I have laptop which has working Ethernet port but I always use WiFi . I am wondering if it is possible to run and use a graphics card (with external power supply) connected to the Ethernet port (with some kind of PCI emulation to emulate the Ethernet GPU as a PCI one).

A Cat6 cable can do 10 Gbps, which should be enough for a GPU to run and play games.

Could this be possible?

  • 11
    But does your laptop's Ethernet port support 10 GB/s? Link speed is usually measured in gigabits (i.e. 10 GB/s ≈ 100 Gbps, which is far more than Cat6 can deliver). Even if you meant 10 Gbps, I'd be really surprised if your laptop had that. May 22, 2016 at 14:38
  • 9
    Just buy a desktop pc to fit that GPU in (also get good CPU and RAM to that) and use steam in-home streaming.
    – ave
    May 22, 2016 at 16:01
  • 3
    You're gonna need a bigger FPGA development board
    – Flexo
    May 22, 2016 at 22:20
  • 3
    which laptop in the last decade can't play HD videos? Even an old pentium 4 can run at least 720p properly. If there's problem with performance, probably it's with your configuration, not hardware specification. Use a player with GPU rendering like MPC and make sure DXVA is running
    – phuclv
    May 23, 2016 at 4:27
  • 1
    you might also need to turn on DXVA in VLC. Anyway using a separate environment is better as there'll be less overhead from OS
    – phuclv
    May 23, 2016 at 7:36

11 Answers 11



Chances are very slim that your laptop has a 10 gigabit ethernet adaptor - its uncommon on high end desktops. You'd also need some clever hardware to translate between PCI-e to ethernet, and the latency, oh the latency. You have a device which is typically put as close to the processor as possible with 16 dedicated pci-e lanes right into it, and you'd be adding a ton of latency.

Such a device would essentially be a video card, plugged into a PC, rendering what you want to play on the video card, compressing it, and sending it over as video.

Newer laptops may be able to do this with thunderbolt, but that's a whole different protocol, with the necessary clever hardware available.

  • 1
    Thunderbolt isn't fast enough. Yet... I've heard that version 3.0 will have a maximum speed of around 80000Mbps. That should be enough for very basic cards. Nothing that fancy. May 22, 2016 at 19:57
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    @IsmaelMiguel 'Thunderbolt isn't fast enough' Source? My understanding is that thunderbolt to gpu does exist and works very well (only minor performance degradation due to thunderbolt).
    – NPSF3000
    May 22, 2016 at 23:54
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    expether.org/products.html - it's not such an unheard of use case.
    – oakad
    May 23, 2016 at 2:16
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    for GPGPU. With 40gb optical connections. For ludicious amounts of money I'm sure. Latency's not an issue, and would be less so, there's a lot more bandwidth, and those sure as heck arn't used for gaming. andrew's answer covers the possibility of that
    – Journeyman Geek
    May 23, 2016 at 2:26
  • 2
    @datenwolf Those are real ethernet controllers which rely on Ethernet MAC and work with any stock L2 switch. That's the whole idea, to save on custom switching.
    – oakad
    May 24, 2016 at 1:33

Connecting a GPU by Ethernet is like connecting your PS3 controller to the PS/2 keyboard port: sounds like it's trying to fix a problem but the solution turns out to be completely outlandish and impractical. (Granted, if you can pull it off, you'll gain more popularity as that one crazy guy.)

That said, I advise you not to try to do this because the interface simply doesn't exist. You'd have to go through a lot of hoops to get your card to accept low-level commands through high-level interfaces and then bring back a video output. The latency would be absolutely horrible, unless you are willing to pay thousands and thousands of dollars for an enterprise-grade solution that lets you do this for one reason or another.

However, don't fret. You may still be able to connect your GPU to your laptop. For instance, if you have an ExpressCard slot, you can use an ExpressCard to PCIe adapter (along with a power supply unit) to have a seamless experience.

However, there may be compatibility issues due to the operating system's inability to set up resources for the PCI connection to the GPU, so browse around and make sure it's compatible before you buy anything. Consult guides such as PCWorld's eGPU tutorial to see if you have everything you need to use a desktop GPU with your laptop.

Regardless, do not expect 100% performance. Remember, it's a laptop.

  • 4
    Actually, connecting the PS3 controller via PS/2 sounds like a very good idea to get steady performance on a dedicated connection. :D
    – Daniel B
    May 22, 2016 at 16:44
  • @DanielB DualShock 3 controllers require a sort of "handshake" for the controller to initialize since it's a digital interface. DS2 is viable though, but not DS3.
    – oldmud0
    May 22, 2016 at 23:25
  • The laptop has a ExpressCard slot.I have newer laptop with AMD integrated Venice which doesn't have an ExpressCard slot but has USB 3
    – Suici Doga
    May 23, 2016 at 1:41
  • @oldmud0 PS/2 is a digital connection, too. It’ll require additional hardware or hardware modifications, that’s for sure. But it’s really not nearly as absurd as you make it sound.
    – Daniel B
    May 23, 2016 at 6:16
  • @DanielB Considering you can run DS3 on PC with custom USB driver I think hardware modification would end at wiring (At first I couldn't calibrate one axis, then I learned DS3 have bubble level feature :)
    – PTwr
    May 23, 2016 at 11:39

Probably not at commodity pricing for another few years. The current offerings are all high-end, using 10/40 Gbps connections and Nvidia Tesla cards. Even then, it's not directly usable for gaming or graphics, but more for CUDA processing.

e.g. http://www.chelsio.com/gpudirect-rdma/


Not with ethernet, but with PCIe and Thunderbolt. This article breaks down the external GPU (eGPU) landscape well.

