Whether you want to upgrade your PC but don’t have enough room in your case, or you’ve got a laptop that you want to give a graphical boost, you might be wondering if it’s possible to use a graphics card externally. Well, keep reading and you’ll find the answer.
For those of you in a rush, we’ll give you the TLDR (too long didn’t read) now.
Yes, you can use a graphics card externally.
But, there are several important caveats to that answer which we’ll set out in more detail below.
What kind of graphics card can you use externally?
The first important caveat is that you can’t simply use any graphics card externally.
You need to use what’s known as a ‘discrete’ graphics card. This basically means a graphics card which is an individual component, rather than being integrated into a CPU (these are known as integrated graphics cards).
To use an external graphics card, you will normally need to buy a dock. This is effectively a PCIe port which uses a Thunderbolt or USB-C cable to connect to your laptop or PC.
These docks for external graphics cards are often referred to as eGPUs.
So, job done then right?! Just buy a dock and you can use an external graphics card with your laptop or PC!
Well, yes, but there are a few other things you need to know.
Believe it or not, but a graphics card that is connected to your system externally won’t perform as well as a graphics card that’s fitted to the inside of your system.
In fact, it’s estimated that you lose between 10 and 15% of a graphics card’s performance when you connect it externally. This performance loss is caused by the lack of bandwidth between the GPU dock and your computer’s Thunderbolt or USB-C port.
Whilst 10 to 15% isn’t a huge number, it’s worth noting if you intend to play the latest AAA games in ultra-high settings, as this performance loss may make a difference.
If you’re going to install a graphics card in your system, then you simply have to find the best deal and pay for the graphics card. Job done!
But, if you’re going to use a graphics card externally then you’ll have to buy a dock too. And, they’re not cheap. You’ll be looking at a cost of at least £320 to get yourself a dock that’ll accommodate the latest NVIDIA/AMD GPUs.
Whilst many people use external graphics cards to give their PCs or laptops a graphical boost, it’s important that you choose a graphics card that your device can actually handle.
It might be tempting to buy the most powerful graphics card that you can afford and see if it works, but to stop yourself from wasting money you should really double, triple, quadruple check compatibility!
Which brands make GPU docks?
If you’re determined to go down the route of using a graphics card externally, then you will want to make sure you buy a GPU dock from a quality brand.
You can currently buy good quality eGPU docks from brands such as Razer, Akitio, Gigabyte, Alienware, PowerColor and MSI.
So, yes! You really can use a graphics card externally. But, as we said at the outset of this article, there are a number of important caveats that you need to be aware of.
If you’re intending to use a graphics card externally, be sure to do your research first.
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