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Aorus GTX 1080 Gaming Box Review

60 FPS gaming on an Ultrabook. Aorus is well-known for cramming as much power as possible in the smallest form factors and the $700 USD Gaming Box is no different. The eGPU promises to turbocharge any Thunderbolt 3 PC to be a gaming monster. Our tests reveal that Aorus is true to its word, albeit with some notable software hiccups and asterisks that every potential owner should know about before purchasing.

Aorus Gaming Box with Dell XPS 15 9575 convertible
Aorus Gaming Box with Dell XPS 15 9575 convertible

External graphics cards (eGPUs) are gaining traction now that Thunderbolt 3 is becoming commonplace on more laptops. Our first look at eGPUs four years ago showed a very user-unfriendly experience with a very high cost of entry. Ever since then, each new iteration has been more and more promising and easier to use from the Alienware external graphics dock to the Razer Core. Other major manufacturers like Zotac (Amp Box), HP (Graphics Accelerator), and MSI (GUS) are beginning to offer eGPU solutions as well and have been proudly showing them off at expos.

Our latest eGPU dock comes from Aorus and it is one of the smallest and fastest solution yet in the market. Simply called the Gaming Box, the unit is currently shipping with a GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 for $600 and $700, respectively. Unlike the larger Alienware or Razer solutions, the Aorus Gaming Box utilizes mini versions (16.9 cm) of the GTX 1070 and 1080 for a lighter more portable form factor.

External GPU docks are marketed as being compatible with most Windows laptops equipped with at least one Thunderbolt 3 port. Reviewers everywhere have already tested eGPU solutions with laptops running traditional Intel CPUs, but what about an AMD-powered Kaby Lake-G system? For this review, we will be pairing the Aorus Gaming Box with the only Kaby Lake-G laptop shipping at the time of writing: Dell's XPS 15 9575 convertible with the Core i7-8705G CPU and Radeon RX Vega M GL GPU. Our review on the Core i7 XPS 15 9575 is coming soon, but we recommend checking out our review on the Core i5 XPS 15 9575 SKU for more information on the system. Can users expect a seamless experience on a laptop with Intel graphics, AMD graphics, and Nvidia graphics all in one?

Aorus GTX 1080 Gaming Box (XPS 15 9575)
Processor
Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop) - 8192 MB, Core: 1607 MHz, Memory: 10010 MHz, GDDR5X, 397.31
Memory
16384 MB 
, DDR4-2400
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 96 x 212 x 162 ( = 3.78 x 8.35 x 6.38 in)
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64 Bit
Additional features
Aorus Graphics Engine, 12 Months Warranty
Weight
2.447 kg ( = 86.32 oz / 5.39 pounds) ( = 0 oz / 0 pounds)
Note: The manufacturer may use components from different suppliers including display panels, drives or memory sticks with similar specifications.

 

Case

The Aorus brand prioritizes high performance-per-volume in sleek gaming-centric designs as exemplified by its super-thin X series of notebooks and its Gaming Box is no different. At just 2.4 kg in weight and 3.3 L in volume, the Aorus eGPU is significantly lighter and smaller than the Razer Core (5.7 kg, 7.8 L), Alienware Graphics Amplifier (3.5 kg, 13.1 L), and even MSI's popular Trident 3 ITX PC (3.2 kg, 4.7 L). Additionally, the Gaming Box includes no external AC adapter to "cheat" on its diminutive size unlike most mini PCs like the Zotac EK71080 or Intel NUC.

Chassis quality is excellent and uniform from top to bottom. It is entirely metal on all six sides for a high quality feel reminiscent of metal PC cases.

A strip of RGB lights inside the front of the Gaming Box will illuminate in different colors so long as the GPU is active and running. The lights are supposed to be customizable through the Aorus Graphics Engine software, but we can find no such options as of software version 1.33.

