While Alienware has ditched its Graphics Amplifier, which worked with mulitple generations of Alienware laptop over a proprietary connector, the company is still working on a new external GPU. At CES 2022,Alienware showed off Concept Polaris, a new spin on the idea that can fit a 16-inch GPU and allows for watercooling.
Unlike the Alienware Graphics Amplifier, Polaris uses a Thunderbolt 4 port rather than something proprietary. However, Alienware suggested that as a concept, this could change. Asus' ROG XG Mobile, which uses a laptop-grade graphics card, has a proprietary connector combined with USB Type-C. Polaris can also be used as a dock of sorts,with USB connections and video outputs on the rear.
Alienware's goal, I'm told, is for gamers to be able to fit in almost any off-the-shelf card, including the ones on our best graphics card list. 16-inches in length should cover most of them, and the demo unit I saw had an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 in it.
To make this all fit, Alienware has moved the power supply out of the box, which makes it less chunky but ends up with more bricks on the floor. (This is the opposite move from what recent video game consoles have made, as the power supplies create more of a mess by your surge protector.) The current concept can be powered by up to two 330 W power supplies, and I'm told they're working on getting 425 W bricks to work.
Liquid cooling, however, may be an issue. Alienware is using that, along with its proprietary Element 31 thermal material from the Alienware X series laptops, for the best possible performance and to allow overclocking. But that adds a level of complexity, as filling and draining coolant — and replacing parts connected to water blocks — is a complex process that you typically see primarily in the most enthusiast (and expensive PC builds). It's not clear if Alienware will come up with a way to make swapping out watercooled GPUs easier–or how many models will be supported.
Concept Polaris has heavily adopted Alienware's modern "Legend" design language with round corners and honeycomb-shaped vents. It looks like a small Alienware Aurora desktop, which is kind of adorable. And while we primarily saw it sitting horizontally, the magnetic base can be moved so that the eGPU stands vertically, freeing up desk lots of space.
Of course, like all concepts, we have to treat this with a big grain of salt. While Alienware representatives talked as if Polaris is in active development, you really never know if a concept will come to market unless and until a final product is announced. Maybe if Polaris does arrive as a product you can buy, the GPUs to put in it will also be affordable by then. Hey, it’s just a concept.