A number of companies sell PCIe/Thunderbolt enclosures. Some are limited by Thunderbolt's power, some have their own power.

There's even a DIY kit.

  • I figure its only a matter of time before you can pick up one of those external PCI adaptors that can connect to mini DP or a few other standards in thunderbolt.
    – Journeyman Geek
    May 24, 2016 at 2:07

Not by Ethernet, but PC Mag ran a story last Sept on using a gaming card with a laptop connected via PCIe adapter card, Express Card, or Thunderbolt for Macbooks.


The author uses a 2011 Thinkpad and under $200 GPU and shows benchmarks for some modern games. I'd summarize him as pleased he could run them at all for a small expenditure (not a full new gaming box). Benchmarks are provided to make your own judgements.

  • A 2011 Think pad and what?
    – Suici Doga
    May 23, 2016 at 1:32
  • Welcome to Super User! Please read the question again carefully. Your answer does not answer the original question.
    – DavidPostill
    May 23, 2016 at 9:07

The closest you can come to what you want is, if you're gaming via Steam, to use the in home streaming option to use your network to route the display from the a gaming desktop to your laptop and user input from the laptop to the desktop running the game. This would require a full desktop somewhere in your home instead of just a laptop + external GPU; but you can hide it out of the way somewhere and only interact with your laptop.


I believe VirtualGL might help you with this - it allows you to run the graphically-intensive program on device and view the results on another.


If you have no technical skills, then the easiest way to break this down is simply: does your graphics card have an Ethernet port? The next question being "Can I get an adapter to make it so?" As far as I know, there is no adapter capable of adding an Ethernet port to a graphics card.

If you simply want to beef up your laptop with an external graphics card, there does happen to be a solution for that, though it's obviously not cheap. A better solution would be buy or build a gaming specific machine, based on the specs required for the specific games and types of games that you want to play, for the number of years that you think the machine will last/stay relevant. Maximum PC usually has good articles recommending gaming rigs, I suggest you check out their build pages. They usually have 3 different tiers with parts lists and links. mid range linked earlier.

If you insist on using the adapter, here is the tech: This device can use a Expresscard slot or a mini PCIe slot. The Expresscard can be found on newer laptops, and is externally accessible. The mini PCIe slot means you'd have to do surgery to your laptop and route a cable, assuming that your laptop had such a card slot.

  • My laptop has a wireless card PCI slot but if I put a GPU I can't use WiFi
    – Suici Doga
    Jan 27, 2017 at 4:07

I doubt you'd be able to run just a graphics card by itself via ethernet. But you could connect to another PC using some kind of remote desktop application (VNC, etc).

There has been rumblings about being able to connect an external GPU via Thunderbolt or USB 3.1, and AMD says they want to make a standard for it: http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2016/03/amd-wants-to-standardise-the-external-gpu/

  • Is USB 3 SuperSpeed USB 3.1
    – Suici Doga
    May 25, 2016 at 6:04

It's 2018 and eGPUs are a widely available thing now, it's still missing in these answers so I want to leave it as an answer in case someone isn't aware of those great things:


(Amazon Link to the above product)

These devices fit a GPU and a power supply (most of them have them built-in, the above one has a 400W one built-in to power the GPU). It's using Thunderbolt 3 which has a bandwidth of up to 40Gbit/s, offers 18V @ 550mA, can drive multiple 4K displays, and much more fancy things.

This would be your best solution. It's simple, there's cheaper ones too, and it guarantees you a perfect system integration and performance (you can even run a GTX 1080 inside these things).

As already pointed out, a solution involving ethernet has several flaws, the biggest being that your laptop's port most likely doesn't support more than 1Gbit/s.


Likelier option may be PCI-to-USB. Might be a smarter move. If you don't have a free USB slot: Plug something out! Or get a hub.

  • Can downvoters say why they downvoted? its a more logical solution that plugging pci to ethernet May 23, 2016 at 15:09
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    It's lacking in detail. And I don't think USB is fast enough to run a decent card without seeing someone do it.
    – Schwern
    May 23, 2016 at 21:45
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    And it's not useful. PCI (or PCIe) to USB doesn't solve anything, and USB to PCIe doesn't exist.
    – user89623
    May 23, 2016 at 23:01
  • USB doesn't carry a PCIe signal whereas Thunderbolt and expresscard (the two most commonly used interfaces for external gpus) do.
    – A G
    Mar 6, 2019 at 16:00

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