[GUIDE] The Best Current (and future?) Windows Laptops for Simple eGPU Setup
 
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[GUIDE] The Best Current (and future?) Windows Laptops for Simple eGPU Setup  

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OversizedMattress
(@oversizedmattress)
Active Member
Joined: 12 months ago
 

Preface

I have not personally used an eGPU (yet), nor do I own any of these laptops. This is simply a summary of the research I have done into this topic, in the hopes of saving prospective buyers some time. If you decide to purchase any of these laptops, I would recommend you confirm the specifications with your retailer, as details will often vary by model and region.

This guide is based first and foremost on the information in the Buyer Guide. This means that I have already narrowed the list down to laptops which meet (or are believed to meet) the following requirements:

  • ULV CPU with built-in Thunderbolt 3 controller (currently Intel Ice Lake only)
  • x4 PCIE Connection
  • OPI 4GT/s mode
  • Thunderbolt 3 port(s)


I have also excluded laptops which have discrete GPUs, since they are often a reported cause of complications when connecting to eGPU.

 


 13" Dell XPS 13 9300 (2020) & 13" Dell XPS 13 7390/Dell XPS 13 9380 (2019)

The best; but maybe not in terms of value.

image


The Good

  • Convertible (2-in-1) & touchscreen options are available
  • CPU options include the i7-1065g7 Ice Lake
    • CPU TDP is 15W, but still manages to hit benchmarks near or above those of the Razer Stealth & Lenovo c940 (25W)
  • RAM options go up to 16 GB
  • Storage options go up to 2 TB
  • Screen options go up to 4K AMOLED, 16:10 optional
  • Large glass trackpad with Microsoft Precision drivers
  • Slim and stylish with thin bezels and quality screen - generally considered one of the best ultrabooks available
  • Build quality and product support from Dell are usually top-notch
  • Existing eGPU builds can be found fairly easily for most models of the XPS 13
  • Supports USB-C power delivery

The Bad

  • Convertible Features
    • Unclear advertising - some Dell models are Touch, but not 2-in-1 laptops
    • 2-in-1 models do not include a built-in pen garage, nor an active pen
  • Ports
    • Limited (on some models): 2 x Thunderbolt 3, 1 x microSD card, 1 x audio jack
  • Price
    • XPS 13 is a premium device, but charges a very high cost for a device that does not provide any specific functionality beyond that of its competitors

The Debatable

  • No RGB
  • Windows Hello fingerprint option only

 


13" HP Spectre x360 (Late 2019/Early 2020)

Good specs at the right price, does that make it the best?

image


The Good

  • Convertible (2-in-1) laptop
    • Built-in pen garage & Active pen included
  • CPU options include the i7-1065g7 Ice Lake
  • RAM options go up to 16 GB
  • Storage options go up to 2 TB
  • Screen options go up to 4K AMOLED
  • Windows Hello facial recognition & Fingerprint reader
  • Supports USB-C power delivery

The Bad

  • CPU TDP is 15W, not 25W
    • while not an enormous difference, for the price tag this device should be performing at the level of the Dell/Razer devices, but benchmarks show this device being throttled down to that of the Acer & LG 
  • Build Quality Control
    • Many users will report that they have seen no issues, and this device gets much higher ratings for quality than past HP/Spectre products. However, know that this device has not gone without complaints

The Debatable

  • Unique Style, no RGB
    • Some love it, some hate it. It's worth keeping in mind that some users find that the edges feel sharp, especially after prolonged usage
  • Trackpad
    • Glass, with Microsoft precision drivers. However, it is quite small
  • Ports
    • Adequate: 2 x Thunderbolt 3, 1 x USB-A, 1 x microSD card, 1 x audio jack
  • Price
    • High, but justifiable

 


13" Razer Blade Stealth (Late 2019)

Performance... with a lot of caveats.

image


The Good

  • i7-1065g7 Ice Lake, 16 GB RAM
    • CPU TDP is 25W
    • Cooling system is designed to handle a dGPU
    • This is the device to beat for performance in an eGPU-ready ultrabook
  • Glass trackpad with Microsoft Precision drivers
  • Existing eGPU builds can be found fairly easily for most models of the Razer Blade Stealth
  • Razer sells and markets eGPU enclosures intended for use with their devices (and others), so expect this laptop to have some of the best support/integration
  • Supports USB-C power delivery
  • Ports:
    • Diverse: 1 x Thunderbolt 3, 1 x USB-C 3.1 Gen 2, 2x USB 3.1 Type-A , 1 x audio jack

