Gaming USB 3.0 External HDD 5400RPM

Discussion in 'Mac and PC Games' started by mac1984user, Jun 28, 2012.

  1. mac1984user macrumors 6502a


    Dec 10, 2009
    United Kingdom
    I've trawled through Google search results to see if I could find an answer to this question, but everything has been inconclusive so far. I thought I'd ask here to see if anyone had any real experience with it.

    Basically, I have a rMBP on order and the SSD is only 256GB. As I will be limited on space, I'd like to keep all non-essential items on an external HDD (including games). I have already purchased a USB 3.0 5400rpm WD My Passport just to get the files off my old MBP for selling. My intention is to pick up a WD MyBook (2TB, USB 3.0), which will have its own power supply. While I'm certain the WD MyPassport is a 5400rpm drive, I'm not certain about the MyBook (it could be 7200rpm, but I have my doubts).

    Here are my questions:

    1) Is it possible to play games (of the caliber of say, Mass Effect 2, Skyrim, etc) on an external HDD over USB 3.0 AT ALL? I had problems with running games off of USB 2.0 - Steam games like Left4Dead 2 were choppy and eventually froze.

    2) Other than loading times, will the 5400rpm drive make games unplayable even if connected over USB 3.0? I used to play games over a 'green' 5400rpm SATA drive in my PC with no problems at all, but I wonder if USB 3.0 will cause me an issue.

    3) Do I need a hard drive with its own independent power supply to play games over USB 3.0, or will something like the MyPassport also work? Basically, does playing games zap more power from the USB connection? If so, would an independently powered USB 3.0 HDD like the WD MyBook or any internal 3.5" drive in an external enclosure solve this problem? Would I be able to play games 'on-the-go' with the WD MyPassport, or will I be limited to playing them only when connected to a 'desktop-sized' 3.5" external HDD?

  2. Mito macrumors regular

    Jun 17, 2012
    At first you should get atleast 7200RPM HDD becouse I don´t think that 5400RPM will be enough, of course flash HDD would be a lot better but they are pricey
  3. Allegrotechie macrumors member


    Mar 6, 2011
    I'd just like to say that I literally have the same exact problem/question as you. I have a rMBP with the 256SSD. I want to game (I have COD 4 but I took it, it took to much space). I really considered getting the 512GB model but on the ride to the store I couldn't justify the price and had to turn around and go home.
    I don't just want to reiterate and add nothing and not help you find your answer, so:
    I'm thinking about doing the same thing, but with thunderbolt. Maybe I'll buy a thunderbolt drive and try it then. I was thinking that maximum performance would be using an external SSD/Thunderbolt duo, then gaming would be fine I think, but the cheapest drive is 670. For that I'd just get the other rMBP. If you have the cash, maybe just get a HDD/Thunderbolt duo and try that. I think that would create (almost) optimal performance.
  4. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    1. Of course it is. USB 2.0 maxes out at around 30MB/s so in some scenarios it can be too slow for the game to run efficiently (depends on the game and how much it needs to retrieve data from the drive). USB 3.0 is faster than any hard drive so bandwidth should not be a problem. The only possible problem is that USB taxes your CPU (whereas FireWire, Thunderbolt and SATA do not), so in theory it's possible that it will cause troubles. However, I find this unlikely because most games will be bottlenecked by the GPU anyway, hence there is plenty of CPU power left for processing something else than the actual game.

    2. Well, most laptops, including regular MBPs, come with 5400rpm drives so there is absolutely no problem. Again, USB 3.0 is faster than even any 7200rpm HD.

    3. A bus-powered 2.5" HD is fine. Just keep in mind that if you're not plugged in, the HD will use power as well and drain your battery faster.
  5. doh123 macrumors 65816

    Dec 28, 2009
    the battery will drain so fast when gaming you should be plugged in when pushing the machine hard anyways.
  6. XFactorer macrumors regular

    Feb 2, 2007
    I installed and played Max Payne 3 last night on my external in Boot Camped Win7. It works just fine and I was at 2880x1800 res. The rMPB can handle it (with a Seagate 1TB Backup Plus USB3.0 drive).
  7. alphaone macrumors 6502

    Aug 12, 2003
    I picked up a new USB3 2TB WD My Passport to go with my base RMBP (I knew it would be fine as I already had a 1TB version of the drive, but that's full of media so I needed another). I installed Battlefield 3 onto it (that's all I've gotten to so far), and it works just fine. Sure it loads a little slower than my desktop pc does (that has a Kingston HyperX SSD which practically loads instantly), but it's definitely fine. In game there's no stuttering at all.
  8. mac1984user thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Dec 10, 2009
    United Kingdom
    I just wanted to thank all of those who responded to this post and wanted to offer my own follow-up now that I've received my MacBook Pro. I partitioned a WD MyPassport USB 3.0 for use with both Mac and Windows. I played Mount & Blade: Warband on the PC side and it ran just fine. I also loaded up Left 4 Dead 2 on the Mac and was pleasantly surprised by the performance. There are times, when loading cut sequences or entering a new area where I notice a bit of stutter, but it's something that's easy to put up with. Hopefully all other games will run as smoothly. Keep me posted if you have any other experiences. I never realised that USB taxes the CPU more than the other input methods. Thanks for the info.

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