A postmortem: a week with the 2018 Mac Mini

adamk77

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Jan 6, 2008
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It's been about a week since I sold my 2017 4-core i7 27" iMac and replaced it with the 2018 6-core i7 Mac Mini. The impetus for the switch was the hope that a large 43" monitor and the extra two cores from the i7 would increase my productivity.

It hasn't been a home run.

Wins

For my use case of writing software, the faster builds have definitely saved time.

The large monitor has also been a success, allowing me to fit many windows into a single space while keeping the text legible. It's something that was near impossible with the 27" iMac's screen without going blind.

The additional Thunderbolt 3 ports are a welcome addition. I'm not missing the extra USB ports because my monitor has a built in hub that's powered by the monitor's USB-C connection to the Mini. The additional Thunderbolt 3 ports will easily allow me expand the capabilities of the machine in the future.


Losses

The lack of a more powerful GPU has been much more painful than expected.

The simulator in Xcode is painful to use to the point that I stopped using it.

Something as innocent as screen-sharing with a colleague via a Slack call reinforced how lacking Intel's UHD 630 is for certain tasks. I hadn't even thought about this use case until I had to do it today.

Using the screen in any other resolution except the non-Retina full 4K resolution is noticeably laggy (not unusable but still annoying enough for me). Even at the recommended default resolution of the Retina 1080p, certain UI actions feel sluggish (most apparent when switching spaces).

Bluetooth interference is real. For example, I cannot connect my external HDD to the outermost USB port without it adversely affecting my trackpad's bluetooth connection. I can solve this by doing some Frankenstein dongle thingamajig.


Verdict

A bit anti-climatic, but I don't think I'll know until I try out an eGPU. My hesitation is that an eGPU is not universally supported by all apps. For example, a poster on eGPU.io was lamenting about WebGL in Chrome not leveraging his eGPU, which he purchased for specifically this use case. What a waste of time and money.

Information is anemic when Googling "Xcode eGPU". I found a single post by someone on Reddit who says it will help, but no more. I'd like some more data points before I plop down an additional few hundred. Do I risk it, try it out and return it if it doesn't work out? Man, what a hassle. This isn't why I started using Apple. Maybe my Google-fu sucks?

And when the app does not support the eGPU, it falls back to the weakest link in the chain -- the iGPU.

I haven't looked hard enough to know why apps need to specifically enable support for the eGPU. Why can't it be leveraged by default? There should be a common interface for all these GPU calls. I don't want to but I'm coming close to reading Apple's developer documentation on eGPUs to find out why unless someone here knows the answer.
 
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pl1984

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It's a sorry state of Apple's product affairs when people buy the entry level system in order to do work suited to higher end systems. There's a huge gap between the Mini and, well, at the moment...nothing. The Mini is the only option for a headless Mac unless you want to drop thousands of dollars to purchase five plus year old technology for the Mac Pro. Apple definitely needs to do something about this.
 

adamk77

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Original poster
Jan 6, 2008
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It's a sorry state of Apple's product affairs when people buy the entry level system in order to do work suited to higher end systems. There's a huge gap between the Mini and, well, at the moment...nothing. The Mini is the only option for a headless Mac unless you want to drop thousands of dollars to purchase five plus year old technology for the Mac Pro. Apple definitely needs to do something about this.
Yeah, you've hit the nail on its head. It was either the Mac Mini or to wait for this year's WWDC for the new Mac Pro announcement.

Unfortunately, I've never received brownie points for patience.
 

Gus999

macrumors newbie
Oct 23, 2011
6
0
Yeah, you've hit the nail on its head. It was either the Mac Mini or to wait for this year's WWDC for the new Mac Pro announcement.

Unfortunately, I've never received brownie points for patience.
Thanks for your post. I ended up returning a 2018 Mac Mini due to the video lag. It wasn't horrible, but it was a little annoying, and I thought it might get worse over time as apps got more demanding. I hadn't tried a screen sharing call, sounds like that would have been worse.

