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Should you get an eGPU for your new 2018 Mac mini?



2018 Mac mini is a welcome update to the compact Mac product line, but the Intel graphics are weak. Adding an external GPU to your Mac mini is worth investigating if AppleInsider is worth the extra expense.

In a previous comparison that the 201

8 Mac Mini was set to the iMac 5K, it was decided that Mac mini is a good option for users who do not really need top-class graphical performance, such as photo editing and other intensive media tasks. The Mac Mini does not pack a dedicated graphics card, and it is definitely behind the iMac 5K, which comes with a Radeon Pro GPU.

However, the Mac mini has four four Thunderbolt 3 ports, which means it is possible to connect an eGPU, an external cabinet containing a graphics card.

The actual setup process for eGPU on Mac mini is relatively simple, regardless of whether it is a separately purchased graphics card and cabinet or a premade device. If purchased separately, insert the graphics card into the cabinet's PCI-e slot and insert the power connectors into the card. Insert the monitor into the card, then plug the cabinet into a wall outlet and connect it to the Mac mini Thunderbolt 3 port.

Once connected, macOS should immediately recognize the eGPU and automatically start using it for graphical rendering.

Price Comparisons

In this test, a powerful Radeon RX Vega 64 $ 400 graphics card will be attached to the Mac mini using a $ 250 Sonnet 550-watt eGPU cabinet via Thunderbolt 3. It's worth noting The cabinet is also capable of delivering 87 watts of power, allowing it to charge a connected MacBook for those interested in giving their Mac more portable graphics.

  Mac mini next to Sonnet eGPU cabinet

Mac mini next to Sonnet eGPU cabinet

Mac mini in this case is upgraded with an Intel Core i7 processor and 512 gigabytes of storage. Instead of upgrading RAM to 32 gigabytes for $ 600 through Apple, a 32 gigabyte upgrade kit was achieved for the much cheaper $ 200 cost. After a memory exchange, the total cost of the Mac mini in this case is about $ 1700.

The price of the Vega 64 eGPU gives the entire upgraded Mac mini setup to $ 2,350, except the monitor and peripherals. Add these additions and you get pretty close to the cost of a similar specification iMac 5K.

Only on comparative specifications, those who switch from PC to Mac or upgrade from a previous Mac mini model will likely have their own mouse, keyboard, monitor and, in the case of the PC user, possibly even an AMD graphics card to add an empty eGPU cabinet. In this type of situation, the Mac mini is likely to offer the better overall value for money.

If you don't need all the power provided by Vega 64, it's an option to get a $ 200 RX 580 graphics card and combine it with the $ 200 350 Watt Sonnet eGPU cabinet. Going on these cheaper options brings the total cost to $ 2100, saving $ 250.

  The EGPU enclosure is a significant investment in desk space

The EGPU enclosure is a significant investment in desktop space [19659010] Realistically, you can also save a good amount of money on your Mac mini by choosing For less storage capacity, using less RAM, or maybe just with the i5 processor instead of i7 if you don't need that much processing power.

Performance

The biggest disadvantage of using an eGPU is that it is not as effective as using an internal graphics card. Thunderbolt 3 for various reasons can shave some performance over a native PCI-E connection, or a built-in version.

As part of the test, the Radeon RX Vega 64 eGPU was set against the discrete Radeon Pro 580 in the iMac 5K and Vega 56 installed in the iMac Pro. Both discrete cards are less powerful than Vega 64 in eGPU, but benefit from a wider data flow than Thunderbolt 3 eGPU.

Due to the fast performance of Geekbench 4's metal test, the Mac Mini played with Vega 64 in the same way as the iMac Pro with the Vega 56 card, but rather less than the iMac Pro with the same Vega 64 GPU. More importantly, the Mac mini using eGPU achieves a score over six times greater than without the cabinet.

Synthetic references are a decent approach to everyday tasks, but are not a good indicator of specific performance on every given task. AppleInsider has its own real-life tests involving video editing in Final Cut Pro X. Tests also provide more variety in load sharing, with some elements relying more on the processor than eGPU, which may have more impact on the end results .

With the BruceX Final Cut Pro reference level, the Mac mini with eGPU is up with the iMac Pro and is even faster than the iMac 5K. Compared to the Mac mini by itself, there is a significant performance boost with the external card.
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