For quite some time now video game and tech enthusiasts have wanted a way to utilize the power of a desktop graphics card and the mobility of a laptop for an on-demand performance boost. There have been a few proprietary systems that were developed that allowed the end user to put their laptops on ‘steroids’, as it were.
One of the most notable commercial ventures for external graphics card housings was the Alienware Graphic Amplifier, which wasn’t all that much of a commercial success. With the introduction of the Thunderbolt 3, however, came transfer speeds up to 40 Gbps utilizing PCIe 3.0 ×4 link, or speeds fast enough to run the fastest RAID arrays or external graphics cards. Lewis Hilsenteger over at Unbox Therapy demos one such device that is compatible with the MacBook Pro.
Apple introduced external graphics card capability with their latest operating system macOS High Sierra 10.13 and Hilsenteger runs synthetic benchmarks on his system to show how much more powerful the AMD Vega 64 is when inserted into the Mantiz Venus compared to the integrated graphics in his laptop.
It is no surprise that the over $700 graphics card outperforms both the AMD Radeon Pro 460 and Intel Integrated graphics, but what Hilsenteger fails to mention, however, is that when using an external graphics card housing the user will take a performance hit compared to a desktop user. Reduction in power has been reported anywhere from 10-20% depending on the model and the graphics card.
If that reduction doesn’t bother you or you are not one to venture into the world of PC building, there are plenty of options for your Thunderbolt-equipped laptop including offerings from Gigabyte, Akitio, and Sonnet; the latter of which Apple sells to its developers.