What 43" monitor did you get? I might get a 2019 iMac, and for a second monitor, a 43" at full 4K might make sense.
 

adamk77

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Original poster
Jan 6, 2008
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Thanks for your post. I ended up returning a 2018 Mac Mini due to the video lag. It wasn't horrible, but it was a little annoying, and I thought it might get worse over time as apps got more demanding. I hadn't tried a screen sharing call, sounds like that would have been worse.

What 43" monitor did you get? I might get a 2019 iMac, and for a second monitor, a 43" at full 4K might make sense.
Yeah, I hear you. It was getting annoying enough today that I actually put up my 2018 Mac Mini for sale a moment ago before taking it down to give it one more chance. It was an impulsive move. WWDC is still 2 months away, and even if they do preview the Mac Pro, who knows when it'll actually go on sale. I need something now to work.

I have the LG 43UD79-B.
 
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mattwestside

macrumors member
Sep 3, 2009
54
22
It's a sorry state of Apple's product affairs when people buy the entry level system in order to do work suited to higher end systems. There's a huge gap between the Mini and, well, at the moment...nothing. The Mini is the only option for a headless Mac unless you want to drop thousands of dollars to purchase five plus year old technology for the Mac Pro. Apple definitely needs to do something about this.
I actually returned my 2018 i7 Mini and bought a like-new 6-core 2013 Mac Pro from Craigslist (for the same exact price) and would do it again in a heartbeat. I was having major issues with dropped frames when streaming 4K content on YouTube with the Mini, and the Mac Pro has been a completely different experience.

Sure that's a narrow use case comparison, but I also use Slack all day and screen share for half of it, and the Mac Pro handles it with aplomb. I wanted to love the Mini but for me the lack of dedicated graphics is a crippling Achilles heel.
[doublepost=1554529547][/doublepost]
Yeah, I hear you. It was getting annoying enough today that I actually put up my 2018 Mac Mini for sale a moment ago before taking it down to give it one more chance. It was an impulsive move. WWDC is still 2 months away, and even if they do preview the Mac Pro, who knows when it'll actually go on sale. I need something now to work.

I have the LG 43UD79-B.
I have a friend who works at Apple and mentioned that the MSRP on the new Mac Pro will be incredibly high, as in upper four and into-the-five figure territory, so that's an immediate disqualification for me.

Since you still have your Mini could you do me a favor? I am curious to see if you encounter any dropped frames following this test:

In Chrome, bring up YouTube
And this link:
Change the quality to 2060p/60fps
Launch in full screen and let buffer
Play the video (it's 5min) and either jot down or screen shot the number of dropped frames.
You'll have a few seconds toward the end of playback before it resets and moves to whatever next video is queued.

I appreciate it!
 
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adamk77

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Original poster
Jan 6, 2008
513
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I have a friend who works at Apple and mentioned that the MSRP on the new Mac Pro will be incredibly high, as in upper four and into-the-five figure territory, so that's an immediate disqualification for me.

Since you still have your Mini could you do me a favor? I am curious to see if you encounter any dropped frames following this test:

In Chrome, bring up YouTube
And this link:
Change the quality to 2060p/60fps
Launch in full screen and let buffer
Play the video (it's 5min) and either jot down or screen shot the number of dropped frames.
You'll have a few seconds toward the end of playback before it resets and moves to whatever next video is queued.
I appreciate it!
If the current iMac Pro is too rich for me, then I'm sure Apple will price me out of the new Mac Pro.

I wonder who Apple considers a "pro" user. Am I? I make a decent living with my computer, but I'm not exactly buying yachts. If I were to ignore the fact that I don't want an AIO and consider the iMac Pro, then the configuration I'd be eyeing would be in the $5400 - $6200 range. This is not something I can swallow.

I've worked for startups, large companies, both for profit and non-profit and they would have all given me the "are you out of your mind?" look if I asked for such an expensive machine.

I'd love a headless option around the $3000 price point without all the compromises. A form factor that allows for proper cooling and a dedicated GPU that can handle pedestrian tasks like screen sharing, an 8-core i9, along with easily upgradable RAM. Apple can even keep its soldered SSD!

