The Best External Graphics Cards & Adapters in 2021

If you have an older and underperforming system (laptop, PC, gaming tablet, or mobile phone) and can’t afford or cannot fit a new GPU within your current system, an eGPU might be just what you have been looking for.

External graphics cards are just like their standard counterparts, with the only exception that they operate outside of your system. Once you get your eGPU, you will simply plug it into your laptop or gaming PC through one of your USB ports, and you are ready to go.

For a GPU to work externally, you will require an adapter, which will accommodate your GPU. In many cases, you will find an adapter and a GPU in an all-in-one solution. In other cases, you can buy an adapter separately and then install a GPU of your choice that you want to boost your current system with.

To help you find the perfect solution for your needs and budget, the PureGaming team and I have taken on the challenge to conduct all of the research for you and provide you with a list of the best all-in-one eGPUs and GPU adapters alongside suitable GPU recommendations that you can make part of your setup.

The selection process was fairly simple. Our first goal was to determine what made an eGPU great. Then, we researched the gaming community to identify their needs and pain points when it comes to eGPUs. Using our findings, we created criteria, which we then used to pick the best qualifying products, which we will review and compare below.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at our final selection of eGPU adapters with and without a graphics card.

Best All-in-One eGPU

AORUS RTX 3080 Ti GAMING BOX

If you are on the lookout for the best all-in-one eGPU, this gaming box by AORUS is by far the best on the market. It features the newest and most powerful RTX 3080 Ti GPU, which within itself is probably an overkill unless you already have a decent system and monitor.

The price at the time of writing was $1400.00.

Design

Visually, this gaming box by AORUS is minimalistic, sleek, and compact in design. You almost couldn’t tell from the black exterior how powerful of an eGPU it is.

The gaming box itself measures at 11.8″ (L) x 5.5″ (W) x 6.8″ (H), and weighs around 8.5 lbs, which makes this device super portable and easy to bring with you on the road, should you decide to want to game while away from home.

Specifications

The main component of this gaming box is the graphics card. In this case, we have the incredible GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, which features a GPU clock speed of 1710 MHz, 10GB of GDDR6X RAM with 19000 MHz of memory clock speed, and 760 GB/s of memory bandwidth.

In terms of I/O (Input/Output), this gaming box features 1x Thunderbolt 3 type-C, 1x Ethernet port, 3x USB 3.0, 2x HDMI, and 3x DP.

Should you have a screen that can support a high-quality image, this eGPU can output a resolution of up to 7680×4320.

Compatibility

In terms of compatibility, for you to use this system, your laptop or PC needs to have a Thunderbolt 3 port and be compatible with eGPUs connecting to that very same port.

Best GPU Adapter

If you are on the lookout for the best eGPU adapter on the market today? Check out the RGB-enabled Razer Core X Chroma.

The price at the time of writing was $499.99.

Visually, the Razer Core X Chrome is the sleekest and most beautifully designed eGPU enclosure case from our list of recommendations. It can comfortably support the latest standard-sized PCI desktop graphics cards including NVIDIA GeForce and AMD XConnect-enabled graphic cards.

If you aren’t too tech-savvy, you’d be pleased to hear that to establish a strong and seamless connection, all you have to do is connect the Razer Core X Chroma with a compatible laptop, and you are ready to go.

One of the most notable features of this enclosure case is its flexibility in terms of GPUs that it can handle. You can easily upgrade your GPU by simply removing the old one and popping in the new one to give your laptop a boost in a matter of seconds.

Thanks to the single Thunderbolt cable, once connected, it will unlock great desktop graphics, peripherals, Gigabit Ethernet, and Razer Chroma RGB lighting.

As far as compatibility is concerned, the Razer Core X Chroma can work with all Thunderbolt 3 systems that run Windows 10 RS4 or later and Macs running macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 or later. If you are using a laptop, you’d require a Thunderbolt 3 port that supports external graphics cards (eGPUs).

What Is an eGPU?

eGPU’s or external graphics cards are processing units, which operate in the same manner as a standard GPU, with the only exception that it works outside of the system.

