There may be a growing number of laptops designed for gaming, and they may be getting thinner and lighter. But they’re still pretty expensive… and quite frankly, overkill for non-gaming activities.
So over the past year or so we’ve also seen the rise of a new class of PC accessory: the graphics dock. Basically plug one of these big boxes into any notebook and you can use a desktop graphics card with a computer that wouldn’t otherwise have one.
HP’s entry into this space is one of the most affordable to date. The Omen Accelerator is coming in August for $300.
Here’s what you get for that price: a big box that plugs into any PC with a Thunderbolt 3 port.
Inside the box there’s room for an NVIDIA or AMD graphics card and a bay for a 2.5 inch hard drive or SSD. The graphics dock also features an Ethernet jack, four USB 3.0 Type-A ports, a USB 3.1 Type-C port, and a 60W charging cable that can supply power to your laptop when it’s connected to the accelerator.
The Omen Accelerator has a 500 watt power supply and supports graphics cards up to 300 watts.
Keep in mind, the $300 price tag is just for the Omen Accelerator itself. HP will allow you to buy a model that comes with up to an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD RX580 graphics card and up to 256GB or solid state storage or up to a 1TB hard drive. Or you can supply your own graphics card and storage, but it’ll cost extra.
While this type of solution is a lot less portable than buying a laptop with built-in discrete graphics, it does allow you to upgrade to a different graphics card in the future, which could let you hang onto an aging laptop longer.
Aorus recently unveiled a $599 Gaming Box graphics dock that comes with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card, Zotac has its own solution on the way, and Razer has been selling one since last year.