Build Guide: 2018 Mac Mini and eGPU

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by adamk77, Apr 10, 2019.

  1. adamk77, Apr 10, 2019
    Last edited: May 4, 2019

    adamk77 macrumors 6502a

    adamk77

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2008
    #1
    I am creating this thread with the hope that others who have gone down the eGPU path with their Mac Minis can also share their experiences. I did a great deal of research on the internet trying to minimize the risk of wasted money and time, but it was still difficult to eliminate the uncertainty completely. Hopefully, someone will find this particular setup and experience helpful.

    Short Background

    I replaced my 2017 iMac with the 2018 Mini hoping to improve my productivity. For the most part it worked well, with the exception of the lackluster integrated GPU. As the Mini was the only option in the product line that met my needs, I purchased an eGPU.

    Hardware
    I have a dual monitor setup with a little portable one to the side (photo below). I think having 2 screens will make this easier. The 1st screen is connected to the eGPU and the 2nd screen is connected to the Mac Mini (iGPU).

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Notes

    I actually had my heart set on the Razer Core X because it seemed like the best bang for the money. However, I could not find it anywhere in stock. I needed an eGPU as quickly as possible for work, so I purchased the cheapest Sonnet 350w version thinking that it would be plenty for the Vega 56.

    On Sonnet's compatibility page, they state that the 350W version does not support the Vega 56 and steer customers toward the more expensive 550W version. This is odd because Sonnet lists that the 350W version can support up to 300W GPU, and the Vega 56 is rated at below 200W.

    The Vega 56 requires 2x 8-pin PCIe power connectors. The Sonnet 350W comes with 2x PCIe power connectors as described below:
    1. One 6+2 pin PCIe connector.
    2. One 6 pin PCIe connector.
    I plugged the 6+2 pin PCIe connector into one of the 8-pin slots on the Vega 56, and purchased a 6-pin-to-8-pin adapter on Amazon for $7. I am not sure if the adapter is even necessary, but I wanted to be safe and it seems to work.

    Interestingly, for use with the Mac Mini, 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 will not be charging anything with it and would be happier if everything went to the GPU.

    Finally, I have been running with the eGPU with the cover off of the Sonnet enclosure to make sure everything is working before closing it up, and I was surprised that the fans on the GPU were not spinning at all. It seems that they only spin up at some threshold temperature. All this time, I was under the impression that the fans were spinning at all times, slower or faster depending on the temperature, but always. But this is not the case.

    All this makes for an extremely quiet setup. The enclosure itself is very quiet, too, so I cannot even tell if it is on.

    I am happy with the final outcome. The frame rates are great, and Xcode seems to take full advantage of the GPU. I am even happier because the Sonnet 350W was only $200 as opposed to the Razer Core X's $300 and Sonnet 550W's $280 price tag. If needed, the PSU can also be upgraded.

    I upgraded the PSU. See post #20.

    Glossary: "error 12"

    This is where most people get stuck on. The "error 12" message is displayed in device manager (in Windows) for the GPU and it means "This device cannot find enough free resources that it can use." It has to do with the addressing space available to an eGPU, and an eGPU needs a lot of it compared to other devices. To work around it, you can disable other PCIe resources in device manager to free them up. This seems to be more of an issue with Macs that have both an integrated and a dedicated GPU, so I thought it shouldn't be much of an issue for us. I ran into it, though. So it's good to know what it is. Whenever you see "error 12", this is what it means.

    Installation: MacOS

    Plug-and-Play. It should just work. None of the cables I tried initially worked. Make sure you are certain that your cables will work or expect to waste a lot of time.

    Installation: Windows

    Windows 10 was problematic. It was a windy road to get it to work.

