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Can You Get An External GPU For Smartphones? (EXPLAINED! 2024)

As you probably already know, GPU is short for Graphical Processing Unit.

The purpose of a GPU on your smartphone is to display images. With the help of this component, you’re able to view high-quality graphics on your phone instantaneously!

The GPU is also what enables you to run games and UIs with high graphical data.

Before displaying images, the GPU assesses the available data, and if it falls within the proper range, the system will then display the visuals.

Therefore, without a GPU, it’d be impossible to use your smartphone!

But you probably already knew that. Why else would you be reading an article about GPUs, right?

The version of the GPU present in your phone depends on its model and manufacturer.

Nowadays, most companies opt for the latest available GPU for their premium range of devices.

However, if you’re using an outdated or older smartphone model, your GPU is likely starting to give you a hard time.

Sometimes, you won’t even be able to run a game or an app because your card isn’t able to sufficiently support them!

Therefore, the real question that you’ve come to ask is: Can you get an external GPU for smartphones?

After all, when the equivalent happens with laptops and PCs, you can usually replace the GPU or install a new one easily.

However, it’s not so easy when external GPUs for smartphones are concerned, and there are certain factors which we’re going to discuss in this article that you’ll have to consider!

The Benefits Of A GPU: What Are They?

technician examines the internal of a smartphone

A GPU takes the burden off of the CPU, and utilizes its capacity to direct the visual side of the equation.

The GPU works on creating specific graphics, while the CPU focuses on other technical aspects.

As a result, the entire process becomes smooth, and the device is now able to function correctly.

In smartphones, the GPU generates images by completing two procedures. It works on both vertices and pixels, and consequently requires high processing power to fulfill these operations.

The GPU System

An external graphics card uses a dock, and the system consists of a PCIe port and a cable or Thunderbolt.

This port attaches the graphics card.

The cable is usually USB or C-type and connects to your device.

The Dock

The applications of the dock depend upon your hardware. If your hardware supports the process of installing the graphic card, then you can proceed smoothly.

The external GPU is attached to the dock, and you must undergo certain steps before you can use the dock.

The dock, along with the port, encompasses a small motherboard.

To attach the dock, you must first assess the compatibility of your device. Most devices don’t have any specificity for the docks.

However, if your device has specific requirements, you’ll have to find the particular dock it stipulates.

Thus, reattaching the dock on another device isn’t common because of the high specificity.

External GPUs are also pretty expensive. You’ll have to invest a significant amount in the GPU and the dock- neither of which are conservatively priced.

The Resulting Graphics

different smartphone screens

If you don’t meet the required graphics or specs through an external GPU, it compromises the process and you won’t be able to replace the internal GPU.

Most devices such as laptops and phones cannot support high-end GPUs. Furthermore, the integrated GPU works to minimize the requirement for an external one.

Therefore attaching GPUs with devices that have low models of CPU is beneficial. However, if the CPU has the latest features, you won’t need to rely on an external GPU.

Characteristics Of The GPU

The features of each GPU are unique.

The characteristics require the user to assess their requirement and the GPU specifications before purchasing.

GPUs such as Atikio use cards with half or shorter lengths. Alienware amplifiers utilize a proprietary connector instead of the classical ones.

The docks of the Razer core use Thunderbolt as the connector, and therefore is valid only in Alienware devices.

These features put a barrier to the diversity of the gadgets one can subject to the installation of graphics cards.

Therefore, you’ll have to analyze the aspects of the GPU and your device before purchasing the card.

Exceptional Devices

The devices from Apple, especially the M1 Mac laptop, don’t allow you to attach an external GPU.

The hardware can actually support any graphics that you intend to utilize. Since connecting the card won’t enhance the graphical performance of the device, the company itself recommends its users to refrain from installing the card on their devices.

Therefore if you still incorporate the external GPU in the machinery, you won’t get your desired results.

It’s necessary to exercise awareness regarding any particular impacts, features, and aftermaths before installing a GPU.

Types Of Graphics Cards

disassembled smartphone with tweezers

Most devices either use an integrated or a dedicated card.

The CPU structure can tell you about the particular card inside if you’re working on the PC.

Let’s look into both below:

Integrated GPU

An integrated card has to balance out the capacities of both CPU and GPU.

In doing so, it can alleviate the potential of either one.

You may not experience the high-quality graphics or the graphics you prefer with an integrated GPU, and they usually tend to compromise the GPU over the CPU.

Dedicated GPU

As the name indicates, a dedicated GPU has the sole purpose of providing you with high-end graphical performance.

It utilizes its RAM and power units to support the operations. By using this system, you take the load off your CPU and liberate its RAM from the burden of graphics.

Integrated GPUs require less power supply because they utilize the CPU components.

However, for dedicated GPUs, it’s vital to ensure that they have a consistent power supply of their own.

Basic rule of thumb is that integrated systems are better for basic requirements and average users.

The specs of your device need to be taken into consideration, and they usually determine the kind of GPU that your system will have.

GPUs For Smartphones

smartphone interior close up

The necessity of a GPU for smartphones isn’t very significant.

However, passionate or specialist users seeking high-end graphics may choose to invest in one.

You must consider the following aspects before selecting external GPUs for a smartphone:

The Size

Most GPUs utilize fans to support the cooling procedure; a powerful GPU will have multiple fans.

As a result, the size of the card is quite large. These cards will be thicker than normal, and their fans are adjusted to expel the heat out of the device rather than storing it.

The architecture of a smartphone is certainly not optimal for adding an external GPU, as the purpose of having a smartphone is to keep it compact and easily carried.

The structure of the device can support it, but you’ll end up experiencing a significant amount of heat (not great for phones).

Furthermore, the size of these cards is realistically too large for phones, rendering them much more difficult to handle.

The Procedure

Even if you’re able to add a GPU card, the follow-up procedure can be complicated.

You will have to install multiple drivers for the GPU, OS, and CPU. These drivers are necessary for the proper functioning of the card.

You may also have to play around with the drivers to find the ones that are compatible with your device.

The Requirement

Your smartphone already has a graphics card integrated into its system, and these cards can provide high-end performance.

Furthermore, the screens of smartphones are smaller, so you won’t really see much difference in graphics.

Smartphones don’t really exaggerate the graphics, and pixels are shorter, so your graphical experience will essentially remain the same.

In Conclusion

different smartphones

The installation of external GPU onto the phones isn’t a prevalent practice.

And for good reason!

The architecture of the hardware and the procedure are complex, and require time for manipulation.

The process is possible if one is willing to put in the extra work.

However, in our humble opinion, the benefits don’t outweigh the cons.

Quite frankly, you’ll find that your smartphone can still function exceptionally without the addition of an external GPU!

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