External GPU (eGPU) Resources

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by F-Train, Nov 13, 2018.

  1. F-Train, Nov 13, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2018

    F-Train macrumors 6502a

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    #1
    Not being a gamer, I know next to nothing about External Graphics Processing Units, but purchase of a Mac mini has me trying to get up to speed with the basics. I thought that I'd share some resources with those in a similar position.

    Apple has a document that tells you what products (cards and enclosures) are supported. It is essential reading: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208544

    If you aren't Greek, but Apple's document reads like it, there is help. A few days ago, AnandTech published Best Video Cards for Gaming: Holiday 2018: https://www.anandtech.com/show/12050/best-video-cards

    The AnandTech article is a fairly sane introduction to the available products and options. Just ignore all the references to Nvidia (see the Apple document). Also, don't start scanning for Black Friday deals. Among other things, the article explains that external GPUs are typically selling for more than MSRP as a result of the activities of our friends in the cryptocurrency mining business.

    There is also a web site called egpu.io that has a brief, but useful, article called State of eGPU for Macs – Mojave 10.14 Update: https://egpu.io/state-of-egpu-for-macs-mojave-10-14-update/.

    The same site has a page entitled Best eGPU Enclosures Reviewed - External GPU Buyer's Guide 2018: https://egpu.io/external-gpu-buyers-guide-2018/ It's helpful to understand what the rankings on that page are based on. As I understand it, they represent only the number of enclosures by a given manufacturer that participants in the site's forum are using in builds. With respect to the forum itself, I think that it's fair to say that it is something of a rabbit hole, sort of like threads here about Mac mini thermal issues.

    I've decided to consider enclosures first, on which I have come to the following personal conclusions:

    • I would like to be able to install a different card in the future;
    • I would prefer that the enclosure be smaller than the Arc de Triomphe, which may not be entirely consistent with the thought in the immediately preceding bullet;
    • Sound levels less than a firetruck siren two inches from my ear would be nice;
    • I don't need it to power anything (they all seem to be designed to power, in whole or in part, a laptop);
    • I don't need it to do double duty as a hub;
    • I really want to use it with a Thunderbolt 3 cable that is longer than the 0.5 meter cable that they all apparently come with (not needing to power a laptop may be key to a solution here).
    On the basic question of what an external GPU will actually do for me, as a user of Final Cut, Motion, Compressor, Lightroom and Photoshop, I have yet to encounter any clear answers. The Apple document referred to above is quite extraordinarily hazy on that question.

    Cheers

     
  2. ilikewhey macrumors 6502a

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    #2
    i think for your situation is fairly simple, since mac mini has usb3, and gigabit port, also no need to charge the device back, all you need is a simple enclosure.

    i suggest either razer core x or the sonnet breakaway box, how silent it is depends on what gpu you get, blower style tends to be louder
     
  3. PJivan macrumors 6502

    PJivan

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    #3
    Most silent, well made and compact seems to be the asus XG station pro, the only downside would be that vega 64 is out of the table due to 300W max output but vega 56 will do just fine.
     
  4. F-Train, Nov 13, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2018

    F-Train thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #4
    That's the box whose size brought to mind the Arc de Triomphe :)
    --- Post Merged, Nov 13, 2018 ---
    I wasn't aware of this enclosure, but will look at it closely. I like that it has a power switch and comes with a 1.5m cable. It also looks smart, and probably handles heat well.
     
  5. PJivan macrumors 6502

    PJivan

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    #5
    It should be 0db under 35 degrees, also space gray!!!
     
  6. F-Train thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #6
    I've spent some time looking at the Asus enclosure and I think that it's attractive, despite being somewhat more expensive than competitors.

    I'm writing this post because it's not on the Apple-approved list, but Asus says on its site that it is approved by Apple for the AMD RX 580, RX 570 and WX7100: https://www.asus.com/us/Graphics-Cards-Accessories/XG-STATION-PRO/

    For whatever reason, no mention of the AMD Vega 56.
     
  7. shazzzy macrumors newbie

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    Sep 29, 2017
    #7
    I can recommend the Sonnet Breakaway box from personal experience:

    pros:
    - quieter than Razor Core X
    - internal power supply, which is upgradable (fan can also be swapped out)
    - physically fits all AMD graphics card (even the Sapphire Vega 64 Nitro)

    cons:
    - larger than Asus XG Station Pro
    - slightly more expensive than Razor Core X

    neutral:
    - does not feature USB Hub / Thunderbolt Pass-through, which you shouldn't use anyway for performance reasons

    There are three models: 350, 550, 650 the main differences are:
    - power supply rating
    - 650 features different case fan
    - 350 can only supply 15W if you want to charge a Macbook with it, this cannot be changed even if you upgrade the power supply (the 550 + 650 can supply 87W)

    I personally went for the 550 in combination with the Sapphire RX580 Nitro, in case I ever want to install a more power hungry card, I can swap the power supply and essentially upgrade it to a 650.

