Gigabyte may have finally made external graphics practical and affordable

A GTX 1070 and a plug-and-play graphics dock for $600.

Every new external graphics card enclosure seems like it might be the one that takes off, bringing real gaming performance to lightweight laptops, but it's never really happened. For years, the big obstacle was connectivity--there just wasn't anything that could carry enough data between graphics card and laptop. Now, thanks to Thunderbolt 3 and the growing ubiquity of the USB Type-C port, that problem is gone. What else stands in the way of an external GPU giving a lightweight ultrabook some real gaming chops? Price. And that's what Gigabyte's finally getting right.

Gigabyte had the GTX 1070 Gaming Box hooked up to a laptop in its Computex suite this year, running graphics over a USB-C cable. It's truly plug and play; I unplugged it from the laptop and plugged it back in, and there was just a brief screen flicker each time as the graphics adapter hand-off happened. It's a surprisingly small box, built to fit mini-ITX graphics cards, but it also contains a 400 watt power supply and can actually charge your laptop or other USB devices while providing graphics processing. It's going to cost $600.

$600 including a Gigabyte GTX 1070 graphics card. Compare that, for example, with the Razer Core, which can support a larger graphics card up to 375 watts. The Razer Core costs $500 without a graphics card. While you have the ability to add your own, I don't think the most likely use case for an external graphics dock is taking the graphics card out of your gaming PC and putting it in an enclosure to power your thin-and-light laptop. Most people interested in this idea probably don't have a graphics card already, making a bundle a smart way to go. Especially when it's this affordable.

Gigabyte's mini-ITX GTX 1070 normally sells for about $380 / £350, so the dock adds about $200 to the total price. And Gigabyte told me that a mini-ITX GTX 1080 card is in the works for the future, if a 1070 just isn't enough. Gigabyte says the Gaming Box should be available starting in July.