Alienware Graphics Amplifier lets you add desktop graphics card to gaming laptops

The $299 external box can house a full length, dual-height card to give the new Alienware 13 notebook a graphics boost via a proprietary connector.


The Holy Grail of gaming laptops is to provide the same graphics firepower as a desktop, and while they've come increasingly closer over the years, they can always use a little boost since their graphics cards are smaller and have to deal with battery life concerns.

There have been attempts before to provide that boost via an external device from the likes of MSI, Shuttle, and even Sony. There was also hope that the development of the Thunderbolt interface would usher in a raft of GPU enclosures . None of these developments made much of a mark, however, but that hasn't stopped Alienware from giving this solution another go.

Yesterday, the gaming PC subsidiary of Dell announced a new Alienware 13 laptop, and accompanying it was something called the Alienware Graphics Amplifier. In essence, it's a box to hold a single graphics card that connects to the new notebook -- albeit one given a little of the noted Alienware design flair.

You can connect any full-length, dual-height board needing no more than 375 watts of power, meaning that many AMD or Nvidia discrete cards should fit into the enclosure. You then connect the Graphics Amplifier to the Alienware 13 via a proprietary USB/PCI Express cable; while it's currently only compatible with this new notebook, the unit may work with future Alienware laptops.

Unfortunately, the Graphics Amplifier apparently does not work in concert with the Alienware 13's Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M graphics, disabling it to work with the integrated graphics provided by the notebook's Intel Core i5 processor. However, the range of desktop cards more powerful than the GeForce GTX 860M is sufficient to more than make up for this disabling. The Graphics Amplifier also doubles a port replicator of sorts, providing four USB 3.0 connections.

The enclosure is priced at $299, but if you have an extra desktop graphics card lying around you can spare yourself that extra expense. The Alienware 13 and Graphics Amplifier are due today, though there's no sign of them on the Alienware website yet. Do you think an external graphics solution is something worth purchasing for your laptop? Let us know in the Talkback section below.