Use eGPU with on an integrated graphics laptop without an external monitor
Hey all, very new to eGpu stuff so forgive me asking any dumb questions.
I recently bought a Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon 7, and am looking at getting an eGPU for gaming, especially since Halo MCC is coming to steam soon. The laptop currently runs integrated Intel graphics, and I'm wondering if it's possible to use an eGPU and get it running without getting an external monitor. I'm willing to deal with some degraded performance, I'm not a pro gamer I just want something that will run games like MCC at 30-40 fps with decent graphics.
I've tried to look into whether this is possible, but scrawling through forums has gotten me different answers, and some answers imply that this is possible with some graphic cards but not others. Any help onto whether this is possible and with what hardware would be greatly appreciated.
Intel® Core™ i7-8565U Processor
16GB LPDDR3 2133MHz RAM
512GB PCIe NVMe M.2 Solid State Drive
Intel Integrated 620 Graphics
2x USB Type C Thunderbolt with PowerDelivery
@jonah_feldman while it's hard to make a precise statement for the MMCs system requirements at this point (especially Halo 2 Remastered due to it's Xbox One "native" nature) it should be true to say those games will run on a wide variety if hardware. The Xbox 360 is an old console after all, so the standards should be pretty low in that concern. The best thing for you to do would be to sit back until at least Reach releases on December 3rd and see how it performs on the UHD 620 before bashing to buy an eGPU enclosure+graphics card. It likely won't reach the target FPS you described above, but it's still possible given the age of the Xbox 360.
Since that also means the requirements are really low for modern computers, the pick of an eGPU setup won't be too difficult to make. Since your computer comes with 2 USB-C ports, both capable of Thunderbolt 3 even, the cheapest setup i could think about for you would be to get a Zotac AMP Box Mini. You would still have to connect the power supply of your laptop to the second port though (the AMP Box Mini only has 15W Power Delivery). Since the graphical requirements of Xbox 360 ports are relatively low (again, no telling about remastered graphics of Halo 2, original shouldn't be a problem (same with the first Halo, both were original Xbox Classic games, after all) with your UHD 620, at least i remember playing it at a good frame rate on a laptop with an ATI (yea, ATI, not AMD back then - more than 10 years ago) Mobility Radeon X1600, even on Windows Vista), it should be enough to go with an Nvidia xx50 (e.g. 1050 Ti or 1650) card or comparable AMD card (sorry, I don't keep a watch on those since AMD still can't compete with Nvidia in terms of power consumption, which is something i would like to keep low on every graphics card i buy), keep in mind that you need to pick an ITX version of the card to fit it into the AMP Box Mini though! Possibly even a GT 1030 could suffice for MCC (probably not Halo 2 remastered, but the other titles should be fine with a 1030, since it's about half the price of the 1050 Ti and 1650).
About internal screen acceleration, it should be safe to say that there won't be any problems with your computer. But it's still best to check the builds page on your specific X1 with the enclosure and possible the graphics card you decided on buying before doing so.
KEEP IN MIND: These are all assumptions since none of the games have been released yet, it will be easier to tell once Halo Reach is out and especially once Halo 2 with it's most demanding remaster has been released.
I'm very happy with my Sonnet Breakaway Box 550W + 2070. It's super quiet. I have the same CPU as you in the 15W configuration of it. The Gram 17 has terrible heat management, so I probably have the worst case scenario of that CPU lol. If that gen of X1 has full 4-lane Thunderbolt 3 I'd say a similar setup would work fine, especially if Lenovo configures it in it's 25W mode, though I have zero idea if that's what they do.
What's the native resolution of your X1's panel? If you are going to try to push 4K so you don't get artifacts from interpolation (not sure if nvidia's new integer scaling support works well to use sharp 1080p on 4K panels for modern games yet) you might want to get a beefy GPU (2080 Super or 2080Ti). If you don't mind bumping the resolution down and potentially having interpolation artifacts (slight blurriness) then you can go down a few notches in GPU and run 1080p or 1440p. If your panel is already that resolution, you're gold.
I run everything at 2560x1600 on my Gram 17 with a slightly overclocked 2070 and get great results. Build link is in my sig.
Pretty much every Windows 10 laptop with an 8550U, 8265U or 8565U and 40Gb 4-lane TB3 is going to perform roughly the same with the same eGPU setup. The real differentiation is what TDP config does the CPU have in the laptop (15W vs 25w) , what resolution is the laptop's panel and what are your goals. Those things are going to drive which GPU you choose.
If you are willing to go 1080p or 1440p you will be able to get away with a 5700XT, 2060 Super or 2070 Super and never have to worry about any performance issues for the next couple years probably. If you skimp too much on the GPU you might regret it. Just know you're going to lose about 20-25% of the GPU's performance using the internal display. So any benchmarks you see for the GPU on review sites, knock 25% off for eGPU usage on internal displays. The gulf between native GPU performance and eGPU on internal displays also narrows quite a bit at higher resolutions due to the GPU itself becoming the bottleneck. So you might see less drop at 1440p or higher vs 1080p.
I have XBox gamepass for PC and noticed I get the MCC for free through that. I'll install it and come back and tell you how it performs for me on my build.
EDIT: Oops sorry it said I could install it but it just installed some 10MB pre-release thing. Doing some research it looks like maybe it launches Dec 3.
Thanks so much for all that info! Will definitely look into making the build with the parts you suggested.
The only reason I don't want an external monitor is that I live in a tiny apartment where there literally isn't a good desk space, so I just want something that will work short-term with an internal display and then later I can upgrade to an external display if/when I move somewhere with a bit more elbow room.
My native display res is 1920X1080, so no 4k and interpolation shouldn't be a huge issue
I'm in the same boat, I don't really have an option to have an external monitor. I'm definitely happy with the setup.