Wow, that video was an experience. It gave me a glimpse of what gaming would be like on my 43" monitor at 60 FPS. I even have the game in my Steam library but haven't even played once.

I've attached the screenshot. Dropped 62/19469 frames. Is this good or bad? What you were expecting?
 

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macdos

macrumors regular
Oct 15, 2017
221
295
How much RAM in your MM?

It's been about a week since I sold my 2017 4-core i7 27" iMac and replaced it with the 2018 6-core i7 Mac Mini. The impetus for the switch was the hope that a large 43" monitor and the extra two cores from the i7 would increase my productivity.

It hasn't been a home run.

Wins

For my use case of writing software, the faster builds have definitely saved time.

The large monitor has also been a success, allowing me to fit many windows into a single space while keeping the text legible. It's something that was near impossible with the 27" iMac's screen without going blind.

The additional Thunderbolt 3 ports are a welcome addition. I'm not missing the extra USB ports because my monitor has a built in hub that's powered by the monitor's USB-C connection to the Mini. The additional Thunderbolt 3 ports will easily allow me expand the capabilities of the machine in the future.


Losses

The lack of a more powerful GPU has been much more painful than expected.

The simulator in Xcode is painful to use to the point that I stopped using it.

Something as innocent as screen-sharing with a colleague via a Slack call reinforced how lacking Intel's UHD 630 is for certain tasks. I hadn't even thought about this use case until I had to do it today.

Using the screen in any other resolution except the non-Retina full 4K resolution is noticeably laggy (not unusable but still annoying enough for me). Even at the recommended default resolution of the Retina 1080p, certain UI actions feel sluggish (most apparent when switching spaces).

Bluetooth interference is real. For example, I cannot connect my external HDD to the outermost USB port without it adversely affecting my trackpad's bluetooth connection. I can solve this by doing some Frankenstein dongle thingamajig.


Verdict

A bit anti-climatic, but I don't think I'll know until I try out an eGPU. My hesitation is that an eGPU is not universally supported by all apps. For example, a poster on eGPU.io was lamenting about WebGL in Chrome not leveraging his eGPU, which he purchased for specifically this use case. What a waste of time and money.

Information is anemic when Googling "Xcode eGPU". I found a single post by someone on Reddit who says it will help, but no more. I'd like some more data points before I plop down an additional few hundred. Do I risk it, try it out and return it if it doesn't work out? Man, what a hassle. This isn't why I started using Apple. Maybe my Google-fu sucks?

And when the app does not support the eGPU, it falls back to the weakest link in the chain -- the iGPU.

I haven't looked hard enough to know why apps need to specifically enable support for the eGPU. Why can't it be leveraged by default? There should be a common interface for all these GPU calls. I don't want to but I'm coming close to reading Apple's developer documentation on eGPUs to find out why unless someone here knows the answer.
 

pl1984

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I actually returned my 2018 i7 Mini and bought a like-new 6-core 2013 Mac Pro from Craigslist (for the same exact price) and would do it again in a heartbeat. I was having major issues with dropped frames when streaming 4K content on YouTube with the Mini, and the Mac Pro has been a completely different experience.

Sure that's a narrow use case comparison, but I also use Slack all day and screen share for half of it, and the Mac Pro handles it with aplomb. I wanted to love the Mini but for me the lack of dedicated graphics is a crippling Achilles heel.
I have a six core 6,1 Mac Pro and really like it. For certain tasks, for example graphics heavy work, the GPUs in the Mac Pro are much better than the integrated graphics in the Mini. Likewise if you require a large number of cores the Mac Pro is the only option (though I think the Core i7 Mini will even give the eight core Mac Pro a run for its money). There are some use cases where the Mac Pro is the better choice.

On the flip side the Mini is a better choice for a lot of use cases. The problem, as I see it, is people buy the Mini for tasks which are suited for more capable systems. IMO no one should be buying a Mini and an eGPU to do work which is suited for mid to higher end systems. Unfortunately there is no choice. The upper four to lower five figures you mentioned for the new Mac Pro, if accurate, wouldn't do much to change that. Apple really needs something in the middle.
 
