Anyone tried an external GPU with a 2012 Mini?

ziggy29

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Now that we are starting to see some Mac drivers for some nVidia GPUs, has anyone successfully used an eGPU on a 2012 Mini? I have a quad i7 Mini (2.6 GHz) which came with two 1 TB HDDs. I recently added an external SSD (actually an internal drive, EVO 850 with 500 GB, with enclosure -- didn't have the guts to install internally yet) and this thing is SO much faster. The one albatross around its neck is the GPU. It may not be currently cost effective, but that aside... has anyone managed to get a 2012 Mini hooked up successfully with an external GPU under Sierra?

I would think that a quad i7 with SSD, combined with a better GPU solution, would continue to add some years to the useful life of this Mac, especially for gaming. At least in theory....
 
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ziggy29

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Thanks. I know it sort of exists now, and looking at it more I see it's even been done with the 2011 Mini.

The thing is, all the equipment for it would probably cost $500 right now, even with a relatively modest GPU (such as a 1050 Ti or 1060 or RX480) -- about $300 for the enclosure (something like the $299 Sonnet Breakaway Box when it is released), $50 for the adapter from TB3 to TB2 (also compatible with TB1 from what I can tell), and $200ish for the GPU itself. I don't ever see needing more than 60 fps at 1080p on this machine, and I could probably live with 30+ fps on high settings.

Seems like a lot, but on the other hand, this is still a very capable machine and seems like it will be for a few more years if the graphics can be upgraded. And some of these parts will still be worth something if I want to sell them in a major hardware upgrade. We'll see.
 
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epca12

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Ive seen quite a few people online doing this but not with native High Sierra support and not with latest graphics cards. But from what i've seen they can work well but the performance is limited by thunderbolt 2 speeds.
 

Chancha

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Late 2012 only has a single Thunderbolt 1 port I think. To get TB2 you need 2014 which has two of them, but then it never got a quad core i7. At this stage doing eGPU with any Mini model remains to be more experimental than practical.
 
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Acronyc

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Late 2012 only has a single Thunderbolt 1 port I think. To get TB2 you need 2014 which has two of them, but then it never got a quad core i7. At this stage doing eGPU with any Mini model remains to be more experimental than practical.
My main gaming machine is a 2014 mini with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti and it is very practical for my use. It took a bit of tinkering in the beginning but it works very well in Bootcamp and gives enough performance for my needs. I'm really excited about Apple's new approach to eGPUs and hopefully they will add native support for more cards.
 

Chancha

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My main gaming machine is a 2014 mini with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti and it is very practical for my use. It took a bit of tinkering in the beginning but it works very well in Bootcamp and gives enough performance for my needs. I'm really excited about Apple's new approach to eGPUs and hopefully they will add native support for more cards.
That's interesting, perhaps a bit of a narrow combination of components and use-case where an eGPU-Mini makes sense. I was thinking more along side with video editing and/or 3D modelling where both multi-thread and GPU compute performance are needed.

I am not positive that the High Sierra eGPU implementation would work with TB1/2 though, and from some bits and pieces it seems like Apple's intention is to partner with only AMD (on the driver/software side), at least for the time being.
 

Synchro3

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ziggy29

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Late 2012 only has a single Thunderbolt 1 port I think. To get TB2 you need 2014 which has two of them, but then it never got a quad core i7. At this stage doing eGPU with any Mini model remains to be more experimental than practical.
Not so much experimental as less practical, though I have seen reports of using even a 2011 Mini (also with TB1) with an eGPU getting 40-50 FPS -- sometimes even 60 -- on decent settings with a midrange card like a GTX 970, RX480, or GTX 1050 Ti. At those rates, even the 10Gbps limit on TB1 doesn't come into play. It's not likely cost effective for someone wanting, say, 60 fps @ 1080p on high settings (and something like a GTX 1080 would likely be wasted on a machine with only a TB1 connection), but it could make unplayable games playable on medium to medium-high settings with 30+ FPS at 1080p, especially on a Mini like mine, a 2.6 GHz quad i7. (I consider 30 FPS to be the bare minimum of "playable".)

The TB3 to TB2 adapter also works with TB1, of course at slower speeds, just like you can use a USB 2.0 device on a USB 1.1-equipped system but you only get 1.1 speeds.

The SSD alone has already improved my FPS considerably on the Mini -- probably close to 50% -- even with the weak integrated GPU (indicating that the HDD might have been even more of a bottleneck than the weak GPU). I'd love to see what an eGPU with even something like a 1050Ti or 1060 could do. The former is down to about $130 which makes it very tempting to try this.
 
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theitsage

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eGPU is totally worth it. The best feature is upgradability. If you have a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure, you can use it with a TB3 Mac mini when it comes out.

As @Synchro3 mentioned, the performance loss via 1st generation Thunderbolt is not as significant as you might think. You can get creative with placement of the Mac mini and eGPU enclosure. I've shoved the Mac mini inside the AKiTiO Node in one build. Smaller eGPU enclosures can be mounted behind a display.

With High Sierra, 10.13 it's much easier to make use of eGPU. It's almost plug-and-play.

mac-mini-akitio-node-r9-fury-x-mounted.jpg akitio-thunder2-rx-470-monitor-built-in-egpu.jpg
 

MysticCow

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I take it this is only for Metal-capable Macs? Or at least I'm assuming from what I've heard.

If that's the case, more time in Windows for my 2011 mini, I guess...
 

Synchro3

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I take it this is only for Metal-capable Macs? Or at least I'm assuming from what I've heard.

If that's the case, more time in Windows for my 2011 mini, I guess...
There are no Metal-capable Macs, only Metal-capable graphic cards. In the moment you connect an eGPU with a Metal compatible graphic card you can enjoy it with your Mac Mini 2011.
 
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MysticCow

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There are no Metal-capable Macs, only Metal-capable graphic cards. In the moment you connect an eGPU with a Metal compatible graphic card you can enjoy it with your Mac Mini 2011.
Nomenclature slip. I apologize for that one. But...eGPU on my mini? HELLS YES
 
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theitsage

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Nomenclature slip. I apologize for that one. But...eGPU on my mini? HELLS YES
It is very exciting to be able to use an eGPU with the Mac mini. Even the nMP sees performance boost with the addition of an eGPU. Here's my experience with the RX 580 and Sonnet Breakaway Box a couple months ago (before Apple's announcement at WWDC using the same components for its Dev Kit).



Perhaps impractical but the 2014 Mac mini would possibly be able to use a pair of Thunderbolt eGPUs with its 2 Thunderbolt 2 ports. I've tried 3x eGPUs successfully with the nMP.

 
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