eGPU setup for use with Macbook Air (2020) + a standard PC
I currently use a Macbook 12" and an Asus ROG GR8 (desktop PC). Both are getting a bit old and slow and I'm looking to make an overall upgrade. I use my Macbook 95%+ of the time, and the PC for occasional gaming (mainly CS:GO, nothing too heavy).
When the new MBA was announced I figured it might just be time for me to finally get on the eGPU bandwagon (which I've passively followed for years now). So, this is the solution I'm contemplating:
1x Macbook Air 2020 +
1x Compact, quiet och fairly modern desktop PC (with internal graphics only)
Important keywords for me are: Small form factor, quiet, convenient, AMD graphics (my monitor supports freesync so..)
The idea here is to use the eGPU for both my laptop and my PC. I rarely use them at the same time, and having to switch cable, if needed, wouldn't be a big deal. Money is not a big issue for me here, if the setup suits my needs, then I'd be happy to pay for it because I rarely do these upgrades. I also use the stuff for work so it's important for me that the setup supports my needs.
- Does this setup make sense?
- Would I be better off skipping the PC and opt for Boot Camp instead? Downside is that I wouldn't be able to use them simultaneously and I'd need a bigger HD on the Macbook. Any other downsides?
@insats, If your budget can accommodate a SFF desktop for Windows, it's a better route than Boot Camp on the Mac laptop. Currently the best and only AMD ITX motherboard with Thunderbolt 3 is ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3. Pair it with a Ryzen APU and you'll have a SFF that can use TB3 eGPU.
There are a few builds in the forum with this same idea. I tried a Ryzen 5 2400G inside InWin Chopin, a 3.3L case [build link]. Back then there was no Thunderbolt 3 AMD motherboards so I used the GC-TITAN-RIDGE AIC. The concept is the same, building a compact and quiet SFF that can use a TB3 eGPU when needed.
If your budget can accommodate a SFF desktop for Windows, it's a better route than Boot Camp on the Mac laptop.
Could you expand on "it's a better route than Boot Camp on the Mac laptop"? Is it less of a headache to deal with? I.e. Boot Camp eGPU issues and such?
Currently the best and only AMD ITX motherboard with Thunderbolt 3 is ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3. Pair it with a Ryzen APU and you'll have a SFF that can use TB3 eGPU.
Is it the only one in total or only one that's SFF? I was hoping not having to assemble the computer myself (i haven't done that in.. 15 years or so), but it seems TB3 is kind of rare.
When you say "only AMD ITX motherboard", are you saying that other motherboards won't work? I don't necessarily care about the CPU/Motherboard brands as long as the performance is decent and it supports freesync.
From my experience, an Air and an eGPU wouldn't be the best option, I used low per CPU laptops for ages (2017 13inch MBP) and the CPU was quite a bottleneck.
Reg Bootcamp vs a real PC, I find Bootcamp a bit more stable in a way, and treat it as a throw away OS. Something wrong? Nuke it! Update gone wrong? Nuke it! All the storage used up somehow? Nuke it! Typed my password in wrong? Nuke it! And you'll always have macOS on the laptop to start afresh with.
I'm currently using a single SFFPC with the mobo itsage recommended as I needed to drive my LG 5K Ultrafine and have installed both macOS and W10 on it and so far its working damn great! But will prob get a new laptop at some point although this hack is working far better than I expected it to.
2017 13" MacBook Pro Touch Bar
GTX1060 + AKiTiO Thunder3 + Win10
GTX1070 + Sonnet Breakaway Box + Win10
GTX1070 + Razer Core V1 + Win10
Vega 56 + Razer Core V1 + macOS + Win10
Vega 56 + Mantiz Venus + macOS + W10
Hey guys I’m new to this forum and new to the whole eGPU thing altogether. Thought I’d chime in here as I’ve just ordered a 2020 MacBook Air and after much research an ASUS XG Pro with an AMD Radeon 5700 to go with it. I’ll report back on my experience.
Specs on MacBook Air:
1.2 GHz i7 Proc
@fuzzy, thanks for sharing your experience,
I'm thinking to make the same of you. Same spec on MB Air, but with a Razer Core X. Just to know, why you have choseen the Asus eGPU?
Can you test the fps on fortnite in bootcamp ?
Thanks for your return !
(Sorry for my english, I'm french)
My Air just got delivered an hour ago (1.2 GHz i7 with 16GB RAM), while I'm setting it up and RX 5700 [Amazon] in Razer Core X warms-up next to it. DP 1.4 cable will arrive on Sunday only, but I have one old HDMI to tackle some tests tonight. :excited: Stay tuned!
Echoing what’s already been said, I have a 2018 MacBook Air running with an RX580, and I certainly can’t recommend this sort of combination. As sharper minds than mine have described elsewhere in these forums, the laptop really bottlenecks the card. While you’re talking about both a beefier card and an upgraded machine, since you say your budget has some room in it, I would take heed and look to pair the card with something other than Apple’s lowest-tier offering.
FWIW I really enjoy the Air in all the other dimensions you’d expect—It’s light, comfy, and super-portable, and perfectly adequate for doing all the non-GPU intensive tasks of life, I don’t get too stressed by my stepdaughter banging on it, and lets me muck around in Traktor and Ableton Live without any complaints. These days I’m working from home on it and I find the RX580 lets me get visual design workflows done OK, but the Air does still feel a bit sluggish tabbing around between software and juggling windows.
Long and short of it, I thought an eGPU and the cheapest Apple laptop would let me have my cake and eat it, too—price, portability, and enough power to work in MacOS and game in Bootcamp—but I think it sounds like you’d similarly be better off spending a modest amount more to get a far more optimally performant system. I myself am contemplating either a Mac Mini as a WFH/Bootcamp gaming option, or just swapping the Air for one of the imminent 13" MBP updates, depending on how they shake out.
Good luck, and I’ll be curious to see what you figure out!
I’m still awaiting my MacBook Air and Radeon 5700. The ASUS XG Pro showed up a couple days ago. I expect my 5700 will arrive tomorrow or Saturday. No word on the MacBook yet it’s been in “processing” since I placed the order on the 21st. Once I have the 5700 I’ll start testing the eGPU on my 2019 15” MacBook Pro.
I'm not expecting earth shattering performance. My MacBook Air is a replacement for a 2016 MacBook that suddenly died on me. The eGPU is a fun experiment. I play some older games on that machine but the real work is done on the Pro. I’ll be swapping the eGPU between the two but I’m most intrigued in how the new Air performs with the eGPU.
Excited to see how this setup goes. Been thinking about getting the same setup as OP and upgrade from my 2015 MBA.
Only thing that worries me is the CPU throttling from the bad cooling design. Wonder if having that eGPU would ease the load and make it not too bad.
Good luck lads, look forward to seeing the results