External Graphics Card Enclosures
External Graphics Card: The Future of
Is an external graphics card the next big thing for PC gamers? We live in a world where technology has been developed to be accessible, to be cheap but most of all to be easily portable. In many cases, this leads companies developing smaller, thinner laptops: the UltraBook. Whether you choose a MacBook or an Acer Aspire, they all have one thing in common: a huge lacking in graphics processing ability. We tested a custom built laptop, which had Intel® Core™i7 Dual Core Processor i7-4500U and 16GB RAM but it was the integrated graphics card which let it down. It was able to play older games like Age Of Empires 3, but when it came to modern games, such as Cities Skylines and Elite Dangerous, the laptop couldn’t hack it. So what’s the solution? An external graphics card.
What External Graphics Card Enclosures are out there?
Currently there are a few companies making external graphics card enclosures. Here are a few of the key ones:
Razer Core comes paired with the Razer Blade Stealth Laptop. It is able to support a single dual-width, full-length, PCI-Express x16 graphics card with 12.20″ x 5.98″ x 1.73″ dimensions. It supports both AMD and NVIDIA and is able to supply power up to 375W. So what graphics cards are compatible? It should be able to support GeForce GTX Titan X, the top of the live NVIDIA graphics card, GeForce GTX 980 Ti, as well as the less expensive NVIDIA ranges, e.g. GeForce GTX 960. It should also support the top of the line AMD graphics cards, the R9 Series, including most of the less expensive series including the R7 Series. So all in all it is a versatile addition to enhance your laptop gaming experience. It requires a Thunderbolt 3 connection however which limits compatibility with a great deal of laptops. Razer combines Core with their Blade Stealth laptop which comes with a Thunderbolt 3 connection available.
Razer makes out in their video that this is a perfect choice for gamers who want a portable laptop that is reliable for work, which can be combined with an external graphics card for gaming when at home. This would replace the need for gamers to buy a desktop and a laptop, or for them to buy more expensive, heavier, less portable laptops. Engadget were impressed with Razer in CES 2016 and rated them in their “Best of CES 2016” category. Razer Core has not been released yet and the price is not yet known. This and the compatibility with other laptop makes will be the deciding factor on whether their external graphics card enclosure becomes a viable replacement for desktop computers.
Alienware Graphics Amplifier:
The Alienware Graphics Amplifier was introduced at CES 2014. It supports GeForce GTX 600 series and newer graphics cards and AMD Radeon HD 5000 series and newer. It is available for around $300 and possible to buy solo. It is only compatible with Alienware 13, 14 and 17 R2, limiting its use to PC Gamers who build their own laptops, have custom built laptops, or who don’t wish to buy an Alienware Laptop. It’s not a very attractive piece of equipment, but it does what its designed to do and is fairly easy to install.
Republic of Gamers XG Station 2:
ROG’s XG Station 2 is an upgrade from their original XG Station released in 2007. It was unveiled in CES 2016 and has received good reviews so far. ASUS has not yet put the XG Station 2 on their website so no definite system specifications are available, but they have said it will support both AMD and NVIDIA graphics cards. It will connect by a Thunderbolt 3 cable and port but it is not yet clear whether it will only be compatible with ROG laptops. It is a cool looking dock which increases its appeal.
ASUS has not yet announced the pricing or availability but we are definitely looking forward to see how it does.
External Graphics Card Enclosures – Our Verdict:
While these enclosures are only starting to be developed by PC companies, they promise great things for the PC Gaming community. The lack of compatibility with a wide range of laptops is a weak point but the concept and boost provided to laptop graphics are huge strong points. There is the potential that these docks will only be a gimmick, a fleeting possibility and way to get publicity, but there is great potential here. Some of the features we would love to see is a graphics dock which is compatible with a wide range of laptop makes as well as a dock which enables SLI technology for desktop gamers who don’t want to upgrade their power supply but want to have dual or more graphics cards. We are excited to see what ROG will do with their XG Station 2 and to see the Razer Core in action.