An external GPU in practice: installation
Like all other external video cards, you connect the Gigabyte Aorus Gaming Box via Thunderbolt 3. The connection offers a bandwidth of 40 Gbps, a lot higher than for example usb 3.1 (10 Gbps). In addition, the usb type-c connector, which is used for Thunderbolt, also offers all kinds of other possibilities. As we saw during the discussion of the products, it can also power your laptop.
To use a modern external gpu such as the Gigabyte Aorus Gaming Box, a laptop with Thunderbolt 3 support is required. A quick glance at our Price Comparison tells us that you will certainly not find a suitable device in the cheap segment. A laptop with Thunderbolt 3 starts at about 1165 dollars. In itself it is not surprising that this connector is not used more often yet. After all, manufacturers have to pay additional licensing costs to Intel, which has patented the standard and manufactures the necessary controller chips.
Plug and play?
For the Windows laptops we tested in combination with the two Gigabyte egpus, connecting was a matter of 'Plug and Play'. After inserting the Thunderbolt cable into the laptop, the enclosure was immediately recognized and indicated in the Thunderbolt software- exactly as it is stated in Gigabyte's video manual. After installing the drivers we were able to start playing. Games were automatically assigned to the external gpu, although you can also manually select a gpu in the video card driver. Here you can also find a button to disconnect the gpu, just like you can eject a hard drive using software.
Combined with the Macbook Pro, our experience was just as smooth - at least initially. Apple added built-in support for egpus in MacOS High Sierra 10.13.4 last March. When you connect the box to your Macbook Pro, the system will automatically use the egpu without you having to install any additional software. The gpu is automatically detected as shown on the screenshots.
Apple's approach has a number of important limitations for the time being. One of these is that the manufacturer only supports AMD external video cards. It is no coincidence that Gigabyte recommends the RX 580 Gaming Box specifically for use with a Mac. If we connect the Aorus GTX 1070 Gaming Box to the Macbook Pro, not much happens: charging the system works, but the video card is not (correctly) recognized.
The second important limitation of Apple's egpu support is that an external gpu is not supported by the manufacturer in Boot Camp, Apple's method of running Windows on its own systems. This is quite a shame: after all, many games only run on Windows. The lack of support does not mean it is impossible to use the combination of a Mac and an epgu with Boot Camp: online there are stories of users who have been able to make it work. However, do not expect drivers or support from the side of Apple.
If you stay with MacOS, it is inconvenient that you cannot force the operating system to determine which gpu will be used for a particular application, something that you can do in Windows. As we will see in the benchmarks, a program such as Adobe Premiere does not show any performance gain, because the external gpu is simply not used.