Can USB 3.1 support external laptop graphics cards ?

👤 Adamya Neupane    🕒 17 Feb 2023    📁 TECH


We have all seen the expensive eGPUs produced by big tech giants like Razer. We might have wanted one at some point. I certainly did. But if we think more about E-GPUs, it doesn’t make much sense. How can something that uses a PCI-Express connection be “external”? Does it provide the same level of performance? What happens if I connect it with a USB 3.1 cable? And will EGPUs help us truly replace PCs? Let’s take a look at it. 

What is an eGPU?

An EGPU is by definition - an external GPU. An external GPU is a way of converting a simple business machine to a gaming beast. It is very easy to use because the only thing that needs to be done is to connect one wire. And possibly a restart. Let’s get into how to use an EGPU. Now, let’s see if USB 3.1 supports an eGPU.  

Does USB 3.1 support an eGPU

Graphics cards use something called a “PCI Express” port to interface with a pc. These are high-speed ports that can transfer data as high as 64GBps with PCIe 4.0. So, the answer is quite simple. 

USB 3.1 cannot support external laptop graphics cards because of bandwidth limitations. Additionally, USB 3.1 is not designed to provide the power necessary to run a graphics card. But don’t worry, there is another method to use an external GPU. Let’s take a look at it. 

How do I use an external GPU? 

An EGPU can be used with a simple thunderbolt connection. It is very easy to set up and it provides more ports along with performance. The only extra step that you might have to take is rebooting the pc.

Thunderbolt 3 or other high-speed interfaces are required for external graphics cards. Now, the thunderbolt interface isn’t as fast as a PCIe lane is. But, thunderbolt 4 provides a throughput of 40Gbps (5GBps). This is much better than USB and also higher than simple USB Type C. 

[While Thunderbolt and USB C look the same, they are not the same. Thunderbolt is standard, and USB C is just a port. USB C provides better speed than previous connectors. However, Thunderbolt is better than USB C for speed.]

What do I need for Using an EGPU? 

  1. A computer with Thunderbolt 3 port or higher.
  2. An eGPU enclosure. This should have a PCIe lane for the GPU and a Thunderbolt connection capability. 
  3. A compatible graphics card that fits in the enclosure.
  4. A power supply for the graphics card.

You can now connect the eGPU to your computer via Thunderbolt 3 port or higher. All you have to do now is install the necessary drivers. Make sure you try to get the drivers from the official sites. After that, you can use the external graphics card for graphically intensive tasks. These tasks range from video editing and gaming to 3D rendering or deep learning.

You should also check the compatibility of your system with the eGPU you intend to use. Some systems require additional setup or software because of compatibility issues. It is always a good idea to talk to your PC manufacturer and sort things out before buying.

The pros and cons of an EGPU?

Whether an external GPU (eGPU) is worth it depends on your specific needs and usage scenario. Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether an eGPU is worth it for you. 

  1. Performance
    An eGPU can increase the performance of your computer for high-performance graphics tasks. Such tasks include gaming and video editing.
  2. Portability
    An eGPU allows you to have the power of a high-performance graphics card without having to carry around a large, heavy laptop.
  1. Cost
    eGPUs can be quite expensive. You will also need to purchase a compatible computer, enclosure, and graphics card.
  2. Compatibility
    Not all computers and operating systems are compatible with eGPUs. So, you will need to be absolutely sure of the compatibility.
  3. Power supply
    An eGPU will require an external power supply. And if you want to run a high-end GPU, you’ll need a powerful PSU.


If you need the extra performance and are willing to pay the cost, then an eGPU may be worth it for you. However, if you only use your computer for basic tasks and do not require high-performance graphics, then an eGPU may not be necessary.