Sharp and defined edges and corners not unlike the Aorus laptops
Sharp and defined edges and corners not unlike the Aorus laptops
Chassis is metal from top to bottom including the ventilation meshes
Chassis is metal from top to bottom including the ventilation meshes
Rubber footing on bottom
Rubber footing on bottom
RGB lighting along the bottom will automatically activate when the GPU is active
RGB lighting along the bottom will automatically activate when the GPU is active
225 mm / 8.86 inch 203 mm / 7.99 inch 128 mm / 5.04 inch 3.3 kg7.38 lbs212 mm / 8.35 inch 162 mm / 6.38 inch 96 mm / 3.78 inch 2.4 kg5.39 lbs210 mm / 8.27 inch 203 mm / 7.99 inch 62.2 mm / 2.45 inch 1.7 kg3.8 lbs221 mm / 8.7 inch 142 mm / 5.59 inch 39 mm / 1.535 inch 1.3 kg2.94 lbs

Connectivity

All ports are easily accessible on the rear of the unit including its 5x video outputs and 4x USB Type-A ports. Missing are a Kensington Lock and additional USB Type-C ports that could have been useful for connecting more devices. Note that the Orange USB port is only for charging and does not support data transmission.

The single Thunderbolt 3 port can also charge connected devices or laptops at up to 100 W so long as they support Power Delivery 3.0.

Audio can be passed to an external monitor through Thunderbolt and HDMI
Audio can be passed to an external monitor through Thunderbolt and HDMI
A Kensington Lock would have been a useful addition
A Kensington Lock would have been a useful addition
450 W PSU is integrated and requires no external AC adapter
450 W PSU is integrated and requires no external AC adapter
3x DisplayPort 1.4, 1x HDMI 2.0b, 1x DL-DVI, 4x USB 3.0
3x DisplayPort 1.4, 1x HDMI 2.0b, 1x DL-DVI, 4x USB 3.0

Setup

Be sure to disable Windows driver signature enforcement or else this message will pop on boot up
Be sure to disable Windows driver signature enforcement or else this message will pop on boot up
The Dell system automatically recognizes the eGPU
The Dell system automatically recognizes the eGPU

According to the small installation booklet, setup requires (1) connecting the Gaming Box to an AC outlet, (2) connecting the unit to a running laptop through Thunderbolt 3, (3) approving the Thunderbolt 3 device as "Always Connect", (4) connecting an external monitor via DP, HDMI, or DVI-D from the eGPU, and then finally (5) installing the necessary GPU drivers from the disc or website. The drivers consist of a generic Thunderbolt 3 firmware and a standard Nvidia firmware used for all desktop GeForce graphics cards. Thus, gamers will be familiar with the usual features from GeForce Experience and the Nvidia control panel.

Setup is quite straightforward to our surprise even with the new Kaby Lake-G platform, although it is definitely not perfect. Steps (1) to (4) above must be done sequentially whenever the eGPU is physically disconnected from the laptop or AC outlet. Otherwise, the laptop will not always recognize the eGPU no matter how many reboots or permutations we try. The actual recognition process could also be faster; when booting up, the system will sit for a few seconds on desktop while the Aorus software loads before finally outputting to the external display. Getting the eGPU to sync is finicky, but it fortunately remains synced until system shutdown.

Another very important note is that Windows Driver Signature Enforcement ought to be disabled or else the Aorus Graphics Engine software will give an error and not boot correctly. The software offers detailed overclocking, recording, and fan speed features, but it is disappointingly rudimentary in its UI and its features can sometimes be unresponsive. It's definitely a work in progress at the time of review.

The display can be extended to the internal laptop display for dual-screen use. Because our laptop display is 4K UHD, however, scaling issues will inevitably arise if the external monitor is of a lower resolution than 4K. We are unsuccessful at getting the internal display to run on the eGPU despite Aorus' claims as the system would always default to the integrated Radeon RX Vega M GL GPU instead. If attempting to "trick" the system by extending the screen to an external display and then running gaming apps on the internal display, a system crash will occur. As with the Razer Core, however, performance would be significantly reduced if running on an internal laptop display and so an external display is always recommended.

The Gaming Box is intended for Windows 10 laptops with Thunderbolt 3, but Aorus puts the onus on users to "please confirm the Thunderbolt 3 compatibility with your PC manufacturer" as a system requirement. After all, not all laptops with USB Type-C will support Thunderbolt 3. The eGPU dock should technically work with Windows 7/8 laptops as well. MacOS is not supported at all since it is incompatible with current Nvidia drivers.

