While many ultrabooks feature powerful processors and health amounts of RAM, they generally all rely on integrated graphics which hardly makes them gaming material. Some users have built their own docking stations in the past that would allow for a desktop GPU to be used, but they were all custom built and generally relied on slower connection interfaces that resulted in performance loss. But both Alienware and Razer have released external GPU docks that allow users to finally enjoy desktop gaming power on their ultrabooks which could make ultrabooks a worthy competitor to more wieldy high-end VR ready gaming laptops which rely on an on-board graphics card. While the Alienware Graphics Amplifier is quite large, weighs almost four times that of most ultrabooks and is only compatible with Alienware hardware, there is still hope with the slightly smaller, but more expensive Razer Core.
Razer already have a functional dock, the Razer Core, which can take both AMD and NVIDIA cards and was showcased alongside their Razer Stealth ultrabook earlier this year at CES 2016. While the Razer Core is still not open for preorder and their site just has a button that reads “Notify Me”, Razer have already priced it at $499 excluding any physical GPU, which is a bit steep for some laptop users.
AMD is another player in the external GPU dock race and they have a plan to standardize the external GPU interface to allow customers the ability to attach an external graphics card via USB Type-C (Thunderbolt 3) to any laptop or desktop with Thunderbolt support.
This is what AMD’s Robert Hallock had to say on Facebook
Gaming notebooks are great for gaming, but nobody in their right mind wants to carry one all the time. Ultrathin notebooks are awesome to carry, but nobody in their right mind would confuse one for a gaming notebook…
External GPUs are the answer. External GPUs with standardized connectors, cables, drivers, plug’n’play, OS support, etc.
Robert Hallock’s announcement implies that AMD’s new solution would be based on a standard implementation for everything, including drivers, OS, connectors, and cables. While there was no mention of the ability to use both AMD and NVIDIA cards in their proposed dock, it would make sense to assume that the AMD dock would support all cards currently available on the market. All we have to do now is wait and see what the designers at AMD can come up with.