External TB GPU Enclosure

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by jchase2057, Feb 4, 2013.

  1. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2010
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    Detroit
    #1
    I have a 2007 mini that I have fitted in a G4 PowerMac case. I did it as a project a while back and haven't messed with it much since. Now that the Mini comes HDMI and Thunderbolt I am interested in upgrading the old Sawtooth one more time (I know that I shouldn't call it that anymore). I am most interested in this because of Thunderbolt allowing the possibility of a real GPU. Has anyone done this? I'm assuming I can use any GPU that OS X has drivers for. I've seen these enclosures but would like someone with first hand experience to share their experience.
     
  2. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2012
    #2
    I think there's been a lot of talk and references to links online where you can buy them, but I'm not sure anyone's actually tried it. On these forums anyway...
     
  3. macrumors 601

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #3
    Doesn't work.

    Even if it did work, the existing empty enclosures big enough for a video card are $800-$1000, so it wouldn't be practical.
     
  4. thread starter macrumors regular

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    #4
    How do you know it doesn't work?
     
  5. macrumors 6502

    MatthewAMEL

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2007
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    #5
    Some research before posting would be nice.

    Lucid and MSI both have Thunderbolt GPU enclosures in the pipe. Both have street prices of ~$299.

    Tom's Hardware demonstrated a Lucid chassis getting 89fps (with an AMD 6750) in 3dMark06 vs 29fps with the Intel HD4000.
     
  6. thread starter macrumors regular

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    #6
    300 would be worth it imo. Far cheaper than a pro.
     
  7. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2012
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    Mid-West
    #7
    Got it working

    I got a 2012 mac mini (2.3ghz quad core i7, hd4000 model) working with a Vidock (external graphics card enclosure). So long as you have Windows on it (took so long to get it bootcamped) setting up the actual e-gpu took me about 10 minutes. The gpu inside my vidock is a gtx 560. Plays games such as Battlefield 3 and DayZ great (the CPU in the mac mini doesn't even break a sweat, its crazy).

    I got a 3dmark06 score of 18431. The same e-gpu I previously had with my 2011 dual core i5 macbook pro netted a score of 14273. A very nice boost and is even more noticeable while playing games. So far no one has gotten a TB e-gpu to work under os x, so you'd have to have Windows 7 or 8. But given the mac mini I bought came with a stock 1tb hard drive, there's more than enough space for a second partition (and four usb 3 ports).

    Oh and I connected my Vidock to the mac mini via the sonnet echo thunderbolt/expresscard adapter.

    Edit:
    And price wise, you could get the vidock+sonnet adapter for as little as $350. Add 800 for the mini, 100 for a screen, 150 for a solid gpu, and this desktop beast still costs lower than any gaming laptop but with way more power.
     
  8. macrumors regular

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    Sep 16, 2012
    #8
    $100 for the screen? Impressive.
     
  9. macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2012
    #9
    Why not make a Hackintosh of your G4?
    -It is legal (OSX has to be installed on a Apple labeled computer according to the EULA).
    -For the price of a TB GPU you have a complete quad i7 system with PCI graphics (PCI has 10 times the bandwith of TB), and you can buy real nice cards like a GTX660.
     
  10. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2012
    Location:
    Mid-West
    #10
    You can find a bunch of deals on Newegg.com or Amazon, which tend to have 21inch 1080p screens for around $100. I personally have a 27inch asus, but not all of us need that large of a size :p

    ----------

    There's still the fact that you have to worry about updates breaking your system and the such for a Hackintosh. Not wanting to hate on them (I was actually about to buy one) but getting a mac mini/egpu tends to be much more hassle free in both the short and long run.

    Just because PCI has 10x the bandwidth doesn't mean 10x the performance. Even on expresscard 2.0, many strong cards such as the 660 suffer only a 25% loss from full performance. On thunderbolt, that card would only lose around 5%. Unless you have a 690 sli setup, you won't really need the pcie 3.0 x16 bandwidth. Hell even a 670 scales very nicely with the limited bandwidth.
     
  11. thread starter macrumors regular

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    #11
    That's the easy way. If I were to build another i7 box I would just run windows. This is more of my project pc.
     
  12. macrumors member

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    Feb 29, 2012
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    #12
    Yeah so far apple hasn't released TB drivers for anything, so even though the card will plug and make noise in its impossible to make it thunderbolt aware. Solely windows 7/8 compatible for now.
     
  13. thread starter macrumors regular

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    #13
    I guess I'll stick with what I have in there for now. It runs great as is. Maybe I'll do a case mod and strip the paint and repaint it.
     
  14. macrumors 601

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #14
    No need to insult me. I did do research (which admittedly might be old since someone else in this thread got something working).

    Do you mean this article? It says it is an integrated solution and does not allow you to use any card, and also it is a concept, not for sale.

    During my research I found most external enclosures did not work with graphics cards at all. They specifically stated that only card that had Thunderbolt-specific drivers would work (examples here and here). Also virtually none allow for the extra power required (PCIe slot power only). The only one I found that was suitable for any video card, as OP asked for, was nearly $1000. It handles full-length, double-wide cards with proper airflow and the needed AUX power. The only examples I found were the Sonnet ($800) and the Magma ($1000).

    I was not aware of the Vidock obviously, but don't tell me I didn't do any research.
     
  15. macrumors member

    Joined:
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    #15
    I think he was talking about this link:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/pci-express-graphics-thunderbolt,3263-7.html

    I honestly think that almost all of the TB enclosures will work with graphics cards (on tech inferno forums and notebook review, there are huge e-gpu communities that have gotten almost every tb enclosure working ranging from the $400 ones to the large magma boxes). It seems like companies aren't allowed to say that they are compatible even though they are :l

    Vidock is a great enclosure. It's limited to expresscard 2.0 but that is still plenty of bandwidth unless you use like a 680 or 670 and the games insanely demanding.
     

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