Deciding: "Ultrabook" + eGPU or "Netbook" + Desktop
 
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Deciding: "Ultrabook" + eGPU or "Netbook" + Desktop  

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zovc
 zovc
(@zovc)
Active Member
Joined: 8 months ago
 

Hey egpu.io,

 

I've been wanting to upgrade my system for a while now. My current main system is a MSI GS63VR (i7-6700HQ, 16GB, 6GB 1060) and my "laptop" is a Chromebook. The laptop is still workable, but upgrading it would make my workflow (video editing) easier, and would make random projects less of a pain to work on. The Chromebook consistently throws frustrations at me, I recently flashed the firmware and installed Linux and learned that they're not very well supported and I'm not experienced enough to get around a number of deal breakers in that environment.

 

Basically, I should upgrade the laptop (Chromebook) I take with me when I want a portable computer. It mostly does web browsing, media consumption, and office suite stuff so it doesn't necessarily need a lot of power. I also want to upgrade my 'desktop' (GS63VR), so I'm trying to figure out if it makes sense to upgrade them both at the same time.

 

The options I'm considering are:

  • "Ultrabook" + eGPU
  • "Netbook" + Desktop
  • "Netbook" + High-end Laptop

Ultrabook + eGPU

I like this configuration the most, aesthetically. I'm picturing a high-end, portable (~13-14") laptop without a dGPU. I'm concerned about the compatibility (etc.), the performance cost on the GPU, and the premium of needing to buy an eGPU enclosure. On the other hand, having a nice (and nicely built) laptop that I can simply remove from my eGPU dock and toss into my bag sounds extremely convenient and "clean." I like the idea of only having one system/"session" to worry about.

Netbook + Desktop

I'm using the term Netbook to suggest that I'm not giving much budget to the laptop. In principle, this could be a Chromebook but in practice ChromeOS has been nothing but headaches for me. Basically, I'd try to get the cheapest, nicely built laptop that can run Windows. The advantage here is the laptop should have extremely good battery life and be very portable, it'll be more functional than a Chromebook without internet but still not very useful without it. Instead, I'd give my budget to my desktop and plan around using something like Parsec (which I have not been able to get working flawlessly on the Chromebook) to use that machine's power on the go. The desktop has the advantage of being 'more stable' than an eGPU setup and very likely a simpler and better value than the above configuration. I'm not enthusiastic about dealing with the headaches related to remote access, but I think I can work around them.

Netbook + High-end Laptop

Effectively, what I'm doing now. But, with a suitable laptop replacing the Chromebook and a more powerful laptop replacing my current one. The value proposition is probably in the middle of the two other configurations. This does have the advantage of allowing me to consider Ryzen 4000 laptops (which seem pretty great) since it doesn't need TB3. It also allows me to easily take my GPU with me if I actually need it on-the go.

 

My biggest concern with the 'netbook' option is, I am trying to turn video production into a side-job. In addition to the device just looking less premium, its (presumably) worse screen might make things look worse if I'm trying to show them to a client or trying to do color grading. It's an intangible thing, but I'd like to appear professional since I'd likely be freelance. So, I'd be introducing headaches (and latency) to remotely accessing my home machine for video edits, and I'd definitely need internet access if I'm trying to do that. There could be more hoops and complications when it comes to reviewing footage on-site using my laptop to show to clients or crew.

 

Most options in the Ultrabook category can have high-quality screens that would help make a good impression showing examples to clients. I'm also confident that they could handle quick, basic edits or color grades for demonstration's purpose. This, and the aesthetic/convenience preference of the eGPU pushes me towards going this way. It does lock me into the hardware I choose a lot more than the Netbook + Desktop solution.

 

What are your thoughts? I really would like to upgrade my Chromebook sooner rather than later. But, at this point I feel like I should be waiting to see what gets announced in ~February next year. A part of me is holding out hope that we'll see Ryzen laptops that actually have Thunderbolt next year.

 

What laptops do you think I should be looking at?

To do: Create my signature with system and expected eGPU configuration information to give context to my posts. I have no builds.

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lwf
 lwf
(@lwf)
Trusted Member
Joined: 5 months ago
 

Depending on what you need to use the GPU for, I think you will be happier with an ultrabook + eGPU.

It sounds like you will be using this setup for work and for work you need mobility. I think you will get tired of transferring your files back and forth.

I don't even travel very much but when I do it is so great to just grab my laptop. And even just moving to different places around the house. For me the tradeoffs that come with an eGPU - weaker CPU, less peak performance - are worth the benefits.

Also, I don't think you really need an "ultrabook" anymore to get good TB3 eGPU going, although maybe you need it for the screen. I paid less than $1000 US for the laptop I'm using. I compare my setup to what I might have spent on a top of the line gaming laptop, and I feel like I'm way ahead and more flexible - I can upgrade either the laptop or the GPU down the road.

There should also be Ryzen laptops hitting the market soon with thunderbolt, those will be interesting to see paired with an eGPU.

2020 15" Lenovo Slim 7 [10th,4C,G] + RTX 3070 @ 32Gbps-TB3 (ASUS XG Station Pro) + Win10 [build link]  

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zovc
 zovc
(@zovc)
Active Member
Joined: 8 months ago
 
Posted by: @lwf

There should also be Ryzen laptops hitting the market soon with thunderbolt, those will be interesting to see paired with an eGPU.

Thanks for the input!

 

Is there any particular reason you think Ryzen laptops with TB will be coming soon? I was under the impression we will *not* see any Ryzen 4000 laptops with TB.

To do: Create my signature with system and expected eGPU configuration information to give context to my posts. I have no builds.

.

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Leovinus
(@leovinus)
Trusted Member
Joined: 6 months ago
 

@zovc, I can't give you an exact proposal as such. But maybe some food for thought?

I'd opt for either of the following (with the caveat that I don't know your exact needs)

  • Ultrabook + eGPU
    • It seems to me that you fancy this idea yourself. And the cleanliness and simplicity you describe is true, when it works. That's really the biggest caveat. eGPU's aren't flawless, whatever you decide here you ought to research the hardware combination well. Luckily you've found the best place to do it! Besides which, the eGPU enclosure (depending on which one you get) can be used for other expansion options besides graphics down the line if you wish. So as potential value it's not terrible, though price performance for video editing and rendering is less. But that comes with the territory I'm afraid.
  • Ultrabook/Laptop + Medium desktop
    • Considering the massive performance increase of the latest generation of Ryzen desktop chips even in the low and mid-range I'd say it definitely bears thinking about. The modularity of it all makes upgrading down the line easy. So getting a decent laptop and a decent PC for heavier lifting could make sense. You could get a decent second hand graphics card as the new launches are seeing lots of people upgrade. Right now ram and SSD's are cheap-ish too. And again, you can upgrade.

eGPU's are sexy, the idea of them is appealing, but they're not for everyone. You ultimately decide if it fits your use case, but I'd say either of those two options would play well with what you describe. The laptop/desktop option could well be more expensive depending on what you go for, but you make up for it in price/performance and upgradeability. The eGPU gives you mobility and cleanliness at the cost of worse price/performance. 

 

Rocking a Mac mini 2018/2020 i7-8700B 6C/12T with 32Gb RAM, and a PowerColor 5700 XT humming along in its Razer Core X.

 
2018 Mac Mini [8th,6C,B] + RX 5700 XT @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Razer Core X) + macOS 10.15.5 [build link]  


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