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2020 MacBook Pro 13-inch gets a major boost from an eGPU

May 15th, 2020 by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

The 'top' 2020 MacBook Pro 13-inch does have improved Intel Iris Plus integrated graphics but for serious graphics performance, maybe an eGPU is in order.


2020 rMBP 13-in = Mid 2020 MacBook Pro 13-inch, Intel Core i7-1068NG7 2.3GHz Quad-Core processor, Iris Plus integrated Graphics
+ VII = Radeon VII GPU with 16G of HBM2 memory inside eGPU*
+ 5700XT = Radeon RX 5700 XT GPU with 8G GDDR6 memory inside eGPU
2019 rMBP 16-in = Late 2019 MacBook Pro 16-inch, Intel Core i9-9980HK 2.4GHz 8-Core processor, AMD Radeon Pro 5500M discrete GPU

*Thunderbolt 3 eGPU boxes used were the AKiTiO Node Pro and Node Titan.

Geekbench 5 - Metal GPU Compute

2020 MacBook Pro 13-inch versus others running Geekbench 5 Metal GPU Test

GFXBench Metal - Aztec High Tier OFFscreen
(HIGHER Frames per Second = FASTER)

2020 MacBook Pro 13-inch versus others running GFXBench Metal Aztec High

TW: Warhammer II
Ran built-in Skaven benchmark. Resolution of GPUs in eGPU box ran at 1344x756. (HIGHER Frames per Second = FASTER)

2020 MacBook Pro 13-inch versus others running Warhammer II

Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Ran built-in benchmark. Resolution of GPUs in eGPU box ran at 1344x756. (HIGHER Frames per Second = FASTER)

2020 MacBook Pro 13-inch versus others running Shadow of the Tomb Raider


One of the downsides of choosing the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the relative weakness of the Intel Iris Pro integrated graphics compared to discrete GPUs included in the 16-inch MacBook Pro or the 27-inch iMac. But when you need some major graphics muscle, there is always the eGPU solution.

As you can see from the graphs, a high-end AMD GPU inside an eGPU box connected to one of the four Thunderbolt 3 ports of the 2020 MacBook Pro 13-inch can significantly boost graphics performance.

CAUTION: Some graphics apps will default to the internal Intel Iris if you don't have a secondary display connected to the eGPU's GPU -- and set it as primary. Alternately, if the app or game offers "Prefer external GPU" option in the Get Info or in Preferences, you can activate the eGPU's GPU without a secondary display. However, you risk getting less than optimal FPS in that mode. (Our Warhammer and Shadow graphs reflect the optimal FPS because we used an external display connected directly to the DisplayPorts of the GPU in the eGPU.)

Did you notice the eGPU raised the performance of the 13-inch MacBook Pro even higher than the 16-inch MacBook Pro with its AMD Radeon Pro 5500M discrete GPU? Think of it: the 2.3GHz (Gen 10) 13-inch MacBook Pro costs $900 less than the 2.4GHz (Gen 9) 16-inch MacBook Pro with comparable memory and storage capacity. With some careful shopping, you could use the $900 you saved to purchase an RX 5700 XT GPU and eGPU box -- which gives you more go power than the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

I know what you are thinking: I can get an eGPU for the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Yes, but depending on the apps you run, it may not run any faster than the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the same eGPU and GPU. The point we are making is that IF you really prefer the 13-inch form factor, you don't have to suffer with low performance when running GPU intensive apps.

Finally, the Radeon VII (if you can find one) costs about twice that of the Radeon RX 5700 XT but only edges it out in two of the four tests we used. Plus the RX 5700 XT fans don't go crazy when you sleep your Mac.

Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to email me, Follow me on Twitter @barefeats.

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copyright 2020 Rob Art Morgan
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