You may be asking yourself, why would anyone need an eGPU when they can have a standard graphics card? That is because many low-end PCs and laptops often come without a dedicated graphics card inside them.

And rather than scrapping their entire systems, many gamers just purchase an external graphics card, which they can simply plug into their laptop or PC and boost their performance in a matter of seconds.

However, before you can do that, you will require an adapter, which essentially allows your GPU to operate externally. Think of it as the mothership, and without it, the GPU simply cannot operate.

In some cases, you will find an all-in-one eGPU, which means that you will get the adapter and the GPU in one compact product. The downside to all-in-one eGPUs is that the GPU quite often cannot be replaced or upgraded.

In other cases, you can buy an adapter and a suitable for your needs GPU, which you can then upgrade as you see fit and in accordance with your adapters’ compatibility when it comes to handling graphics cards.

Why You Can Trust This Review

This guide and review’s goal is to provide you with our honest and confident top recommendations in one place. When it comes to picking an external graphics card for your needs, you would know that you are browsing a comprehensive list of the market’s best products.

Thus, whatever you decide to choose, you can be sure that it is in one way or another “the best“.

To do that, we have conducted all of the research for you. After picking the products within our final selection that you will see today, we carefully analyzed, reviewed, and compared each one so that you can easily find out whether a particular eGPU is right for you or not.

How We Picked

Picking a comprehensive list of the best eGPUs and adapters on the market today wasn’t going to be an easy job. First, we had to conduct some research to find out what the best eGPUs on the market featured and offered. Then, we researched the gaming community to find the needs and pain points of gamers who are currently making use of an eGPU.

In accordance with our findings, we created comprehensive criteria, which helped us find and pick all of the qualifying external graphics cards you will see today.

Below, you can find out more about each of the 5 points within our criteria.

Price & Value for Money

As with any product or service that we purchase as consumers, one of the biggest aspects that we seriously take into consideration is the price tag and value for money. The case isn’t any different when it comes to eGPUs.

So, to combat this challenge, the Pure Gaming team and I ensured to only provide you with eGPUs that are 100% worth their value for money.

To ensure that there is something for everyone’s needs and budget, we included a range of eGPUs and adapters that greatly range in price and functionality.

Design

Our research found that gamers care a lot about how their devices and accessories look as part of their overall setup.

Thus, we have ensured that our recommendations greatly range in design that can easily find its place within most gaming setups. Some are simple, sleek, and compact, while others are much larger and extravagant in size and design.

Portability

One of the core aspects that gamers look at when purchasing an eGPU is the portability of the device. This is likely because many plan on making use of it when they are on the go and away from their home.

Thus, we have ensured to recommend you with a list of external graphics cards that range in portability.

Performance

Another core requirement when shopping for an external graphics card is the level of performance that it can supplement your current system with. As you could imagine, higher performance often equals a higher price.

Thus, to ensure that we can provide everyone with a decent solution to their gaming requirements and budget, we’ve selected a broad range of gaming eGPUs that range from the GeForce 3080 Ti to AMD Radeon RX 560.

Compatibility

Upon concluding our research, we found that gamers often play on a vast range of platforms and operating systems. As our goal today is to provide everyone with a decent solution for their gaming needs, we have ensured to mostly recommend external graphics cards that are flexible in terms of systems and platforms that they are compatible with.

Who This Is For

If you have a low-end PC and don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on a new build, an eGPU would be a useful, performance-enhancing addition to your setup. On the flip side, if you own a laptop, the chances are that you can’t even fit a standard GPU into your system even if you wanted to.

Thus, eGPU’s are mainly the most popular amongst laptop gamers who are looking to get a decent level of performance without having to scrap their current system in exchange for one of the best gaming laptops.

Other Great All-in-One eGPUs

AORUS RTX 2070 GAMING BOX

If our top pick was a little too much for you, check out the AORUS RTX 2070 GAMING BOX, which is another fantastic, performance-driven eGPU that can run most games at very decent graphics without any issues at all.

The price at the time of writing was $649.99.

Design

Straight out of the box, this gaming box by AORUS features a very minimalistic, sleek, and modern-looking design. On one side of this gaming eGPU, you can see inside the device thanks to the see-through, mesh-like panel. Though you won’t really be able to see much, you can see the 130mm GPU fan that is solely responsible for cooling down this graphics card.

