At CES 2022 on Tuesday, Alienware revealed a concept that it believes to be the next generation of eGPUs. It’s just the ‘GPU’ part that might be a problem.
For the uninitiated, an eGPU is an external piece of hardware, typically a large box, that connects to a portable laptop to boost graphical performance so you can, say, play Cyberpunk 2077 on an XPS 13. Or, you know, try to play it.
It’s a clever solution for overcoming hardware restrictions to let you have the best of both worlds: an ultra-thin, ultra-lightweight laptop when you’re on the move and a powerful gaming rig at home. As great as that sounds, eGPUs, for various reasons, haven’t caught on—but Alienware isn’t giving up just yet.
The company’s new release is called Concept Polaris, though “concept” is a stretch here since there doesn’t seem to be much standing in the way of Alienware making this thing (though a lot could change between now and a potential release). So consider this announcement more an attempt to gauge customer demand than to showcase transformative technologies of the future.
Either way, it’s several steps forward from the Alienware Graphics Amplifier released in 2014. Remember that massive rectangle? It was huge, expensive, and used a proprietary PCIe/USB cable instead of the ubiquitous Thunderbolt 3. Concept Polaris tackles these problems by removing the built-in power supply and using dual 330w (or even 425w) AC adapters instead. This might not help you transport the eGPU any easier, but it keeps the size of the box down and saves you desk space.
I quite like the design of the Concept Polaris. Actually, I hope Alienware doesn’t make any changes to the exterior should it ever go to market. Where most eGPUs are big black rectangles, Concept Polaris borrows from Alienware’s “Legion 2.0” aesthetic, so you get the RGB light ring, rounded edges, white surfaces, and hexagonal patterns. It’s essentially a shrunken-down Aurora R12 desktop and will appeal to those who gravitate toward the stereotypical gamer look—you know, glowing rainbow hues and weird futuristic sci-fi elements.
It may look small, but the frame allows for a full-size desktop graphics card that can be liquid cooled using Alieware’s Cryo-Tech cooling system, which consists of 240mm fans and Element 31 (gallium liquid metal). Best of all, Polaris drops the bullshit Alienware-only connector and replaces it with Thunderbolt 4, Thunderbolt 3, and USB-4, so you can use the eGPU on a wider range of laptops. Along with those ports, you get USB Type-C, USB Type-A, and Ethernet ports.
Let me reiterate that Polaris is less a concept than the others Dell/Alienware announced at CES 2022 (Nyx, Pari, Luna) considering most of the technology already exists to get this thing off the ground. Hell, thanks to the ongoing chip shortage, the only thing conceptual about Concept Polaris is the idea that its owners could buy the desktop GPUs needed to make it function. Oh well, at least it’ll look good sitting empty on your desk.