The Bad

  • Limited Options
    • The only existing Razer device that meets all the desired criteria for simple eGPU setup is the Mercury White Stealth, with only 256 GB of storage and 1080p screen. However, an adventurous reader will be able to find many eGPU builds for other Razer devices
    • Convertible (2-in-1) options not available
    • Touch screen only included on the 4K, dGPU models
  • Quality Control
    • Despite the laptops having good build quality overall, Razer has a history of quality control issues and device failures relatively early in their lifespan. Likely exaggerated but... where there's smoke, there's fire

The Debatable

  • White Mercury + RGB!
    • It's ... unique
  • Price
    • High for a device with limited options, but expected when going for Razer/peak performance
  • Windows Hello facial recognition only

 


14" Lenovo Yoga S940 (2019) & 14" Lenovo Yoga C940 (2019)

The all-rounder. Few compromises, at a competitive price.

image


The Good

  • Convertible (2-in-1) laptop if selecting the c940 model
    • Built-in pen garage & Active pen included
    • Rotating sound bar along hinge
  • CPU options include the i7-1065g7 Ice Lake
    • CPU TDP is 25W - benchmarks show performance near that of the Razer Stealth & XPS 13
  • RAM options go up to 16 GB
  • Storage options go up to 2 TB
  • Screen options go up to 4K IPS
  • Highly rated build quality
  • Supports USB-C power delivery

The Bad

  • Ports
    • Limited and only on the left side: 2 x Thunderbolt 3, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x audio jack
  • Screen
    • 1080p version has reports of low brightness, glossy/reflective cover. Reviews on the 4K screen are much better, although likely will still not compete with the quality of the XPS 13 screen

The Debatable

  • 14"
    • Slightly larger than competitors. The s940 model is slimmer & lighter, but lacks convertible features
  • Nondescript Style & No RGB
    • Average keyboard, average trackpad, average colour options
  • Windows Hello fingerprint option only

 


14"/15" Lenovo Ideapad Slim 7 (2020, TBD)

Potentially the best performance per dollar.

image

The Good

  • CPU options include the i7-1065g7 Ice Lake
  • RAM options go up to 16 GB
  • Storage options go up to 1 TB
  • 15" keyboard includes a number pad
  • Expected to have 14+ hours of battery with rapid charging features
  • Expected to have Windows Hello facial recognition and fingerprint reader
  • Price:
    • Although not yet certain, the Slim 7 seems slated for a price point below the Lenovo Yoga s940/c940 models, which are already considered to be competitively priced
  • Ports:
    • Diverse: 1 x Thunderbolt 3, 1 x USB-C, 2 x USB 3.1 Gen2, 1 x HDMI, 1 x SD Card Reader, 1 x audio jack
    • Varies slightly by model
  • Supports USB-C power delivery

The Bad

  • Unknowns
    • Availability and pricing are still not clear, reviews not yet available
    • CPU TDP is unknown (although the 25W variant in the Lenovo Yoga could be a good sign for this laptop)
    • Unkown if these models have x4 PCIE Connection, OPI 4GT/s mode
  • Options
    • No touchscreen or convertible (2-in-1) options available
    • No 4K screen options available
  • Weight
    • While not excessive, both "Slim 7" models are some of the heaviest options on this list

The Debatable

  • Nondescript Style & No RGB
  • Reviews to come in future

13" Acer Swift 3 & 13" Acer Swift 5 (Late 2019)

Budget & lightweight option, with the usual risks and drawbacks.

image


The Good

  • Touchscreen options are available
  • CPU options include the i7-1065g7 Ice Lake
  • RAM options go up to 16 GB
  • Storage options go up to 1 TB
  • Touchscreen options
  • Very light
  • Pricing is excellent for the features included
  • Ports:
    • Diverse: 1 x Thunderbolt 3, 2x USB 3.1 Gen1, 1x USB 2.0, 1 x audio jack
    • Some versions have an HDMI port instead of one USB 3.1 Gen1 port

The Bad

  • Build Quality/Quality Control
    • Acer devices are budget versions. Expect lesser quality materials & components in order to provide the same features at a lower price and weight
  • Limited
    • Hard to find the versions and options you might want, reviews are less numerous and vary in results quite a bit
    • eGPU builds are not common for these devices
    • Touchscreen only available on the Swift 5
    • No convertible (2-in-1) option, no 4K option
  • CPU TDP is 15W, not 25W
    • Expected for this price tag, but unfortunately the Acer laptops seem to be the worst-performing in the Ice Lake CPU field
  • Unreliable charging via USB-C
  • Unknown if any models have x4 PCIE Connection, OPI 4GT/s mode

The Debatable

  • No RGB, hints of style
    • The Swift 3 is adequate, but the Swift 5 in blue with gold trim is relatively unique
  • Battery life seems to be inconsistent between devices & models
  • Windows Hello fingerprint option only