The Aorus Graphics Engine software is simple and easy to use...
The Aorus Graphics Engine software is simple and easy to use...
... but it's missing RGB light controls and its existing features can be unresponsive
... but it's missing RGB light controls and its existing features can be unresponsive

Accessories

Included extras are a handy carrying bag, attachable shoulder strap, startup guide, Drivers disc, Power cable (not shown), and a short 500 mm (~19-inch) Thunderbolt 3 cable. We would have preferred a USB stick instead of a disc, but all necessary drivers can be downloaded online anyway.

Don't lose the all-important Thunderbolt 3 cable!
Don't lose the all-important Thunderbolt 3 cable!

Maintenance

As small as it may be, the Gaming Box is not intended to be easily upgradeable unlike the larger Razer Core or Alienware Graphics Amplifier. Nonetheless, users will only need is a simple Philips screwdriver to remove the outer cover and service the GPU. Aorus has confirmed that the GPU can be swapped or removed without voiding the warranty even though the manufacturer does not recommend it.

Once the six screws are removed, everything will slide out without a hassle
Once the six screws are removed, everything will slide out without a hassle
Service the unit without voiding the three-year warranty
Service the unit without voiding the three-year warranty
GeForce GTX 1080 Mini. Even the SLI Bridge connector remains
GeForce GTX 1080 Mini. Even the SLI Bridge connector remains
450 W PSU and dual fans positioned behind the GPU. Removing the PSU will require a Hex wrench
450 W PSU and dual fans positioned behind the GPU. Removing the PSU will require a Hex wrench

Warranty

Aorus covers its Gaming Box for a period of three years as standard. In comparison, most laptops are covered for only the first year or for two years standard at best. We can spot no "void if tampered" stickers anywhere around the system.

Please see our Guarantees, Return policies and Warranties FAQ for country-specific information.

Performance

Like any gaming PC, the GPU can only be as good as the PC it's paired with. For this review, we've paired the GTX 1080 Gaming Box with the unconventional 65 W quad-core Core i7-8705G CPU in the XPS 15 9575. This particular Kaby Lake-G processor is comparable to a Core i7-7700HQ found on most gaming notebooks. Pairing the Gaming Box with a 15 W 7th gen U-class Core ix CPU like on the older Spectre 13, Razer Blade Stealth, or Asus Zenbook will likely grant users similar performance levels than our Dell convertible if not slower.

System Performance

PCMark 10 ranks our system in the same ballpark as other enthusiast-level gaming notebooks like the Alienware 15 R3. Final scores are not significantly better than our XPS 15 9575 when disconnected to the eGPU.

PCMark 10 (w/ eGPU)
PCMark 10 (w/ eGPU)
PCMark 10 (w/o eGPU)
PCMark 10 (w/o eGPU)
PCMark 10 - Score
Intel Hades Canyon NUC8i7HVK
Vega M GH, 8809G, Intel Optane 120 GB SSDPEK1W120GA
5301 Points ∼68% +8%
Alienware 15 R3 Max-Q
GeForce GTX 1080 Max-Q, 7820HK, LiteOn CX2-8B256
5295 Points ∼68% +8%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EK71080
GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop), 7700HQ, Samsung PM961 MZVLW256HEHP
5197 Points ∼67% +6%
Aorus GTX 1080 Gaming Box (XPS 15 9575)
GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop),
4911 Points ∼63%
Dell XPS 15 9575 i5-8305G
Vega M GL / 870, 8305G, Toshiba XG5 KXG50ZNV256G
4702 Points ∼61% -4%

GPU Performance

The Fire Strike Graphics score for the GTX 1080 eGPU is about 20 percent lower than our GTX 1080 Founder's Edition reference due in part to the limited bandwidth of Thunderbolt 3 when compared to the common PCIe x16 slot. This makes our Gaming Box on par with the GTX 980 Ti or GTX 1070 Max-Q in practice even if users are paying for a full-fledged GTX 1080 graphics card. However, the eGPU can still handily outperform our R Vega M GL GPU in the Dell convertible by 115 percent in the same benchmark.

