Enlarge / The Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box and Sapphire RX 580. (credit: Mark Walton)
Specs at a glance: Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box
350W Asaka AK-PS035AF01 SFX
1x PCIe 3.0 X16, 1x Thunderbolt 3.0
18.5cm x 34.0cm x 20.2cm
120mm Asaka Fan
$300 (~£300, but TBC)
The external graphics card (or eGFX), long the pipe dream of laptop-touting gamers the world over, has finally come of age.
Thanks to Thunderbolt 3—which offers up to 40Gbps of bandwidth, the equivalent of four PCIe 3.0 lanes—consumers finally have access to enough bandwidth in a universal standard to make eGFX a viable option.
So the theory goes, you can now take most laptops with a Thunderbolt 3 port, plug in a box containing a power supply and your GPU of choice, and enjoy better visuals and higher frame rates in games, and faster rendering in production tasks. You can even whack a PCIe video capture card or a production-ready audio interface in that external box, if you so wish.
Thus far the limiting factor, aside from some potential performance bottlenecks and driver support, has been price.
The Razer Core, as beautifully designed as it is, costs a whopping £500/$500 without a graphics card—and that’s if it’s even in stock. Meanwhile, the Asus ROG XG Station 2—which is most certainly not beautifully designed—costs £400/$400. When paired with a decent graphics card like an Nvidia GTX 1070 or an AMD RX 580, a full eGFX setup runs just shy of £900/$900, not including the price of a laptop to pair it with.
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