Best Affordable eGPU Windows Central 2020
An eGPU is a powerful addition to a laptop with Thunderbolt 3, adding incredible graphics power to a machine that simply might not have it. While there are some compromises, essentially it allows you to turn a laptop into a high-powered desktop PC, but even better than that is that it doesn't have to cost the Earth. And the Razer Core X ticks all the boxes if you're looking for an affordable eGPU.
What you get in an eGPU and why they're still fairly pricey
While products such as the Razer Core X are pretty affordable for an eGPU, you may well be looking at the prices here and thinking they're still quite expensive. It's important to understand what you're getting with one of these products to understand why they're still several hundred dollars.
An eGPU is, essentially, half a desktop PC. It contains a power supply, the necessary PCIe interface to process the GPU output, the Thunderbolt 3 interface and in some cases additional ports, as well as a chassis that allows the GPU to cool. You're providing the CPU and the RAM, the eGPU is providing the rest.
Considering a good quality power supply would cost between $60 and $100 at least on its own, the pricing starts to make more sense.
Great hardware and great value
Pairing any laptop with the Core X is a smart choice, with this little box packing a 650W power supply to handle anything you want to throw inside it while keeping the price sensible
Who should buy this eGPU?
Anyone looking for a top-quality eGPU to pair with a graphics card but wants to keep the cost down should check out the Razer Core X.
Is it a good time to buy this eGPU?
Absolutely! Pricing has been stable for a while, and there's no imminent sign of a replacement model. If you want something with a little added RGB, there's now a Chroma-enabled version for $100 more, but for most people that really isn't worth the extra cost.
Reasons to buy
- Supports NVIDIA and AMD GPUs
- 650W power supply with 100W to charge the laptop
- Compact size
- Good value
- Fits longer graphics cards
Reasons not to buy
- No additional ports to expand your laptop
The perfect affordable eGPU
The Razer Core was first launched as a companion to the Blade Stealth, adding gaming chops to the company's first true Ultrabook and arguably bringing the idea of an eGPU to the masses. The space has developed a little since then, and the Core X is Razer's most affordable eGPU to date at just $300.
The Core X is Razer's most affordable eGPU.
What you can do with the Core X is install a full desktop graphics card, even an RTX 2080 Ti if you wish, and use it with your laptop over Thunderbolt 3. That single cable connection to your is all you need, since the Core X has its own power supply to keep everything juiced up. Of its 650W on tap, 100W is left free to power the laptop connected to it, which is super convenient.
It also means plenty of overhead, so literally any modern graphics card will work without any issue. The Core X also supports both NVIDIA and AMD, so you really do have your pick. And because it keeps the cost down, you've potentially got more funds to put towards the GPU it will house.
It's also worth considering just why it's better to get an eGPU that you'll have to supply the graphics card to. Simply, it's longevity. In the long term, you'll never need to replace the Razer Core X, only upgrading what's inside if you need more power. An eGPU with embedded graphics both costs more initially (not factoring in an additional graphics card purchase) but hasn't that upgrade path, leading you to have to buy an entirely new unit down the road.
If you have a graphics card available already it's a no-brainer, but even on a budget you can now get great deals on new or used units that would be a perfect companion to a Razer Core X.
Alternatives to the Razer Core X
The Razer Core X might be the best choice, but it's not the only one. Here are a couple of alternatives for more specific requirements, including an even tighter budget and an eGPU that supplies its own graphics horsepower without breaking the bank.
An eGPU with an included RX 560
PowerColor is most well known for its Radeon GPU lineup and in the Mini they've combined a highly compact and portable eGPU chassis with a Radeon RX 560 4GB, which is handy for both 1080p gaming and professional applications.
Not only is this a pretty powerful little box, but it's also incredibly compact and portable, with the only real downside being you're unable to upgrade the GPU inside.
Unusually it opts for a power brick with a 6-pin connector to keep it juiced up, but it helps keep the noise and the size down. There's also a built-in Ethernet port, which is always handy.
A solid choice from a respected brand
Sapphire is known more for its line of AMD third-party graphics cards, but this affordable box works with both AMD and NVIDIA GPUs.
Despite the price, you still get a 500W power supply to keep both your graphics and laptop powered up while you play. You also get a couple of regular USB ports and Gigabit Ethernet, which is extra nice.
The Gearbox is a tremendous value, but it's a little smaller than some eGPUs, meaning longer graphics cards may not fit inside. It's something to ensure you check before you buy against what you plan to use with it.
When shopping for an eGPU that's affordable, you need look no further than the Razer Core X. It's stylish and well priced, you have ample power to keep both your graphics card and your laptop powered up while you work or play and it's also big enough to fit even longer cards, so whatever you want to put in there, chances are you can.
A good alternative though for folks who simply don't have something they can slot into an eGPU is the PowerColor Mini. With this you get everything you need in one compact package. Simply plug it in, load up your favorite games and away you go. You lose the upgradeability you get with the Razer Core X and you'll not be pushing above 1080p for gaming, but it's an excellent place to start if you currently have nothing at all.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Richard Devine Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming.
Rich Edmonds is a staff reviewer at Windows Central, which means he tests out more software and hardware than he cares to remember. Joining Mobile Nations in 2010, you can usually find him inside a PC case tinkering around when not at a screen fighting with Grammarly to use British words. Hit him up on Twitter: @RichEdmonds.
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