Rendering Laptop: DIY eGPU build vs factory built build


Jul 30, 2014

I work in a design field that involves a lot of CAD related design and rendering. I typically use programs like Rhino, vectorworks, autocad, sketchup, 3ds Max, Cinema4D, MudBox, Maya, etc, with rendering plugins like VRay etc etc. Most of my work is done from a desktop I built earlier this year, but lately I've been traveling and have found the need for a portable rendering machine. I've searched through scores of old Tom's threads and found a number of laptops that could probably meet my needs. Conversely, I stumbled upon the concept of creating a DIY eGPU rig as a more specific (and cheaper) alternative.

This idea appeals to me because I have an old Macbook Pro from late 2013 that I don't really use anymore. I haven't updated any of it's hardware components, so I would need to upgrade a number of the parts in order to use the eGPU.

I'd like to know if anyone has any experience with this, as I'm leaning towards the DIY eGPU setup. I'm aware that it's not best to constantly be on the move with a GPU, so I'm looking into building a case for the GPU and it's components, as it is something that I would like to travel with. This is my main concern with pursuing the eGPU option, that the external components will just end up degrading from traveling.

General eGPU discussions --->
MacBook Pro eGPU thread (one of many) --->

Below are the specs to my desktop build for reference, as I'm looking to create something with a similar level of power.
CPU -- Intel Xeon E3-1241 V3 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor
Motherboard -- MSI Z97-G55 SLI ATX LGA1150 Motherboard
Memory -- Crucial Ballistix Sport 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory
Storage -- Crucial MX100 256GB 2.5" Solid State Drive
Seagate Barracuda 3TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive
Video Card -- EVGA GeForce GTX 770 2GB Dual Superclocked ACX Video Card
Case -- Corsair 330R ATX Mid Tower Case
Power Supply -- XFX 650W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply
Optical Drive -- Asus BC-12B1ST/BLK/B/AS Blu-Ray Reader, DVD/CD Writer
Monitor -- Asus VN248H-P 23.8" Monitor (2)

Below are the specs to my old MacBook Pro. I'd have to upgrade a number of the components in order to pursue the eGPU option.
Hardware Overview:
Model Name: MacBook Pro
Model Identifier: MacBookPro8,1
Processor Name: Intel Core i5
Processor Speed: 2.4 GHz
Number of Processors: 1
Total Number of Cores: 2
L2 Cache (per Core): 256 KB
L3 Cache: 3 MB
Memory: 4 GB
Boot ROM Version: MBP81.0047.B27
SMC Version (system): 1.68f99
Sudden Motion Sensor:
State: Enabled

Is the eGPU a bad option if I want to build it for traveling? Should I just bite the bullet and buy a more powerful laptop? Perhaps a used laptop that I can upgrade?