eGPU for Mac mini?

Sverkel

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jul 3, 2007
127
3
Denmark
Hey.

This week i'm going to buy a Mac mini with 6 cores. However, I am concerned that its gpu can't handle the games that I play even though it's relatively "light" games imo. The 3 games I basically want to play are Diablo 3, Portal 2 and CS:GO.

I have looked at an eGPU (ASUS XG Station Pro) and a graphics card (Sapphire Nitro + Radeon RX 580 8GB) but I have no idea if these 2 things will work together with a Mac mini?

Are there anyone in here who can tell me if this will work?
 

Squuiid

macrumors 65816
Oct 31, 2006
1,476
742
Hey.

This week i'm going to buy a Mac mini with 6 cores. However, I am concerned that its gpu can't handle the games that I play even though it's relatively "light" games imo. The 3 games I basically want to play are Diablo 3, Portal 2 and CS:GO.

I have looked at an eGPU (ASUS XG Station Pro) and a graphics card (Sapphire Nitro + Radeon RX 580 8GB) but I have no idea if these 2 things will work together with a Mac mini?

Are there anyone in here who can tell me if this will work?
Apple eGPU info:
https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208544

Recommended cards:
https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208898

BTW, Amazon US are doing the Sonnet eGFX 550W eGPU enclosure for $250 delivered right now. I got the 350W model for $199 delivered but those are now out of stock.
Both will play nice with an RX580 albeit not quite as small profile as the ASUS.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Weaselboy

Sverkel

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jul 3, 2007
127
3
Denmark
Apple eGPU info:
https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208544

Recommended cards:
https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208898

BTW, Amazon US are doing the Sonnet eGFX 550W eGPU enclosure for $250 delivered right now. I got the 350W model for $199 delivered but those are now out of stock.
Both will play nice with an RX580 albeit not quite as small profile as the ASUS.
Thank you for the info :) So to be sure I have to replace the Sapphire Nitro + Radeon RX 580 8GB card with the Sapphire PULSE Radeon RX 580 8GB instead? :)
 

Squuiid

macrumors 65816
Oct 31, 2006
1,476
742
Thank you for the info :) So to be sure I have to replace the Sapphire Nitro + Radeon RX 580 8GB card with the Sapphire PULSE Radeon RX 580 8GB instead? :)
I have a couple PULSE RX580s and I prefer them to the Nitro tbh. They're 2-slot rather than 2.5-slot, probably quieter although I don't know that for certain, and they're Apple recommended.
If you can get the PULSE model I would but the Nitro should work fine.
Be sure to check the eGPU compatibility before you get any card though. Here's Sonnet's: Compatibility_Graphics_Cards.pdf
 

Sverkel

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jul 3, 2007
127
3
Denmark
I have a couple PULSE RX580s and I prefer them to the Nitro tbh. They're 2-slot rather than 2.5-slot, probably quieter although I don't know that for certain, and they're Apple recommended.
If you can get the PULSE model I would but the Nitro should work fine.
Be sure to check the eGPU compatibility before you get any card though. Here's Sonnet's: Compatibility_Graphics_Cards.pdf
I will get the PULSE then :) I don't think it will mean too much in my case so I would rather go with what Apple remommend :)

Thank you for the info again :)
 
  • Like
Reactions: Squuiid

yukari

macrumors 6502
Jun 29, 2010
421
189
I have the Sapphire Nitro + Radeon RX 580 8GB with Razor Core X Chroma.
It works fine. Just plug and play.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Sverkel

smetvid

macrumors 6502
Nov 1, 2009
412
154
Hey.

This week i'm going to buy a Mac mini with 6 cores. However, I am concerned that its gpu can't handle the games that I play even though it's relatively "light" games imo. The 3 games I basically want to play are Diablo 3, Portal 2 and CS:GO.

I have looked at an eGPU (ASUS XG Station Pro) and a graphics card (Sapphire Nitro + Radeon RX 580 8GB) but I have no idea if these 2 things will work together with a Mac mini?

Are there anyone in here who can tell me if this will work?
I have a 6 core Mac Mini with a Vega 56 eGPU and can play Diablo 3 in 4k at a very decent frame rate. Have not measured it but it feels at least 60. A lower resolution like 1920 or 2560 will perform insanely well since Diablo 3 is not a very demanding game. I used to play it a ton on my 2012 27" iMac with 680 MX GPU at 2560 and it performed very well. Never imagined it would work this well in 4k with the Vega 56. I know the Vega 56 is a step up from the RX580 but the Rx580 should perform very well since Diablo 3 is a very old game.

Just be sure to attach your monitor directly to the GPU inside the eGPU. Performance is better when you do this since the bandwidth drives the GPU content directly to the monitor. When the monitor is hooked up to the Mac Mini that TB3 port has to pass data to the eGPU and back down to the computer to push it out the Mac Mini HDMI port. You lose some performance when doing this. I set my Mac Mini to automatically log in when booting up to get around the issue of the eGPU not kicking in until the system is logged in. Without doing this you either have to swap the monitor cable back and forth or use a second monitor to see the log in screen since the eGPU will be blank.
 

th0masp

macrumors 6502
Mar 16, 2015
302
140
germany
General eGPU question: do the aforementioned cases offer a pass-through solution? Can you output to your monitor that is connected to the eGPU even when the eGPU itself is turned off (without manually switching video outputs)?