The gaming box itself measures 8.3″ (L) x 3.77″ (W) x 6.3″ (H) and weighs around 5.1 lbs, which makes this product very portable and easy to carry around with you, even if you need to travel abroad.

Specifications

The main component of this eGPU is the GeForce RTX 2070 by GIGABYTE. The GPU is reinforced by 8GB of GDDR6 RAM with 14000 MHz of memory clock speed. Furthermore, the GPU hosts a clock speed of up to 1620 MHz, which is powerful enough to output a digital max resolution of up to 7680×4320 on a maximum of 4 external displays.

As far as I/O (Inputs and Outputs), the AORUS RTX 2070 GAMING BOX features 3x USB 3.0 ports, 1x 3.0 quick charge USB (which can be used for power charging only), 1x HDMI, 3x DisplayPort, and 1x USB-C port.

In those, you can plug anything from your mouse and gaming keyboard to speakers, mouse bungee, and more.

In terms of power, this gaming eGPU is powered by a 450W 8-pin power supply, which can successfully operate within 100-240V of power.

Compatibility

In order to make use of this gaming box, you need to to have a laptop or PC with Thunderbolt 3 ports that can also support an external GPU. You can confirm your Thunderbolt 3’s compatibility with your PC manufacturer.

Besides that, your system must also be running a minimum OS of Windows 10.

Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock

The Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock is another great, compact, and affordable eGPU that is perfect for gamers who are looking to get a boost to their in-game performance.

The price at the time of writing was $399.99.

Design

Visually, the Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock is very sleek and compact in design. The entire exterior of the device is in matte-like grey. You will find ports on 3 out of the four sides ranging from headset jacks to HDMI, Ethernet, and USB ports.

The actual gaming box measures 9.8″ (L) x 5.1″ (W) x 0.89″ (H) with a weight of just 1.5 lb, which makes it the most compact and portable option in this guide and review.

Specifications

In terms of specifications, the Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock features an integrated NVIDIA(R) GTX 1050 graphics card, which is reinforced with 4GB of GDDR5 RAM.

Powered by the Intel Thunderbolt 3 technology, you can enjoy up to 40 Gbps lightning-fast data transfer speed and experience the definitive 4K resolution on up to three external displays simultaneously.

Furthermore, this external graphics card also features a 3.5 mm audio port, a gigabit ethernet port, a USB 3.0 port, and a few other ports for enhanced flexibility.

Compatibility

While this eGPU is primarily designed for owners of Lenovo ThinkPads, you can also use the very decent 1050 GPU for gaming. As with any eGPU, we would highly recommend you to check whether this product is compatible with your system before you purchase it.

eGFX Breakaway Puck RX 560

If you are on the lookout for an entry-level eGPU, then the eGFX Breakaway Puck RX 560 would be our top recommendation. It is also the most affordable, all-in-one gaming box to power up your system and give it the necessary performance for the games that you want to play.

The price at the time of writing was $299.99.

Design

Visually, the eGFX Breakaway Puck RX 560 looks very much just like any other power supply. It is so compact, that you can easily hold the entire gaming block in one hand.

The actual gaming block measures 6″ (W) x 5.1″ (D) x 2″ (H), which makes it very portable, should you need that added performance on the go while away from your home.

Specifications

In terms of specifications, the main component of this gaming block would be the AMD Radeon RX 560 graphics processor with 4GB of GDDR5 memory. To give you a little more insight, this eGPU provides a 6x better in-game performance as compared to computers with integrated graphics processors.

Thanks to the three DisplayPort 1.4 ports, and single 2.0 port, you can use this eGPU to support up to four 4K displays should you need to. Furthermore, the Thunderbolt 3 port ensures a PCIe bandwidth of up to 2750 MBs.

Compatibility

As far as compatibility is concerned, this eGPU is compatible with all Mac and Windows computers that possess Thunderbolt 3 ports. As always, we’d recommend that you do your own research and ensure that your system can make use of this eGPU before you purchase it.

