase a new dock for use with another brand of laptop. That is not ideal by any means, but it’s the nature of the eGPU market at the moment.
Research before purchasing a eGPU
Before you purchase an eGPU, do some research first because you may end up with the wrong one in your catalog. We say this because some external GPUs are designed for cards of a specific size, while others lack Thunderbolt and USB-C ports due to the use of propriety connectors.
There are even eGPUs that come with additional SATA ports for connecting SSD and HDD for those who want more space.
If you’re not sure about which eGPU to purchase, then head over to Reddit’s /r/eGPU page. This subreddit is very active with users who are willing to help you make a final decision.
Read: What is GPU Sag, and How to keep GPU from sagging on PC
Is it possible to get better performance from an eGPU?
It’s clear from multiple testing on the web and by people who own several eGPUs, that there is a clear performance upgrade over a typical gaming laptop. But as stated above, the improvements depend on the already available power of the laptop itself.
Knowing the exact boost in performance, an external GPU brings to the table is quite difficult. Still, that doesn’t matter right now because we know the improvements are real. However, folks should not expect similar performance to a desktop or a laptop with a full-fledged integrated GPU.
Can all laptops use eGPU?
Today, most laptops can take advantage of what eGPUs have to offer compared to the past. If you want to be on the safe side, then we suggest purchasing a modern laptop instead of an older model.