A Thunderbolt3 port has been growing to be an essential component for many people around the world, especially, students who want a mobile solution. It is an ultraportable laptop with strong gaming experience, or graphics processing power. There comes the market for affordable Thunderbolt 3 External GPU. They help survive the ecosystem of heavy and chunky gaming laptops and ultraportable thin carriers called ultrabooks that lack serious graphics performance. There is a middle ground that clearly needs some attention. And, eGPUs are attending to it in 2018. This is fairly a nice structure because the days of iMac and expensive desktop gaming computers are gone. We have AWS and supercomputing from cloud servers. We also have some of these to look for.
Before reading: What I really think of the current external GPU
In an effort to compile the Best Thunderbolt 3 External GPU in the market by mid-2018, we went for a spin. Starting from the releases from mid-2017 till now, we see the performance, reviews and user experience across the best and the most affordable lineups. We cover the new as well as the established brands too.
Whenever a new kid appears in the block, it always gets exciting to see what we have around. These come with the ability to connect your small ultraportable computer to an external monitor, play your favorite games, do all video editing and run wild.
Why you should buy an eGPU?
An eGPU or short for external GPU is a box that contains all your graphics requirements. You simply connect it to your main laptop or mini-PC with a wire and voila! You have a laptop with high-end graphics power. You remove the wire; you have your ideal student or business laptop that you can carry around with an all-day battery life.
- Connect over Thunderbolt3 port.
- Run almost all full-sized graphics cards.
- Keep your laptop ultraportable.
I think, this is an enough reason to buy one.
The current cutting-edge technology
With the current Lightning Thunderbolt3 of USB Type C support, your data transfers have gone to 40 Gbps. This helps to run your external graphics cards from NVIDIA or AMD using a PCIe slot, full-sized located on the box. It has cooling and external dedicated power supply unit at times up to 500W. And, also power delivery to recharge your laptop battery when doing heavy work.
5 Best Thunderbolt 3 External GPU
Here we list the top Thunderbolt 3 External GPU in the market. The recommendations are based on general availability, user experience, and affordability. Of course, all with keeping performance in mind, if you cannot do 4K video editing under decent time or cannot run an AAA title game in 2018 with respectable frame rates, we do not include them here. So, continue reading if you want to get some idea.
The current cutting-edge technology delivers a lot when it comes to the available options in the market. A quick scan of it reveals the below offerings, without taking price into the equation. The top of the line eGPUs today at 2018 come with the following cutting-edge technology:
- Asus: NVIDIA – GTX 9-series and up, AMD – Radeon R9 series and up.
- Razer: NVIDIA – GeForce and Quadro, AMD – Radeon R9 and RX.
- AKiTiO Node: NVIDIA and AMD.
- Alienware: NVIDIA GTX 600 and up, AMD Radeon HD 5000 and up.
And, all the above come with full-sized graphics cards. This is serious and when purchasing your external GPU, looks for support for Thunderbolt3 on both your laptop and the eGPU.
Workflow: How we picked & tested
To find the best performing products under the price they ask for, we look into all the factors as mentioned several times above. We test them for usual benchmarks, frame rates, throttling, cooling and ease of use. Here are some of our picks for mid-2018.
- AKiTiO Node Thunderbolt3 eGPU.
- Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box: Thunderbolt3 to eGPU.
- ASUS ROG-XG-Station-2.
- Razer Core V2.
- Node Pro (Thunderbolt3 MacOS & Windows 10).
Why you should trust me?
The attention to detail and market survey is important to pick the best products. I would like to assure you that the list is compiled based on available user data, feedback, and reviews. And, with enough research one, can also reach a similar conclusion.
Part #1 5 Best Thunderbolt 3 External GPU 2018: A gamer’s perspective
To find the best Thunderbolt 3 External GPU in the market as of today, 2018 one needs to consider the priorities. If you want the expensive rigs or the affordable ones, what kind of games you’re interested in? Why do you need one eGPU? We cover all of them here and recommend as we find suitable.
Top 1 Akitio Node – Thunderbolt3 eGPU for Windows reviews – fascinating inside
This product from AKiTiO is a great companion for your trips since it has under 16 pounds of weight. It is not going to sit on your lap though, like a chunky gaming laptop. Your laptop is the same, but with an additional Thunderbolt3 port it becomes more powerful than ever.
Taking the major components like External HDD and External Monitors, we have a new range of products called the External GPUs. This makes your laptop truly slim, lightweight and runs all day on a single charge. But, just when you need to do some play, plug in your eGPU, have a blast, do some serious 3D game design and go to bed.
- Supports Windows 10 and Mac High Sierra.
- Supports almost all AMD and NVIDIA full-length cards.
- Comes with configurable slots and complete removable parts.
- Offers up to 400W of crude power supply.
- Cooling can be improved, though, runs quietly.
- Weight can be improved yet rigid build.
In all, a great addition to your computer table or even carrying on a trip. While you can go on your laptop all day, you can do all serious work by adding external monitors and the AKiTiO Node. What it delivers is just fantastic for the price of a sub-200. So, go for it.
Top 2 Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box reviews – power in your hands
This is really a beast similar to the one above. Without a doubt, you have a great combination at under $200 mark, which is phenomenal. You get up to 350W power supply unit inside and a wide range of compatibility for both NVIDIA and AMD. The model is GPU-350W-TB3Z.
The features include support for full-length PCIe cards on Windows 10 and High Sierra. You have 8-pin and 6-pin power connectors to get more power out of the box. A 15W PD or power delivery unit also helps you charge your laptop while gaming. The cards it can support can be found on the official list.
