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First Look: Aorus GTX 1070 GPU Gaming Box

The Aorus GTX 1070 Gaming Box is here! Wait, what’s a Gaming Box? Basically, it's a GTX 1070 graphics card in a lunchbox with Thunderbolt 3 to hook up to your laptop.

But shouldn’t everyone have a full custom desktop PC? Yes, a thousand times yes. Everyone should build a rig.

And can’t you purchase a laptop with a slim 1070 inside? Yup, and if you have the coin for a second system, buy an Aorus gaming laptop, they’re legitimately awesome (read our review here).

But not everyone is flush with Ethereum. There are those out there with pedestrian laptops and a burning desire to grind lootboxes for Doomfist skins. What’s a player to do?

Enter external GPU docks -- plug it into a laptop with Thunderbolt 3 and, presto, sweet FPS. 

If you’re not familiar with the whole Thunderbolt 3 PCIe dock segment, here’s a mini explainer: Intel’s Thunderbolt 3 tech with 40gbps speeds allows laptops and 2-in-1s with Thunderbolt 3 to run up to 4 PCIe lanes outside the normal confines of a laptop. There are a few models already available that simply give you an empty PCIe slot (16x size, 4x lanes actually active) and a power supply to run the thing. And then a whole bunch of extra USB 3 ports because Thunderbolt 3 has the extra bandwidth.

But here, the Aorus is the first and only graphics card in a box. Basically, Aorus took the GIGABYTE shorty GTX 1070 GPU and put it in a custom-sized box with all the power and cabling included. Plug it in, sweet 1070 action powers an external monitor for gaming goodness.

Personally, this is a really, really smart move on GIGABYTE’s part. Other companies are selling the docks and GPUs separately. But most users will just want a sweet little gaming box without all the fuss of mixing and matching.

And then there’s the price -- at $599, it’s cheaper than buying a dock and card separately.

The GIGABYTE 1070 mini is $399 (when not hoarded by miners). As for standalone docks, the Akitio Node 2 GPU dock is the cheapest at $299, while other brands go all the way up to $499 for the Razer Core.

That means the Aorus is at least $100 cheaper than the nearest solution and a good $300 cheaper than Razer’s offering.  

HANDS ON

The Aorus Gaming Box continues the trend of Aorus doing nearly everything right. This dock just feels well built with its full metal chassis, excellent side vents sizing.

Basically, no wasted room, which can’t be said of standalone docks that are larger than SFF PCs like the NCase or Dan case.

Aorus also throws in a perfectly-sized carrying case. It’s basically a small camera bag, but designed for the dock with extra little pockets for cables.

COMPARISONS?

We just got the dock and haven’t run it through the usual tests, other than powering it on and seeing if it works. It does and, hey, RGBs!

But we expect to see a 10% performance hit compared to a desktop. Thunderbolt 3, while fast, needs a few more digital steps to go from PCIe to T3 and back to PCIe. Convenience does come at a price.

THINGS TO KNOW

Not all laptops with Thunderbolt 3 are the same. For example, the Dell XPS 13 has 2x PCIe lanes over Thunderbolt 3, rather than 4x lanes.

Shown here is the excellent and expensive Porsche Design Book One 2-in-1, an ideal candidate for Mr. Business during the day, gamer at night. Read our big review of the Porsche here

Typically, you want to put your GPU on the 16x lane on your motherboard.

But does it really matter? The difference between 16x is 8x is non-existent. 16x to 4x is maybe-kinda noticeable. But going down to 2x is gonna be noticeable for gaming.

What laptops work with gaming docks? We’re developing a full list, but double check your laptop is 4x PCIe before picking up the Aorus Gaming Box.

Also, laptops with "i7s" are the ones you want. I put i7 in quotes because the i7-7500u found in most recent 2-in-1s is a 2 core 4 thread model. It's an i7 because it's the top of the ultra portable and power efficient chips. The i7-7700HQ is the top normal laptop CPU with 4 cores and 8 threads, so identical to the desktop model, just lower power and performance. Then there is the i7-7820hk, an overclockable mobile chip, but only found on gaming laptops with beefy graphics cards. 

Either way, if you have an i7-U model, you should be good, as well as either an i5 or i7 HQ model. But, again, until we do a bit more testing, the final results are still out. 

In any case, if you're laptop-compromised, check out the Aorus GPU Graphics Dock, it's kinda awesome.