External AMD graphics possible?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by OscarJ, Dec 17, 2014.

  1. OscarJ macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2014
    #1
    Hi all,

    I own a 2011 15" MBP on which I do a lot of 3D rendering jobs. When it comes to GPU rendering though, the 6750M card doesn't quite cut it.

    I am therefore considering upgrading to external graphics. The thing is - it has to be an AMD graphics card, since they allow a much bigger VRAM allocation in OpenCL rendering. My questions are:

    *Are external AMD GPU solutions possible at all?

    *Can I use any graphics card from AMD, or does it have to be one of the cards released for Mac, like the 7950 Mac Edition, 5870, 5770 etc?

    *How much additional cost will I have to spend on the Thunderbolt enclosure, power supply cables and so on, and what exactly will I need?

    Thanks in advance!
    Oscar
     
  2. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2011
    Location:
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    #2
    eGPUs exist, but plug and play eGPU solutions only work on Macs with UEFI 2.0 (Haswell and later).

    And it's really expensive.

    My plug and play solution is a Sonnet IIID with a GTX 780 Ti card, wired up to my rMBP via TB2.

    As far as I know, I've not seen anyone wire up an AMD card successfully over TB2, plug and play.

    And besides, it only works in Boot Camp (for now).

    TechInferno has an area for eGPU setups over TB2. You can head over there and have a look.
     
  3. nando4 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2009
    #3
    Have a browse of the eGPU implementations in my sig. There are Thunderbolt ones there for your vintage system. NVidia being far more popular due to being a better gaming platform however there is a R9 290x and a HD7870 one.
     
  4. OscarJ thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2014
    #4
    Thanks for the link, was an interesting read. Do you sell complete eGPU implementations? I am starting to realise I don't have the time to hassle with it too much.
     
  5. maratus macrumors 6502a

    maratus

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Location:
    Canada
    #5
    You shouldn't have problems with any thunderbolt-equipped Macbook in OS X (as long as there're drivers for your card).

    UEFI 2.0 only matters if you want to install Windows 8 in UEFI mode using native Bootcamp utility.
     
  6. OscarJ thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2014
    #6
  7. maratus macrumors 6502a

    maratus

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Location:
    Canada
    #7
    You obviously need an Akitio Thunder2 or similar, a powered PCI-E x16 riser (recommended), a good ATX power supply and, if you want, a nice case to fit everything (many mini-ITX case would work).

    You don't really need a Mac specific video card, any card that you can find drivers for is fine. Installing unsigned drivers requires additional steps. Make a list of ATI cards you like and google if there's OS X support for any of them.
     
  8. OscarJ thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2014
    #8
  9. maratus, Dec 19, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2014

    maratus macrumors 6502a

    maratus

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Location:
    Canada
    #9
    Oh yeah I forgot that lol after dealing with consumer nVidia cards for a while. Partially that's true, but people in the community are experimenting with fake id's by editing kext contents... so you need to find out whether it's possible to run your particular GPU. For example R9 290 is listed as incompatible in your article while I've seen people made it work with little to no modifications of the system drivers. Of course it will be easier for you to use an officially supported GPU (like R9 280) but you don't have to limit yourself.

    Also maybe an nVidia Quadro card (+ with or without CUDA drivers) could be a good alternative? epic fail if those cards allow 25% max in OpenCL like consumer models ahahaha.
     
  10. OscarJ thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2014
    #10
    Thanks a lot maratus, for your patient replies!

    The rendering engine I'm using only supports OpenCL for GPU rendering. NVIDIA seems to have limited the maximum memory allocation to 25% of the card's total memory in OpenCL rendering, probably to push people over to CUDA. This is really unfortunate, because in pure GPU rendering, everything is stored on the graphics card's memory - textures as well as geometry, sometimes with tens of billions of triangles.

    So to match a 3GB 7950 for instance, I'd need a 12 GB Quadro card. That's not a justifiable expense for me at this point in time.

    Also I'm starting to wonder whether a big graphics card will actually fit in that Akitio Thunder2 case...
     
