My reason for going eGPU was this: If you have a Dell XPS 15 and want to game on an external monitor, it makes sense to get an eGPU (with TB3 or M.2), because it seems that the video output of the XPS 15 is linked to the iGPU (Intel UHD Graphics) that does not output more than 60 FPS. So even if the dGPU is able to compute more FPS on a game, the signal to your monitor will not carry more than 60 FPS.
I don’t know if that explanation is 100% technically correct (found it on reddit, I believe), but I was indeed never able to make my monitor run at >60 FPS. This is supposed to be different for the XPS 17, but I don’t have it to try. With the eGPU I can run my screen at 144 Hz without issues.
Aside from this, the XPS 15 has TB3, a great CPU but average dGPU and suffers from strong thermal throttling, especially on the GPU, so it seems to be a good choice for an eGPU if you already have it and just want to be able to game without building/buying a completely new system. I wouldn't buy the XPS for the eGPU build however, as you are paying an expensive price for a thin and mobile laptop that you are turning into a rather immobile setup with the M.2 connection - but I didn't factor in a worldwide pandemic keeping me home when I bought it in 2020.
- Dell XPS 15 9500
- Win 10
- GTX 1650 TI
- 16 GB RAM
- 512 GB SSD
- 1080p internal screen
- Mi Curved Gaming Monitor 34"
- UtechSmart USB-C docking station
- TECKNET Laptop cooling pads
- GPU: Zotac RTX 3070 Twin Edge OC White: The only 30 series GPU I could find after looking to get one for months - but I am obviously very happy with it. I hope the 8GB VRAM will be enough for the next few years, but nothing I can do about it.
- Link: ADT-Link R43SG: I almost bought the cheaper ADT-Links without direct support for the PSU but looked at a few builds and decided that that was just significantly more complicated, just to save a few euros and it made no sense to take any additional risk with the already expensive hardware.
- PSU: Cooler Master MWE WHITE 450W: Most likely overkill for the GPU and not enough to build a full desktop pc around it, but I took what I had.
I just plugged everything in to see if it worked. Next steps will be to hide everything below my desk to clean things up a bit. Might add some picture once done.
I don’t have any real experience with this type of thing, so this is what I did - doesn’t mean it’s the perfect way:
- Find a GPU (that’s currently probably the most difficult step) and take into account that ADT-Link shipping is from China and is going to take a few weeks, maybe a month (looking at your new GPU for weeks without being able to use it is frustrating).
- Mount your GPU, connect the PSU 24-pin to the ADT-Link and connect the board output with the included adapter to your GPU (2x 8-pin).
- There are a few switches on the board, but I didn’t touch any and it works as I wish: The PSU is always “on” but only starts providing power to the GPU when my laptop starts and stops when my laptop is off.
- If you are using an Nvidia eGPU: Before connecting it to your laptop, disable the dGPU with the device manager and un-install your NVidia drivers. I didn’t use "DDU" to disable automatic driver installation and clean NVidia registry entries as is typically advised and it still worked.
- Connect the M.2 slot to the board - the screw is included when you buy the ADT-Link. I didn’t know this and ordered a bunch of additional M.2 screws for no reason. I would also recommend the 50 cm cable, as it gives you a bit more flexibility later if you want to move things. 25 cm seems like it could be enough, but depending on the position of your M.2 slot and where you want to go with the GPU, half of the cable length could be below your laptop.
- Boot your laptop and get greeted by BitLocker requesting a security key with a billion numbers that you can find on your microsoft account online in the safety parameters. That should only happen the first time, but you probably need another device to connect to the internet to find the security key.
- Boot into windows and find out that for whatever reason, internet is not working at all anymore, neither Lan nor Wlan. Restart the laptop and now it works again. If you’re like me, you don’t ask questions and are happy it works again.
- Go into the device manager, find your eGPU (that is still an unidentified device) and ask windows to update the drivers - that was enough for me to get it identified as an RTX 3070, but it now had an error 43.
- Run the script-nvidia-error43-fixer that can be found on the forum.
- Enjoy, everything works.
TimeSpy Benchmark indicates that I have the expected performance of an RTX 3070 as an eGPU. Comparing this model with benchmarks found online ( https://www.gpu-monkey.com/en/gpu-zotac_gaming_geforce_rtx_3070_twin_edge_oc_white_edition-121 ) seems to indicate a 7% performance loss on TimeSpy on the same model and the same performance as the non-OC version ( https://www.gpu-monkey.com/en/gpu-zotac_gaming_geforce_rtx_3070_twin_edge_oc_white_edition-121 ).
CUDA-Z indicates around 2700-2800 MiB/s host to device performance which seems to be average for what can be expected through M.2 connection (looking at other builds, I think it could go up to 2900-3000 MiB/s but some builds seem to have lower speed, so it seems ok).
- That was basically my first time touching the inside of a computer. It did take me a few weeks thinking about it and reading tips online (while trying to find a GPU near MSRP) before deciding to do this egpu setup. But once I had everything, it was rather easy and everything went well.
- I was confident trying it out because I got the GPU for a good price and could sell it if it didn’t work at all. Also: the XPS 15 has Thunderbolt 3, so worst case if I didn’t manage to make it work through M.2, I could still buy a TB3 enclosure
- Gaming on Ultrawide with the XPS 15 basically did not work. The dGPU is not bad but Thermal Throttling was terrible and there was not much I could do about it. Doom Eternal on 1440p and Medium settings went from playable 40-50 FPS to approx. 20 FPS after about 20 minutes of playing and stayed there once thermal throttling began.
- Once eGPU was recognized, performance improved immediately - I went from playing Horizon Zero Dawn 1440p in medium and 30-40 FPS to ultra settings with 70-90 FPS and that’s probably not a game optimized to go over 60 FPS.
- I would have tried Doom Eternal again but have to download it first again on Game Pass - I really need a 1 tb ssd to have a bit more space for gaming
So even if you don’t have much experience, it can totally work - although you should have a plan B if it does not 😉
I am obviously not liable for any sort of damage to your setup if you follow my steps.