One of the most popular experiments I have
produced on this channel is the time I used a Chinese dock to connect an external GPU
to an ancient netbook over the mini PCIe port. Ever since I have been wanting to experiment
more with other ways of having desktop GPU on a laptop and lucky for me the market for
GPU docks has exploded with plenty of options for every budget and ah… hahahahaha. Who am I kidding, that market is still a bit
of mess. There is a growing number of options for GPU
docks that connect to a laptop over USB type C, but shopping for one of these becomes complicated
for a series of reasons. First, not all type C ports are created equal
and as most product pages tend to explain you need a laptop with type C thunderbolt
for this to be possible. In other words, if your type C port does not
have the squiggly sign on it… you are out. But it gets a bit more complex than that. Let’s start experimenting so you can see
what I mean. First I got here the AKiTiO Node, which I
borrowed from the folks at laptopmag and that boast of being “Finally an affordable
eGPU box” What the… fffffff? Ammmm? The device itself is a nice metal box that comes out like a drawer to reveal a small Power supply for the GPU and a PCIe
slot that connects to the PC over USB type C. It is super easy to connect the GPU and
if connected correctly the laptop picks it up right away without much trouble. The metal box itself feels a bit flimsy or
cheap considering the price and I can’t help but wonder how difficult it would provide
just the electronic components without the box. It would be functional although not very stylish. But talking about the style I also got here
the Omen Accelerator, graciously loaned by my friend Alvaro Nova and that looks like something out of a Stanley
Kubrick epic. This device comes from the same brands that
provide these interesting looking gaming computer which throws away any concept of space management
or practicality but if you are the fan of the gaming aesthetic
you will probably love it. Even though the weird angle makes installing
a larger GPU a pain in the butt. You are clearly paying for cool looks here
rather than easy use so it is not surprised when this guy’s costs… The same? Here is the thing, when I started working
on this video the Omen was actually cheaper so… sometimes it is actually a budget choice. What the heck? Also, it is not as plug and play as the other
guy, so it works best with an app that you download online and requires some additional drivers since while the Akitio does not expand the
ports in any way the accelerator adds a bunch of extra USB
and ethernet ports. You can also install a hard drive inside to
store your games and the PSU is user replaceable so it technically
it does provide more functionality while being somewhat cheaper. At least it justifies the freaking price a
bit more. But as we connect this to the PC it gets a
bit more complicated. You see, while it is true that these devices
do work with any laptop with USB type C thunderbolt (theoretically) not even all thunderbolt enabled ports are
made the same. The only laptop I have available for this
is the Dell XPS 13, also loaned by LaptopMag for a feature that I wrote for them. While this laptop has the aforementioned Thunderbolt
port it is limited to only 2 PCIe lanes. Quick explanation for those scratching their
heads: There are PCIe ports, the thing where the
graphics card goes to. In super simplified layman terms lanes is
the amount of connections they have the CPU. These usually have 16, these usually have
1. The more connections, the more bandwidth there
is to send data back and forward from the GPU. The main observation people had of my old
video is that mini PCIe was limited to 2 lanes versus the 16 that a GPU normalize uses which
means that the GPU was likely not being used to its full potential. Now, Thunderbolt 3 USB type C ports are subject
to the same limitations but unlike a full motherboard PCIe you cannot really visual
tell how many lanes can you expect… for that you have to go hunting for the specifications
and there it is. What this means in practice is that GPUs we
connect to these things is not going to be used to its full capacity, as it will hit
a bandwidth bottleneck before that happens. Is that a complete deal breaker? To find out I connected both enclosures to
a mighty… GT 1030. This is the LowSpecGamer after all. Look at how funny the tiny thing looks in
this gigantic enclosures. Technically this GPU is outside the range
of supported devices for both of these but it actually works without much trouble. I then tested 4 game benchmarks, Counter-Strike
Global Offensive, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Final Fantasy 15 and Far Cry 5, all on their lowest
settings and compared to running the benchmarks on my Ryzen 3 system from a previous video
that have will not suffer from any bandwidth issues. If you are interested in the full results
or further testing with a better GPU I recommend you take a look at the article I wrote on
LaptopMag on this matter, linked in the description, but in a nutshell, there was between a 25%
to 7% impact in performance due to the bandwidth. Is that a deal breaker? Well… here is the thing, the XPS 13 comes
equipped with an Intel HD GPU that cannot do games Assassin’s Creed Origins or Final
Fantasy XV, even with some dramatic graphical changes and the external GT 1030 while bandwidth limited
stills allow these games to be run at least 30 fps so… an enclosure can still dramatically
increase the range of titles a laptop can play. But, as previously mentioned, the GT 1030
is slightly outside the range of supposedly compatible GPUs. What if we connect something far outside that
group? This is GTX 460 a mid-range GPU from 2010. This is not even close to anything on the
compatibility list and as expected the Omen accelerator just
refused to accept the old thing but the Akitio just took it and after a driver
install it was working. The old drivers and lack of VRAM I think caused
so graphical weirdness but less demanding games worked just fine. Ok, so now I am curious. What is the oldest GPU I own that I can try? How about this GTX 260 from 2009. Well… It is detected but the driver fails to install. It still went way farther than I expected. Ok, so which one is better? I don’t know. Look I am delighted to see how the industry supported
ways of connecting external GPUs on laptops And I am glad to see how these technologies are evoling I just feel the concept has not quite reached its full potential. There is no true budget oriented or even smaller
options. AkiTio is almost there with a very simple
product that is easy to use and has wide compatibility but is weirdly expensive and Omen has all
this crazy options and aesthetics but even though it is cheaper it is still pretty expensive for an enclosure
where you still need to supply your own GPU, no to mention the limited compatibility and
it is just so big. It is my hope that it is a matter of time
before new options show up and this idea gets more attention. Interesting things are already showing up
little by little by smaller companies, such as this tiny portable device that already
includes a 1050 onboard that recently hit Kickstarter and that I am keeping on my radar. What do you think? Are external GPUs on laptops a dying fad or
just getting started? Let me know. Also come to the discord server and have fun with us. It is nice when people join And thank you if you are a patreon contributor

Budget GPU on a laptop over Thunderbolt 3 (AkiTio Node, Omen Accelerator, GT 1030 on Dell XPS 13)

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