Choosing an external video card for a laptop

Do you have a laptop that pulls only old games well, because the integrated video card is suitable only for video? As it turned out, there is one great way to play on this laptop, for example, in GTA 5 on ultra settings with decent FPS. In this article we will figure out how to use a discrete video card for this and what external video card to choose for a laptop.

Yes, you were not mistaken, we will connect a standard video card for a computer to a laptop. How to do it? Almost every laptop has an interface similar to PCI Express, it is called mini PCI-E, in most cases it is used by the Wi-Fi module attached to it. Getting to this connector is easy, mostly on laptops, in order to replace or add RAM, you need to remove one cover on the back of the laptop. Here we will see our RAM and that Wi-Fi module connected via mini PCI Express. Naturally, you cannot connect a standard video card directly, but there are a couple of adapter options that allow you to connect any external card to a laptop.

In this article, we will explain how to connect a third-party graphics adapter to the laptop.

Connecting a video card to a laptop

IMPORTANT. Different models of laptops may have a different architecture, when dismantling components, be careful and cautious.

We will use a device called EXP Graphic Display Card (EXP GDC). This is a small, almost monolithic block with several connectors:

Follow the instructions below to connect.

  • On top we have a PCI Express 16x slot. The maximum bandwidth of this interface is 5 Gb / s, which is approximately equal to PCI-E 2x. Yes, this is not enough to reveal the full potential of the card, but I assure you, the result of this “masochism” will pleasantly surprise.
  • On the side of the connector, similar to HDMI, through it we are connected with a special cable to the same connector on the laptop.
  • Normal USB-port through which you can connect anything.
  • A special connector for powering 12 V, there is just a version of this board with its own unit, but with it you can use video cards with a maximum power of up to 150 watts.
  • The next connector is used to connect a conventional computer power supply, it comes with a special cable. This option is considered to be the best, since, firstly, the maximum power of the video card used can be 220 watts, and secondly, the power supply can be anything, even the cheapest at 300 watts.

So, proceed to the assembly. We disconnect the battery, here we also dismantle the cover, under which the RAM and the Wi-Fi module are connected to the connector we need. Unfortunately, it will have to be removed, in return, you can buy an external Wi-Fi module, there are very compact models (some laptops have two mini PCI-E interfaces, their owners are more fortunate). We connect our cable to the connector, do not forget to fasten, so that it does not accidentally disconnect. Connect the device to the other end of the cable.

Consistently connect the power supply and video card. Turn on the laptop in BIOS mode, switch the graphics card. Install drivers on the card, downloaded from the manufacturer's website. The video card will most likely not be able to connect to the laptop monitor, so you need to use an external monitor.

By assembling this design, you can play new games on an outdated laptop.

How to choose?

Depending on the video card, gaming performance may increase several times. In principle, the choice of an external video card for a laptop comes down to choosing a card for a computer, so you need to familiarize yourself with this article.

The main thing that needs to be considered is the correspondence of the processor's power to the card's power. It is not enough to buy an expensive card, with a weak processor, it simply will not be able to work in full force. This factor very often grieves the uncared-out user who bought an overly powerful card. Of course, there will be no lags and friezes, but the 15, 000 rubles spent may simply not pay back themselves, giving an increase of some 20–30 fps. A much more profitable acquisition in this case will be the purchase of an average processor and an average video card for it for the same money.


In the article we reviewed the cheapest and easiest way to connect an external video card to a laptop, but this does not mean that it is the only one. For older laptops and for the MAC series, completely different devices and adapters are used, we also did not touch them. There are many standalone solutions for connecting discrete video cards, all of which, naturally, are more expensive, here are some of them:

  • ASUS XG Station
  • Shuttle I-Power GXT Mini
  • MSI Graphics Upgrade Solution
  • Village Instruments ViDock

Each of the solutions has its advantages and disadvantages, but for different reasons, none of them has taken root among the masses of users, which is why each has a detailed meaning to consider.

Conclusion: you can still make a gaming notebook from an ordinary laptop, but you have to try a little and get to the heart of the matter. The external connection has obvious drawbacks - limitations of the PCI Express x4 or x1 bus, but despite this the video cards still show excellent results. In general, connecting an external video card to a laptop is quite simple; you just have to purchase everything you need and deal with the bundle of cables. Good luck in connecting and setting up, and see you soon!