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If you’re considering purchasing an eGPU, you might be wondering if it’s worth the investment. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons to help you make a decision.
Table of Contents
eGPUs – what are they?
An eGPU is a graphics processing unit that is attached to a computer via Thunderbolt 4 (Or USB 4 in AMD Laptops). Thunderbolt 4 is a hardware interface that allows for the connection of external devices to a computer. The eGPU allows for the use of a dedicated graphics card, which can improve the performance of certain applications, such as video editing and gaming.
The benefits of an eGPU include increased performance, improved graphical quality, and reduced power consumption. However, there are also some disadvantages to using an eGPU, such as the increased cost and the need for a Thunderbolt 4-enabled computer.
How do eGPUs work?
An eGPU is a dedicated box that combines an external graphics card (GPU), power supply, and, in some cases, additional cooling for gaming laptops or computers that otherwise wouldn’t be able to support high-end graphics cards. The eGPU connects to the computer via Thunderbolt 4 and essentially gives it the same kind of graphics boost you’d get from plugging a desktop GPU into a PCI Express slot.
An eGPU can be used for anything that benefits from a powerful graphics card, including playing games, editing video, and using creative applications like Adobe Photoshop or Premier Pro. Some of the newest eGPUs on the market even come with their own built-in displays, so you can use them as portable mini-monitors for gaming or working on the go.
The benefits of using an eGPU
An eGPU can accelerate performance in certain apps that use Metal, OpenGL, and OpenCL. Apple has a list of apps that it says will see significant improvements with an eGPU connected. Here are a few examples:
Adobe Lightroom CC: up to 3x faster exporting
Adobe Premiere Pro CC: up to 4K resolution directly to an external display
Final Cut Pro X: Rendering at up to 4K resolution
Pixelmator Pro: Up to 6x faster Machine Learning-powered image editing
Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Up to 4K resolution with HDR10 support on an external display
The downsides of using an eGPU
An eGPU can give your Mac additional graphics performance for professional applications, 3D gaming, VR content creation, and more. But there are a few things you should know before you dive in to using one.
First, an eGPU won’t do anything to improve the graphics performance of your Mac’s integrated graphics processor. That includes the graphics performance of the built-in display on MacBook models that don’t have a discrete graphics processor.
Second, while an eGPU can accelerate apps that use Metal, OpenGL, and OpenCL, it can’t accelerate every app. In particular, an eGPU can’t accelerate apps that use Apple’s UIKit framework or depend on the integrated graphics processor for display output. That means apps like Safari, Mail, FaceTime, and Messages can’t take advantage of an eGPU.
Third, even if an app can use an eGPU for accelerated graphics processing, it might not do so by default. For example, in macOS Mojave 10.14 or later, you need to open System Preferences and select Energy Saver to enable automatic graphics switching between the integrated and discrete GPUs. With automatic switching enabled, apps will automatically use the discrete GPU for accelerated graphics processing when it’s available—and switch back to integrated graphics when it’s not needed.
And fourth, using an eGPU with a Mac notebook also requires connecting two external displays—one connected to the eGPU unit itself and one connected to the Thunderbolt 3 port on your Macbook. (You can connect just one external display if you don’t mind disabling the internal display.) The external display connected to your Macbook must have a mini DisplayPort connector; it can’t be HDMI or DVI.
Who should buy an eGPU?
If you’re a creative professional who relies on graphics-intensive apps—such as Adobe Premiere, After Effects, or Photoshop—for your work, an eGPU can significantly boost your productivity by increasing the frame rate of your projects, as well as shorten render times. 3D modelers and video game developers will also find that an eGPU can help them create 3D models and games faster. And if you own a MacBook Pro without a dedicated graphics card, an eGPU can turn it into a powerful gaming laptop.
How much do eGPUs cost?
An eGPU is an external graphics processing unit that connects to a computer via Thunderbolt 4 (Intel) or USB 4 (AMD) to provide additional graphics processing power. The price of an eGPU can vary depending on the make and model, but they typically cost between $500 and $1,500.
If you are thinking about getting an eGPU, you should first consider whether you really need one. If you only use your computer for casual web browsing and word processing, then an eGPU is probably not worth the cost. However, if you do more demanding tasks like video editing or 3D gaming, then an eGPU can give your computer the extra power it needs to perform at its best.
Another factor to consider is whether your computer is Thunderbolt 4 or USB 4 compatible. Thunderbolt 4 is a high-speed interface that is needed in order to use an eGPU. Not all computers have Thunderbolt 4 ports, so be sure to check before you buy an eGPU.
Thunderbolt 4 ports come only with Intel-based processing models. While USB 4 ports can work with an AMD processor if present on an AMD CPU-based laptop.
If you decide that an eGPU is right for you, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing one. First, consider what kind of graphics card you need. Graphics cards come in two main types: AMD and NVIDIA. Both types are good for general gaming and video editing, but if you want to do more specific tasks like playing VR games or using Photoshop, then you may want a card that is specifically designed for those tasks.
Second, think about the size and shape of the eGPU enclosure. Some enclosures are small and compact, while others are large and bulky. If space is limited, then you may want to choose a smaller enclosure. However, larger enclosures generally provide better cooling for the graphics card and can support multiple graphics cards if needed.
Finally, make sure to read reviews before buying an eGPU. There are a lot of different models on the market, so it’s important to find one that meets your needs and budget. Checking reviews can help you narrow down your choices and make sure you choose a quality product.
The best eGPUs cases on the market
An external graphics card, also known as an eGPU, can supercharge your Windows Laptop, MacBook, or Mac mini with additional GPU power — sometimes yielding performance benefits of 100x or more!
With an eGPU, you can transform a normal laptop into a powerful graphics workstation.
Choosing the best eGPU for your laptop depends on a few factors. Here are a few of the best eGPU enclosures on the market, based on your needs:
If you want maximum performance: Razer Core X Chroma
If you want maximum portability: AKiTiO Node Titan
No matter which eGPU enclosure you choose, you’ll need to make sure it’s compatible with your laptop. Most modern Thunderbolt 4-equipped laptops released since 2019 are compatible with eGPUs, but you want to make sure it’s listed in the connectivity section of the specs of the laptop you want to buy.
eGPU’s are definitely worth the investment if you are going to be running GPU-intensive tasks that need more GPU power than what your laptop can offer. Not only that but Laptop GPUs generate a lot of heat which doesn’t get dissipated easily in that small form closure. That’s where external GPUs can come in to save your internal GPU from degrading over time.
The only thing you want to make sure of is that you are either buying an Intel Porcessor-based laptop that has at least a Thunderbolt 4 connector (Thunderbolt is expected to arrive in late 2023 and will double up the transfer speeds), or a USB 4 port if its an AMD processor-based laptop. Most Mac Books already come with plenty of Thunderbolt 4 connectors.
Growing up with a keen interest in the ever-evolving tech landscape, Andrea hails from the tech-savvy city of San Francisco. She pursued her passion at the University of California, earning a degree in Computer Science. Andrea's academic journey laid the foundation for her comprehensive understanding of technology and its impact on our daily lives.
Andrea's professional journey has been marked by hands-on experience with a variety of tech devices, from laptops to cutting-edge gadgets. Her practical expertise has made her adept at translating complex tech topics into digestible, informative content for tech enthusiasts of all levels.