External Graphics card

Hi All,

All the comments on here about external graphics cards are quite old now - was wondering if anyone uses one recently?
I do a lot of my Blendering on my work laptop (sorry work…) and also use Substance Painter, the integrated graphics is just no good for this and is seriously stunting my work (Blender work not ‘real’ work…).

Would like some recent experience from people before I fork out a tonne to try it…

Thanks in advance,


What laptop do you have?

If it has Thunderbolt 3, pretty much any external GPU should work, as it will just run PCIe x4 over the cable.

Then your just limited by the enclosures PSU and the GPU you put in (for rendering)

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I got a 2018 MacBook Pro when they were first selling them with the anemic 560x graphics card, so I caved and supplemented it with a razor core x enclosure and a Vega 64 I got during a holiday sale.

it’s a dream when working with eevee (which is my favourite thing to do these days). Only small caveat would be the particular Vega card I got has some serious coil wine when its being pushed, so make sure you’ve got some music to drown it out :stuck_out_tongue:

However at least on Mac systems, cycles gpu rendering is essentially dead. Apple doesn’t support Nvidia without hack-y web drivers and staying on older versions of macOS, and Apple is also killing openCL so there’s no way to use AMD cards either. So if that matches your intended use case, I’d definitely be wary.


Its just an hp elitebook - has thunderbolt 3 port so should be fine.
Do you think that the length of cable connecting them would affect the speed?

Unless it goes out of spec. no.

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Hi Felix,
I was looking at getting a longer cable so that the enclosure doesn’t sit on my desk but browsing online it seems that at 0.5m the spec is 40gbps but at 1 or 2m the spec states 20gbps.
Have you got any experience with different lengths or am I getting this wrong?

No, I have not used external graphics myself, but if the spec states that then I trust what it says. One thing to note though is that the 1m cable could potentially do more than 20gbps however the spec states that at that length it should do at least 20 to be in accordance with the spec.

Essentially a really high quality cable could well do more than what the spec dictates, the spec doesn’t define a higher limit to the cables as such. Non the less if you want your guarantied 40 then you will likely have to go for the 0.5m cable.

For an example there are pci-e raiser cables for use within a desktop system, they too have specs as such, however as stated the spec only defines the lower limit of what the cable should be able to do:

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I use a GTX 970 on my old Dell Inspiron laptop. I was fortunate that it had the old ExpressPort plug. Haven’t tried any other hardware on it, but it hauls ass compared to the puny 48-core Mobile NVidia that’s built in.

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For the sake of completeness I’ll give an update here.
I got Razer Core x enclosure with a GTX 1080 8GB.

Had a lot of trouble setting up at first, spending hours updating my laptop with no success until it turned out to be as simple as me not having the Thunderbolt software on my laptop.
With that installed and another few drive updates from Nvidia all was good.

Obviously a huge improvement on my integrated graphics for Blender and Substance Painter runs fine without lagging or being generally weird.
I ended up forking out for a 2m Thunderbolt cable (didn’t seem that expensive after everything I’d already spent…) and, for my purposes, I’m not noticing much difference from the 0.5 m one that came for it.

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