March 26, 2023

What an External Graphics Card Is and Who Needs It in 2022


Users who need a high-performance graphics processor in a laptop often face a dilemma. Choose a thin and light laptop model, but lose graphics performance? Or to buy a gaming laptop, but because of the weight and size lose portability? For those who want to combine both and use your device for working and playing at, there is a special category of devices. Meet external graphics processors.

A Big External Graphics Card

It’s hard to fit a powerful graphics card into the limited space of a laptop. The main problem that pops up is cooling. Performance models can consume well over a hundred watts. Cooling that kind of fervor in a small volume isn’t easy. That’s why top gaming laptops become bulky and heavy.

An external graphics processor for a laptop is a regular desktop graphics card, placed in a special docking station. The station has its power supply to connect to the outlet. Such devices are connected to the laptop via a special high-bandwidth interface. Clearly, an external graphics processor deprives the laptop of portability.

The increase in graphics performance depends on the video card used. In the case of flagships, it’s possible to achieve a multiple of the increase. This allows you to play demanding games and comfortably work with “heavy” programs.

How External Graphics Processors Work

An external graphics card works in the system exactly the same way as the internal one. It’s sufficient to connect it and install drivers. The driver normally switches the calculations and 3D workload to the external graphics card itself. In some cases – for example, if the laptop has a discrete graphics card, you will have to do some work. You will have to manually specify the preferred GPU in the driver control panel.

Not only ready-made products with video cards already installed inside are available. You can buy a docking station with a power supply unit and the necessary “stuffing”, to which the video card must be added. In the latter case, you need to pay attention to two characteristics. These are the power of the power supply and the maximum length of the card that the case can hold. If you forget about the characteristics, either the card wont fit physically, or the station will not have enough power.

Docking stations for external GPUs can have additional connectors for connecting external devices. For example, USB, LAN, HDMI, DVI or Displayport. Most stations also transfer power via Thunderbolt. If your laptop model is capable of powering through this connector, you won’t need your charger when operating from the mains.

Who Can Use External GPUs

External graphics cards are useful:

  • For gaming. Desktop models are faster than laptop models. The final performance of such a bundle with a top-end GPU will often be higher than that of an ordinary gaming notebook.
  • To work with “heavy programs” which use the GPU. Calculations, 3D, rendering, and video work – using an external graphics processor will speed it all up.

The main advantage of the GPU laptop tandem is the latter’s portability. You can carry Thunderbolt around with you. And when you need increased graphics performance, you can dock it as a stationary laptop

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