  11. maratus macrumors 6502a

    maratus

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Location:
    Canada
    #11

    No way, it's only 9.2" long (and some raddies like 280 go well over 11.5")
    Since using a powered riser is recommended it won't fit into the stock enclosure regardless of the card length. And don't forget about ATX power supply!

    The cleanest setup would be something like this:
    http://forum.techinferno.com/implem...x970@16gbps-tb2-akitio-thunder2-win8-1-a.html

    p.s. screw cuda ahahaha these limitations on pro cards are retarded.
     
  12. freeskier93 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2008
    #12
    If you have to buy a graphics card, power supply, and mini itx case at what point does it make sense to just add a motherboard and CPU? If you're doing pure graphics rendering it's not like you need anything expensive. At some point the time you spend farting around trying to make it work on your Mac has to be worth something.
     
  13. maratus macrumors 6502a

    maratus

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Location:
    Canada
    #13
    Well first of all you need to add a CPU with cooler, a motherboard, RAM, an SSD and you gonna spend a lot to make it worthwhile (because if it's just a notch faster than MBP, what's the point? Get a 6 or 8-core i7 with 32GB RAM at least to differentiate from MBP significantly)

    And you'll be stuck with Windows in this case. A Hackintosh setup is nowhere near as seamless as eGPU (which basically requires the same steps as getting a new card for a Mac Pro tower)

    For an inexperienced user it may seem like farting around. For people who can work with hardware it's a nice DIY project and far more plug-n-play than many would've imagined. It's not surprising as most people here have never even heard of eGPU setups and don't know it's been possible for a while. Setting up a thunderbolt eGPU in OS X is much easier than, for example, building and maintaining a custom liquid cooling rig or a serious overclocking project that many PC enthusiasts do every day.
     
  14. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2011
    Location:
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    #14
    +1.

    This was why I went down the GTX 780 Ti + Sonnet IIID route, connected via Thunderbolt.
     
  15. OscarJ thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2014
    #15
    I do both CPU and GPU rendering, but my MBP has the 2.3 ghz i7 and is rather fast CPU-wise.

    Like you say, freeskier, I am considering a whole computer as well, probably a 2009 or newer Mac Pro with some good graphics chucked in there. Then I could use it as a rendering slave in both CPU and GPU rendering, working together with my MBP.

    maratus: while that certainly looks clean, I don't think I'd be able to pull it off. Do I really need more fans that the GPU's built in ones?
     
  16. mjohansen macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2010
    Location:
    Denmark
    #16
    Is the eGPU plug and play in OS X as well as Windows?
    How is the noise from the eGPU?
     
  17. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2011
    Location:
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    #17
    It's only plug and play in Windows if Windows is installed in a UEFI environment (basically Haswell and later Macs).

    On Ivy Bridge and earlier Macs, it's not possible to install it in UEFI (as far as I know, that is. I think there's a way, but I don't know how).

    Currently, I'm running Windows in UEFI off an external SSD (this method guarantees UEFI installation regardless of whether it's Haswell or not).

    Here's the instructions if you're interested (works for both Thunderbolt and USB):
    Connect external drive to Windows VM. You must have a Windows VM in VMware/Parallels.

    What you need:
    install.wim file (obtain this from your Windows ISO)

    Open elevated cmd.exe

    Note: All commands aren't case sensitive, including pathway to files.

    Type diskpart
    Type list disk
    Take note of the disk you want to select
    Type select disk 1 (if your disk is Disk 1)
    Type clean
    Type convert gpt
    Type create partition EFI size=100
    Type format quick fs=fat32 label=EFI
    Type assign letter=S
    Type create partition primary
    Type format fs=ntfs quick label=W2G (or any other name you wish for label)
    Type assign letter=E
    Type exit

    Open up File Explorer. In your C drive, create a new folder named WIN2GO.
    Put the install.wim file in this folder

    Back in cmd.exe:
    Type dism /apply-image /imagefile:C:\WIN2GO\install.wim /index:1 /applydir:E:\ (this process will take quite a while)
    Type E:\Windows\System32\bcdboot E:\Windows /s S: /f UEFI

    Restart your entire Mac. After the chime, hold down Option and when prompted to select your boot drive, select EFI Boot.