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adamk77

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IMO no one should be buying a Mini and an eGPU to do work which is suited for mid to higher end systems. Unfortunately there is no choice. The upper four to lower five figures you mentioned for the new Mac Pro, if accurate, wouldn't do much to change that. Apple really needs something in the middle.
Unfortunately, I'm coming up against a wall and I think I will have to buy an eGPU.

My original plan was to put off the eGPU for a year or so to pick up the Vega for a cheaper price, but I'm just not able to do my job without feeling like taking a hammer to the Mini.
 

pl1984

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Unfortunately, I'm coming up against a wall and I think I will have to buy an eGPU.

My original plan was to put off the eGPU for a year or so to pick up the Vega for a cheaper price, but I'm just not able to do my job without feeling like taking a hammer to the Mini.
I assume the software development you're doing is for macOS and therefore you cannot move off the platform?
 

lantree

macrumors member
Jul 22, 2010
61
79
I'd love a headless option around the $3000 price point without all the compromises. A form factor that allows for proper cooling and a dedicated GPU that can handle pedestrian tasks like screen sharing, an 8-core i9, along with easily upgradable RAM. Apple can even keep its soldered SSD!
I and a couple of million more around the world would be happy with one of these as well.
I the rumor on the mac pro price is correct , it looks like a mini + epgu is where i will end up going.
 

adamk77

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jan 6, 2008
513
149
I assume the software development you're doing is for macOS and therefore you cannot move off the platform?
Right. I can build a Hackintosh but it comes with risks. A friend of mine has been trying to convince me that a Hackintosh is the way to go, and he may be right. But when I have a deadline that only the latest version of developer tools can handle, which is often tied to the latest version of MacOS, it becomes too risky.
 

Joestanxx

macrumors newbie
Nov 9, 2018
26
4
I actually returned my 2018 i7 Mini and bought a like-new 6-core 2013 Mac Pro from Craigslist (for the same exact price) and would do it again in a heartbeat. I was having major issues with dropped frames when streaming 4K content on YouTube with the Mini, and the Mac Pro has been a completely different experience.

Sure that's a narrow use case comparison, but I also use Slack all day and screen share for half of it, and the Mac Pro handles it with aplomb. I wanted to love the Mini but for me the lack of dedicated graphics is a crippling Achilles heel.
[doublepost=1554529547][/doublepost]

I have a friend who works at Apple and mentioned that the MSRP on the new Mac Pro will be incredibly high, as in upper four and into-the-five figure territory, so that's an immediate disqualification for me.

Since you still have your Mini could you do me a favor? I am curious to see if you encounter any dropped frames following this test:

In Chrome, bring up YouTube
And this link:
Change the quality to 2060p/60fps
Launch in full screen and let buffer
Play the video (it's 5min) and either jot down or screen shot the number of dropped frames.
You'll have a few seconds toward the end of playback before it resets and moves to whatever next video is queued.

I appreciate it!
I did the same thing returned 2 defective I7 mac mins a got purchased a 2013 mac pro for $100 less and I could not be happier.
 
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mattwestside

macrumors member
Sep 3, 2009
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If the current iMac Pro is too rich for me, then I'm sure Apple will price me out of the new Mac Pro.

I wonder who Apple considers a "pro" user. Am I? I make a decent living with my computer, but I'm not exactly buying yachts. If I were to ignore the fact that I don't want an AIO and consider the iMac Pro, then the configuration I'd be eyeing would be in the $5400 - $6200 range. This is not something I can swallow.

I've worked for startups, large companies, both for profit and non-profit and they would have all given me the "are you out of your mind?" look if I asked for such an expensive machine.

I'd love a headless option around the $3000 price point without all the compromises. A form factor that allows for proper cooling and a dedicated GPU that can handle pedestrian tasks like screen sharing, an 8-core i9, along with easily upgradable RAM. Apple can even keep its soldered SSD!

Wow, that video was an experience. It gave me a glimpse of what gaming would be like on my 43" monitor at 60 FPS. I even have the game in my Steam library but haven't even played once.