 


14" LG Gram 14 / 15" LG Gram 15 / 17" LG Gram 17 (2020)

Ultra thin and light laptop with good specs, but lesser performance.

image


The Good

  • Touchscreen options are available (14" & 15")
  • CPU options include the i7-1065g7 Ice Lake
  • RAM options go up to 16 GB
  • Storage options go up to 1 TB
  • Screen options go up to 2560x1600, (16:10)
  • Very light
  • Huge battery life
  • Supports USB-C charging
  • Ports:
    • Diverse: 1 x Thunderbolt 3, 2 x USB 3.1 Gen1, 1 x HDMI, 1 x Micro-SD, 1 x audio jack
    • The 17" has 3 x USB 3.1 Gen1

The Bad

  • Limited
    • Reviews are less numerous and vary in results quite a bit
    • eGPU builds are not common for these devices
    • Touchscreen not currently available on the 17" model
    • No 2-in-1 option, no 4K option
  • CPU TDP is 15W, not 25W
    • This is expected, as the device is focused more on weight and battery life than performance. Benchmarks seem to be ahead of the Acer options, but not much else
  • Unknown if any models have x4 PCIE Connection, OPI 4GT/s mode

The Debatable

  • Price
    • The price is justifiable based on the ultra-light weight and long battery life
  • No RGB
  • Windows Hello fingerprint option only

 


Future Options

13" HP Envy

  • Expected specs can be found here
  • Based on past models, expect this device to be similar to the Spectre, with more focus on performance with lesser battery life, as opposed to the Spectre's features and style


i7-1068g7 CPU

  • The 28W, highest performance version of the Ice Lake CPU's, not yet available in any laptops
  • Latest information available can be found here
  • Delays due to COVID-19 may cause this to remain unavailable in laptops until Q3 or Q4 2020


Tiger Lake CPUs

Rumours are everywhere, but reports seem to agree on the following:

  • Tiger Lake CPUs are expected to be released in Q3 or Q4 2020... assuming no delays from COVID-19
  • Tiger Lake CPUs should have built-in Thunderbolt 4 controllers, making them excellent devices for eGPU builds
  • However
    • Thunderbolt 4 is not expected to be any faster than Thunderbolt 3
    • Thunderbolt 4 is expected to be backwards compatible with Thunderbolt 3
    • Tiger Lake CPUs are expected to primarily bring an improvement in the integrated Graphics (Iris Plus -> Xe)

Based on those assumptions, it seems like eGPU options will continue to grow and improve in future, but should not be expected to make current builds obsolete or outdated anytime soon


AMD & Thunderbolt 3

Could we eventually get AMDs 7nm CPU architecture in laptops with Thunderbolt 3 compatibility?

Don't expect it to be in laptops within a year, but beyond that... who knows?

 

2019 14" Lenovo Yoga C940 [10th,4C,G] + RTX 2060 Super @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Razer Core X Chroma) + Win10 [build link]  

itsage, nando4, phila-delphia and 2 people liked
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OversizedMattress
(@oversizedmattress)
Active Member
Joined: 12 months ago
 

@Itsage I've learned alot from your guides/reviews/builds, any thoughts or comments? I'd love to get the opinions (and corrections!) from anyone who has more hands-on experience than myself

2019 14" Lenovo Yoga C940 [10th,4C,G] + RTX 2060 Super @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Razer Core X Chroma) + Win10 [build link]  

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Nutype
(@nutype)
Active Member
Joined: 1 year ago
 

@oversizedmattress

Didn't know the Razer Blade Stealth has 25w TDP for the 1065G7. Thought they were all 15w.

That's moved it up my list a bit, but as you say, its very expensive and theres many comments/posts about it being unreliable. 

 

2020 13" HP Spectre X360 [10th,4C,G] + RX 570 @ 32Gbps-TB3 (PowerColor Mini Pro) + Win10 [build link]  

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OversizedMattress
(@oversizedmattress)
Active Member
Joined: 12 months ago
 

@Nutype happy I helped! I'd recommend an extended warranty if you do go with Razer. But be careful what you buy. Only some versions are 25W - the Iris Plus Mercury White, and apparently also the new 2020 version with 1650 Ti 

2019 14" Lenovo Yoga C940 [10th,4C,G] + RTX 2060 Super @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Razer Core X Chroma) + Win10 [build link]  

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phila-delphia
(@phila-delphia)
Eminent Member
Joined: 1 year ago
 

Thank you for the detailed round-up. You did a fantastic job in my opinion.

What might be helpful for some people (and somewhat more just):

- indicate more clearly which devices are convertibles (by adding this to the list of advantages?!)

