Gaming on a Mac: External GPU + Logitech G27 Racing Wheel

We’ve been warned time and time again, “You’re doing it wrong if you buy a Mac to game.” Things change and so too will opinions when macOS High Sierra with eGPU support arrives. Today I’m mixing a bit of old-school tech with new-school cool. I’ve had this Logitech G27 wheel mounted on a racing seat setup since the blissful days of Gran Turismo 5 on PlayStation 3. With the recent release of F1 2016 for macOS and eGPU support in 10.13 Beta, I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to put the whole thing together and see how gaming on a Mac has improved.

gaming on a mac with egpu and racing wheel

 

The Sonnet Breakaway Box and Radeon RX 580 I reviewed back in April are the exact same components Apple chose for its External Graphics Development Kit. This RX 580 eGPU setup has been working very well with macOS 10.13 High Sierra beta. The bigger unknown for me was whether macOS and the game would detect the Logitech G27 racing wheel. It was surprisingly straight-forward. I only needed a USB to USB-C adapter to connect the G27 to my 2016 15″ MacBook Pro. As soon as the game detected the steering wheel, it went through the initialization process of cocking the wheel side to side. All buttons on the wheel were functional, but it took me some time to figure out which button did what. I was not able to use the clutch and shifter inputs. Perhaps this was unsupported by the game and not due to macOS or the Logitech G27.

f1 2016 settings panel with Logitech G27 racing wheel

Once the main components were in place, I needed an external display because internal display eGPU acceleration would severely compromise graphics performance and gameplay enjoyment. I ran an 8 ft HDMI cable to a big screen rear-projection TV. After everything was up and running, I felt the excitement of a kid waking up Christmas morning. 

Force Feedback worked great on this G27 racing wheel (as evidenced by the violent arm movements seen in the photo below). The steering feel has a nice weight to it during gameplay. The last time I played racing games with this G27 was a long while ago, so I decided not to upload video of my repeat, high-speed wreckage.

playing F1 2016 on macOS with eGPU and G27 racing wheel

 

Speaking of crashing, F1 2016 crashed a couple of times during the almost three hours of gameplay. The RX 580 eGPU itself did not stop working nor did macOS. It might simply be a compatibility issue with 10.13 beta and the game. While I was at it, I ran this eGPU pairing through some benchmarks to show the improvement on gaming performance. Here are the numbers.

2016 15" MacBook ProRadeon Pro 450 dGPURadeon RX 580 eGPU
F1 201617.0 FPS51.0 FPS
Tomb Raider 201313.1 FPS52.0 FPS
Hitman: Absolution8.1 FPS29.7 FPS
Unigine Valley5.1 FPS48.1 FPS
Unigine Heaven4.3 FPS38.2 FPS
Luxmark 3.11,56414,912
GB 4.1 Metal26,40328,646
GB 4.1 OpenCL11,975121,225

Another benefit of using an external GPU enclosure for gaming on a Mac is its expandability and upgradability. I could have used the Mantiz Venus eGPU enclosure for this test. The decision to go with the Sonnet Breakaway Box was to present a best-case scenario in terms of external graphics performance. The Mantiz Venus would provide 87W power delivery to charge the 15″ MacBook Pro as well as be able to connect to the Logitech G27 racing wheel using one of its five standard USB ports. I could also install games on an external SSD mounted inside the Mantiz Venus SATA port. This would preserve the 256GB internal drive on my MacBook Pro. Yes, I would lose some performance due to the shared bandwidth when SATA SSD, USB devices, and eGPU are transmitted through a single Thunderbolt 3 connection. Nevertheless the ability to transform a laptop such as the MacBook Pro into a good gaming computer in macOS is a dream come true.

The ultimate takeaway from this experiment is that gaming on a Mac will improve in the very near future. Now that Apple is officially onboard to provide more capable hardware, game developers have a real motivation to get after the underserved Mac gamers. We are more than ready to pay and play.

