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Looking to beef up your laptop? As long as it isn’t too old, you can with an eGPU! But, it won’t be cheap.
Unfortunately, laptops aren’t very upgradable. This is especially true when it comes to the graphics card. A way around this fact is to buy an external graphics card to add graphical power to your laptop. But, are eGPUs worth it?
In this article, we’ll be talking about what an eGPU is, how much an eGPU costs, and if an eGPU is right for you. Additionally, we’ll tell you about one of our favorite eGPUs and what makes it so special.
Are eGPUs Worth It?
What is an eGPU Exactly?
eGPU is just a term for a normal GPU that’s being used externally. For you to use a desktop GPU on your laptop, you first need to buy an eGPU enclosure. This is a device that provides the interface for a GPU (sold separately) to be used via a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C cable instead of the standard PCIe x16 interface.
The enclosure is more than just a metal box. Enclosures come with a dedicated power supply of varying wattages, depending on the model, to power the GPU.
They also have specialty circuit boards that feature a PCIe 16x connector for the GPU and convert the throughput information to be used with the thunderbolt 3 interface. While this makes desktop GPUs compatible with laptops, using a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C cable will lower the overall performance of your GPU by roughly 15% when compared to being used in a desktop.
Something to keep in mind when buying a GPU for your enclosure, make sure it is eGFX certified. Being eGFX certified means it will be able to transfer its data via the Thunderbolt 3 port on its I/O. Otherwise, it will not work as an eGPU.
Some eGPU enclosures come with extra features such as additional USB ports, fans, RGB, hard drive bays, and even laptop stands. But generally, all these extras are quality-of-life improvements rather than required features.
There are even some eGPUs that come with a graphics card already installed and are ready to go out of the box. These are going to be more expensive and, in our opinion, are overpriced. It’s best to buy a GPU separately and insert it into the slot yourself rather than pay a premium for someone else to do it for you. It’s pretty simple, and unless you are trying to slot it in with a hammer, you’ll be fine.
When shopping for an eGPU, make sure you also keep an eye on compatibility. Depending on the enclosure, you may not be able to fit some full-size cards, and most enclosures will not fit an RTX 3090 Ti. But, if you can afford a 3090 Ti, you might as well just get a new laptop or gaming PC.
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The Price You Can Expect to Pay for an eGPU
Just the enclosure will cost you around $200-$400 on average, but some can go for much higher depending on any added features they have.
This is already a steep price to pay, but wait, there’s more!
Some of the most sought-after GPUs on the market today are selling for $1000 to $2000 or more. But, if you’re looking for an eGPU, you’re probably not too worried about the best of the best.
You should expect to pay around $250 or so for an RTX 2060, which will still provide a phenomenal boost to your laptop. You can spend even less for a GTX or Radeon GPU if you want to save even more money.
The bottom line is, that you should expect to spend anywhere from $300-$500 for an eGPU, with the GPU, on the lower end, to over $2000 for premium setups. If you want to spend thousands on what basically amounts to a laptop upgrade, be our guest. But, at the end of the day, that’s a lot of cash, and you should just buy a premium gaming laptop, in our opinion.
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Is an eGPU Right for You?
To know whether an eGPU is right for you, you need to consider your lifestyle and your personal setup. If you already have a beefy laptop with a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port that has decent RAM and a good CPU, then an eGPU might be a good option for you–especially if your laptop lacks a dedicated GPU.
That is unless you plan on hulking everything around. In that case, no. eGPUs aren’t exactly small, and lugging one from place to place will be cumbersome and awkward. If that’s your plan, then we recommend saving up just a little more and getting a lower-end gaming laptop. That way, you can game or work everywhere you go without extra luggage.
If you already have an older GPU lying around and you want to give more power to your laptop, then an eGPU would be a great option. This way, you can use your older GPU instead of buying a new one. This is the ideal option for those of you looking to give some extra oomph to your laptop.
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Our Recommended eGPU Enclosure
There are a lot of choices out there for an eGPU enclosure. So, we will share one of our favorites with you–the Cooler Master Mastercase EG200.
This enclosure includes a 550w power supply and can fit full-sized GPUs up to 12.8in (325mm) long, 5.5in (141mm) wide, and 2.5 slots thick. So almost every card shy of a 3090 Ti will fit in EG200.
It’s also loaded with extra features, such as five additional USB ports. These include three USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, one USB Micro-B 3.2 Gen 1 port, and a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port. Additionally, the EG200 has a hard drive bay for either a 2.5” SSD or 3.5” HDD.
What really makes this eGPU enclosure stand out is the laptop stand attached to the side. When in use, you can set your laptop in the stand to tuck it away and use the entire system as a desktop PC with a monitor, keyboard, and mouse.
This eGPU is compatible with macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 or higher with a Thunderbolt 3 port using an AMD GPU. As well as with Windows 10 64bit RS5 or higher with a Thunderbolt 3 port with both AMD and NVIDIA cards.
The Mastercase EG200 comes with a two-year warranty. It covers all manufacturing defects and quality issues. It does not cover any accidental damage or “Acts of God”.
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eGPUs may not be the right fit for everyone, but they definitely have their uses. An eGPU would be best for those of you who either already have a GPU laying around or own a relatively beefy laptop that uses integrated graphics.
Adding an eGPU to your laptop will allow it to run programs or play games it otherwise wouldn’t be able to. But if mobility is a concern, an external GPU is bulky, and we wouldn’t recommend trying to carry one with you everywhere you go. So, it depends on your personal situation as to whether an eGPU is worth it or not.
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