Laptops generally cost more than Desktops and do not offer the same amount of performance either. Not to mention that they also get hot as hell when you put them under heavy load.
An eGPU can solve all of the above-mentioned problems. The only issue is that they actually cost a lot of money – or do they? I recently got a Chinese branded eGPU adapter for less than $30 and it seems to work wonders. Let’s take a look at it!
Disclaimer and Side Notes
You’re following this guide at your own responsibility. I won’t be held responsible if you end up damaging your precious Laptop, GPU, or anything.
Other than that, there have been cases where this didn’t work for some Laptops and GPUs. So, do make your own research as well before spending your hard-earned money.
The version of EXP GDC that we’ll be looking at only works with Laptops that have an Express Card slot. I would recommend you get a GPU that works without asking for external power because they are more convenient to use with the adapter.
There is also a version that supports mini PCI-E slots which means that you should be able to use it with every Laptop. However, it requires you to take off the bottom panel of your Laptop and remove your Wi-Fi adapter. Not very convenient. Not to mention that the PCI-E version seems to host even more compatibility issues.
If you are that desperate and feel like trying out the PCI-E version, do let me know in the comments and I might just write another guide on how to use that one. For now, let’s focus on the Express Card version.
- Get the Adapter
- Get the GPU
- Look for a Power Supply
- Setup the Adapter
- Install your Drivers
- Start Gaming
Get the Adapter
The first thing that you’ll need, of course, is the adapter itself. It’s called EXP GDC and you can find it anywhere from $30 to $90 depending on the country that you live, the shop that you’ll get it from if it’s on discount or not, and the taxes that you’ll have to pay if you need to.
I got it for about $38 from Gearbest with no discounts applied and without having to pay for import taxes/fees. Your results may vary. Check it out here.
I’ve been using this adapter with a Dell Latitude E6430 for the past couple of weeks and it has been working like a charm.
Get the GPU
Now for the GPU. I personally got a Nvidia EVGA GTX 750 Ti SC for $115 from eBay. Combine that with the adapter and the price comes to a total of $153.
Yes, I know. At this price point, it’s generally a better idea to go for the GTX 1050. But, here’s the catch, numerous people have reported that they can’t install their drivers with the GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti.
Other websites have also mentioned that the EXP GDC is not compatible with any of the Nvidia 10xx series.
Despite all of that, some people have managed to get them working with driver tweaks and tricks. I personally didn’t feel like taking the risk and walking down that path.
It’s generally not recommended to get an expensive/ high-end GPU. That’s because most Laptops won’t be able to take advantage of them and there’s also about a 10% performance loss with an eGPU setup due to the fact that GPUs are designed to work internally.
I would recommend you aim for the 750 Ti as well. There are numerous eBay listings of it. It’s cheap, relatively powerful for its money, and is known to work with this adapter.
Look for a Power Supply
If you’re not familiar with PC components, then this is where things get a little bit more complicated. Cause you need a dedicated power supply to power up the GPU.
You can choose between a 12V DC power supply that has enough wattage to power up your GPU or a traditional ATX Desktop PSU.
I personally got a cheap no-name ATX PSU and it seems to work just fine for now. Experts generally do not recommend using cheap power supplies because delivering a stable flow of power to components is a very important task.
If your PSU goes down, then it’s possible that it will take every single component with it down to its grave.
No matter what you choose, PSUs are everywhere to be found and they are also relatively inexpensive.
Set up your eGPU
Now that you have the adapter, the GPU, and the PSU, you need to set them all up. You need to:
- Connect the power supply
- Connect the eGPU to your Laptop
- Connect your GPU to a Monitor
Connect the Power Supply
If you got yourself a 12V DC power supply, then all you need to do is insert the DC jack to the DC port of the eGPU and you’re good to go. If you got an ATX PSU, then you need to use the cable that came with the eGPU adapter.
You should receive a cable along with the eGPU adapter that has an 8-pin connector on the one side of it and a 20 + 4 pin connector on the other one.
Plug the 8-pin connector on the eGPU adapter and use the 20 + 4-pin connector to connect your PSU with your eGPU.
When it comes to the 4-pin connector, make sure to use the one that has 2 yellow cables and 2 black ones.
Connect the eGPU to your Laptop
This step is very simple. Just power off your Laptop and use the Express Card cable that is provided with the EXP GDC to connect your Laptop with the eGPU.
One side should have the Express Card slot connector and the other one a customized HDMI connector.
Now you power on your Laptop again and if everything went fine you should see the GPU coming to life. If not, make sure that the PSU is plugged in and turned On.
Connect your GPU to a Monitor
I’ve seen people who were able to play on their Laptop screen, but that didn’t work for me. It’s generally recommended to directly connect your GPU on an external monitor to get all the performance that you can get anyway.
You can use an HDMI cable, a DVI cable, a DP cable, or anything that is supported by both your GPU and monitor/TV. Most people, including me, prefer HDMI.
Install your Drivers
Now that everything is working, you need to install the appropriate drivers for your GPU or you won’t be able to play anything.
The process should be pretty simple. At least it was for me. All I had to do was download the latest drivers, double click to install them, and everything was set.
That’s it! You’re all set and ready to play some games on your Laptop. Here’s some gameplay footage that I captured using Nvidia’s Shadowplay program through my eGPU.
You can see how I’ve got almost everything maxed out while still maintaining a solid frame rate. MGSV usually runs at a stable frame rate of 60 FPS but I got a small performance hit while recording.