I've attached the screenshot. Dropped 62/19469 frames. Is this good or bad? What you were expecting?



That's actually pretty great performance - My i7/64GB/500GB Mini was dropping in the high hundreds of frames over a similar 5min timeframe.

My Mac Pro has just the base D300 graphics but didn't drop a single frame, so my subjective opinion is that the Pro can spread the load more effectively +discrete graphic memory +better thermal management results in better performance in this use case.
[doublepost=1554574231][/doublepost]
Unfortunately, I'm coming up against a wall and I think I will have to buy an eGPU.

My original plan was to put off the eGPU for a year or so to pick up the Vega for a cheaper price, but I'm just not able to do my job without feeling like taking a hammer to the Mini.
It would be awesome if a graphics manufacturer built an eGPU for the Mini that complemented the small footprint and design, but I assume the performance vs. thermal tradeoffs just aren't there. All the eGPUs I've seen on the market are huge compared to the Mini and would aesthetically clutter up my workstation. Total first world problems, but still.
 

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adamk77

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Jan 6, 2008
513
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That's actually pretty great performance - My i7/64GB/500GB Mini was dropping in the high hundreds of frames over a similar 5min timeframe.

My Mac Pro has just the base D300 graphics but didn't drop a single frame, so my subjective opinion is that the Pro can spread the load more effectively +discrete graphic memory +better thermal management results in better performance in this use case.
[doublepost=1554574231][/doublepost]

It would be awesome if a graphics manufacturer built an eGPU for the Mini that complemented the small footprint and design, but I assume the performance vs. thermal tradeoffs just aren't there. All the eGPUs I've seen on the market are huge compared to the Mini and would aesthetically clutter up my workstation. Total first world problems, but still.
Interesting. Do you have any idea why your Mac Mini was dropping so many frames?

I don't even mind the huge eGPU enclosures. I just want it to be universally supported by all apps.
 

mattwestside

macrumors member
Sep 3, 2009
54
22
Interesting. Do you have any idea why your Mac Mini was dropping so many frames?

I don't even mind the huge eGPU enclosures. I just want it to be universally supported by all apps.
Great question. Possibly a hardware issue with that specific unit (even though it passed all the normal diagnostics), or perhaps there were environmental issues causing the Mini to throttle or stutter randomly. I did experience BT interference with my external SSD/keyboard/mouse so perhaps that contributed to the performance hit.

Going back to 2013 tech is not the best remedy for the problem, but I needed a stable solution and it'll do for now. It seems Apple is heavily marketing companion eGPUs for the MM so perhaps one with a smaller footprint will hit the market and tick the right boxes for me.
 

adamk77

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Jan 6, 2008
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Great question. Possibly a hardware issue with that specific unit (even though it passed all the normal diagnostics), or perhaps there were environmental issues causing the Mini to throttle or stutter randomly. I did experience BT interference with my external SSD/keyboard/mouse so perhaps that contributed to the performance hit.

Going back to 2013 tech is not the best remedy for the problem, but I needed a stable solution and it'll do for now. It seems Apple is heavily marketing companion eGPUs for the MM so perhaps one with a smaller footprint will hit the market and tick the right boxes for me.
FWIW, I also have BT interference so I can't use the outermost USB port for much. So it's more likely to be a hardware issue you had.

I recently saw this https://egpu.io/visiontek-mini-egfx-review-mobility-meets-utility/ which is touted as having the "smallest footprint to date".

The size is just the nature of the beast. Desktop GPUs are monstrous and power hogs. The enclosures need to house it with proper ventilation and also the PSU, unless you want to have a large ugly PSU outside of it.

 
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F-Train

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. The enclosures need to house it with proper ventilation and also the PSU, unless you want to have a large ugly PSU outside of it.
A fair number of people here have opted for Asus's XG Station Pro. I've yet to hear anyone call it ugly - indeed, the contrary - and some of us like the fact that the power supply, which is in fact not large, is outside the enclosure.
 

adamk77

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A fair number of people here have opted for Asus's XG Station Pro. I've yet to hear anyone call it ugly - indeed, the contrary - and some of us like the fact that the power supply, which is in fact not large, is outside the enclosure.
That's a handsome looking enclosure. I don't mind power bricks that look like the Station Pro's. I would also prefer it over the larger enclosure if it had to fit inside it.