Interestingly, it's worth noting that Fire Strike scores improve when more demanding settings are activated. Fire Strike Extreme and Fire Strike Ultra are only 13 percent and 4 percent behind our GTX 1080 reference, respectively. Thus, users who intend to game at 4K resolutions with the eGPU will have an experience much closer to that of a desktop GTX 1080 compared to gamers who want 1080p only. The narrower deltas can be partly explained by the fact that gaming workloads generally become more GPU bound than CPU bound at higher graphical settings and resolutions and so the Thunderbolt 3 port is less strained.

3DMark 11
3DMark 11
Ice Storm Unlimited
Ice Storm Unlimited
Sky Diver
Sky Diver
Fire Strike
Fire Strike
Fire Strike Extreme
Fire Strike Extreme
Fire Strike Ultra
Fire Strike Ultra
3DMark
3840x2160 Fire Strike Ultra Graphics
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop), 4790K
4841 Points ∼48% +4%
Average NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop)
  (4647 - 5003, n=3)
4830 Points ∼48% +4%
Aorus GTX 1080 Gaming Box (XPS 15 9575)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop),
4647 Points ∼46%
Alienware 15 R3 Max-Q
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Max-Q, 7820HK
4232 Points ∼42% -9%
Eurocom Sky MX5 R3
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 7820HK
4206 Points ∼42% -9%
Asus Strix GTX 980 Ti Desktop PC
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti, 4790K
3918 Points ∼39% -16%
Dell XPS 15 9575 i5-8305G
AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL / 870, 8305G
1603 Points ∼16% -66%
Fire Strike Extreme Graphics
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop), 4790K
9994 Points ∼50% +15%
Average NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop)
  (8722 - 9994, n=3)
9564 Points ∼48% +10%
Aorus GTX 1080 Gaming Box (XPS 15 9575)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop),
8722 Points ∼44%
Alienware 15 R3 Max-Q
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Max-Q, 7820HK
8682 Points ∼44% 0%
Eurocom Sky MX5 R3
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 7820HK
8626 Points ∼43% -1%
Asus Strix GTX 980 Ti Desktop PC
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti, 4790K
7817 Points ∼39% -10%
Dell XPS 15 9575 i5-8305G
AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL / 870, 8305G
3192 Points ∼16% -63%
1920x1080 Fire Strike Graphics
Aorus X9 DT
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Laptop), 8950HK
22240 Points ∼55% +40%
Average NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop)
  (15834 - 22887, n=6)
20727 Points ∼51% +31%
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop), 4790K
20268 Points ∼50% +28%
Alienware 15 R3 Max-Q
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Max-Q, 7820HK
18505 Points ∼46% +17%
Eurocom Sky MX5 R3
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 7820HK
18373 Points ∼45% +16%
Asus Strix GTX 980 Ti Desktop PC
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti, 4790K
16961 Points ∼42% +7%
Aorus GTX 1080 Gaming Box (XPS 15 9575)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop),
15834 Points ∼39%
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q, 8750H
15156 Points ∼37% -4%
Alienware 17 R3 (A17-9935)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ
9227 Points ∼23% -42%
Dell XPS 15 9575 i5-8305G
AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL / 870, 8305G
7355 Points ∼18% -54%
3DMark 11
1280x720 Performance Combined
Aorus X9 DT
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Laptop), 8950HK
13993 Points ∼62% +41%
Average NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop)
  (9421 - 17223, n=6)
11938 Points ∼53% +20%
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop), 4790K
11623 Points ∼51% +17%
Asus Strix GTX 980 Ti Desktop PC
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti, 4790K
11511 Points ∼51% +16%
Eurocom Sky MX5 R3
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 7820HK
10081 Points ∼45% +2%
Aorus GTX 1080 Gaming Box (XPS 15 9575)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop),
9921 Points ∼44%
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q, 8750H
9720 Points ∼43% -2%
Alienware 15 R3 Max-Q
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Max-Q, 7820HK
9607 Points ∼42% -3%
Alienware 17 R3 (A17-9935)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ
8196 Points ∼36% -17%
Dell XPS 15 9575 i5-8305G
AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL / 870, 8305G
7788 Points ∼34% -21%
1280x720 Performance GPU
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop), 4790K
29443 Points ∼58% +48%
Average NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop)
  (19910 - 32126, n=6)
28484 Points ∼56% +43%
Aorus X9 DT
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Laptop), 8950HK
27966 Points ∼55% +40%
Alienware 15 R3 Max-Q
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Max-Q, 7820HK
24425 Points ∼48% +23%
Eurocom Sky MX5 R3
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 7820HK
23170 Points ∼45% +16%
Asus Strix GTX 980 Ti Desktop PC
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti, 4790K
23057 Points ∼45% +16%
Aorus GTX 1080 Gaming Box (XPS 15 9575)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop),
19910 Points ∼39%
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q, 8750H
19162 Points ∼38% -4%
Alienware 17 R3 (A17-9935)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ
11388 Points ∼22% -43%
Dell XPS 15 9575 i5-8305G
AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL / 870, 8305G
9862 Points ∼19% -50%
3DMark 11 Performance
15758 points
3DMark Ice Storm Standard Score
145950 points
3DMark Cloud Gate Standard Score
27092 points
3DMark Fire Strike Score
13278 points
3DMark Fire Strike Extreme Score
8126 points
Help

