What to KnowThe easiest way to upgrade your laptop's graphics is to buy a new laptop.Only a very few select laptops let you upgrade the graphics chip directly.External GPU enclosures let you use an additional external GPU.
This guide will explain the different options you have for upgrading your laptop's graphics and which ones may be best for you.
Buying New Gives You the Best Laptop GPU Upgrade
Laptops, even gaming laptops, aren't typically designed with graphics card upgrades in mind. Unlike desktops, which have lots of space and use components built with ease of replacement in mind, laptops don't have room to spare, so they don't have easy-to-swap parts.
There are a minimal number of laptops that do have the option of graphics upgrades, such as the Alienware Area 51m and its various revisions. However, that upgrade program was limited, very expensive even for the time, and hasn't become more affordable.
The best way to upgrade your laptop's graphics is to buy a new one with a better GPU. The laptops with the best graphics cards tend to be gaming laptops.The 9 Best Gaming Laptops of 2021
External Laptop Graphics Cards: An Option For Thunderbolt Laptops
If you already have a nice laptop and don't want to switch to a whole new one just for the graphics, there is another option that can lead to excellent GPU performance in any laptop—as long as you have a compatible Thunderbolt port.
A handful of external GPU enclosures let you attach a desktop graphics card to a laptop via the Thunderbolt 3 interface. It's not as fast as using a desktop GPU inside a powerful desktop, but it can be an excellent way to improve your laptops' GPU performance without buying the whole laptop. It also gives you access to a broader range of GPU options that aren't limited by thermals or power in the same way as mobile GPUs.The 4 Best Graphics Cards of 2021
These enclosures include a power supply, which will require an external power cable to run and, in some cases, have separate cooling systems to maintain safe operating temperatures for the graphics card you install. Some have optional extras like USB hubs, RGB Lighting, and Gigabit Ethernet, built-in, but they're far from necessary features.
The GPU you can fit into any enclosure is limited by its physical dimensions, the capability of its built-in power supply, and your budget – graphics cards are exceedingly expensive. If you're upgrading from integrated graphics, your laptop will have much greater graphics capabilities when using an external GPU enclosure than it would without – don't expect desktop-like performance.
If you have a compatible Thunderbolt 3-equipped laptop, you can buy a desktop graphics card and external GPU enclosure kit and plug it in to begin taking advantage of higher speed graphics.