NUCs vs Mac Mini
Looking for some hot takes on the current state of NUCs vs the 2018 Mac Mini for eGPU gaming. I realize this is not an apples-to-apples comparison, so here’s some more of my particular context:
- I currently have an RX 580 inside a Mantiz Venus, which also houses Steam library on an SSD…
- Which I use with a 2018 MacBook Air for work, music, and gaming in Bootcamp
- I’m not a particularly hardcore gamer, but the Air clearly struggles with most gaming loads
- It gets pretty sluggish when I have Figma, Slack, and some Safari tabs open for work, too. Seems to be OK with Ableton Live and Traktor, though.
When I do have time to play games, I’d like to be able to enjoy the best 1080p performance the RX 580 can deliver, and not spend my time in settings menus making things look worse just to keep the framerates in the double digits. 😉 I’m also having some buyer’s remorse over the Air, as while it’s light and comfortable and enjoyable for things like writing in the eGPU.io forums on the couch, I find myself bumping up against its limits a bit too often./
- A dedicated PC tower for gaming. Aside from needing to find space for the thing, this seems like really just admitting defeat on the eGPU project, and doesn’t solve any of my other Air-related issues.
- A Mac Mini: More overhead for both workday stuff, and to make better use of the eGPU in Bootcamp. I could keep the Air as an everyday portable. The known cons here would be the less-than fresh hardware, but also the sticker price of ≈$2000 CAD. From what I can tell on the forums, a Mini plus an RX 580 should be a stable build, but reading all the horror stories involving the RX 5700 make me wonder… if I took this route I would imagine I would sit tight with the RX 580, and possibly consider upgrading the GPU with AMD’s next gen cards. Or perhaps pickup a used RX 5700 in a year when the driver support has settled down.
- A NUC: Say goodbye to Bootcamp and get just-enough natural and organic Windows PC for games night. I think I could put together one of the 8th gen i5's with 8GB and a small system drive for ≈$900 CAD. This doesn’t solve my Air-related issues, either, but with the money I save vs. the Mini I could perhaps look to eventually upgrade from the Air to whatever Apple’s 13"/14" Pro portable is in… 2021/22. Perhaps it will have AMD chips or a touchscreen or have no ports at all and run on rainbows. Who knows! This feels like the long(est) game scenario, where I am alternately upgrading NUC, Apple laptop, and GPU over hopefully many years.
My questions for the community are:
- Are 8th gen Windows NUC builds significantly more stable with eGPUs than all the madness the macOS side of the community continually endures? If I’m still going to spend half my time rummaging around forums trying to solve driver compatibility issues and Error 12 I might just stick with the hell I know. 😉
- I understand these NUCs have processors that are closer in power and throttling to what one would find in a 13" MacBook Pro; for 1080p gaming on an RX 580 am I actually going to care, or am I likely just going to end up finding it not that much better than the Air for $900, and wishing I’d splashed out for an i5 Mini, instead?
A lot depends on whether or not the forthcoming arrival of Windows spring update 2004 fixes (t)error 12.
Even with that, I would wait until Fall for the next-gen graphics cards and CPUs.
I wouldn’t buy anything right now.