Gaming on a MacBook Pro with eGPU + Logitech racing wheel

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20 Comments on "Gaming on a Mac: External GPU + Logitech G27 Racing Wheel"

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ikir
Member

Awesome article. Graphic bench results always puzzle me…

Eightarmedpet
Member

Great write up, be nice to see some other games tested too. My only gripe is the size of most eGPU enclosures, you could build smaller MITX PC’s and have better performance (although at a higher cost obviously, when compare to the box and card).
 
Someone make more mini enclosures, I’m looking at you Mantiz…

RimsOnAToaster
Member

For what it’s worth, the majority of Thunderbolt 2 enclosures recommended in the 2017 Buyer’s Guide are Actually smaller than the Akitio Thunder2. After mocking them up with paper, There seems to be a certain size that is indeed too small, too. I think manufacturers are trying to find this balance right now.

Cristian
Guest

Awesome! I’m waiting for my MacBook 2017 15″ to arrive soon. But I thought you could still use the Mantiz Venus as the graphic card won’t use the full bandwidth and the leftover is used by the extra ports and power delivery? – I’m confused. I like the Mantiz Venus, but if it doesn’t provide full bandwidth to the GPU I think I will go for a Sonnet or Akitio.

RimsOnAToaster
Member

As I understand it, there was an issue with many Thunderbolt 3 enclosures where they would artificially cap PCIe enclosures at 22 Gbps. That has (for the most part) been resolved, and as a result 32 Gbps of the maximum 40 Gbps is available for the PCIe data. Does that help?

nando4
Admin

Cristian, any TB3 enclosure with extra ports (USB 3.0, LAN, SATA, etc) can sacrifice up to 31.2% of the eGPU PCIe bandwidth to service those ports. If you want the best eGPU performance then go for a two cable solution. One for your eGPU and one for your extra ports. An AKiTiO Node or Sonnet Breakaway Box will give you 100% TB3 bandwidth for the eGPU since neither has extra ports. I consider the  Sonnet Breakway Box 550 as the best current TB3 eGPU enclosure for a MBP.

Cristian
Guest

Thanks!. That’s what I needed to know. I will use it specially for adobe suite and cinema 4d rendering, so I don’t want to sacrifice performance. Cheers!

Mymantiz_John
Member
Posted by: Anonymous Awesome! I’m waiting for my MacBook 2017 15″ to arrive soon. But I thought you could still use the Mantiz Venus as the graphic card won’t use the full bandwidth and the leftover is used by the extra ports and power delivery? – I’m confused. I like the Mantiz Venus, but if it doesn’t provide full bandwidth to the GPU I think I will go for a Sonnet or Akitio. the latest APPs & Games are not using a lot of H2D bandwidth. that’s why even running game with the 15xxMib/S VS 22xx Mib/s H2D bandwidth there’s… Read more »
Sky11
Member

Many thanks theitsage – a lot of people worked hard to make this gaming experience happen

mnmminies
Guest

If you want to use the clutch and shifter, you need to download FreeTheWheel. There’s videos on YouTube of people using it on a Mac. Try it out

Neal
Guest

Great Article, thanks. Do you know if there is a list of wheels that f12016 will support force feedback on a mac. I have Thrustmaster t-150 and tried it would with Dirt 3 and f12012, could get input but never force feedback. Thanks

Jonathan Weinberg
Guest

Not sure if this might help you with the G27 / USB woes, but check out: http://www.usboverdrive.com/USBOverdrive/Information.html

It’s a old school, try before you buy shareware, and they are really nice about letting you try it before actually paying. In fact, I think there’s just a nag screen. This software was the only way to get my eVGA mouse to really function well at all on macOS (surprisingly little macOS support from them).

Hope it helps!

mostlikelynotarobot
Guest

Will we ever get performance comparisons of eGPU docks with peripherals and without?

nando4
Admin

Yes, please see here. eGPU docks with peripherals share the TB3 cable bandwidth so best overall performance for both is had by using independent cabled solutions for both. eg: TB3 for eGPU and USB 3.1 for peripherals.

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