AMD RX 6600 XT is the perfect 2022 Mac eGPU upgrade
As my 2017 Intel-based MacBook continues to run even with the latest macOS Monterey, I find it really hard to justify an upgrade to the new M1 Ultra-based Mac Studio. TL;DR: I think an AMD RX 6600 XT is the perfect 2022 Mac eGPU upgrade. Here’s why I think so.
I’ve actually added an RX 5700 XT eGPU to my set up about 2 years ago. But when the mining mania peak over the last year, I sold my card for 2.3 times the price I bought it and downgraded to an RX 580 that I had lying around. I figured I could just go back to gaming at 1080p and the RX 580 worked just fine.
Fast forward to 2022: GPUs are no longer insanely priced
The Powercolor Red Devil RX 580 GPU was alright but the fan spins up and gets quite noisy from time to time even when just powering up Zoom. And remembering how quiet my old RX 5700 XT was, I thought that it’s time to upgrade the GPU, especially when macOS Monterey introduced support for the new 6600 XT. I knew that I didn’t want to spend more that SG$1000 for a new GPU so anything above the RX 6800 is a no-go. Also, I doubt I would fully utilise the card as an eGPU on the Mac.
Knowing that the overclocked versions actually yields very minor frame rate improvements, I decided that I would simply just look for the best value I can get for an RX 6600 XT card. So why the RX 6600 XT in particular and why now?
Why an RX 6600 XT eGPU is the perfect upgrade for your Mac
Reason #1: Price
For reasons that I will probably never understand, the mining mania has (at least for now) died down and the demand of the cards has subsided. Production of the GPUs has therefore caught up and prices are now at pretty “normal” levels. The RX 6600 XT itself is pretty much right at its MSRP. Not only that, AMD has also just released the RX 6650 XT. They are basically a refreshed of the 6600 XT, but officially overclocked and has slightly faster RAM modules. That means you will see the prices of the now older RX 6600 XT card getting further slashed as well.
When I came across a seller here in Singapore where I was able to purchase the Powercolour Fighter RX 6600 XT for slightly under SG$600, I immediately went ahead and bought the card. I could also get the card about the same price from Amazon, inclusive of shipping and import tax, but decided that buying it locally would probably be better since I am assured of a local warranty. This is even slightly lower that what I paid for the RX 5700 XT about 2 years ago!
Reason #2: Great performance / value ratio
The reason why I got the eGPU upgrade for my Mac is probably not something one would compare to getting a proper Windows gaming machine. I continue to want to use macOS as my primary OS and (at least for now) I do not really fancy having two different machines for work and gaming. Furthermore, even if I do get a Windows gaming machine, I know that I simply would not utilise it enough to fully appreciate the money I would be spending on it. However, I do want to game occasionally and most of the games I have on my playlist has macOS releases. If not, they are ones that works relatively well on CrossOver, like Witcher 3 which I’m currently playing.
As I’ve also been gaming at 1080p, I realise that I didn’t really miss out much compared to when I gamed at 1440p with the RX 5700 XT. Thus, as a 1080p card, I think theRX 6600 XT fits very well with what I’m looking for. Furthermore, benchmarks and shown that the card’s performance is on par with the RX 5700 XT! Thus, I’m actually not losing anything going for a “lower end card”.
Reason #3: Superb performance / power ratio
The AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT with its Navi 23 GPU is seriously power efficient and only needs a single 8-pin power connector to run the card. This means less heat and less power consumption, even when I get 2X the performance of the previous AMD Radeon RX 580 GPU. While it’s not really fair to compare the Red Devil edition of the RX 580 card with the no-frills Fighter edition, it is still amazing to see how powerful the unassuming RX 6600 XT card is.
With the new card, my eGPU enclosure is virtually silent. When gaming Witcher 3, the fan noise on my 2017 MacBook Pro is much louder compared to the fan noise of the RX 6600 XT GPU running in the Razer Core X eGPU enclosure. But most importantly for me, no more fan whining noise when I’m running Zoom meetings.
And the final reason: Extending the life an old Intel Mac
This is probably the last upgrade for my 2017 MacBook Pro, considering Apple is now doubling down on their own Apple Silicon. I doubt Apple will really focus on extending support for old Intel-based and its hard to imagine new support for AMD RDNA3 cards. I could be wrong. There still are a lot of Mac Pro users out there that Apple will probably want to keep happy.
But for me, I doubt I would spend any more money to extend the life of this MacBook. Having said that, with the RX 6600 XT, I think I can get another 2 years out of this setup. Most of the games I am hoping to play were built for x86 architecture anyway. And if Apple still don’t get major support of AAA game studios to port or release games on the rather impressive M1/x architecture, I might finally just set up a Windows gaming machine 2 years down the road, when hopefully then, the pricing for high-end GPUs are no longer as crazy as they are today.
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