Can Thunderbolt hold back external GPU on Ubuntu?

I always thought that a powerful external graphics card partnering with a powerful CPU would offer rock solid performance for gaming on Ubuntu. But that’s not my testimony. My laptop powered by Ubuntu has this combo but slightly heavy games always has challenges with frame drops and stuttering. However, other lighter tasks work perfectly with excellent visuals. I was told that Thunderbolt bandwidth is the reason for the limitation. Has anyone had any challenging experience with external GPUs and Thunderbolt? Does anyone know possible tweaks or kernel optimization I can deploy to improve the performance and solve the situation?

Yeah, external GPUs (eGPUs) via Thunderbolt can be a mixed bag on Ubuntu. Thunderbolt’s bandwidth is indeed a limiting factor, especially for data-intensive applications like gaming, where it can bottleneck performance leading to the issues you’re experiencing. Additionally, Linux’s support for eGPUs can sometimes lag behind Windows, particularly when it comes to drivers and optimization.

A few things you could try to improve performance:

  1. Update your system and drivers: Ensure Ubuntu and your GPU drivers are up to date. Linux kernel updates often include improvements that might help.
  2. Tweak Thunderbolt settings: Check your BIOS for any Thunderbolt settings that might be adjustable for better performance.
  3. Optimize game settings: Lowering game resolution or details can reduce the data load on Thunderbolt.
  4. Look into kernel parameters: Some users adjust kernel parameters to improve performance or compatibility with hardware, though this requires a bit of research and experimentation.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and the effectiveness of these tweaks can vary. But it’s definitely worth exploring to see if you can squeeze out better performance from your setup.