Other Great External GPU Adapters

The ASUS ROG-XG-Station-2 is another great eGPU case that is suitable for a range of powerful standard external graphics cards.

The price at the time of writing was $624.69.

Visually, the ASUS ROG-XG-Station-2 features one of the most extravagant and futuristic-looking designs. This gaming eGPU case features a 3-color combination of black, grey, and red (LED), which makes it not only unique but also very cool-looking.

This external graphics card adapter is great and has most of the features you might find in a full tower PC, just smaller, measuring at 18″ (L) 10.9″ (W) x 6.2″ (H), which is as big as a mid-tower PC.

A great scenario where this device would be a reasonable choice is when you have multiple people who would game using this external GPU system, who all have gaming laptops and play from the same location, but at different times. 

If you are someone who really prefers to game on a laptop, and budgeting is not something you concern yourself with, you will be happy to have this product, especially if you plug in something like the Nvidia 2080 Ti inside to enhance your experience.

Should you decide to go for this adapter, some of the most suitable graphics cards include the Nvidia 2080 Ti, Nvidia 2070 Super, and AMD Radeon RX 5700.

If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive yet performing eGPU case, then the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box is a great starting point.

The price at the time of writing was $293.48.

The Sonnet breakaway box might be considered the standard when it comes to external GPU systems. It is a nice, wide chassis with a lot of room for fans and cooling that can accommodate any type of GPU.

The internal power supply of this model is 550 watts, which is enough for everything short of the most power-hungry graphic cards. Combined with ample cooling, it is ideal for graphic cards in the likes of 1060, 1070, 1080, 1080Ti, Titan X, and more. For the full compatibility of this eGPU adapter, check the retailer’s product description here.

Size-wise, this gaming box measures 17.01″ (L) x 11.46″ (W) x 10.83″ (H), which is not compact and you will want to have a dedicated place for this unit. Ideally, you will want it as low as possible to use most of the temperature difference in the room.

It does, however, include a Thunderbolt 3 connector, which supports Linux, macOS, and Windows. The plug-and-play functionality makes this eGPU case easy to use even for those who are completely unfamiliar with hardware or tech.

If you decide to go for this adapter, some of the GPUs that it can handle include the GTX Strix 1080 Ti, AMD Radeon RX Vega 56, and AMD Radeon WX 7100.

What to Look For

Before you decide, there are five main aspects of picking out an external graphics card unit or adapter that you need to consider.

How important each point is will be solely dependent on your individual requirements, but having more will almost always be better.

Fortunately, all devices’ quality has risen in the last few years, and the prices have dropped. This has made some of the more advanced models quite accessible for the average consumer and viable in different settings.

In some cases, you will simply go for more power and better connectivity, allowing you to use premium graphics cards for rendering or gaming. In other situations, you might want something more compact and portable because you don’t know where you will need it.

Always make sure to know what you are looking for and what you are willing to sacrifice to get it. Even though there are excellent models, you might end up with something good objectively but not suitable for your specific circumstances.

Connectivity

This is probably the most important feature when it comes to external GPU units. Even if the internal connections and power allow for stronger cards, lacking outbound connectivity to use those cards can severely reduce their utility.

Ideally, you will want both your device and the external unit to have something as close as possible to the PCIe port. Currently, only advanced Thunderbolt and USB connections can even get close.

For many mid-range cards, such strong ports are not necessary. You might only need a regular USB connection to get the data stream width that you need.

Also, if external graphics cards are used for amplifying video reproduction, you might not need as much bandwidth between your device and the GPU. Simply having enough to stream towards the unit would be plenty in this case.

External Power & Surge Protection

Having more power is always better and that is generally why you want an external GPU in the first place. But, you may not need to buy something to support a professional gamer-grade graphics card if you only want to amplify the picture of your device.

For rendering and other such demanding tasks, you will want something with at least 500 watts of power. These units will be able to support large cards that take up to 375W of electricity, as well as all of the cooling that goes with it.

Smaller and more discrete devices don’t need to be as powerful. A business GPU can only use around 125W and doesn’t need a lot of temperature regulation. It will still need a regular power outlet and its own connection but can be the size of an adapter.

