Dell to start certifying external graphics options for its XPS notebooks

You may soon be able to add quite a bit of extra graphical "oomph" to your Dell XPS laptop. Speaking on Twitter (via NotebookCheck), Dell's Alienware and XPS General Manager Frank Azor stated that a surge of customer interested has prompted his team to start the process of certifying external GPU (eGPU) boxes for use with at least the XPS 15.

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While the XPS 15 is the only specific model mentioned, Azor responded further down in the thread saying that his team "will try" to do the same for the XPS 13.

Azor's response itself came in reply to a Reddit thread about the XPS 15 9560 discussing its incompatibility with newer eGPU solutions despite having the hardware to support them. While they aren't officially supported, it appears that all that is needed is a firmware update to allow the laptop to work over Thunderbolt with newer eGPU boxes that use a TI83 controller.

In any case, this is far from a guarantee the XPS 15 will get eGPU support, but it's a start. If support is added, it would certainly go a long way towards making the XPS 15 a solid option for not only getting stuff done on the road, but gaming while at home.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

23 Comments
  • How about some reviews of eGPU devices?
  • I'm sure Jez would enjoy doing that.
  • How about SP3 & 4?? 😊
  • They don't have a Thunderbolt 3 port necessary for an external GPU. 
  • Precisely why I haven't bothered upgrading my Surface Pro 2 to anything later. All later generations are merely spec bumps compared to my Surface Pro 2 IMO, no added usability, and my 512GB Surface Pro 2 is already specced out enough for my needs...here's hoping the pro 5 brings this great port to the Surface Pro line.
  • Does the smiley mean you are joking? The SP3 and 4 don't have Thunderbolt support, so obviously they won't support eGPU.
  • There are egpu without thunderbolt
  • Surface Pro 5 needs this!!!
  • Yes! I've been holding off on upgrading my Pro 2 until something that supports eGPU is ready.
  • How about the Eve V?
  • That gimps on the performance (all Y serires processors) and various other aspects. I was hoping it'll have a fully feature-packed option with 0 compromise compared to the Surface line, but I gave it up as an option for me when they decided to settle for the lower performance chipsets...
  • Precisely! I'm the exact same boat sticking with my Pro 2 until a Surface Pro comes with thunderbolt port...
  • Computer manufacturers need to stop making nearly all laptop computers so thin and unmaintainable that these eGPU boxes are even necessary. The Ultrabook category is a fine category, but the users who will always need more functional machines (on-board optical media, GPU, etc) in a portable form factor have been getting fewer and fewer options in a rather short time frame.
  • eGPU is great when you want thin and light on the go, but GPU power when at the desk, and not need 2 separate machines to keep all your work and application installs in sync. A good laptop/tablet with eGPU means I could possibly get rid of my gaming desktop entirely, which would be a huge benefit.
  • I see markets for actual on-board gaming capabilities and more modular capabilites. It's your prerogative if that's what you're willing to pay for.
    "eGPU is great when you want thin and light on the go, but GPU power when at the desk, and not need 2 separate machines to keep all your work and application installs in sync. A good laptop/tablet with eGPU means I could possibly get rid of my gaming desktop entirely, which would be a huge benefit.
    You make a great point, but please consider I used an i5 Alienware 13 with the Alienware eGPU box only to find that the weak performing CPU and RAM undermined the eGPU. With the even weaker CPU and RAM that the TDP of thinner laptop/tablets support, eGPU-based graphics will look great while the actual gameplay will suffer.
  • What kinds of games do you play? I'm not asking to contradict your experience, which seems valid and would certainly steer me away from an eGPU solution vs two machines. I'm curious as to which games you found to not be playable on a mobile i5. I would certainly go for an i7 and at max out the RAM (at least 8GB if not 16) but the limitations could still be there. On my current mobile machine (A surface Pro 2) the GPU is clesarly the limiting factor that an EGPU would be of significant benefit.  
  • "What kinds of games do you play? I'm not asking to contradict your experience, which seems valid and would certainly steer me away from an eGPU solution vs two machines."
    I'm not saying to have two machines - that would introduce unwanted frenetic copying and backing up of files that you don't want.   You should still go the eGPU route with one machine.  The machine is the focus though.  Staying the course of one machine but capable of adequate gaming performance, you need a capable CPU as well as a GPU or eGPU.  Thinner laptops with ultrabook CPUs simply don't have the gaming-class CPU performance for CPU-intensive gaming.  Unfortunately, the thinner laptops that are beginning to be made with gaming in mind are too d*mned expensive (Razor, etc).   I have not used any ultrabook/tablet with an ultrabook-class CPU that comes anywhere near having the CPU performance needed to satisfyingly run CPU intensive games like Cities: Skylines.  An GPU or eGPU cannot cure the inadequacy of ultrabook CPUs, which require lower TDPs (naturally requiring slower clock speeds, weaker bus speeds, narrower caches, etc), which reduce the intensity that the CPU can handle from gaming demands.
  • I would love to go to work meetings with a lightweight laptop and have the power of an eGPU back at my desk. Currently I have to lug around my HP ZBook, which is about 7lbs. I design in NX11 and need graphics power, but only back at my desk. In meetings I'm just using Office apps.
  • I feel like Dell is always late to the party by about 6 months or so. They use to make the best laptops (after they went private again). But now they always come up short to HP, who seems to be pushing the standard of Windows 10 laptops/2-in-1s forward.
  • Good luck, with only 2 PCIe lanes for the thunderbolt 3 ports. It equates to 20 Gb/s instead of 40 Gb/s.
  • You do realise the difference between pcie 1x vs 16 is around 3 fps, the worst in this case is usb3/thunderbolt overhead at 5-10%
  • It depends on the application, obviously. Something like a vr film app that is streaming large amounts of data every frame from disk could swamp even PCI x16 (I know because I work on such an application) Thankfully most current games are not constantly streaming in large textures. Edit: Also, according to wikipedia, the max transfer rate of PCIe x1 (3.0) is only 984 MB/s and x16 is < 16 GB/s. I have a RAID machine for work that regularly achieves a 6 GB/s transfer rate, and we are building one with two RAID cards for 12 GB/s transfers. So yes, the right config can max out even x16, and easily swamp x4.
  • Nothing beats graphics powered by a TI83.