    Prerequisites:
    • The first thing you should do is to install Windows (I installed the 1803 April update, though others also had success with 1809) via Bootcamp. I know that many people want to install Windows on an external SSD, but I would suggest creating a partition on the internal SSD. I purchased the Samsung X5 because I planned on installing Windows on it, but I decided against it because of the possibility for an "error 12" (not enough resources described above) issue. If this happens, then there was a chance that I would have had to disable one of the Thunderbolt 3 controllers. I wanted to eliminate as many complications as possible.
    • Make sure you can boot into Windows without the eGPU and download the GPU driver.
    Steps:
    1. Disconnect the eGPU from the Mac Mini.
    2. Connect the ASUS portable display to the Mac Mini.
    3. Reboot and press-and-hold the "alt" key to display the boot options (I found my bluetooth Apple keyboard unreliable, so I used another USB Keyboard).
    4. Boot into Windows.
    5. Connect eGPU to the Mac Mini. The main monitor should also be connected to the eGPU. Use the Thunderbolt 3 port closest to the HDMI port.
    6. Install the GPU driver.
    7. At this point, I saw the "error 12" in device manager for my GPU. So I disabled "PCIe Root Port #2 - A339" in device manager, then rebooted back into Windows.
    8. This time, my main LG 4K monitor that was connected to the eGPU was showing the login screen, meaning that the eGPU was detected. Except, none of my keyboards were working!
    9. All I could do was to force a shutdown by holding onto the power button on the Mac Mini.
    10. I disconnected the eGPU from the Mac Mini and booted back into Windows.
    11. I re-enabled "PCIe Root Port #2 - A339" in device manager.
    12. I shut down Windows.
    13. I reconnected the eGPU to the Mac Mini and booted back into Windows. I was planning on disabling the PCIe controller for the 10 Gigabit Ethernet in case of the "error 12" issue, but...
    14. Everything was magically working. The main monitor was showing the login screen and my keyboard was functional.
    I was afraid this was a fluke. I tried booting from MacOS to Windows and from Windows to MacOS many times, expecting something to go awry. However, it is working every single time.

    I read a post from someone where he said that booting to Windows fails if the eGPU is connected, but I do not have this issue. I also read that the poster had to disconnect the NVMe SSD before booting to Windows, but I do not have this issue either.

    I was also afraid that I would have to disable the 2nd Thunderbolt controller, which means I would not be able to use my Samsung X5. However, this also was not the case.

    For some odd reason, everything just works.

    Benchmarks

    • Division 2 in Windows in 1440p, I am getting anywhere from 45+ to 60 FPS.
    • Monster Hunter World in 1440p, all over the place from 30 - 60 FPS.
    • Rise of the Tomb Raider in 1440p, 60 FPS.
    • Grand Theft Auto V in 4K, 60 FPS.

    I ran it twice. One time in 4K in medium quality (first image). The second time I ran it in 2K in ultra quality (second image).

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Unrelated to this, but I just have to brag. The Samsung X5 is truly amazing. I know the T5 is fast, but having experienced the X5, I am spoiled. I was able to copy 43GB of random files (of varying sizes -- tens of thousands of files) in less than a minute.

    Edit 2019.4.12
    Should work with Windows 10 update 1809 as reported by @F-Train.
    See post #12 if you're trying this with a single monitor.

    Edit 2019.4.14
    Simplified the steps.
     
  2. IngerMan macrumors 65816

    IngerMan

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2011
    Location:
    Michigan
    #2
    Kudos on putting this together. I think your eGPU is probably about as price competitive for performance that you can get.

    I will have to disagree with your steps installing Windows 10 Bootcamp and eventually using eGPU.



    It is much easier and less steps then you have listed. I basically followed the 9 to 5 Mac Boot camp video initially not having my eGPU plugged in. After installation and updates complete on Windows 10Pro (this requires a few restarts) Then it was a matter of powering down the mini, plug in the eGPU to Monitor and power on eGPU. Unplug the Mini iGPU cable to Monitor. Power back on Mini in to Windows 10 Pro.

    Give it a few minutes you may have to force boot one time.

    You should not have to install any drivers, Windows should update and install your AMD needed items.
     
  3. adamk77, Apr 11, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2019

    adamk77 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    adamk77

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2008
    #3
    By all means! These are the steps that worked for me. If it's as easy as that video, that's great.

    That's one of the things I'd like to know. How easy / hard others are finding getting all this to work for my future reference.
     
