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Old Oct 25, 2012, 10:20 PM   #1
belltree
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Post External Thunderbolt GPU for Mac Mini...

Well sadly the new Mac Mini has not delivered on our hopes for a descent discrete GPU. This being the case are there any options out there yet for an external thunderbolt connected GPU?

IIRC there were a couple of vendors with such a product in the works earlier this year but I have yet to see anything on the market.

Edit. I just found the below and boy are they expensive. Almost $400 without any video card, just the expansion bay:

http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/Thund...ercury_Helios/
https://secure1.sonnettech.com/index...910e638d2f564b


Anyone used either of the above with a Mac Mini?
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 12:37 AM   #2
rezinous
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What cards would fit in there, in terms of providing a substantial performance increase I wonder. Does TB provide enough bandwidth for these cards to be pretty effective.

Read up more:
OWC Michael
September 24, 2012 at 11:18 am
Currently there are no graphics cards in the compatibility list: http://eshop.macsales.com/tech_cente...Compatibility/

Guess not
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 02:40 AM   #3
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With the low spec on the mini graphics card I'm sure it won't be long until there is a viable solution. There could be a huge market for such a solution. It could take a huge chunk out of the imac and mac pro market.
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 04:08 AM   #4
zen
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This was being discussed elsewhere, although I don't remember which thread. There are two problems:

1. External GPUs in Thunderbolt enclosures work in Windows, but not OS X, because there are no drivers, and Apple are not going to provide any or allow development.

2. Even if it did work, by the time you buy a Mac mini, an enclosure, and a card to go in it, the cost is huge - so much so that you may as well have bought a PC with a big kick-ass graphics card in it, which would give you much better performance anyway.

It's a nice idea - I'd love a Mac mini with a top-line graphics card! - but I think this is a dead end, unfortunately.
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 06:06 AM   #5
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The performance is great! Toms Hardware did a test with such a setup a while ago and came out with only about 8% performance drop on a high-end card (HD 6970) compared to connecting it via PCIe. I don't know, but if anyone would care making drivers for those things, it could be a HUGE performance increase.

As for size -- you can hide it under your desk and everybody thinks your Mini is the most powerful computer in the world.
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 06:37 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zen View Post
1. External GPUs in Thunderbolt enclosures work in Windows, but not OS X, because there are no drivers, and Apple are not going to provide any or allow development.
Of course not, why would they allow that, then they couldnt sell you a Mac Pro for all your gaming needs!
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 06:58 AM   #7
auhlixer
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Quote:
Originally Posted by belltree View Post
Well sadly the new Mac Mini has not delivered on our hopes for a descent discrete GPU. This being the case are there any options out there yet for an external thunderbolt connected GPU?

IIRC there were a couple of vendors with such a product in the works earlier this year but I have yet to see anything on the market.

Edit. I just found the below and boy are they expensive. Almost $400 without any video card, just the expansion bay:

http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/Thund...ercury_Helios/
https://secure1.sonnettech.com/index...910e638d2f564b


Anyone used either of the above with a Mac Mini?

Here is one for $140
http://www.hwtools.net/Adapter/TH05.html
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 07:40 AM   #8
R.Youden
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It would be interesting to see if a Mac Pro GPU would work as OSX already has the drivers built in. The only other constraint is power output, a lot of these Thunderbolt to PCI houses can only output at 100W, well below most high end GPUs.
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 07:42 AM   #9
Poki
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Originally Posted by R.Youden View Post
It would be interesting to see if a Mac Pro GPU would work as OSX already has the drivers built in. The only other constraint is power output, a lot of these Thunderbolt to PCI houses can only output at 100W, well below most high end GPUs.
With 100W, you can get many notebook CPUs right up to the top end iMacs GTX 680MX, so it still would be a great upgrade.