Gaming Performance

While Fire Strike suggests a performance dip of 24 percent in 1080p settings, real-world gaming performance can sometimes be worse. Demanding games like Destiny 2, Witcher 3, and Shadow of War run roughly 35 percent, 46 percent, and 27 percent slower on our Aorus Gaming Box. A performance deficit is not unexpected for any eGPU solution, but the difference can be quite large depending on the title. We definitely recommend playing around with settings to see what works best with the unusual eGPU setup.

We are unable to provide 4K benchmarks since our external monitor is limited to 1080p. The Nvidia control panel is inexplicably lacking the DSR option as well that would have allowed us to benchmark 4K resolutions on a native 1080p screen. Nonetheless, performance in 4K should be closer to a desktop GTX 1080 if the 3DMark results are of any indication.

See our dedicated page on the GeForce GTX 1080 GPU for more benchmarks and comparisons.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:T
Aorus X9 DT
GeForce GTX 1080 (Laptop), 8950HK, Transcend TS1TMTE850
99 fps ∼100% +43%
Eurocom Sky X4C
GeForce GTX 1080 (Laptop), 8700K, Samsung SSD 960 Pro 1TB m.2 NVMe
94 fps ∼95% +36%
Schenker XMG Ultra 15
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 8600K, Samsung SSD 960 Evo 500GB m.2 NVMe
84 fps ∼85% +22%
Aorus GTX 1080 Gaming Box (XPS 15 9575)
GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop),
69 fps ∼70%
Asus FX503VM-EH73
GeForce GTX 1060 (Laptop), 7700HQ, SanDisk SD8SN8U128G1002
52 fps ∼53% -25%
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 7577 4K
GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q, 7700HQ, SK hynix SC311 M.2
46 fps ∼46% -33%
Intel Hades Canyon NUC8i7HVK
Vega M GH, 8809G, Intel Optane 120 GB SSDPEK1W120GA
36 fps ∼36% -48%
Gigabyte Aero 14-K8
GeForce GTX 1050 Ti (Laptop), 8750H, Crucial MX300 CT525MX300SSD1
33 fps ∼33% -52%
Destiny 2 - 1920x1080 Highest Preset AA:SM AF:16x
Eurocom Sky X4C
GeForce GTX 1080 (Laptop), 8700K, Samsung SSD 960 Pro 1TB m.2 NVMe
139.1 fps ∼100% +55%
Aorus GTX 1080 Gaming Box (XPS 15 9575)
GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop),
89.9 fps ∼65%
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 7577 4K
GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q, 7700HQ, SK hynix SC311 M.2
71.4 fps ∼51% -21%
Intel Hades Canyon NUC8i7HVK
Vega M GH, 8809G, Intel Optane 120 GB SSDPEK1W120GA
65.9 fps ∼47% -27%
Overwatch - 1920x1080 Epic (Render Scale 100 %) AA:SM AF:16x
Eurocom Sky X4C
GeForce GTX 1080 (Laptop), 8700K, Samsung SSD 960 Pro 1TB m.2 NVMe
195.6 fps ∼100% +31%
Aorus GTX 1080 Gaming Box (XPS 15 9575)
GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop),
149 fps ∼76%
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 7577 4K
GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q, 7700HQ, SK hynix SC311 M.2
102 fps ∼52% -32%
Intel Hades Canyon NUC8i7HVK
Vega M GH, 8809G, Intel Optane 120 GB SSDPEK1W120GA
71 fps ∼36% -52%
low med. high ultra
BioShock Infinite (2013) 113.4fps
Metro: Last Light (2013) 65.6fps
Thief (2014) 72fps
The Witcher 3 (2015) 73.740.7fps
Batman: Arkham Knight (2015) 9957fps
Metal Gear Solid V (2015) 60fps
Fallout 4 (2015) 86.9fps
Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016) 76.8fps
Ashes of the Singularity (2016) 69.565.3fps
Overwatch (2016) 149fps
Mafia 3 (2016) 57.8fps
Prey (2017) 123.2fps
Dirt 4 (2017) 77.555.6fps
F1 2017 (2017) 8162fps
Middle-earth: Shadow of War (2017) 8469fps
Destiny 2 (2017) 89.9fps
Final Fantasy XV Benchmark (2018) 54.7fps