  4. Wig321 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2018
    #4
    Following your way didn’t work for me. I’ll try the OPs method tonight but I don’t have a second screen...
     
  5. adamk77 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    adamk77

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2008
    #5
    I hesitated on calling this a "guide" because it was more like me documenting the stuff I've done to get this to work. I think it could be much simpler. I just left everything in because that's what worked for me.

    I tried without the 2nd monitor and it was difficult because I didn't know what was going on. I heard something from my speakers, but didn't see anything on the screen.

    Can you share your hardware information - enclosure, GPU, Mac Mini config?

    What problems have you run into so far?
     
  6. strwrsfrk macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2011
    Location:
    Arlington, VA, USA
    #6
    My eCore X and Vega 56 are due to arrive Monday, 4/12. For anyone looking for a Core X, I purchased mine on eBay for considerably less than even refurbished (about $220). Of course, it's used and likely without a warranty, so you have to get comfortable with that and the seller first. But I want to scale over time beyond the Vega 56 and was attracted to the PSU in the Core X.
     
  7. IngerMan macrumors 65816

    IngerMan

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2011
    Location:
    Michigan
    #7
    Can you at least install Bootcamp and run windows10Pro from your Mini iGPU?
     
  8. Wig321 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2018
    #8
    yes bootcamp installs correctly, I can hear the ogpu being detected when starting up but I have a black screen.
    --- Post Merged, Apr 11, 2019 ---
    I will try with a spare monitor. Currently after windows set up and drivers installed, with the Mac mini HDMI disconnected and the egpu connected to the monitor I can hear the egpu being detected when windows boots but I have a black screen.

    If I try to boot with the Mac mini HDMI output connected directly to the monitor and a DisplayPort cable from the egpu to my other monitor input, windows stays on the initial windows logo and flickers multiple colours.
     
  9. F-Train, Apr 11, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2019

    F-Train macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2015
    Location:
    NYC & Newfoundland
    #9
    Like @IngerMan (post #2), I did not find this anywhere near as complicated as post #1 suggests.

    I’d also like to say that I’ve installed BootCamp Windows 10 Pro three times, without difficulty, using the November 2018 build. I believe that use of the April 2018 build is based on concerns with the November build that are no longer valid.
    --- Post Merged, Apr 11, 2019 ---
    Question for @adamk77:

    Am I correct that when you installed the drivers from bootcampdrivers you got the AMD Radeon Settings window? If so, did you see a tab called AMD ReLive and/or were given an option to activate it, and were you able to activate it?

    And a question for @IngerMan:

    The way that you are set up, when you are in Windows, do you have access to an AMD Radeon Settings window that has several tabs? If so, is there a tab for ReLive?

    I may be partly responsible for the fact that @adamk77 went down the route outlined in post #1 because I suggested to him, when he was discussing the problems that he was running into in the larger eGPU Resources thread, that he check out the bootcampdrivers site/DDU, etc. if he wants access to features like ReLive.
     
  10. adamk77, Apr 11, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2019

    adamk77 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    adamk77

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2008
    #10
    I did see that Radeon Settings window and was given the choice to install it. But I think you may have gotten me mixed up with someone else. My memory isn't what it used to be, but I don't strike myself as someone who would ask about ReLive :)

    Interestingly, the reason I went down this convoluted path was to avoid any potential problems. I disabled the SIP, installed a custom boot loader, ran DDU which were all probably unnecessary. I think I should have tried the simple route first. It seems I did things in reverse.

    I think I could come up with a much smaller and simpler list of steps if I tried again, but everything works and I don't want to mess with it.

    I heard the sounds from Windows (the new device detected sound, right?), too, but my screen was blank. That sounds like Windows detecting the eGPU but it couldn't get it to work properly. Please let me know if the 2nd screen works as the boot screen. If you could boot into Windows with that display while the eGPU is still connected, I'd try going into device manager and check for a yellow exclamation mark for the eGPU.
     
  11. IngerMan macrumors 65816

    IngerMan

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2011
    Location:
    Michigan
    #11
    That’s the point to do a hard reset. I probably did a SMC reset as well since I forced shutdown.
     