- Supports AVID HDX, Red Rocket-X, and other full-length x16 PCIe cards.
- 1 Thunderbolt 3 port, a 0.5m 40Gb Thunderbolt 3 cable.
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060, 1070/Titan X, XP, V/Quadro P4000, P5000: Win.
- AMD Radeon RX 560,570,580/WX 5100, 7100: Win.
- AMD Radeon RX 470,480,570,580 on MacOS.
- Boot Camp is not supported on MacOS.
- Can use one card at a time.
In all this is an amazing product. They have made it quite compact with nice cooling and quiet working. For a student, we recommend this because you can get another $600 ultrabook that lasts a good 7 hours and have a complete ecosystem for under $800. It is the best value for money proposition.
Top 3 ASUS ROG-XG-STATION-2 reviews – ultimate graphics power
This is a practically insane power in a small package. It is targeted completely towards gamers. While the package is also suitable for content creation, 4K video editing, 3D workshops and more, you can pair it up with ASUS Transformer 3 Pro and UX series Zen Books.
The deal is a collection of ports and empty space where you can get your own graphics card, mount on it and run all along. The inbuilt power supply unit, cooling is all that matters and, the Thunderbolt 3 External GPU capability.
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9/10 series support.
- AMD Radeon R9/RX and later support.
- 1 Thunderbolt3.
- 4 USB 3.0 External Graphics Card Dock.
- 4 HDMI (biggest selling point).
- It is expensive than the above two, but you can do lots more on this.
- 600W internal power supply delivers needs serious cooling.
At this price point, Asus has a great to offer. It is just not on top because for an average gamer or content creator you can work with more affordable options too. It has great aesthetics which also is the USP here. Otherwise, this is nothing less than a beast packed in the beast’s body.
Top 4 Razer Core V2 reviews – expensive, but worth it
This particular model starts at $500 and it is pretty expensive for the comparison. That is why it is at 4th rank. Of course, it has a great finish, brilliant build quality, a plethora of ports, slightly less than the Asus ROG on 3rd spot. It has all compatible products, but a hefty price tag too.
About features, we find 4 USB 3, 1 Thunderbolt3 and 2 HDMI, and 2 DVI outputs. What matters from one brand to another are their inbuilt power controller and the cooling unit. And, this one has Razer Chroma lighting for greater appeal. If you need the best money, simply “go” for it.
- It comes with an ethernet port, very useful.
- Support for full-length, double-wide PCIe desktop graphics cards.
- 500W internal power supply.
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 10-series and AMD XConnect enabled.
- Razer Blade Stealth, Razer Blade, or Razer Blade Pro Thunderbolt 3 laptop for the ultimate “pricy” combo.
In all this is a great combo nevertheless. If you can spare up to $2000 or $2500, we shall surely recommend this to you. It can handle almost anything you throw at it. And, any graphics rendering you want, including VR applications. The ASUS above supports VR too, BTW.
Top 5 AKiTiO Node Pro reviews – affordable beast
It is a more well-built design from the same brand that took the first spot here. It is more solid in every segment possible. Also, it has the reminiscence of the Razor but at a much lesser price tag. It has more connectivity, better cooling and all you will love.
The cooling is done by dedicated PSU and GPU fans located on the underneath. While the pores on the side of the chassis make air flow great, there are not one, but 2 Thunderbolt3 USB ports. And, they both support 60W each of power delivery or PD to charge your laptop while working.
- 2 Thunderbolt3 ports both support PD too.
- One PCIe (x16) slot supporting full-length, full-height, double-width cards.
- Thunderbolt 3 cable is included in the package.
- Built-in 500W SFX power supply.
- Extra pair of 8-pin PCIe.
- 1 HDMI port only, no DVI port.
- No ethernet port as well.
- Lesser number of ports in all compared to Asus and Razer.
It is really a well-built product, strong and solid. Offers 2 Thunderbolt3 and both support power delivery up to 60W for your laptop. If you’re a beginner then surely go for it. Although games that need persistent internet connection will need your laptop to have one.
Comparison: Top 5 picks: What I really think of
In all the eGPUs listed above certify to be called the best Thunderbolt 3 External GPU because of their credibility in some domain. The Asus is an all rounder and my 1st bet if only you can spare some more money. The Razer is for the elite members. The rest 3 belong to those who occasionally game, maybe use for college work or even artwork and graphic design. You can all do great stuff under $1000 if you can make your mind.
You can get an amazing ultrabook with a corei7 inside. With a 4 core processor, you can do stuff. You can combine it with a desktop class 1070 MaxQ or 1070 and get great graphics performance. In all with an affordable AMD option, you can do even under $1000 tag and have all premium devices for up to 4 years.
Short buying guide: 5 tips you should know
Below are some tips that will give you a decent performing laptop-eGPU combo for all your needs. Despite being a gamer of content creator you can use it to the fullest.
- Always get an affordable ultrabook with a powerful CPU and great battery life.
- Get an affordable Thunderbolt3 eGPU.
- Get an AMD RX or GTX 1050 Ti, at least.
- Get a good color calibrated monitor – especially for content creators, but mostly a nice Dell or Asus $700 ultrabook shall have a great screen already.
Further reading time: Read best External GPU ultimate guide
For further reading go to our articles that are dedicated to which gaming laptops you can get below $600 or $700. All are tagged for 2018 releases. As gaming is the main priority, you can use a decent package under even $500 and pair it up with a Thunderbolt 3 External GPU. It is all up to you.
So, here you go for this summer’s purchase list. You can get your own workstation or gaming station for affordable and still better performing products in the market. If you still find any trouble deciding, just leave your comments below. And, we shall always be glad to give some tips.