eGPU – Connecting an external video card to a notebook (DIY implementation)

Started as a low cost alternative to bring desktop gaming performance on laptops, the eGPUs projects saw a lot of success for the models based on Expresscards and mPCI Express connectors. Unfortunately, Haswell laptop generation basically completely removed the Expresscards configurations so people interested in eGPU solutions should look for laptops with accesible mPCIe slots or Thunderbolt.

As said before, Thunderbolt is not a cheap option, laptops with Thunderbolt on board are high end laptops selling with a premium tag, like Apple notebooks and Asus G series. However being able to see an ultra portable notebook like an Apple Macbook Air having almost desktop graphics performance and playing latest games without an issue will surelly add a big grin on your face.

As a last question, you might ask what is the penalty in performance saw by the video card when connecting it over Thunderbolt instead of a native PCI Express x16 slot? Well, this could be the subject for another article.

We hope that in the future this type of solutions will be supported by manufacturers and commercialy available. Until then, we hope you enjoyed our DYI adventure and we must add that any enterprise like this is done at your own risk. And of course, we would like to thank the DIY eGPU community for their support!


7 comments la: eGPU – Connecting an external video card to a notebook (DIY implementation)

    1. So you left out the most important information, the penalty of thunderbolt/usb3 and the memory buffering. The most important reasons you see few/no such implementations in the wild.

    2. Compared to desktop, yes. Compared to the dGPU in the laptop…you can see the graphs…

    3. Awesome stuff Monstru! Like it 🙂 Now I want to attach this to my MacBook Pro Retina and do some 3k gaming on it 😀

    4. Glad you like it, I hope it helps a lot of users 😀

    5. Great work!!! Would it be possible to run the pcie with a powered riser? The Sonnet Board needs still be powered, right? Possible to power it through PSU? Thanks

    6. Joseph wrote on:

      I don’t know whether or not I should be posting this here, but I’m having a problem with an egpu unit, when ever I attatch it to my laptop and boot up (either with or without the drivers) my laptop screen on boot up goes to a GPU fail screen (multicoloured and pixelated). I’ve yet to find anyone else with the same problem and from my testing I’ve yet to find a solution :'( .

      If anybody could help me solve this problem I would be over the moon 🙂

    7. What a great explanation. Thanks! From the moment I saw the bandwidth of thunderbolt I knew this would be possible and I am sure there is a commercial market for it. Meanwhile, hopefully more and more enclosures come out with boards which can help make this easier still.

      …and sure, it won’t beat a desktop with the same GPU, but it gives you the chance to have an ultra portable with desktop class graphics which is also upgradable! Brilliant!


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