  12. adamk77, Apr 12, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2019

    adamk77 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    adamk77

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2008
    #12
    @Wig321 - I tried your configuration. I connected my main monitor to both the iGPU and the eGPU. I had it connected like below:

    Main Monitor (DisplayPort) <--> eGPU <--> Mac Mini
    Main Monitor (HDMI) <--> Mac Mini

    With the input initially set to HDMI (iGPU), I could see the boot screen as expected. After I boot into Windows, the screen flickers like you described. Is this similar to the flicker that you see too (video below)?

    What's strange is that I've seen two behaviors. The first is the multi-colored screen flicker, and then the screen going blank. The second is the screen flickering like in the video, but it's frozen with the blue Windows logo in the middle of the screen as if the iGPU hasn't been disabled. However, I never see this behavior with the 2 monitor setup.

    When I attempt to change the input on my monitor to DisplayPort, it won't respond to my input. My monitor comes with a remote, and you can hear me (in the video below) clicking the remote to try to change the input to no avail. I've managed to switch the input once, and if I am able to switch the input to DisplayPort, it does show me the proper eGPU driven screen.

    Another interesting observation. If I boot to the boot screen with the 2nd monitor connected to the Mac Mini's iGPU, and then disconnect the cable from the 2nd display and then reconnect it, the 2nd monitor never receives the signal again. So it seems the 2nd display cannot be hot plugged to the Mac Mini and must be plugged in prior to the Mac Mini booting up.



    And FWIW, here's another video with a proper boot to Windows with the 2nd display attached to the Mac Mini. You'll notice the Windows logo showing up briefly on the 2nd screen, and then the iGPU is disabled (also confirmed by its absence in device manager in Windows) as the screen goes blank, followed by the main display being properly driven by the eGPU.

    Testing the single monitor setup seems to have messed something up, because I couldn't get it to boot Windows even with the 2nd display connected to the Mac Mini. I had to reboot, and then it started working again.

     
  13. HalFried macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 14, 2015
    #13
    I was running into exactly the same issues as Wig321. Tried all the suggestions above. Finally ordered the Asus monitor adank77 linked to. That at least helped me to see when I could select the Win disk. But then absolutely nothing happened after choosing Windows. Monitor kept going to sleep because it wasn't receiving signal through the display port cable.
    I finally decided to try an hdmi cable from the graphics card instead. That did the trick. Can now run the eGPU in Mojave and Windows10 with the the hdmi cable.

    I tried going back to the display port cable. Works fine in Mojave, but no go in Windows.

    One thing I noticed during this frustrating experience is that the use of the other thunderbold ports can affect this whole process. I had a very nice thunderbolt 2 dock attached and had to disconnect it in order to get the hdml to work in Windows.

    As others have mentioned, I sure wish Apple would build in support for eGPU's in bootcamp.
     
  14. adamk77 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    adamk77

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2008
    #14
    Yup, I also had cable issues. I have a DisplayPort cable that works fine on my PC with a 4K screen, but it would not work with the eGPU. Neither did my DisplayPort-to-USB-C cable, that works fine with a MBP but not with the eGPU. The only DisplayPort cable that worked was the one that came with my monitor.

    When you say that the DisplayPort cable works in Mojave, you're connecting the DisplayPort to the eGPU <-> monitor, right?
     
  15. HalFried macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 14, 2015
    #15
    Yes, with the DisplayPort cable attached to the eGPU and the monitor it works fine in Mojave. Not so in Win10.
     
  16. adamk77 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    adamk77

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    #16
    Very odd. What's your GPU?
     
  17. HalFried macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 14, 2015
    #17
    MSI RX Vega 64 AIR Boost 8G OC

    I can't figure out why the DP isn't working on it in Windows while it is fine in Mojave. In any case the HDMI is working fine and the few games I've tried in Win10 are running very well. So I can't really complain except it really bugs me when I can't figure something out!!
     
  18. IngerMan macrumors 65816

    IngerMan

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    Location:
    Michigan
    #18
    Many of us have found a way to get it to work, and when you get there it seems very consistent.

