eGPU in 2011 Mac Mini?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by MacSince1985, Apr 18, 2019.

  1. MacSince1985 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2009
    #1
    I have a Mac mini "Core i7" 2.7GHz (Mid-2011) with the AMD Radeon 6630M. Two years ago, the typical problems with that model appeared and I had Apple replace the logic board at a cost of about $350. Now the problems have resurfaced (fans going crazy, hard to start, random shut downs, etc.) and that model is now vintage.

    The first logic board lasted 5 years and I expected the second to last as long, but it lasted less than 2.5 years.

    Since the problem is with the built-in GPU, I was wondering if an eGPU is a possible workaround. I wouldn't need a powerhouse GPU and I know I'm limited to what Thunderbolt 1 can deliver. I'm just wondering id an eGPU would fully bypass the built-in GPU and alleviate the problems.
     
  2. seble macrumors 6502a

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    Sep 6, 2010
    #2
    Honestly, with a 2011 machine, I would sell off the working model, and put the money and saved money not spent on repairs, towards a new MM.
     
  3. Zdigital2015 macrumors 65816

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    Jul 14, 2015
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    East Coast, United States
    #3
    I would have to agree that the money would be better spent on getting a refurbished 2014 or 2018 Mac mini from the Apple website, or even eBay. The time to get an eGPU working under TB1 plus the cost of the eGPU would be frustrating at best on a machine that already cannot be updated to Mojave or later. Just my 2¢.
     
  4. Partron22 macrumors 68020

    Partron22

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    Apr 13, 2011
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    #4
    I've a 2011. It has worked fine since day one.
    If the USB chip or similar were to blow, I'd do a careful comparison between 2012, 2014, and 2018 models. Remembering to take points off for old, brittle internal cables, inadequate internal drives, and of course price point.
    Those USB2 ports are killing you. Even the reviled 2014 would make you happier. Stick a nice external SSD on it, and you get some speed, pretty cheap.
     
  5. FreakinEurekan macrumors 68040

    FreakinEurekan

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    Sep 8, 2011
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    Eureka Springs, Arkansas
    #5
    I agree with the other posters, putting money into a 2011 Mac Mini is throwing good money after bad. Time to retire it and upgrade.
     
  6. MacSince1985 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Oct 18, 2009
    #6
    Thank you all for confirming that this project is not worth attempting. Although the original question was more about feasibility than affordability. I was wondering whether an eGPU would completely bypass the defective built-in GPU or if the defect would still interfere with use.
     
  7. Zdigital2015 macrumors 65816

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    #7
    You might be able to simply use the iGPU (Intel HD Graphics 3000) built in to the CPU and disable the dGPU with an application called gfxCardStatus - https://gfx.io - the app is now Open Source, but it does allow you to force just one GPU or the other.

    As for feasibility of using an eGPU with your Mid 2011 Mac mini, I wouldn't say it is impossible to do, but the cost and time investment required makes it a bit impractical. You can read more about hacks and such to get eGPUs working under TB1 and TB2 over at https://egpu.io. Good luck!
     
  8. Fishrrman macrumors P6

    Fishrrman

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #8
    Time to retire the 2011 Mini -- and get something new.
     
  9. iluvmacs99, May 8, 2019
    Last edited: May 8, 2019

    iluvmacs99 macrumors member

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    Apr 9, 2019
    #9
    I hope this is not too late to answer your question; as the question was never answered..

    I had been doing some feasibility studies myself and found that the eGPU is actually very feasible at least for me and can be for you. It's an interim step if you are to use an Akitio Node box, which is a full length TB3 GPU enclosure that supports the beefiest GPU money can buy and the most Mac compatible. Then just run the script to patch the mac to use an eGPU and then run another script to shadow the video from the eGPU through an iGPU if you plan to use through an HDMI connector on your Mac Mini or use the laptop screen with Macbooks. You can then keep the eGPU when you migrate towards any newer Mac that has TB3 and use it with the newer Macs with faster results (thanks to the TB3 ports), be it laptop or desktop. So it is not a waste of money at all. You just need to have applications that support the eGPU. The cost of the eGPU project (Akitio Node TB3 + AMD RX-580) is the same as the cost of a used Mac Pro 5,1 with a RX 580. So essentially with an eGPU, you have a system similar to a Mac Pro.

    You need to keep in mind that the Intel iGPU is efficient in decoding and encoding H.264 and HEVC files with the latest Coffee Lake CPUs in the latest Macs, but for some applications like FCPX and Pixelmater Pro the eGPU like the Radeon Vega 64 or the RX-580 or Nvidia GTX 1080 will do better than the Intel iGPU. With an eGPU, you CAN HAVE the best of both worlds!

    I am planning to build one myself because both my Macbook Air and Mac Mini has TB1 and the intel iGPUs that work well with HD video files can support the Akitio Node and at the eGPU.io forum, people who had built the eGPU themselves and use them with TB1 machines had all reported amazing results with applications that use the eGPU. My needs for the eGPU is to use the Topaz AI products as my Macbook Air takes like 35mins to render sharpen a 20MP JPG file. With an eGPU, it will cut it down to just a few minutes. And brute force transcoding works in eGPU favor as well.
     
