So you want a laptop that’s thin, light, and gets long battery life for use on the go… but you also want a high-power graphics card for gaming. Soon you’ll be able to opt for one of the new laptops built around NVIDIA’s new MAX-Q design for balancing portability and high-performance graphics.
But another option is to get a laptop that has a Thunderbolt 3 port and plug in an external graphics dock when you want to get your game on.
Razer and Asus already offer a Thunderbolt 3 graphics docks. Zotac has one on the way. And this week Aorus is showing off a new model at Computex. It’s the smallest, and potentially the most affordable of the bunch.
The Aorus GTX 1070 Gaming Box is an external box that sells for $599, which makes it about $100 more expensive than a Razer Core. The difference is that Razer’s graphics dock doesn’t actually include a graphics card. You have to supply your own.
When you buy the Aorus model you get an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card built in. The box also has HDMI, DisplayPort, and two DVI outputs along with four USB 3.0 ports. So you can leave the graphics dock plugged into your display(s) and/or other accessories and just connect your laptop when you want to play.
Or you could pack up the graphics dock and take it with you. It’s not exactly tiny, but it’s about half the size of a Razer Core.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Aorus Gaming Box comes with a mini version of the GTX 1070 graphics card. While you can upgrade to a different graphics card in the future, it will need to be a mini card that’s small enough to fit in the case. That’s not an issue with larger docks that are meant to accommodate full-sized desktop graphics cards.
I have a quick ques… My laptop is an older model and does not have a thunderbolt port… Can I still use the gaming box via a thunderbolt converter cable?
Might get it for my Toshiba satellite
But can this work on a macbook? lol
“Auros … Aorus”
<3 Brad Linder 🙂
You can buy an AKiTiO Node or $269 which is a proper Thunderbolt 3 enclosure and stick whatever card you want in there.
See https://egpu.io/ for buyers guide and forums, it’s the best place for external GPU info.
Not available in the UK, or at least all the ebay sellers are shipping from the US.
My biggest gripe with the Node is that it can’t charge my laptop when plugged in. That’s a deal killer for me.
Can these external GPUs stream back to the built-in display, or do they only work with a connected screen?
They can indeed, in much the same way that if you connect a display to your integrated graphics you can still run a game accelerated by a full GPU and see the output from it.
Be warned though that it does eat into bandwidth that could be used for transferring game assets to the card. This has more of an impact above 1080p.
Even at 1080p the impact is certainly noticeable.
The Thunderbolt 3 protocol even in the newest USB-C revisions is quite a bottleneck. I think the system is quite balanced with a regular Core i5 and an RX 470. But once you go above a GTX 1060 you can see the limitation, though it still works “good enough” even with a monster 1080Ti.
So adding any additional strain into the TB3 bandwidth isn’t really any option.
So these are basically “consoles” that live next to your TV or Monitor to plug in your laptop.
But then again, the gaming experience would be greatly improved with the larger display and speakers.
We will have to wait for the next iteration: USB-C with TB4. Intel will probably announce the new protocol (100Gbps) this year, Mid-2017. We can probably expect high-end laptops and motherboards getting it Early 2018. And a compatible eGPU dock probably in Late 2018.
And with that level of bandwidth, eGPU’s become more viable… even sending the image back to internal screen of the laptop without a performance depreciation as the bottleneck will shift back to the CPU/GPU side. You would pretty much have to use something like a 4K resolution, Core i9, and Nvidia flagship -Ti cards in SLI format to start stressing that bandwidth…. and that’s what we need: a Standard with a large Headroom for it to stay relevant for many years, so that concepts can transition to actual products.
Hmm, I thought 1080p 60Hz wasn’t much of an issue since it’s ~3gbit/s of data over a 40gbit link. It was more of a problem on the XPS 13 and 15 since they’re limited to 20gbit.
4K 60Hz being 12.5gbit/s, you’re definitely going to feel that.
There’s still a boost to be had with TB3 btw, at the moment those PCI-E lanes go CPU -> PCI-E -> PCH -> TB3 controller, Intel wants to integrate the TB3 controller on the CPU so it goes CPU -> TB3 controller. How much that’ll help depends on too much but an extra 10-20% throughput would be reasonable.
Relevant LinusTechTips video, some games show differences between the Core & the Alienware’s Graphics Amplifier with dedicated lanes of ~30%:
If TB3 moves onto the CPU, that should give TB3 solutions even standing here?
I doubt the latency improvement will go from the Razer Core to the Alienware Graphics Amp. Certainly a 5% gain is possible, but that’s about it.
As I said above, eGPU’s are great to pair a Laptop high-end Mobile CPU (~Mid-range Desktop performance), throttle-mitigation, and a Mid-range GPU. The limitation is the TB3 bandwidth.
Doubling that to around 100Gbps, and high-end GPU’s and 4K gaming become feasible without much performance depreciation.
Oh sure, more bandwidth would be nice but I reckon we’ll see TB3 adoption increasing over the next few years and it’ll be a while before TB4 is commonplace. In the meantime let’s get everything we can out of TB3. Incidentally even 100gbps is going to be limited, knocking over 10% off that figure for 4K 60Hz, or 30% for 144Hz is going to hurt. One thing I want to see from TB4 is a newer DP version, 1.2 can’t really stretch beyond 4K but 1.3 or ideally 1.4 can.
For now (and to end on a high note) let’s just say that while you can hook up an eGPU and render to the internal display, it’s not the best idea. Then again if you wanted the best gaming performance you’d probably also use an external keyboard, mouse and monitor anyway. If you’re rendering to the internal display you’re already making a trade-off so 10-30% losses shouldn’t matter much.
Great, this is awesome!
By bundling it with the 1070, it makes it ready for use and not a complete rip-off.
I did wish they used a full sized slot, just to allow more variety and cheaper cards in the future. We might see those pop up too.
Comments are closed.