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While the new RTX 3000 mobile lineup looks rather interesting (especially if you like confusing naming schemes), mobile GPUs are still a far cry from the performance of their desktop counterparts. This is where GPU enclosures and external graphics cards come into play. If you’re more of an internal GPU person, visit our graphics cards section, it has a ton of informative GPU content.
External GPU enclosures are bulky and expensive, but get an external GPU if you want the absolute best gaming experience on a laptop. They can also be great for people who do a lot of GPU-accelerated rendering and users who own an SFF PC that doesn’t have enough space for full-fledged graphics cards. But what are the best external GPU enclosures and graphics cards? Find out below.
Before you dive into our list of the best eGPU enclosures take a couple of minutes and check out our best RTX 3080 graphics cards and best RTX 3070 card guides. We also have a guide for the best low-profile graphics cards if your eGPU enclosure has tight space.
1. Razer Core X: Best external GPU enclosure overall
Let’s start with the best eGPU enclosure overall. The Razer Core X is a beefy 650W PSU featuring sleek design. It isn’t too costly and can take graphics cards up to 330mm in length. In other words, you can put most RTX 3090 models inside the enclosure without issues. If you’re interested in equipping this enclosure with a beefy 3090, visit our best RTX 3090 graphics cards guide.
The enclosure has one downside, and that’s just one Thunderbolt 3 port on the back. But if you need a GPU enclosure for gaming, that’s all you need. At least you get 100W of power delivery through the said Thunderbolt 3 port, which is enough to power most ultrabooks.
Overall, we like the Core X very much, especially when looking at the bang for the buck value, which usually isn’t great for Razer products. Finally, while the PSU is replaceable, it doesn’t fit most ATX power supplies. On the other hand, the 650 watts unit found inside is more than enough for any GPU you can think of. Even the RTX 3090 won’t have any issue with it.
2. Gigabyte Aorus RTX 3080 Gaming Box: Best GPU enclosure that comes with a GPU
The Gigabyte Aorus RTX 3080 Gaming Box is our choice for the best GPU enclosure that comes with a GPU inside. Remember, most enclosures don’t come with a graphics card, so having one that includes the RTX 3080 is undoubtedly a good thing. The card’s water-cooled but sadly, you cannot replace it.
Aside from being stuck with the preinstalled GPU, the main downside of this enclosure is its price. This thing’s expensive as hell, but if you want the best external GPU enclosure on the market this is the one to get. As for the design, the enclosure is similar to many high-end compact ITX cases. In other words, it sports a minimalistic design without aggressive lines or a bunch of RGB. We like it.
Aside from the RTX 3080, the Gigabyte Aorus RTX 3080 Gaming Box features a 550W 80 Plus Gold PSU, one Thunderbolt 3, one Ethernet port, three USB 3.0 ports, and five video ports on the back of the graphics card (two HDMI 2.1 and three DisplayPort connectors). Overall, this is the best choice for users who want a plug-and-play solution that works flawlessly out of the box.
3. Razer Core X Chroma: Best RGB GPU enclosure
The Razer Core X Chroma is the regular Core X with lots of RGB sprinkled on the front and across the (see-through) side panel and lots of extra ports. Is it worth the extra money? If you ask us, the answer is no. But, if you’re an RGB lover and have to own an RGB GPU enclosure, this is the best RGB eGPU enclosure you can get. You also might swallow the price if you require extra USB Ports (there are four on the Chroma version).
Aside from the pretty lights, you also get a 700W PSU (that’s 50W more than what you get with the regular model), and a gigabit Ethernet port, on top of the four USB ports. Finally, the Thunderbolt 3 power delivery tops out at 100W, the same as the base model. Overall, this is a great external GPU enclosure, but it carries a considerable price premium over the regular Core X.
4. Mantiz MZ-03 Saturn Pro II: eGPU enclosure with the most powerful PSU
If you need a GPU enclosure with a beefy PSU, get the Mantiz Saturn Pro II. This one has a 750 power supply, 50 watts more than the excellent Razer Core X Chroma. Other than the beefiest power supply on the market, the Saturn Pro II features three USB 3.0 ports on the front, two USB 3.0 ports on the back, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a full-size SD card reader. There’s also one Thunderbolt 3 port on the back. As for the Thunderbolt 3 power delivery, it tops out at 100W.
