I am doing well with my Mac, but I don't want to buy another computer for gaming, then I'm thinking on upgrading it.

Searching in the web, I've seen that there is no way to upgrade the Mac mini's internal card, but anyone have experienced or knows if it works well with an external graphics card?

Do you think it's worth? Suggestion for an external graphics card?

Mac mini's model is mid-2011 with 8 GB RAM.


If your Mac mini has a Thunderbolt port (which the mid-2011 models do), you should be able to add an external graphics card when those become available. Until then, there are no external graphics adapters for Macs except the DisplayLink USB adapters that @bmike mentioned, but those won't work for gaming.

An external graphics card is usually PCI-Express x16 and Thunderbolt only carries an x4 signal, so you won't get full speed out of that, but it's better than integrated (or maybe even just old) graphics. (Heck, many, if not most, PC motherboards only run x8 signals to attached x16 graphics cards, so they're not using the full bandwidth anyway.)

  • 1
    Confirmed, a notable speed improvement is possible even at x4 speeds when compared to the Intel integrated graphics card. Sony is using lightpeak, aka Thunderbolt in this review of the Sony Vaio Z2. See anandtech.com/show/5530/sony-vaio-z2-everything-is-peripheral/3 This means we can expect similar results with thunderbolt equipped macs, when the adapters and cards are available. – MrDaniel Feb 15 '12 at 15:19

The graphics card is soldered onto the logic board of all of the Mac Mini with Intel chips.

The only sort of external graphics card that will work are USB adapters which are great if you don't need fast GPU shading / polygon fill rates and simply want more real-estate and screens rather than a faster gaming or 3D modeling performance.

  • Thanks @bmike, I didn't know that USB ones had low refresh rates. – Lincoln Jan 30 '12 at 19:32
  • I'll edit it - I should have been more precise and talk about internal horsepower of the GPU rather than confusing things with the refresh rate (is the graphics drawing being refreshed 60 frames per second or the driving of the hardware refreshing) – bmike Jan 30 '12 at 20:03

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