- accorging to hardwareluxx.de the Lenovo c940 14" is configured with a 25 watt Core i7-1065G7*

All the best!

phila

 

* https://www.hardwareluxx.de/index.php/artikel/hardware/prozessoren/51390-ice-lake-gegen-comet-lake-intels-10-core-generation-im-vergleich.html
I think this might be correct as my c940 15" is allowed to permanently draw 65W (Ireduced this to 60 via throttlestop).

2019 15" Lenovo Yoga C940 (GTX1650) [9th,6C,H] + RTX 2070 Super @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Razer Core X Chroma) + Win10 [build link]  

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OversizedMattress
(@oversizedmattress)
Active Member
Joined: 12 months ago
 

@phila-delphia edited. Thanks for the feedback! Convertibility didn't matter too much to me personally, but definitely should be clear because it's a dealbreaker for many people.

Great find for the Lenovo TDP! I've been looking for that for ages, since I'm considering using your 15" c940 build as a model to put together a similar setup with the 14" c940

2019 14" Lenovo Yoga C940 [10th,4C,G] + RTX 2060 Super @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Razer Core X Chroma) + Win10 [build link]  

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phila-delphia
(@phila-delphia)
Eminent Member
Joined: 1 year ago
 

@oversizedmattress, Haha! Anything but a convertible would have been a dealbreaker for me 😉 I went with the c940 15" as I really wanted the option to "game on the go" from time to time (rainy hollidays when I can`t go climbing outdoors) in day to day use however I have the dGPU disabled via BIOS.

If you consider the c940 14" think about using throttlestop in order to get the most out of those 25W ( about -125mV should be possible)

and think about replacing the thermal paste with a Thermal Grizzly Carbonaut pad:

I use this on my machine and I am really satisfied. You might as well put an cooling fin on the PCH like nando adviced (if the PCH is not integrated into the CPU which might be with 10th gen).

All the best!

phila

 

P.S.: I am looking forward to see you build pop up on the forums some day!

 

2019 15" Lenovo Yoga C940 (GTX1650) [9th,6C,H] + RTX 2070 Super @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Razer Core X Chroma) + Win10 [build link]  

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OversizedMattress
(@oversizedmattress)
Active Member
Joined: 12 months ago
 

@phila-delphia ugh, having a dGPU as well is so tempting. I eventually had to convince myself that I’m just not gaming away from home often enough to justify it tbh. Fortunately the Iris Plus is enough for some decent fun on the road.

Thanks again for all the advice! I’ll be taking things slowly, so I’ll do my best to record it, and hopefully be a good example for other newcomers. After that, it’ll be fun to experiment with the fine tuning like you mentioned.

Now I just need that laptop to arrive from China... 

2019 14" Lenovo Yoga C940 [10th,4C,G] + RTX 2060 Super @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Razer Core X Chroma) + Win10 [build link]  

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itsage
(@itsage)
Founder Admin
Joined: 4 years ago
 

@oversizedmattress, Thank you for taking the time to compile this list. Sorry I didn't get to your post until today. These are pretty much the short list of ultrabook options that eGPU users should consider atm. The i7-1065g7 Ice Lake is the best choice until 28W option becomes available. I'm hoping Apple can get the i7-1068g7 into their redesigned 13/14-in MacBook Pro later this year.

Late 2019 Razer Blade Stealth is a really nice option because its cooling system was designed to handle a version with dGPU. Getting the iGPU-only configuration not only makes it easier to set up the eGPU but also allows more thermal headroom to the CPU. Unfortunately I can't throw my full recommendation behind Razer laptops because of my bad luck with them. I thought my base configuration with the 25W i7-1065g7 was a great eGPU system until the vertical band issue developed on its display. I would like to try out the LG Gram lineup when they are more accessible.

 

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2020 13" MacBook Pro [10th,4C,G] + RX 6700 XT @ 32Gbps-TB3 (CM MasterCase EG200) + Win10 1903 [build link]  


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Nutype
(@nutype)
Active Member
Joined: 1 year ago
 

Also wanted to add that the Lenovo Ideapad Slim 7 just became available(but out of stock in Canada at least). It is much cheaper than the C940 but still has 16GB ram and 1065G7. There is supposed to be a 14 inch version coming soon as well.

https://www.lenovo.com/ca/en/laptops/ideapad/ideapad-700-series/IdeaPad-Slim-7-15IIL05/p/88IPS701406

 

Only one thuderbolt 3 port though, and not sure if it will have:

  • x4 PCIE Connection
  • OPI 4GT/s mode
2020 13" HP Spectre X360 [10th,4C,G] + RX 570 @ 32Gbps-TB3 (PowerColor Mini Pro) + Win10 [build link]  

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