The design is minimalistic, with the body made of anodized aluminum and a mesh-like side panel for better airflow. This enclosure also includes one 2.5” storage bay that can take SATA SSDs and 2.5” HDDs. Great for professionals in need of a GPU for rendering and extra storage. The price is around the base Core X enclosure cost.
5. AKiTiO Node: Best GPU enclosure for Mac users
Mac users looking for an external GPU enclosure should check out the AKiTiO Node lineup. The base model features a 400W power supply, support for GPUs up to 320mm in length and up to 2 slots in thickness, and one Thunderbolt 3 port on the back. The design favors airflow, thanks to the mesh front and side panels. If you need a regular case with great airflow you should visit our best airflow PC case guide.
6. AKiTiO Node Duo: Best high-end GPU enclosure for Mac users
Next is the Node Duo. This is the best high end eGPU enclosure for Mac users. The Node Duo has everything you might need from an external GPU enclosure if you need more than one GPU for rendering purposes.
First of all, the enclosure can host up to two 220mm, two-slot GPUs. The provided power supply (external 150W unit) is far from enough to power dual GPUs, but you can replace this one with an SFX power supply to realize Node Duo’s full potential.
And yes, we have a buying guide for the best SFX power supplies, check it our if you need one. As for the ports, you get two Thunderbolt 3 ports with 60W power delivery and a single DisplayPort 1.2. Overall, this is a pretty beefy eGPU enclosure. We only wish the supplied PSU had more oomph.
7. Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box: Best value external GPU enclosure
The last external GPU enclosure on our list is the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box, the best value eGPU enclosure. The Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box features a 550W power supply, a single Thunderbolt 3 port, and a mesh side panel. The design is subdued, with a subtle Sonet logo on the front emanating blue light, a mesh side panel, and a bit of mesh on the front to improve airflow.
As for compatibility, this enclosure supports dual-slot GPUs up to 320mm in length. You also have room for one 120mm AIO radiator, which is a nice extra if you’re into liquid cooling your GPU. Overall, this is an excellent budget choice. It isn’t that much cheaper than the Razer Core X, but if you want to save some cash this is the enclosure to get.
What to know before getting an external GPU enclosure
Most enclosures do not come with a GPU
Remember, most external GPU enclosures do not come with a graphics card. These are just boxes that, in most cases, have a power supply, space for the graphics card, and several ports. In most cases, you will have to get a graphics card on top of spending money for the GPU enclosure.
Certain enclosures have replaceable power supply
Lots of external GPU enclosures come with a replaceable power supply. This is important because if you’re on a budget and want to get one, maybe get a model that comes with a weak PSU and then replace it with a more potent one. But, before you order one, make sure that you can indeed replace the PSU and which PSU form factors the said enclosure supports.
You need a Thunderbolt port in order to use an external GPU
In most cases, a Thunderbolt port (in most cases Thunderbolt 3) is the essential requirement for most external GPU enclosures. Some enclosures are compatible with the Thunderbolt 2 standard. Still, those are mostly older models, and we don’t recommend getting one of those because Thunderbolt 2 has half the bandwidth of its successor. Also, Thunderbolt 3 can deliver up to 100W of power, which you can use to power your laptop. Thunderbolt 3’s max power output is much, much lower.
Be sure that the GPU enclosure is compatible with your system
Some external GPU enclosures support only specific versions of Windows, Mac, or Linux operating systems. Further, some GPU enclosures support only one OS. So, before pulling the trigger, make sure that the GPU enclosure can work with your computer.
Make sure that your next GPU enclosure has enough power for the GPU of your choice
Last but not least, make sure that the GPU enclosure of your choice has enough power for the GPU you’re planning on putting in the enclosure. As we’ve already said, some models come with replaceable PSUs, so if you like the design and features but aren’t satisfied with the provided power, check if you can replace the PSU the enclosure is shipping with. Also, check the GPU size compatibility twice before making the purchase. This is often overlooked.
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