External graphics enclosures are not new, but ones that use liquid cooling to keep the desktop GPU inside nice and cool are few and far between. As far as I know, only Gigabyte offers them, and it just added another couple options. These are also the first to leverage Nvidia’s latest generation Ampere GPUs.
From the outside looking in, it seems like a good fit to pair Ampere with liquid cooling, inside a small box. Like ones that came before these new models, the sales pitch is you can hook these up to a productivity laptop with integrated graphics for a massive increase in gaming performance. Work on the road and play at home.
The downside is portability—who wants to lug around a box about the size of a small form factor PC, in addition to their laptop? Probably not many people. Still, there is utility to these add-ons. You could essentially use this in place of a desktop PC at home, and go without the bolstered graphics when out on a business trip. You lose some performance compared to a desktop implementation, but it’s still leaps and bounds ahead of integrated GPUs.
Gigabyte is offering these models under its Aorus brand. There are two versions, one with a built-in GeForce RTX 3080 and the other with a GeForce RTX 3090, both of which are Waterforce variants. The cards are hooked up to a 240mm radiator with two 120mm fans.
Oddly enough, Gigabyte’s press release hypes these as the “world’s first water cooling external graphics” boxes, but apparently it forgot about its previous generation model with a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Waterforce.
“With an optimized pump and water block, it provides the most efficient water flow and cooling performance at a lower noise level,” Gigabyte says.
These new models appear to use the same enclosure (hence the claim, I suppose), with RGB lighting. They bring along an assortment of ports, including two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, a single USB 2.0 port, a GbE LAN port, three DisplayPort connectors, and an HDMI port. The boxes are also only compatible with ultrabooks that offer Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, so that is something to keep in mind.
Gigabyte has not yet mentioned pricing or availability. My guess would be these will be more broadly available next year, given the stock situation with Ampere.