  10. Zdigital2015 macrumors 65816

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    #10
    I would have to respectfully disagree with your assessment. The OP would be better off buying a Mac Pro 5,1 and an RX580 at this point, given the particular model Mac mini (Mid 2011) that he currently owns. It is dual-core and pretty slow at that, Apple has moved it to Vintage Status, it cannot go beyond macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 and depending on what may be happening beyond the dGPU going out, there is the possibility that it stops working completely. At that point, the OP is left with an eGPU he shelled out $229.00 for the Node and $170.00-$200.00 for an AMD RX580 that he now has to find another Mac to be able to use it.

    I believe that the $400.00-$430.00 would be better off spent on helping purchase something up to date or even some something gently used that is more recent. At this point, any mini older than the Late 2012 is just not really worth investing any money into, even with an eGPU being portable to move to another computer. Eight years is a decent lifetime for any computer and although you can get an eGPU to work via TB1/TB2 via scripts and some trickery, this Mac mini is just not a very good candidate.
     
  11. giffut macrumors 6502

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    Apr 28, 2003
    Location:
    Germany
    #11
    eGPU is absolute usable for old thunderbolt based macs. The bandwith constrains are negible compared to the gains in processing speeds for apps like final cut or davinci resolve. An AMD RX560 card is enough, that´s what I use with a Macbook Pro 2011 and it gave it so much new life.

    Keep in mind: an eGPU goes with you to any future mac or pc with thunderbolt capabilities. That´s a big plus for me, especially when you want to have a mobile computer with the chance to extend its power tremendously.

    If you are on a budget, an eGPU is a great way to extend the life of your mac and wait out the current low quality/high price of Apples hardware offerings.
     
  12. Project Alice macrumors 6502a

    Project Alice

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    Post Falls, ID
    #12
    Wow, maybe you should post this question in the PowerPC forum! Lol, probably get more helpful answers. Personally if this was my thread, I'd tell people to not comment if their answer is "buy a new one". That wasn't OPs question. No GPU even uses PCI 3.0 16x and its entire bandwidth, except maybe in benchmarks which are useless for all but bragging rights. TB1 is more than enough to accommodate any GPU.

    I've pondered the same question as OP, being as I got a non-working 2011 mini for next to nothing. (PSU?). Sticking a cheap GPU like a GT740 or something would make for a nice Mojave capable mac for use as either a quick web surfer or an HTPC.
     
  13. gusping macrumors 6502a

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    Mar 12, 2012
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    London, UK
    #13
    Why salvage such an old, terrible computer? Just get a new one. Plain and simple. This is a terrible question.
     
  14. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

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    #14
    Because money and environment?
     
  15. Project Alice macrumors 6502a

    Project Alice

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    Jul 13, 2008
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    Post Falls, ID
    #15
    No, it isn't. But this is a terrible and useless comment. Thunderbolt enclosures are cheap. New computers aren't. If OP wanted to get a new one they wouldn't have asked. You're probably the same person who buys a new iPhone every year when it comes out. Waste of resources and money.
     
  16. iluvmacs99, May 12, 2019
    Last edited: May 12, 2019

    iluvmacs99 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2019
    #16
    I think many people do not really understand the difference between a consumer grade CPU versus a professional grade CPU like the Xeon in the Mac Pros and what kind of software will benefit from these CPU platforms.

    Older computers will still benefit from an eGPU if it has a TB1 port available, because most of the consumer grade software could only support a single core processor and Intel Quicksync, which is a hardware encoding and decoding feature built-in beginning with the Sandy Bridge Core i series extending to the now Coffee Lake series. Having said that, consumer grade software like iMovie isn't going to benefit from a BIG boost in performance in video rendering moving from a 2011 computer to the latest 2018 Mac Mini. Professional software like FCPX and Davinci Resolve which use multiple CPU cores and in the case of Resolve Studio multiple GPU cards including built-in and discrete will provide a lot of those gains that can be instantly realized.

    Sometimes though, some of us use professional apps for so long that we had forgotten that the majority of Mac users use consumer grade apps and won't benefit as much from the newer computers, except maybe adding an eGPU or RAID drive array which can actually extend the life of the 2011 and 2012 Macs for a little while longer if the user is using software like Davinci Resolve (free version) for some color correction work where a single eGPU can help.

    Not all of us have a ton of money to burn on both professional software paid apps and hardware, so sometimes it is nice to know that you can extend the life of the older macs for some useful purposes. For example, I use a Macbook Air which has the Haswell CPU chip in it and use that to transcode 4K consumer grade video footage to 1080p high quality consumer grade footage as the Quicksync in the Haswell CPU maintains the same speed as the Ivy Bridge in my Mac Mini, but with better quality rendering. Connect them through TB1 cable to transcode 4k files from my Lumix into the SSD RAID array in my Mac Mini to be processed with iMovie. Fast, efficient and not much money. I also plan to get an Akitio Node box with a Radeon RX580 so I can use the free version of Davinci Resolve to render 4K footage at much faster speeds on my older Mini 2011. So having the best of worlds and wait what Apple decides hardware wise down the road -- Intel or ARM in 2021 and beyond before I make my move. In the meantime, my setup works great for my consumer grade needs.
     

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15 April 18, 2019