I don't think these drivers will work 'cos they're written for PCIe, not for Thunderbolt. Maybe someone could modify these to make them work with TB?
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 07:49 AM   #10
R.Youden
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Originally Posted by Poki View Post
I don't think these drivers will work 'cos they're written for PCIe, not for Thunderbolt. Maybe someone could modify these to make them work with TB?
I have seen them working on Windows PC so the Thunderboth shouldn't be an issue, it's just the drivers.
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Old Oct 26, 2012, 07:50 AM   #11
Poki
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Originally Posted by R.Youden View Post
I have seen them working on Windows PC so the Thunderboth shouldn't be an issue, it's just the drivers.
At least it's sure it can work, now only a company needs to build a solid, "cheap" adapter. Maybe it's AMDs turn to get some money again?
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Old Dec 16, 2012, 03:11 PM   #12
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Cool Outstanding

Quote:
Originally Posted by Poki View Post
At least it's sure it can work, now only a company needs to build a solid, "cheap" adapter. Maybe it's AMDs turn to get some money again?
What is wrong with TH05? It is quite solid and cheap -
full kit costs just $180, with Thunderbolt cable included!

http://www.hwtools.net/Adapter/TH05.html



Quote:
System requirements:

Apple Products:
Hardware:
Apple: iMac, Mac mini, MacBook air, MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt Ports
Operating System: Mac OS 10.6.8 or later
What a fantastic value!

Recently, I have discovered this excellent product; going to get it while it is still available,
so I could use my spare desktop GPU (AMD HD6670) to boost the graphic performance of my Macbook Pro!
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Last edited by AppleMacFinder; Dec 17, 2012 at 01:49 AM.
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Old Dec 16, 2012, 03:16 PM   #13
zen
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Isn't the problem more that there are no graphics cards that can be used in such a device that have Mac drivers?
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Old Dec 16, 2012, 03:22 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zen View Post
Isn't the problem more that there are no graphics cards that can be used in such a device that have Mac drivers?
OSX 10.8.3 brought drivers for AMD Radeon 7xxx series:

http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1496925

http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1505726

As I said in the other thread, once the cost of the enclosures drop, this will become a more attractive and common upgrade for the mini owner wanting more GPU performance.
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Old Dec 16, 2012, 03:46 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by 53x12 View Post
As I said in the other thread, once the cost of the enclosures drop, this will become a more attractive and common upgrade for the mini owner wanting more GPU performance.
I thought that $180 for adapter+cable is already cheap
That is much cheaper than some "pro" solutions like Sonnet, which costs almost $1000!
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Old Dec 16, 2012, 03:56 PM   #16
philipma1957
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if that 180 dollar adapter allows this card

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16814202002


or this fanless version

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16814131475


the mini would be very nice. this is what I consider to be the beginning of okay it is a lot better then the hd4000 from intel. it is also a lot better then any graphics card a mini has ever had
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Old Dec 16, 2012, 04:33 PM   #17
majkom
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Originally Posted by philipma1957 View Post
if that 180 dollar adapter allows this card

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16814202002


or this fanless version

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16814131475


the mini would be very nice. this is what I consider to be the beginning of okay it is a lot better then the hd4000 from intel. it is also a lot better then any graphics card a mini has ever had
Mini with this GPU would be BEASt, who the heck would even think about buying imac?
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Old Dec 16, 2012, 04:57 PM   #18
philipma1957
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Originally Posted by majkom View Post
Mini with this GPU would be BEASt, who the heck would even think about buying imac?
i use this card for quiet pc builds it is really good for 1080p.
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Old Dec 16, 2012, 05:04 PM   #19
53x12
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Originally Posted by AppleMacFinder View Post
I thought that $180 for adapter+cable is already cheap
That is much cheaper than some "pro" solutions like Sonnet, which costs almost $1000!
I am referring to a Sonnet Echo Express rather than some cheapish looking Chinese knockoff. I like the quality and design of the Somnet but wouldn't want to pay $600 for it. Cut that down to $200-250 and it would be a much more tempting purchase.


http://www.sonnettech.com/product/echoexpresschassis.html
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Old Dec 16, 2012, 10:11 PM   #20
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I'll be getting a mini early in the new year and would be very interested in something like this if someone were able to get it functioning.

So who's feeling brave and has a bit of expendable cash?
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Old Dec 16, 2012, 10:34 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by fig View Post
I'll be getting a mini early in the new year and would be very interested in something like this if someone were able to get it functioning.

