What exactly is an External GPU Enclosure?
Physically it is a box about the size of a small form factor pc, with ports at the back side of it.
It consists of:
- a small motherboard with a full length PCIe slot
- a power supply
- power cords for the GPU
- maybe some USB ports, ethernet port, mounts for storage devices
The GPU enclosure allows user to plug in a full sized DESKTOP GPU, say an ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 FE, into the enclosure. Then use it to power a laptop or a macbook through usually a thunderbolt 3 cable. Allowing the desktop GPU to power games and rendering jobs for the laptop, essentially upgrading the laptop’s GPU.
How it works?
The key to all the magic is the improved Thunderbolt controller in the laptops, which allows external peripherals like in this case, external GPU, to communicate directly with PCIe bus at incredible high speeds. Making it as if the CPU and the GPU are on the same motherboard.
Its biggest selling point is its portability, as users now can carry a thin and light ultrabook for work, and just plug in their external GPU when it’s time to game. Another good use is to upgrade an existing laptop with an aging GPU but still a very capable CPU and other hardware, a much better option than having to buy a new laptop.
Are there any drawbacks?
Well, there are two big ones.
Despite the power of thunderbolt 3, it only supports up to 4 PCIe express lanes, thus running a desktop GPU like this still isn’t as good as a direct motherboard connection. On average, it delivers 20% – 30% lesser frame rates than the same card in a desktop, and can be lower if you’re not using another cable to connect to an external monitor, as the thunderbolt connection is also delivering display data back to the laptop.
It’s expensive. A Razer Core V2 is priced at 500USD and that is only for the dock without a GPU. Prices will come down surely but for now, it is a still luxury.
So, should you get one?
If you’re a gamer or a designer that uses softwares that can benefit from extra GPU power, and portability is a good enough reason to spend potentially a thousand dollars, then go for it. For the rest of us, we shall either resort to a cinematic 24fps game experience or just get a good ole desktop.
Let us know what you think