    Even though each of us thinks we have the sure fire solution that works, it sounds like its a little different for each depending on your eGPU enclosure, Card, Cables, Monitor.

    I agree it will be Great when Apple supports the eGPU for Bootcamp.
     
  19. adamk77 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    adamk77

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    Jan 6, 2008
    #19
    I know what you mean. It's bugging me, too, and it's not even my machine :)

    I'm going to ask around in eGPU.io and see if any bright minds there know what's up.
     
  20. adamk77, Apr 14, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2019

    adamk77 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    adamk77

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    Jan 6, 2008
    #20
    I'm not 100% sure if this is because of the PSU, but when I run a demanding game, my screen sometimes gets momentarily very dim like someone turned down the brightness way down.

    It only happens in demanding games, when the fans on the GPU and the enclosure have kicked into high gear.

    I think things are better when I set the GPU into a “power saving profile” inside AMD’s Wattman. I have not seen the screen dimming after I did this, but I need to test more to be sure.

    My Mac Mini and the enclosure are both connected to a UPS that shows me how much power is being drawn. At idle in Windows, it’s around 80-100W. When in a game, I’ve seen it spike to 475W. It doesn’t stay there, but the fact that it spikes so high is a little too close for comfort given the relatively weak PSU of the enclosure. Though I'm sure that it's not all due to the GPU.

    So I just decided to upgrade the PSU to the 650W. I was going to do it anyway in the future because I planned on flashing the Vega 56 with the Vega 64 firmware, which would definitely have made the stock PSU inadequate.

    P.S. I also simplified the steps in post #1. I had to reinstall the AMD driver and had to go through the steps again.
     
  21. seble macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2010
    #21
    How did you find the process of upgrading the PSU and are there any in particular you recommend?

    I’m very tempted by your route of going for the 56 and the breakaway 330 (though Razer Core seems also appealing).
    Also, wasn’t aware you could flash vega firmware. You certainly learn something knew everyday!
     
  22. adamk77, Apr 15, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2019

    adamk77 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    adamk77

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2008
    #22
    My PSU will be delivered today. I purchased the Seasonic Focus SGX-650 SFX. The PSU in the Sonnet is just a standard SFX PSU so I expect it to be a simple swap. I'll update this post after I've done it.

    The Razer Core X is the best value at the moment at $300 with a 650W PSU. I would have chosen it had it been in stock (it's in stock now on Newegg, FYI). However, after having used the Sonnet, I think I would still choose the Sonnet 350W.

    The major downside to the Razer Core X is the noise level even when it's idle due to the small fan and an ATX PSU, which I hear can be pretty annoying. You'd want to upgrade the fan and perhaps even the PSU to make it quieter. The Sonnet is quiet. One of the pros about the replacement SFX PSU I purchased is that it's extremely quiet, too.

    If you choose to upgrade the PSU, the Sonnet's cost would be on par ($315) with the Razer Core X. However, replacing the PSU will void the warranty. Though I have no idea how Sonnet would know if it's been upgraded if you place the stock PSU back before sending it in for service. It's a risk I'm willing to take.

    A caveat about purchasing the Vega 56 with the intent of flashing it to a 64 is that not all of them are flash-able. It depends on the particular memory (you want it to be Samsung) on the 56. So it's pretty much luck of the draw.
     
  23. adamk77 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    adamk77

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2008
    #23
    Amazon prime is late, yet again. This makes it 5 times this month alone. It seems to be getting progressively worse.

    I just canceled prime. The price keeps increasing and I don't use any of the other benefits besides prime shipping.
     
  24. seble macrumors 6502a

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    #24
    Ah, I'm here in the land of Brexit, also known as the UK - so we don't get the same awesome prices as you guys get on eGPU enclosures. Sonnet Breakway remains the cheapest enclosure I've seen but I'm glad you've got confidence in it! I'll review prices again but I'm thinking that's what I'm going to go for enclosure wise and go with the Vega 56. I guess we'll see about the RAM type...
     
  25. IngerMan macrumors 65816

    IngerMan

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    Location:
    Michigan
    #25

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