So who's feeling brave and has a bit of expendable cash?
1) find a GPU suppprted by OSX 10.8.3
2) Mac Pro section would probably be of the most help
3) Find an enclosure to fit your GPU or find a GPU and then an enclosure that fits that.
4) Plug it into your monitor and you are good to go
5) download any new firmware updates you might need
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Old Dec 17, 2012, 01:21 AM   #22
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Would this work with OSX? Or would I have to run bootcamp/windows 7?
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Old Dec 17, 2012, 01:29 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by 53x12 View Post
I am referring to a Sonnet Echo Express rather than some cheapish looking Chinese knockoff. I like the quality and design of the Somnet but wouldn't want to pay $600 for it. Cut that down to $200-250 and it would be a much more tempting purchase.


http://www.sonnettech.com/product/ec...sschassis.html
It is not a "noname Chinese knockoff" - BPlus is an official member of Thunderbolt group.
Attended Intel Thunderbolt Technology Plugfest this year. That means some reputation.

If Sonnet will cost $250 with cable, I would prefer Sonnet like you - because of nice Mac-style external design.
However, I cannot justify spending more. Probably because Sonnet solution is universal, it costs that much.
It was designed for other purposes - professional audio & video, not with eGPU in mind.
In their PCIe Card Thunderbolt Compatibility Chart, there is no mention of eGPU at all.

Meanwhile, TH05 was created specifically for eGPU enthusiasts.

Please take a look on this thread: http://forum.techinferno.com/diy-e-g...%401-2opt.html

oripash, prominent eGPU enthusiast, has tested both TH05 and Sonnet.
And while results are in favor of Sonnet (+12.3% performance) because of more advanced hardware design,
the current price difference does not justify it at all.

----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by VanCleef2012 View Post
Would this work with OSX? Or would I have to run bootcamp/windows 7?
That is what I am trying to find out in this thread:

http://forum.techinferno.com/diy-e-g...-possible.html

----------

EDIT: Just discovered that it is possible to buy a nice crystal DIY box ($60) for this adapter:



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Last edited by AppleMacFinder; Dec 17, 2012 at 06:09 AM. Reason: Nice designs
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Old Dec 17, 2012, 04:08 AM   #24
zen
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It would be pretty funny to have that kind of transparent box, with all the graphics stuff on display, like that on your desk!

Assuming you put in one of the AMD 7xxx cards that 10.8.3 now supports, how does OS X control switching between the card and say the in-built HD4000 on a Mac mini?
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Old Dec 17, 2012, 10:31 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by AppleMacFinder View Post
It is not a "noname Chinese knockoff" - BPlus is an official member of Thunderbolt group.
Taiwanese component vendor to knockoff case/system vendors is perhaps more accurate.

Quote:
Attended Intel Thunderbolt Technology Plugfest this year. That means some reputation.
No. Although it likely means they are looking to pass the Thunderbolt licensing tests.


Quote:
However, I cannot justify spending more. Probably because Sonnet solution is universal, it costs that much.
Not so much universal but a complete system solution. There is no power supply in the TH05. No case. No second Thunderbolt Port to daisy chain. It looks likely might have snagged the lowest end TB Controller ( PortRidge with 1 TB channel ) that is meant for dongles/end cap solutions.

This board is a subcomponent in a solution.

There is additional overhead with Sonnet because they have actually tested complete systems and worked on certification with card vendors. That takes time and money because selling a verified solution as opposed to a subcomponent.

The prices will probably drop as the 'copycats' flow into the TB market after others have developer a proven set of reliable designs and worked through all of the major issues.



Quote:
Meanwhile, TH05 was created specifically for eGPU enthusiasts.
That is a highly dubious assertion since it apparently artificially limits the PCI-e connection to x2. There is a x4 PCI-e connection on a standard TB controller. There are no other slots or connectors here so where is the other x2 PCI-e worth of bandwidth connected to here ?

Most GPUs want at least x8 of connectivity. Going from x4 to x2 is going in the opposite direction of optimization. What is being optimized here is inexpensive, not affinity to GPUs. "enthusiasts" is really "people on a limited budget".


Quote:
oripash, prominent eGPU enthusiast, has tested both TH05 and Sonnet.
And while results are in favor of Sonnet (+12.3% performance) because of more advanced hardware design,
the current price difference does not justify it at all.

If need to hook another TB device downstream it may. Whatever "box" cobbled together using the board would end-cap that TB daisy chain. For systems that have only one TB port that is a real issue. With two not so much. So for the mini doesn't have two.
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