I have been curious on using external GPUs (eGPUs on Linux) on notebooks with thunderbolt ports. That would allow to buy a notebook for the portability but also use it for video creation/processing and gaming. Here is what I learned from a recent YouTube video about it.

2022 September 9
  • Thunderbolt’s recommended version: >=2

  • There is also the concept of “how many PCIe lanes” your thunderbolt port has.

  • With x2 PCIe (which means 2 PCI-Express lanes), you will have the lowest results (it will be just a bit better than integrated graphics)

  • With x4 PCIe (which means 4 PCI-Express lanes), you will have the best experience.

  • Some Thunderbolt 3 have x2 and others x4 PCIe

  • Thunderbolt 4 by definition has the minimum of x4 PCIe

  • Here is a list of laptops with Thunderbolt x4 PCIe

  • Check if your notebook has thunderbolt:

$ sudo lspci -vv | grep -i thunderbolt
  • Check how many PCIe lanes your thunderbolt ports have:
sudo lspci -vv | grep LnkSta  # on the output, Width x2 means 2 lanes, Width x4 means 4 lanes and so on
  • NVidia cards currently have the best support on video editing programs, but they do not have builtin support on the Linux kernel (you must install proprietary drivers and can have some problems with it)

  • Currently AMD has kernel builtin support on Linux

  • Even if you have thunderbolt 3 ports, it is best to buy a Thunderbolt 4 compatible dock (it is backwards-compatible with version 3 and you will be able to upgrade to a notebook with Thunderbolt 4 in the future keeping the same dock you already bought).

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