We recently noticed that Alienware’s just-announced X15 and X17 thin and vaguely light gaming laptops are conspicuously missing a port — and it’s not because they’re thin-and-light, it turns out. Alienware has just confirmed to The Verge that it has discontinued the Alienware Graphics Amplifier external GPU, and so these laptops won’t need that proprietary port anymore. The company isn’t saying whether it’ll offer a future eGPU, but pointed us to off-the-shelf Thunderbolt ones instead.
The Alienware Graphics Amp was first introduced in 2014 for $299 and designed to be a companion to the company’s midrange Alienware 13, giving it the vast majority of the power of a desktop graphics card plus four extra full-size USB ports when docked. I liked the combo well enough. But over the years, Alienware added the port to practically every laptop (and some of its more compact desktops, like the Alienware X51 mini-tower and Alienware Alpha R2 console-sized PC) it released, including the company’s flagship Area-51M which was designed to have built-in upgrades of its own.
With an included 460W power supply devoted entirely to the GPU, and a price that dipped to $199 and occasionally $150, the Amp managed to stay competitive for quite a while in the fairly niche market of eGPUs, which generally use manufacturer-agnostic Thunderbolt 3 ports instead of proprietary cables (and can often charge your laptop as well).
It’s not clear when Alienware discontinued the Amp. The Wayback Machine shows it was still live as of November 2020, and Dell last updated its support page in April 2021 — without adding compatibility for the latest wave of Nvidia and AMD graphics cards.
The new Alienware M15 R5 and M15 R6 also omit the Graphics Amplifier port. It’ll be interesting to see if this is the end for Alienware’s dreams of upgradable laptops; certainly the Amp lasted a lot longer than the idea of offering new chips for the giant Area-51m laptop.