Last updated on December 15th, 2020 at 09:40 pm
External GPUs (eGPU) have made it possible to game on any laptop. Having an eGPU means you don’t need to buy a gaming laptop. All you need to do is get a powerful GPU, plug and play your favourite games.
But, still, even though that’s great and all. Gaming laptops have certain advantages over eGPUs. And this makes it a difficult decision when choosing between a gaming laptop or owning an eGPU.
But, before you make your final decision. Here’s what you need to know about gaming laptops vs eGPUs (external GPUs).
What Are External GPUs?
As the name implies they are external Graphics Processing Units. They are called external because they aren’t found inside laptops or desktops.
But rather they are peripherals that you can connect to a desktop or laptop. Just like an external mouse or keyboard.
But, you can’t just connect it to any laptop. Your laptop should have a USB-C connector that supports Thunderbolt.
USB-C Thunderbolt 3 connectors are able to transfer large amounts of data in a second. This is thanks to the PCI Express, a high-speed serial connection.
For internal GPUs, it is what connects your GPU to the motherboard.
You can connect an external GPU to a desktop. But it doesn’t make sense. Because for desktops you can easily fix or replace the GPU. All you need to do is open the case and fix in the GPU and you are good to go.
Laptops don’t have it like that. Laptop GPUs are soldered onto the motherboard making it next to impossible to replace the GPU.
There are several reasons why laptop GPUs can’t be swapped out.
External GPUs allow you to use powerful cards in combination with your laptop. But their greatest benefit is the ease at which you can swap out the graphics card for a new one.
For a laptop, once the GPU becomes out-dated you have to buy a new one which can be costly. But for an external GPU, all you need to do is replace the GPU itself, not the laptop. That’s why external GPUs are so popular.
Pros of Gaming Laptops
No Performance Issues
Gaming laptops were literally built for gaming. From the insides to the outside. The CPU and GPU combination is always the best to prevent bottlenecks.
And the display has high refresh rates to ensure smooth gameplay. This results in a system optimised for gaming.
Compared to external GPUs. Gaming laptops are more portable. They are not as heavy or bulky as they used to be.
Some gaming laptops even rival the thinness and weight of some ultrabooks. Gigabyte Aero, ASUS Zephyrus, MSI GS series are all examples of thin and light gaming laptops.
Cons of Gaming Laptops
If you want the best gaming experience. Then be prepared to drop a lot of cash. The best of the best costs more than $2,500 with some approaching $4,000. This is for the high-end though.
To be honest, there are plenty of decent laptops – you can check out this page for ongoing laptop deals – that are affordable. Also, purchasing one of them can be cheaper than owning an external GPU and a laptop.
A Dell XPS 15 plus an external GPU is going to cost more than owning a decent gaming laptop.
Can’t Upgrade The GPU
The biggest disadvantage of not only laptops but gaming laptops in general. The same applies to CPU. Once you purchase the laptop you are stuck with the hardware until death does you apart.
The only upgradeable parts are the RAM and storage. For some laptops, you can’t even upgrade the RAM or storage. That’s why it important to know what your gaming needs are before making a purchase.
To better determine which laptop is good for gaming. You can read this guide.
Pros of External GPUs (eGPUs)
The external GPUs greatest strength – upgradeability. Has your GPU become out-dated and can’t give you the desired FPS anymore? Simply swap it out with a new and more powerful GPU.
That’s what makes eGPUs so popular. Laptops, as mentioned earlier, are not upgradeable when it comes to the CPU and GPU.
You Don’t Need To Buy A Gaming Laptop or Desktop To Game
With external GPUs, you don’t need to own a gaming laptop or build a gaming desktop. It’s more of a plug and play peripheral. You can get an ultrabook and game on it with the help of an external GPU.
This gives you the best of both worlds. Long battery life and gaming performance. You also avoid the “gamer look”. Though there are gaming laptops which are exceptions.
Cons of External GPUs (eGPUs)
Although the price of an external GPU is far cheaper than a gaming laptop. The costs add up quickly. Plus, the laptop should have a Thunderbolt 3 port.
And most laptops with Thunderbolt 3 ports cost above USD1000 on the average. Add the cost of an external GPU which is USD300.
And you will quickly find out that purchasing a gaming laptop would be a better option.
For that same price, you could get a decent gaming laptop that can last 3-5 years. There is also the cost of buying the GPU if you don’t already own one.
Loss In Performance
Because the GPU is not on the motherboard and it’s external. There will be a loss in gaming performance. But, the loss in gaming performance is not that noticeable. Another thing too is that.
You need to pair the GPU up with the right processor. Failing to do so will result in a CPU bottleneck ruining your gaming experience.
A powerful GPU will need a powerful CPU. So always make sure the CPU is able to match up to the GPU before buying a graphics card.
Not Really Portable
External GPUs are bulky and heavy. The Razer Core X weighs 14 pounds. Heavier than any gaming laptop on the market.
Because of its weight, you can’t game on the go. But, rather you will have to set it up at home to be able to game.
You Need A Thunderbolt Port
This is the first requirement a laptop needs to meet before getting an eGPU. Because without a Thunderbolt port.
You won’t be able to make use of an eGPU. Thunderbolt ports are able to transfer large amounts of data in a second. This is very important.
Because the external GPU processes the graphics and sends it back to the laptop which is a large amount of data.
If the data transfer is not fast enough then there will problems. That’s why Thunderbolt ports are a must if you want an eGPU.
Which One Is The Best Option? A Gaming Laptop Or eGPU?
It depends on your needs. If you want an amazing battery life whilst being able to game. Then getting an eGPU sounds like the right choice. It allows you to easily take advantage of the lightness and battery life of ultrabooks.
But, gaming laptops have come a long way. There are not what they used to be in the past – heavy and bulky.
Now, they are thinner and lighter. And a few ones have good battery lives. Not amazing but good battery lives. You are looking at 7 hours. There are also gaming laptops that don’t have the “gamer look”.
Also, when it comes to costs. The price of a Thunderbolt 3 laptop and an eGPU quickly adds up. So you might want to think hard about it. Because for a similar price you can get a decent gaming laptop.
Talking about decent gaming laptops. But, if you prefer to go the eGPU way. You can check out our detailed guide for the best laptops for eGPUs (external GPU).