Laptop + External GPU to replace Desktop PC?


Hi there!
I’m a Character Artist and I’ve been looking for ways to cut down on the size of my workstation.
I have a desktop PC that has a Ryzen 1700X, GTX 1080TI and 32 GB RAM.
I just bought a Razer Blade 2018 GTX 1070 16 GB RAM (Planning to upgrading the SSD to 1 TB and the ram to 32 GB) for when I’m on the go and I found that it’s powerful enough to handle most of my tasks. It even handled a 46m .ZTL just fine. Maya viewport did struggle with handling 20k decimated meshes when I was retopoligizing but when I switched over to my Desktop it was fine. I’m not sure if that’s a RAM or GPU issue.

The only time where I think a full desktop PC would be needed is when Raytracing with Arnold using the CPU and/or when baking maps. .But I’m hoping that Arnold GPU will support eGPUs. I’d still keep my desktop peripherals like mouse and keyboard and monitors to get that desktop feel when I’m stationed at home. I think this will also allow me to be saved from the inconvenience of transfering files from one to the other.

Can you guys think of any reasons to switch and NOT to switch over?


How important are space and portability vs. ease of workflow? You’ve already noticed a perfomance drop on the laptop so if you can live with that possibly being an everyday thing then…no problem. Or until you buy the Core X enclosure and a desktop 2080.
The thing to keep in mind is that the CPU speed is a factor in vieport performance. Maya, or Max, or whatever DCC program, or your favorite game still has to rely on the application to get the info to the GPU and tell it what to do to with that info. Most (all?) of the time that is single threaded. Your desktop base CPU speeds are 1.5x the speed of the laptop. Not to mention that there are also 2 more cores on the Ryzen if you need to render on the CPU.
Also thermal throttling and fan noise.
Also, also the Max-Q 1070 is a lower spec version of the “regular” 1070 laptop GPU.
Also, also, also if file sync is a burden maybe a cheap NAS device to automagically do that (WD, Synology, etc have apps for their NAS) when you’ve got everything on the same network.


If you’re rendering a lot and that’s your bread and butter, and speed is a factor, you should not be using a laptop for the rendering portion. Set up your scenes on the go and of course test-renders and whatnot are fine, but there’s no way any laptop is going to touch a dedicated rendering workstation. This has been and always will be true, since you have so sacrifice a lot of speed for a thermal and electrical envelope for a mobile device.

If you’re NOT rendering, but mostly creating and animating and whatnot, then you picked a nice laptop to do so with! It’s a beauty. And the GPU should be just fine for Maya especially. Most of my workstations have GTX 660s or less still in them, and they also work fine. The 1070 Max-Q should perform well, even with some light-to-medium GPU rendering if you’re using Redshift or Vray-RT.


I’ve asked in the Arnold forum if Arnold GPU will support external GPUs and they said yes. You don’t think a potential SLI able enclosure (I know they don’t exist yet) will be able to replace render workstations if Raytracing is going towards GPU?

Yeah this laptop is serving me really well at the moment. Handing a lot of my sculpts real well


Raytracing cores on the GPU are currently just a gaming gimmick. It’s not the same as Vray-RT or Redshift or other GPU-rendering engines at all, although some may leverage those RT cores soon. Vray-Next I believe already does but I’d be surprised if they made any impact at all, to be honest.

But yes, any application that supports GPU rendering would benefit from a more powerful graphics card or cards, so if that works for you then I say go for it! Those 2080 Ti cards are extremely powerful, even if we discount the Tensor or RT cores.

FYI, I believe that SLI no longer exists on newer cards and “NVlink” is the new connection, though I’m not sure what AMD is doing (Crossfire, still?) in this area anymore.