Stress Test

We stress the eGPU to identify for any potential throttling issues. Perhaps to the surprise of no one, temperatures are significantly cooler than on notebooks equipped with the same GTX 1080 GPU. The GPU in the latest Aorus X9 DT, for example, can become as warm as 84 C when running FurMark compared to just 66 C on our Aorus Gaming Box. Clock rates are ever so slightly faster as well at a sustained 1873 MHz compared to 1848 MHz on the Aorus X9 or even lower on the Razer Blade Pro.

Performance is stable with no dips over time. Allowing Witcher 3 to sit idly results in consistent frame rates throughout save for a couple of drops to 30 FPS near the beginning of the test.

System idle
System idle
FurMark stress
FurMark stress
Witcher 3 stress
Witcher 3 stress
 
0123456789101112131415161718192021222324252627282930313233343536373839404142Tooltip
The Witcher 3 ultra
CPU Clock (GHz) GPU Clock (MHz) Average CPU Temperature (°C) Average GPU Temperature (°C)
System Idle -- 139 ~57 27
FurMark Stress -- 1519 ~57 66
Witcher 3 Stress ~3.7 1873 ~57 58

Emissions

System Noise

Aside from the main 130 mm fan on the graphics card, there are three other smaller fans for the internal PSU and for accelerating airflow. All fans become active when the eGPU is up and running with a paired laptop. When idling, the main GPU fan will hover at around 500 RPM for a fan noise of about 32.6 dB(A). It is never truly silent unlike on most Ultrabooks, but the low 30 dB(A) range when idling is common amongst gaming notebooks. Perhaps more importantly, the fans do not pulsate or make abrupt RPM changes whereas the fans in gaming laptops are much more likely to change speeds more frequently.

Running Witcher 3 will double the fan speed to about 1100 RPM for a fan noise of about 42 dB(A) to be similar to many gaming notebooks. Since the eGPU fan is significantly larger than a laptop fan, however, the sound frequency is lower and therefore less of an annoyance when gaming. In fact, the laptop will very likely become louder than the eGPU when gaming and users would instead hear the laptop running and not the graphics dock. Fan noise can be as loud as 54 dB(A) if set to maximum and for overclocking purposes, but we never experienced this when gaming on default settings.

Note that the rear PSU fan will always be running so long as the Thunderbolt 3 port is connected to a laptop even if the laptop is turned off. Fan behavior is not perfect because the eGPU will sometimes inexplicably run at very loud RPMs when disconnected from a laptop.

Gaming Box (White: Background, Yellow: System idle, Red: Witcher 3, Green: Maximum fan noise)
Gaming Box (White: Background, Yellow: System idle, Red: Witcher 3, Green: Maximum fan noise)
MSI GS63VR 7RF. Fan noise is of higher frequency on the notebook compared to the eGPU
MSI GS63VR 7RF. Fan noise is of higher frequency on the notebook compared to the eGPU

