Anyone tried an external GPU with a 2012 Mini?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by ziggy29, Jun 10, 2017.

  1. ziggy29 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2014
    Location:
    Texas
    #1
    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....
     
  2. jackerin macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2008
    Location:
    Finland
    #2
    Quite a number, in fact, and it's bound to increase drastically with High Sierra actually enabling the feature. Check https://egpu.io/ for more.

    I've been considering it for a long time myself, and looking for a time when there are more alternatives for enclosures.
     
  3. ziggy29, Jun 10, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2017

    ziggy29 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2014
    Location:
    Texas
    #3
    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.
     
  4. epca12 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2017
    Location:
    UK
    #4
    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.
     
  5. Chancha macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2014
    #5
    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.
     
  6. Acronyc macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2011
    #6
    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.
     
  7. Chancha macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2014
    #7
    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.
     
  8. Synchro3 macrumors 65816

    Synchro3

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2014
    #8
  9. ziggy29, Jun 15, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2017

    ziggy29 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2014
    Location:
    Texas
    #9
    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.
     
  10. Synchro3 macrumors 65816

    Synchro3

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2014
    #10
    Even with Thunderbolt 1 you get 70-88% performance compared with internal PCI-Express.

    Unigine Valley comp.png

    Unigine Heavencomp.png
     
  11. theitsage macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    #11
    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
     
  12. MysticCow macrumors 6502a

    MysticCow

    Joined:
    May 27, 2013
    #12
    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...
     
  13. Synchro3 macrumors 65816

    Synchro3

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2014
    #13
    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.
     
  14. MysticCow macrumors 6502a

    MysticCow

    Joined:
    May 27, 2013
    #14
    Nomenclature slip. I apologize for that one. But...eGPU on my mini? HELLS YES
     
  15. theitsage, Jun 26, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2017

    theitsage macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    #15
    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).

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]
     

Share This Page