You need to know this about an external GPU

Your laptop is handy, because it is a small device that you can drag anywhere. Unfortunately, most laptops have an internal graphics card that is not fast enough for the somewhat heavier graphics applications such as video editing or graphics intensive games. A solution is to connect an external GPU to your PC. In this article we explain how this works.

Tip 01: Why external?

Your laptop probably has a light gpu (graphics processing unit, also known as a graphic card or video card), which does not produce too much heat and has enough to display videos, play games and perform all daily tasks. But if you use heavy programs, often work with video editing software, or occasionally connect multiple large screens to your system, you will find that your fans are constantly on and your system feels slower. All signs that the internal GPU is being overloaded. In your desktop PC you can upgrade the internal gpu of your system in such a case, but that usually does not work with laptops. After all, in a desktop PC you can simply put a second graphic card by inserting it in a pci-express slot, but with a laptop this is not possible. It is possible to provide your laptop (or desktop) with an external GPU. This can disable the internal GPU or share the charges. In most cases, an external GPU is useful if you use a laptop as a basic system.

Tip 01 An external GPU, sometimes also called eGPU.
In most cases, an external video card is useful if you use a laptop as the basic system

Tip 02: Operation of the external GPU

The principle of an external gpu is very simple, you take a separate video card, build it into a housing and connect the device to your laptop. A few years ago it was only reserved for daredevils who screwed loose graphic cards into enclosures and soldered controllers themselves, but nowadays there are loose enclosures for sale, you can find specialized websites and forums where you can read everything about the best gpu’s for external use and you can even buy ready-made solutions. You can place a maximum of one video card in almost all enclosures for external GPUs. There are cases for several GPUs, but they cost a lot of money. If you need more video cards, it is probably smarter to buy two enclosures, because they both have their own power supply. External video cards absorb huge amounts of power and need powerful fans to maintain the temperature.

Tip 02 Which external video card matches which system?

eGPU versus eGFX

These two terms are often confused. Often the same products are meant, but eGFX stands for external graphics and is used for an external device that can execute graphic processes. eGPU stands for external graphics processing unit and that can only relate to a physical graphic card. Correctly you can say that there is an eGPU in an eGFX.

Tip 03: Applications

For whom is an external video card actually useful? If your gaming experiences stop at Mijnenvegen or a game of Patience, then you don’t need more graphic computing power. But if you play games that demand a lot from your gpu – think of Far Cry, Final Fantasy or Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, then a simple video card is no longer enough. For a game like Far Cry: New Dawn, a gpu with at least 4 GB of ram is recommended. In an average laptop with integrated gpu this can often not be released by the system. On most laptops, the game will play, but you must tweak your system to get the most out of the internal gpu, and you will occasionally experience faltering images. You also have to set the settings of the game itself to the minimum load and this means that you cannot enjoy the beautiful images of the game.

Another reason to take an external GPU is to work with video editing software. Rendering is much faster with a separate external video card than with the internal video card, because the external GPU is much more powerful. The graphics card is also loaded to control multiple monitors. If you want to be able to connect two external 4K monitors to a laptop, then this is almost impossible with most internal GPUs. In addition, an external GPU often has more connections to connect monitors. The use of 4K monitors can also be a reason for an external GPU, if your laptop does not support this.

Tip 03 To be able to run a heavy game properly and enjoy the beautiful graphics, you need a more than good GPU.
Another reason to take an external GPU is to work with video editing software

Internal GPU

With an internal gpu of a laptop, two terms often come to the fore: integrated (integrated) gpu or independent (dedicated) gpu. An integrated gpu is part of the regular cpu (processor) and is much less efficient and powerful than a stand-alone gpu. An integrated gpu consumes dynamic memory of the total internal memory in your laptop. A stand-alone gpu (or separate video card) has its own internal memory and is therefore not part of the cpu. A disadvantage of a separate gpu in your laptop is that the battery lasts less.

The Intel Iris Pro is an integrated gpu in this MacBook Pro from 2015.

Tip 04: Thunderbolt

You connect an external gpu via thunderbolt 3 to your laptop (or PC). Thunderbolt 3 is an ultra-fast connection that can theoretically reach speeds of 40 Gbit / s. Thunderbolt 3 is the name of the technology, the connection used for this is USB-C. Your computer must therefore have a USB-C port that supports the thunderbolt technology. Some older USB-C ports do not do this, so check this before purchasing an external GPU.

It is also important to know exactly which external video card works with your system. On the website You will find a lot of information about all kinds of housings, which GPUs work with which motherboards and computers and how you can assemble an external GPU yourself. Mac computers only work with AMD GPUs, keep this in mind if you have an Apple product. You must run at least macOS 10.13.4 on the software side. There are also some thunderbolt2 enclosures on the market, but we recommend you go for the newer thunderbolt3 option. You can also connect an external gpu to a laptop via other technologies (such as mini-pci-express, ExpressCard or older versions of thunderbolt), but these are almost only suitable for do-it-yourself projects.

Tip 04 A USB-C port on an HP laptop, suitable for use with external thunderbolt3 devices.

Tip 05: Power consumption

There are two ways to get an external GPU (three if we also include a do-it-yourself option). The easiest way is to choose a ready-made solution, but the cheapest is to buy a housing yourself and install a separate graphics card in it. Before you buy a housing, it’s smart to go to the aforementioned website verify that this housing works well with your model laptop. When purchasing a housing, it is important that the power supply is powerful enough to control a GPU without any problems. In the specifications of a gpu you will usually find the number of watts that a graphics card needs, but this is based on a use in a desktop PC. If you use an external housing, these minimum requirements are no longer correct. It is advisable to check the GPU’s website to see which GPUs it supports. Many manufacturers have multiple models of the same housing and often the difference is in the power of the internal power supply. Some enclosures also have extra ports on board, useful if you want to connect peripherals, for example. Also look at the width of a case: some cases are not big enough for the thickest graphics cards.

Tip 05 The Razer Core X Chroma has an internal power supply of 700 watts, 4 USB connections for connecting peripherals and an Ethernet port.
With multiple models of the same housing, the difference is often in the power of the internal power supply


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