Should I Buy an External Graphics Card If the Game Doesn’t Work on My Laptop?

I enjoy playing PC games at reasonable resolutions and quality settings without burning my legs or table, so I usually don’t even think about the gaming capabilities of a laptop when I buy something new. Why bother if my desktop (and its discrete Nvidia RTX card) can do whatever I need to?

However, there are many people who want to play on laptops that just aren’t equipped to make the latest games look good (or maybe even play). In years past, you would have had to start saving up for a new laptop that works better. There is currently a second option: an external graphics card that you can plug into your laptop to enhance its gaming prowess.

And here is where we come to the issue of Tech 911 this week, given the reader Lifehacker «Ghost11». They write:

I have a question about eGPU (external video cards). So, I was looking to buy an eGPU and found that “attachments” are always displayed in google results. I am very confused. My questions:

  • Do eGPU cases include graphics cards and all hardware inside? Or will I have to buy all the hardware separately?
  • Also, are the enclosures just an empty box?
  • Should you look for a game console that has everything you need?

EGPU sounds simple but can be a little more complex

I’m happy to help, ghost mail sender. An “external graphics card” or eGPU, for short, can come in three different packages: a case that requires you to supply your own graphics card, a case that comes with a replacement graphics card (so you can upgrade), and a case that comes with a locked graphics card (sic) what you are stuck with what you get).

As you can imagine, there can be quite a big difference in cost between these three units, but not always. Take the Asus ROG XG Station 2 , for example: a large and powerful graphics card box that you ship for the low price of $ 550 (or so). This Gigabyte AORUS game console costs a little more ( + $ 250 ), but it does include a graphics card. This Razer Core X with a Radeon RX 580 ? 575 dollars.

I mention this because you can probably tell that the external GPU you are looking at comes with an integrated GPU if the price is astronomical – $ 1000 and up. There is no guarantee below that what you are viewing comes with the card by default, or if it is a case that requires you to supply a GPU.

Whether or not an eGPU comes with a card should be obvious when you read the specs and / or case description wherever you are. If you’re unsure, it’s worth reading a few reviews or even visiting the manufacturers’ websites to make sure you’re buying the box + GPU and not just the box (if that’s what you want). Otherwise, spending less money on a duller case may allow you to maximize the amount you can spend on a great graphics card to build into – food for thought.

Do you even need an eGPU?

Actually, I don’t think you should buy an external GPU at all. They can be terribly expensive for something that gives you adequate or decent performance. That, and you’ll have to figure out where the fine line lies between “great graphics” and “expensive graphics, whose usually incredible performance is limited by the connection between the external GPU and my laptop.”

As Cameron Faulkner wrote in The Verge review of the 2019 Razer Core X Chroma external GPU :

“Capable of moving data quickly, Thunderbolt 3 dramatically reduces GPU bandwidth. It supports four lanes over PCIe, which is significantly less than the 16 PCIe lanes supported on most desktop motherboards. (Some laptops have even lower bandwidth on Thunderbolt 3 ports, so you’ll have to check with your manufacturer’s specs to find out exactly what your laptop is capable of.) When you’re gaming on a laptop display, one cable stretches. double task: the computer has to send data to the GPU for processing, and then receive the processed data back for display. Intense gaming is a huge workload, and at the end of the day, even the most powerful graphics cards will struggle to deliver truly impressive frame rates. Despite this, I did not notice any jerks in the gameplay. “

If an external GPU only cost $ 100-200, I would risk it. When you spend over $ 500 or even $ 1000 on a case and graphics card, you end up with a temporary and imperfect solution to the problem that might not even be directly compatible with your system, given the software. features are involved .

As with all desktop PC owners, you will eventually need to upgrade your eGPU to play the latest and greatest games in full quality. By then, there may be a better connection type (Thunderbolt 4?!? !!?!?!) And undoubtedly a better case. There’s another $ 500 + down the drain for a new installation; Add that along with what you paid for in the past, and instead you could build a decent gaming PC that will support all kinds of newer, faster graphics cards for years to come.

However, I understand that not everyone needs a dedicated game console (and then have to buy a monitor, mouse, keyboard, one of those cases that have enough RGB fans to recreate the brightness of the sun on a summer day, and so on.) But if that’s not an option and eGPU is a less practical time point for gaming, what should you do?

I would not write off game streaming services

Listen to me. The two major game streaming services – Stadia and GeForce Now – don’t cost a lot of monthly bucks ($ 10 and $ 5, respectively). If you choose Google, you get a portion of free games every month and the ability to play whatever you buy on a multitude of different devices, including your computer, compatible Android phone, and TV (assuming you have a Chromecast Ultra, of course).

It’s the same with Nvidia’s service, with the exception of the free monthly games. You will be able to play many of the games you already own (from a decently large list of games ) on your Windows, Mac or compatible Android devices, as well as Nvidia Shield streaming.

None of the streaming services will do anything special for you if, say, you’re a big Overwatch player – or love any other game that doesn’t appear on any of the services ( or is not given out ). But if any of the services have your favorites, it might be worth exploring them instead of the more complicated eGPU setup for now. And with Microsoft’s xCloud service looming on the horizon, it’s worth waiting to see if they can fill the gaps in a more complex and costly eGPU setup for gaming.

With streaming, you’ll be able to stream games for years by installing one external graphics card, and all you need is a decent internet connection to experience a pretty good gaming experience . I think it is more economical now than an eGPU, at least until the technology allows you to get full, unlimited desktop-to-laptop performance through a simple plug-and-play connection. When that day comes, go outside as long as you like.

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