Noise Level

Idle
32.6 / 32.6 / 32.7 dB(A)
Load
32.7 / 54.2 dB(A)
  red to green bar
 
 
30 dB
silent
40 dB(A)
audible
50 dB(A)
loud
 
min: dark, med: mid, max: light   Audix TM1, Arta (15 cm distance)   environment noise: 28 dB(A)
Aorus GTX 1080 Gaming Box (XPS 15 9575)
GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop),
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EK71080
GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop), 7700HQ, Samsung PM961 MZVLW256HEHP
HP Omen X 17-ap002ng
GeForce GTX 1080 (Laptop), 7820HK
Aorus X9 DT
GeForce GTX 1080 (Laptop), 8950HK, Transcend TS1TMTE850
Gigabyte Aero 15X v8
GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q, 8750H, Toshiba NVMe THNSN5512GPU7
Noise
-10%
-2%
-23%
-10%
off / environment *
28
29.9
-7%
30
-7%
30
-7%
29
-4%
Idle Minimum *
32.6
38.6
-18%
31.6
3%
36
-10%
30
8%
Idle Average *
32.6
38.6
-18%
31.6
3%
37
-13%
31
5%
Idle Maximum *
32.7
39
-19%
31.7
3%
43
-31%
35
-7%
Load Average *
32.7
40.6
-24%
38.4
-17%
50
-53%
49
-50%
Witcher 3 ultra *
42.2
41.7
1%
47.2
-12%
57
-35%
51
-21%
Load Maximum *
54.2
47
13%
48.1
11%
61
-13%
54
-0%

* ... smaller is better

Temperature

Surface temperatures are generally in the low 30 C range when gaming. Much of the surface is dedicated to ventilation for optimal cooling, but that also means users must leave ample space on three of the four sides of the eGPU for maximum airflow. For example, it would be unwise to place the unit directly up against a wall or on its side. The only spot users should avoid touching is the rear of the unit nearest the PSU fan as this spot can become warmer than 40 C when gaming.

Witcher 3 load (top)
Witcher 3 load (top)
Witcher 3 load (front)
Witcher 3 load (front)
Witcher 3 load (bottom)
Witcher 3 load (bottom)

Energy Management

Power Consumption

The Dell XPS 15 9575 will charge at 65 W when connected to the eGPU instead of the rated 100 W
The Dell XPS 15 9575 will charge at 65 W when connected to the eGPU instead of the rated 100 W

An eGPU presents a unique opportunity to directly measure the power consumption of a graphics card without any motherboards, CPUs, or laptop PCBs. Idling on desktop will draw about 21 W while medium loads like 3DMark 06 will draw around 92 W. Gaming will demand about 150 W or almost 100 W less than the Aorus X9 with the same GTX 1080 GPU. Interestingly, our lone Aorus Gaming Box is very similar to the GTX 1070-powered Asus Zephyrus M GM501 in terms of power consumption on all tested loads.

Maximum load with FurMark will draw 206 W to be comparable to many performance gaming notebooks. Since the Aorus Gaming Box integrates a sizable 450 W PSU, it's technically possible (and not recommended) to upgrade to a GTX 1080 Ti graphics card should it fit inside the unit.

Our graphs below show very consistent power consumption over time when under constant loads to suggest consistent GPU performance. It's worth noting that the eGPU will idle at 8 W when turned off as long as it is connected to a laptop and an AC outlet since it will continue to charge any connected devices. Thus, users should unplug the Thunderbolt 3 cable or power cable when not in use if the constant power draw is a concern.

As mentioned earlier, users can also simultaneously charge Ultrabooks through the eGPU Thunderbolt 3 port at up to 100 W so long as the notebook supports PD 3.0. Strangely enough, our XPS 15 9575 can indeed charge via the eGPU albeit only at 65 W for reasons unknown. The standard AC adapter for the XPS 15 9575 is 130 W in comparison. As a result, the system will charge slowly at best or even not at all if under heavy gaming stress.