The ones I do mind are the huge PSUs that look like the one in the photo above. I wouldn't want something like that sitting outside my eGPU. I would rather my eGPU enclosure be big enough to accommodate it.
 
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pl1984

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Right. I can build a Hackintosh but it comes with risks. A friend of mine has been trying to convince me that a Hackintosh is the way to go, and he may be right. But when I have a deadline that only the latest version of developer tools can handle, which is often tied to the latest version of MacOS, it becomes too risky.
I completely understand. Hackintosh should not be a consideration for anyone who relies on their system for their livelihood.
[doublepost=1554676580][/doublepost]
It would be awesome if a graphics manufacturer built an eGPU for the Mini that complemented the small footprint and design, but I assume the performance vs. thermal tradeoffs just aren't there. All the eGPUs I've seen on the market are huge compared to the Mini and would aesthetically clutter up my workstation. Total first world problems, but still.
Exactly. Which is why I fail to see why Apple doesn't make something slightly larger that could accommodate an internal GPU.
 

D.T.

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A fair number of people here have opted for Asus's XG Station Pro. I've yet to hear anyone call it ugly - indeed, the contrary - and some of us like the fact that the power supply, which is in fact not large, is outside the enclosure.
That's terrific, I didn't realize the XG used an external PS, makes it smaller, removes some heat, I mean, all my power components are down on the floor, I've never understood why a "power brick" is an issue. I'd gladly reduce on the "on desk" footprint by moving power supplies external.
 

F-Train

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Apr 22, 2015
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That's terrific, I didn't realize the XG used an external PS, makes it smaller, removes some heat, I mean, all my power components are down on the floor, I've never understood why a "power brick" is an issue. I'd gladly reduce on the "on desk" footprint by moving power supplies external.
You can pretty much place the power supply where you want. It comes with a good length of cable. This reduces the size of the enclosure. Also, the XG Station Pro comes with a TB3 cable that is active and therefore longer than standard. However, one caveat about this cable; some of us have found that the USB-C connections are a bit loose. I've been meaning to ask for a replacement.

If you do a search on Asus XG Station Pro in the following thread, you'll find a fair number of posts about it: https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/external-gpu-egpu-resources.2154653/
 

adamk77

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jan 6, 2008
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The Razer Core X must be extremely popular because I couldn't find it anywhere in stock. I needed an enclosure asap so I just ordered the Sonnet 350W version, paired with the Sapphire Vega 56.

The Vega 56 is not supported by the 350W version according to Sonnet's GPU compatibility page and FAQ. They steer customers toward the more expensive 550W option. However, multiple sources have confirmed it working with the 350W version. I'm unsure why Sonnet says that the 350W version cannot be used with the Vega 56, because Sonnet lists it as being able to support up to a 300W GPU and the Vega 56 draws less than 200W (the one I purchased is rated at 180W).

Interestingly, for my use case, I find the 350W more upgradeable than the 550W version, because the 550W version reserves more watts (85W vs 15W) for power delivery for charging laptops and such, siphoning those watts away from potentially powering the GPU. I have no need for it because I won't be charging anything with it and would be happier if everything went to the GPU.

I read that the Vega 56 cards can be flashed to the Vega 64 firmware. If I do this, there is the option of switching out the PSU with a more powerful one to support the extra power requirement.

I also needed a speedy external SSD for Windows. I said what the heck, closed my eyes and just went for the 1TB Samsung X5 for the extra boost and TRIM support (not supported via USB). I'll be running part of it as both the boot drive for Windows and for apps / games / files. There is also the added bonus that the X5 being Thunderbolt 3 won't have the CPU overhead of a USB drive, though I have no idea if this has any measurable impact. But I'll take it.

Hopefully, this will be the answer to my performance woes.
 
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