Akitio Node Cabinet review: Real, affordable graphics for your laptop

 

The Akitio Node external GPU cabinet is here to give your Thunderbolt 3-equipped laptop a big boost. This affordable unit—basically, a big steel box with a 400-watt PSU and a fan in front—lets you drop in most modern AMD or Nvidia graphics cards and then connect it to a laptop using PCIe over Thunderbolt 3/USB-C.

dsc04540

Gordon Mah Ung

The Akitio features one fan for the PSU, and one in front that offers plenty of airflow.

For the most part, when it works, it’s amazingly smooth. For example, we cracked open the Node, dropped in a Founders Edition GeForce GTX 1080 Ti card, then plugged it into a HP Spectre x360 13t. Once we had the latest drivers installed from Nvidia’s website, we were off and running. As these results from 3DMark FireStrike Ultra show, the tiny HP Ultrabook gives what-for to big, giant, fast gaming laptops.

spectre x360 egpu 1080 ti firestrike ultra overall

IDG

Yes, a sub-3lbs. laptop can hang with big fat gaming laptops–if you cheat like we did.

The score you see above, however, is the overall score for 3DMark FireStrike Ultra, which also counts CPU performance. The dual-core Kaby Lake chip in the tiny HP Spectre x360 13T isn’t going to compete with the quad-cores. In the 3DMark test that includes just the graphics performance, however, you’ll see a better spread from the GTX 1080 in the giant EON17-X laptop.

Yes, there’s a good chance the limited x4 PCIe Gen 3 could rob you of some performance over what you might get if the GPU were in a desktop. In fact, the same GPU will typically score in the 7,000 range when in a full x16 PCIe Gen 3 slot. But just remember: The alternative is being stuck with the integrated graphics in the laptop, unable to game at this higher level of performance.

spectre x360 egpu 1080 ti firestrike ultra graphics

 

Fallout 4 Update Improves Performance by Downgrading Graphics?

Fallout 4’s first patch is out of beta on the PC and has hit the PS4 and Xbox One as well. It promises a slew of fixes, most of which have been outlined by Bethesda on its Steam Community Page.

However, it seems to bring with it some undocumented downgrades. According to Gearnuke, some users have been reporting a loss in visual fidelity across all platforms. It’s odd considering that Fallout 4 looks like a shinier, crisper step up from previous entries in the franchise rather than something that takes full advantage of current hardware.

Right now, the most cited example of this is the Corvega Assembly Plant area of the game wherein shadows are now non-existent. Although the frame rate has been improved. It’s unclear if there’s a loss of effects in the rest of the game at the moment.

Graphical downgrades are not exactly a new occurrence. In the past we’ve seen this with games such as Grand Theft Auto V and Far Cry 4 albeit for the PS4 and Xbox One. To see this for a game like Fallout 4 is telling. Even more so considering that it impacts the PC, a platform with potentially the most powerful hardware to run the game.

Hopefully Bethesda fixes this in the next patch for all platforms.