    Proceed installation normally.

    After installation, install Boot Camp drivers.

    Oh and on a side note, it can be pretty noisy when I'm gaming.
     
  18. maratus macrumors 6502a

    maratus

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Location:
    Canada
    #18
    I don't think so. Default cooler is just fine. Just like with any build you're also free to choose between different GPU manufacturers as some of them may use quieter and more efficient coolers than others.

    Yes eGPU over tb is plug-and-play in OS X (but obviously doesn't support hot plugging) because thunderbolt is basically a fancy PCI-e bus with some extra features.

    ----------

    It's a very nice method, thank you for summing it up.
    I used a similar approach to install Win8 on my external HDD (USB 3.0).
    I don't remember why exactly, but I ended up using BIOS mode. The setup wasn't able to boot from one enclosure (Lacie P9223 slim was stuck in the very beginning with black screen and flashing underscore symbol). It however worked just fine from my Freecom USB 3.0 slim.

    Right now I have a native Win8.1 UEFI installation on my external SSD (USB + tb) connected through thunderbolt. Unfortunately Windows crashes if I try to boot when connected through USB3.0 from the same drive, and I haven't looked into that issue yet

    ----------

    Yeah that's the whole point of this eGPU setup with 15" rMBP. The CPU is faaast and the heatsink can even handle artificial 100% load with max turboboost and reasonable temps (in 90-95C range) if fans are at full speed. The problem occurs when you try to stress load both CPU and dGPU (650/750M) at the same time. Unfortunately, it's a little bit too much for both the heatsink and power supply which results in some throttling.
     
  19. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2011
    Location:
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    #19
    Oh? That's strange. I'm booting off a UEFI Windows 8.1 installation off a USB 3.0 enclosure with a Hitachi 7200rpm drive in it.

    Maybe it's because your USB 3.0 enclosure doesn't support UASP?
     
  20. maratus macrumors 6502a

    maratus

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Location:
    Canada
    #20

    Actually, both of my Freecom drives don't support UASP while Lacie P9223 does!
    I can boot in EFI from Freecom/thunderbolt and I can't do it from Freecom/USB3.0. In addition to that, I can't boot from Lacie/USB3.0 in BIOS mode while I can do it from Freecom/USB3.0. I also think I couldn't boot in BIOS mode from Freecom/thunderbolt because Apple BIOS emulator hid the thunderbolt drive from Windows (basically the same crap it does with thunderbolt eGPU or Intel iGPU in dGPU-equipped MBPs)

    P.S. Dear OP I apologize for screwing up your thread :D :D :D :D :D
     
  21. OscarJ thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2014
    #21
    Not at all!

    The new iMac has either an AMD R9 M290X or R9 M295X. Are we sure OS X doesn't support the 290 cards?
     
  22. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2011
    Location:
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    #22
    If the desktop R9 290 and M290X are of the same architecture, then yes, it should work.

    That said, I've only used NVIDIA GPUs in eGPU setups.
     
  23. OscarJ thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2014
    #23
    Thanks man!

    I think I've made my choice though - I don't feel like spending too much money on something I'm far from sure will work out for me.

    So I think I'll settle with the 270X 4GB, because it has a lot of memory for a reasonable price. Can I count on you guys to help when I run into any trouble? :)
     
  24. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2011
    Location:
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    #24
    You can count on the guys in the eGPU section of the TechInferno forums, they've got an entire area dedicated to eGPUs over Thunderbolt there, and I frequently go there myself :)

    Not that many people have attempted eGPUs around MR, from what I see.
     
  25. OscarJ thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2014
    #25
    XFX's version of the 270X is just 8.7 inches long, so theoretically it'd fit in the Akitio case. Why do I need that riser? Not sure what it's for to be honest.
     

Share This Page