Finally, all external GPU units need to have surge protection installed in them. This is as much for the external graphics cards as it is for the devices connected to them. You will need to make sure that no power is returning to the device.

Cooling

Cooling is often disregarded as something that simply goes with computers. Those unfamiliar with hardware often don’t realize that temperatures are the main concern when it comes to computing, including external and mobile units.

In most cases, an external GPU will use the same system of air cooling as it would use inside a PC. Because you will want to use any GPU, the surrounding cooling system needs to be slightly better than what you would find in a custom made PC.

Ideally, you will want to have a steady stream from the lung room (the place where the computers are set) to the inside of the case, pushing the hot air back.

A smart idea is to look for designs where cool air is pulled from the bottom and pushed upwards because that would be working downstream. But, in that case, you will need to take precautions to prevent the build-up of dust.

There are also options for water cooling or Peltier electromagnetic cooling systems. For external GPUs, especially for consumer models, these would be unreasonably expensive and not as viable as simple fans with good induction and dispersion.

Thankfully, we have AC units now that can keep the room at a comfortable 72 °F, allowing the GPU that prefers to work at around 95°F easy to keep that temperature steady.

Dust Prevention

With modern devices and designs, keeping dust away from your external graphics cards shouldn’t be a huge issue, but it is still relevant. Keeping dust away will reduce the maintenance and prolong the life of the device and the components inside.

The best way to prevent dust build-up is to keep the chassis enclosed and the fans covered with dust-proof nets. This will allow the air to flow unrestricted but will stop most of the dust from entering the system.

These coverings should be wiped frequently. As soon as you see any dust collecting on the edges, simply use a cloth to remove it.

This will not stop the dust from collecting on the inside over time, especially in models with stronger air cooling. Because of the electrical discharge caused by heat on the syncs, dust will always collect there the most.

You will generally want to open your device once every three or so months and vacuum and wipe everything inside. Just make sure to let it dry completely before plugging anything back in.

Size

Although size will depend on your desire to carry the device around, there are some external GPU systems where you will simply need to go big. Large cards are not only bigger but also need more space for fans and cooling.

For business-oriented external graphics cards, it is possible to have something you can carry around. But, if you want to have something like the Nvidia 2080 Ti as your card, you will need a way to power it and cool it off.

On the other hand, you can use an external adapter that will simply consist of a connector and a power source for the card. Adapters are small and portable and use only a bit more space than the GPU itself. But, this is not a good option for larger and more powerful GPU units.

Picking the Right External GPU for Your Needs

If you have come this far within our guide and review, there is a pretty strong chance that you are yet to decide on an eGPU that is right for your needs and budget.

Our goal with this guide and review is to not only provide you with the top eGPU’s on the market today but also help you with picking the right product for you.

So, to do that, below, you will find three highly-relevant scenarios alongside our recommendation for each of the scenarios.

Scenario 1: Let’s say that you are looking for a relatively inexpensive eGPU that you can virtually carry around with you everywhere you go. Ideally, you’d like it to be decent enough so that you can play most of your favorite games at a decent frame rate.

In this case, we’d recommend the Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock.

Scenario 2: You are looking for the best possible eGPU on the market to supplement your gaming PC or laptop that will allow you to virtually play any game at ultra-high settings.

For this scenario, we would recommend you our best performance pick, the AORUS RTX 3080 Ti GAMING BOX.

Scenario 3: You are only looking for an adapter, which you can use to plug in your own GPU. Ideally, you’d like it to be as compact in size as possible, while being compatible with most standard-sized GPUs.

For this case, we’d recommend you the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box.

Final Thoughts

eGPUs a great for providing your current system with the performance that it’s lacking so that you can play your favorite titles without having to make any major upgrades to your build.

Unless you plan on using your gaming eGPU while away from your gaming station at home, it makes very little sense why you would spend a lot of money on such a product when you can quite simply build your very own gaming PC.

It is often better to buy an eGPU adapter with an included GPU so that you don’t need to waste time on finding the right GPU for your adapter.

When shopping for an eGPU, ensure that it isn’t an overkill in case your current gaming laptop screen or your stand-alone monitors are not anything special in terms of specs.