System idle
System idle
3DMark 06 load
3DMark 06 load
Witcher 3 load
Witcher 3 load
FurMark load activated at 20s mark
FurMark load activated at 20s mark
Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0.06 / 8 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 21.1 / 21.1 / 21.1 Watt
Load midlight 92.1 / 206 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Metrahit Energy
Aorus GTX 1080 Gaming Box (XPS 15 9575)
GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop), , , x,
Intel Hades Canyon NUC8i7HVK
8809G, Vega M GH, Intel Optane 120 GB SSDPEK1W120GA, , x,
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EK71080
7700HQ, GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop), Samsung PM961 MZVLW256HEHP, , x, 0
Aorus X9 DT
8950HK, GeForce GTX 1080 (Laptop), Transcend TS1TMTE850, IPS, 1920x1080, 17.3
Asus Zephyrus M GM501
8750H, GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), Samsung SM961 MZVKW512HMJP m.2 PCI-e, IPS, 1920x1080, 15.6
Power Consumption
18%
-26%
-60%
-3%
Idle Minimum *
21.1
15.5
27%
27.1
-28%
28
-33%
16
24%
Idle Average *
21.1
16.2
23%
27.4
-30%
37
-75%
19
10%
Idle Maximum *
21.1
16.5
22%
28.8
-36%
40
-90%
26
-23%
Load Average *
92.1
83.4
9%
100.4
-9%
109
-18%
103
-12%
Load Maximum *
206
173.5
16%
186.7
9%
353
-71%
223
-8%
Witcher 3 ultra *
150.3
135.5
10%
243.1
-62%
256
-70%
164
-9%

* ... smaller is better

Pros

+ close to desktop GTX 1080 performance when at 4K UHD
+ very small, lightweight, and portable; only 3.3 L
+ three-year warranty standard
+ generally quiet when gaming
+ relatively accessible internals
+ relatively low temperatures
+ all-metal chassis
+ overclockable

Cons

- much slower than a desktop GTX 1080 at 1080p
- GPU is not meant to be easily replaced
- initial sync issues are not uncommon
- no additional USB Type-C ports
- cannot be oriented on its side
- incomplete software
- no silent mode

Verdict

In review: Aorus GTX 1080 Gaming Box. Test model provided by Gigabyte US
In review: Aorus GTX 1080 Gaming Box. Test model provided by Gigabyte US

We can approach the Gaming Box from three perspectives: Performance, software, and cost. From a performance standpoint, users who are aiming for 4K UHD will get the most out of the eGPU as opposed to FHD. The performance delta between the Gaming Box GTX 1080 and a regular GTX 1080 is greater at 1080p where very high frame rates are common. Thus, while 1080p120 or faster is certainly possible, a GTX 1080 desktop will be able to achieve this target significantly easier on more games since it is not limited by Thunderbolt 3. A better goal for 1080p users would be 1080p60 with super-sampling enabled to create a GPU-bound scenario for a gaming experience much closer to a GTX 1080 desktop. Otherwise, performance dips of 30 percent or greater are not uncommon compared to a desktop GTX 1080.

As for the software, it still feels like a work in progress. Syncing and driver signature recognition can be slow especially for users who are constantly plugging and unplugging their laptops. Extending the screen across internal and external displays is more buggy than extending the screen across multiple external displays only. The eGPU works at the core level, but there is no question that more will need to be done before the experience becomes truly "plug and play" and seamless.

Finally, the cost of the GTX 1080 Gaming Box is currently $200 USD more than the MSRP ($500 USD) for a GeForce GTX 1080. Cryptocurrency miners are still inflating GPU prices at the moment and so the Gaming Box is actually a decent deal. As a result, users would not be paying all that much more for the added versatility of the eGPU. We can't stress how much smaller and more portable the Aorus eGPU solution is compared to those from Alienware, Razer, HP, or MSI. With that said, the GTX 1070 Gaming Box SKU may be more worthwhile in terms of performance-per-Dollar since the performance degradation from the costlier GTX 1080 SKU can be very steep in certain scenarios.

The Aorus Gaming Box is one of the smallest and most powerful eGPU docking stations currently available. A good portion of the software, however, is still very buggy. When considering the bandwidth available for Thunderbolt 3, the GTX 1070 Gaming Box SKU may be the better and more balanced option.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Aorus GTX 1080 Gaming Box Review
Allen Ngo, 2018-05- 3 (Update: 2019-03-11)
Allen Ngo
Allen Ngo - US Editor in Chief
After graduating with a B.S. in environmental hydrodynamics from the University of California, I studied reactor physics to become licensed by the U.S. NRC to operate nuclear reactors. There's a striking level of appreciation you gain for everyday consumer electronics after working with modern nuclear reactivity systems astonishingly powered by computers from the 80s. When I'm not managing day-to-day activities and US review articles on Notebookcheck, you can catch me following the eSports scene and the latest gaming news.