I highlighted the fact that gaming on a Mac through an external GPU in 2018 is actually a really good option for a lot of people. A common question I got as follow-up was this: Quinn, I already own a MacBook Pro and I want to get into PC gaming but I don’t want to spend a ton of money. Should I just buy an eGPU for my MacBook or should I build a dedicated budget gaming PC instead? Today, we’re going to find out.
In one corner, I have my $1,300 2017 base-model 13” MacBook Pro. Really, nothing special. It has an Intel Kaby Lake dual-core i5-7360U processor with a TDP of just 15W and the machine packs 8GB of low-power DDR3 RAM.
I’m also using an Akitio Node eGPU enclosure which runs for about $260 online. It has an internal power supply with power headers for the graphics card itself, and it connects to the MacBook via an included (but very short) Thunderbolt 3 cable. On the PC side, I’m using the same build I used in my budget hackintosh from a few months back. It has a cheap, barebones Gigabyte H110M motherboard, an Intel Kaby Lake i3-7100 dual-core CPU with a 51W TDP, we’ve got 8GB of DDR4 RAM, a cheap 450W modular power supply, and a junky 120GB SATA SSD.
The total PC build cost without the GPU or case with fans is about $70 more than the MacBook’s eGPU solution. But, it’s also an entire computer—not just an extension of your laptop. I jammed all of the hardware into a sexy modified Apple PowerMac G4 case (which I’ll be using again in an upcoming hackintosh build), so definitely get subscribed and enable notifications for that one. The GPU we’ll be using for testing is an NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti Founder’s Edition.
This GPU is incredibly overkill for budget-style gaming rigs at a whopping $699—and that’s MSRP. The cryptocurrency apocalypse drove the price of this GPU to well over $1,000 new; however, it looks like the dust is finally starting to settle and hopefully prices will come back down soon. So yeah, this GPU is excessive for both of these systems; however, I wanted to ensure that the GPU itself was never a bottleneck in my testing.
On the PC side, all I have to do is insert the GPU into the PCIe slot on the motherboard, install the Windows drivers, and I’m done. Easy peasy with guaranteed compatibility. The MacBook Pro is also relatively easy, but not bulletproof. You see, Apple doesn’t officially support eGPUs in Boot Camp yet like they do in macOS. Now, my MacBook actually does boot into Windows just fine with the eGPU connected; however, the internal display on the laptop itself doesn’t work.
The fix is super easy and I explained more in depth of what the trick actually does in my previous video; regardless, 5 minutes and an old flash drive will make everything work perfectly. Okay, so we’ve now got the two systems running. The question is, which one provides the better gaming experience? The results surprised me.
I was nearly certain that the PC was going to crush my puny MacBook. After all, it’s running a weak low-power netbook CPU and is connected to the GPU over an external dock. Regardless, the results are neck-and-neck on nearly every game I played.
In the new Far Cry 5, the MacBook actually edges out the PC at 1440p with a higher FPS average, and the same holds true in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The PC finally gets the upper hand in an older game, GTA V; however, the crown gets taken back by the MacBook in Wolfenstein II. So yeah, surprisingly, the MacBook eGPU combo reigns supreme. Now obviously, if you spent another $300 or so on your PC towards a more respectable CPU and more RAM, you’d blow both of these machines out of the water. But that’s not the point. If you already own a MacBook Pro, or you’re looking to get one as your primary computer but you also want the opportunity to play new AAA PC titles at home, you’ll get better performance dollar-for-dollar buying an eGPU rather than building an entirely new computer.
That is, assuming you don’t want or need a second computer. If you enjoyed this video, please give it a thumbs up, if you didn’t, that other button works okay too. Check out some of my other crazy videos here and get subscribed for exciting new content I have coming soon; however, most importantly, and as always, stay snazzy.