And if so, is turning on the eGPU sufficient to have the machine reroute the video and accelerate the display?
 

yukari

macrumors 6502
Jun 29, 2010
421
189
I seriously doubt it. GPU in eGPU enclosure requires power. If you don’t turn on the power to eGPU unit, you are “asking” Mac to supply the power. At the very minimum, Mac doesn’t have enough power to drive it.
 

ruslan120

macrumors 6502a
Jul 12, 2009
646
413
General eGPU question: do the aforementioned cases offer a pass-through solution? Can you output to your monitor that is connected to the eGPU even when the eGPU itself is turned off (without manually switching video outputs)?
No : /

You need power for the display connector to work properly, power for the circuit board that connects the graphics card to Thunderbolt, and power for the graphics card to pass the signal from the connector to its PCI-Express connector.
 

J.Gallardo

macrumors 6502
Apr 4, 2017
264
54
Spain
I'm planning a similar set...
MacMini has hdmi-out, apart from thunderbolt3 to e-gpu... What if both connections are used? I'm using my 3rd iMac... and don't know a lot about monitors, but I think they accept more than one connection. I suppose mac perhaps is able to switch to hdmi, or perhaps there's an easy way to do it through Screens preference panel or 3rd party app.
I feel important having a very easy way to choose "only MacMini + monitor" or "MacMini + e-gpu + monitor". When light work is the duty, e-gpu is a waste and unnecessary noise...
Any idea about what's the easiest way to switch between configurations?
(This inconvenience also makes me think about just using two different monitors...)o_O
 

ruslan120

macrumors 6502a
Jul 12, 2009
646
413
What if both connections are used? I'm using my 3rd iMac... and don't know a lot about monitors, but I think they accept more than one connection. I suppose mac perhaps is able to switch to hdmi, or perhaps there's an easy way to do it through Screens preference panel or 3rd party app.
I feel important having a very easy way to choose "only MacMini + monitor" or "MacMini + e-gpu + monitor". When light work is the duty, e-gpu is a waste and unnecessary noise...
Any idea about what's the easiest way to switch between configurations?
(This inconvenience also makes me think about just using two different monitors...)o_O
If the cable goes into the Mac Mini then the Mac Mini should drive the display and the eGPU will accelerate applications. It sounds like that’s the configuration you want (the eGPU will still accelerate your applications, just set them to prefer external GPU).

You can then eject and power off the eGPU when not in use.
 

J.Gallardo

macrumors 6502
Apr 4, 2017
264
54
Spain
If the cable goes into the Mac Mini then the Mac Mini should drive the display and the eGPU will accelerate applications. It sounds like that’s the configuration you want (the eGPU will still accelerate your applications, just set them to prefer external GPU).

You can then eject and power off the eGPU when not in use.
OK, I knew... but some doubts:
- e-gpu seems to be less efficient in this way (I don't know how noticeable, just general comment)
- if MacMini is powered-on while e-gpu off, macOS seems to know how to deal with it, & deliver video signal out automatically (I suppose). What if in a next start e-gpu is "on"? How well does macOS deal with "changes"?
- still an ideal possible (?) set: with a "two hdmi-in" monitor, if e-gpu is connected directly (better performance) but "off"...
...will macOS switch to proper hdmi-out automatically at start-up?
[Perhaps performance loss in e-gpu is marginal and doesn't deserve all this questioning... Just wondering]

(To clarify my intentions: I want a powerful set configured for different Users at start-up; I know how to manage an e-gpu, but I want a "fool-proof" solution for my wife and son).
 
Last edited:

ruslan120

macrumors 6502a
Jul 12, 2009
646
413
- e-gpu seems to be less efficient in this way (I don't know how noticeable, just general comment)
- if MacMini is powered-on while e-gpu off, macOS seems to know how to deal with it, & deliver video signal out automatically (I suppose). What if in a next start e-gpu is "on"? How well does macOS deal with "changes"?
- still an ideal possible (?) set: with a "two hdmi-in" monitor, if e-gpu is connected directly (better performance) but "off"...
...will macOS switch to proper hdmi-out automatically at start-up?
- The monitor's display seems choppier, this is because the Mac Mini is driving it instead of the eGPU. The eGPU will be more efficient because the Mac Mini is handling the monitor, freeing up the eGPU to handle processing. I've noticed this firsthand in rendering video - with an eGPU plugged in + monitor into the eGPU, render times were slower than when the eGPU was plugged directly into my iMac and the monitor was off. [2]
- The Mac Mini is handling the monitor still. The eGPU is free to help with processing. [1]
- Yeah that's an interesting idea. That would work. You would have to switch the monitor by hand when turning the eGPU on or off.
- I think the question should be, would the monitor? Short answer: No. From the Mac Mini + eGPU setup's perspective, with a dual HDMI in monitor, it sees two potential monitor connections. The monitor sees two inputs, and will pick one of them. You might have to switch by hand on the monitor itself to the eGPU vs Mac Mini.

[1] You can verify this by clicking the Apple logo at top left -> "About This Mac" -> "System Report" -> "Graphics/Displays". It will show you which graphics card (Mac Mini Internal Graphics vs. eGPU) is driving the monitor.

[2]
 
  • Like
Reactions: J.Gallardo

Zdigital2015

macrumors 68000
Jul 14, 2015
1,697
1,741
East Coast, United States
General eGPU question: do the aforementioned cases offer a pass-through solution? Can you output to your monitor that is connected to the eGPU even when the eGPU itself is turned off (without manually switching video outputs)?

And if so, is turning on the eGPU sufficient to have the machine reroute the video and accelerate the display?
No power, no display, period, end of story.

Don’t plug in your eGPU and then turn it on. Turn it on and then plug it in so that macOS recognizes it correctly and things will run smoothly.

Don’t try to be all tricky, you will lose every time. You’re hot plugging a PCIe slot, in essence. There is always a correct sequence to avoid heartbreak, even in high-end servers. Learn it, live it, love it!
 
  • Like
Reactions: ConvertedToMac