    They have a useful compatibility chart on their website: http://www.sonnettech.com/support/downloads/manuals/Compatibility_Graphics_Cards.pdf
    --- Post Merged, Nov 13, 2018 ---
    This is because the Vega series is too power hungry for the XG Station's power supply.
     
  8. F-Train thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #8
    @ilikewhey, @PJivan, @Shazzy

    Thanks, you guys are being really helpful. If you're new to it, figuring this out is a bit of a maze.
     
  9. PJivan macrumors 6502

    PJivan

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    #9
    I saw a review running the 1080 TI, And they mention is enough for vega 56 but not for vega 64, i think the review is on egpu forum
     
  10. shazzzy, Nov 13, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2018

    shazzzy macrumors newbie

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    #10
    I think you have to be careful with this one. Perhaps it is enough for certain models of this card, but it's right on the edge and a power spike if you are really pushing it could turn things ugly. If you decide to go this route, do lots of research first, you have to look at the peak power requirements.

    Edit: Check the first graph on this page: https://bit-tech.net/reviews/tech/graphics/sapphire-radeon-rx-vega-56-nitro-review/10/ Even the reference design exceeds the 300W which the Asus enclosure is able to supply.
     
  11. nampramos macrumors 6502

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    #11
    Please keep us in the loop of what you end up doing. I'm also on the same boat and find it hard to understand how these enclosures can be so ridiculously big.

    Seems like the most future proof and affordable option is the Sonnet, which is also the one officially supported and recommend by Apple.

    My main and only purpose for it would be to use with the Adobe suite and maybe in a year or two with CAD.
     
  12. PJivan, Nov 14, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2018

    PJivan macrumors 6502

    PJivan

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    #12
    Yeah it is concerning....the amount of power drawn by the vega is ridiculous.

    It's really a shame since looking here https://egpu.io/forums/thunderbolt-enclosures/asus-xg-station-pro-review-cool-calm-collected/ this really was the enclosure I was looking for, silent, compact and somewhat elegant.

    Really not a big fan of the Razer and Sonnet :( I may just go for a cheap AMD 590 (also 0 db below 50C) and wait for navi at this point

    Edit the review test show total system consumption (entire computer) not gpu only, from this test https://www.tomshardware.co.uk/asus-rx-vega64-strix-oc,review-34379-4.html looks like 275/280 is the max power consumption for an OC edition of Vega 64

    Here is a 56... https://www.tomshardware.co.uk/gigabyte-radeon-rx-vega-56-gaming-oc-8g-review,review-34151-4.html 265 on torture test, 311 absolute peak, Asus should be 330W (with 15 dedicated to the laptop) so it should work especially for non overclocked Vega 56
     
  13. PJivan macrumors 6502

    PJivan

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    #14
  14. nampramos macrumors 6502

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    #15
    I'd say that most manufacturers will always try to push you to more expensive models if they can. For them the higher powered enclosure is slightly more expensive to manufacture but they'll make a higher profit from it. They also want to play on the safe side in case a 3rd party Vega 56/64 draws more power than usual.

    In the end, it will always come down to you wanting to risk it or not. If you can, buy from a reputable seller that will let you exchange if needed. Once you get it, push it to the limit and see what happens.
     
  15. F-Train, Nov 14, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2018

    F-Train thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    I've discovered that the Tom's Hardware site has some very good material on GPUs and pricing. There's also a site called https://videocardz.com/ that is good on news. Both sites have original MSRPs, which can make reading current prices for the high end cards pretty sobering. Some of these cards are hundreds of dollars above their original price a couple of years ago.

    Tomorrow, AMD is releasing what is essentially an update to its mid-level RX 580 card called, unsurprisingly, the RX 590. Tom's Hardware thinks that this might put some downward pressure on the price of the RX 580.

    I'm considering both these cards and will take into account the following:
    Original RX 580 price (April 2017): US$230 (current price is $230-$330)
    RX 590 MSRP: $290, which includes three games said to be worth $180, but which are not of interest to me
     
  16. PJivan macrumors 6502

    PJivan

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    #17
    Not sure if mac os will recognise 590 bios, also navi midrange should be coming in Q1 2019, but again we may need a mac with gpu in order to have drivers....imac refresh pheraps?
     
  17. F-Train thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    Yes, we know that the RX 580 works, which doesn't necessarily mean that the RX 590 will.

    I did some reading today on AMD's upcoming Navi series. There are suggestions that a retail version could be as much as a year away; indeed, that the point of this "new" RX 590, which is in fact just an update, is to help bridge the gap. Whatever the truth is, I plan to make a decision based on what is available now.
     
  18. archer75, Nov 14, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2018

    archer75 macrumors 68020

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    #19
    Aside from noise the other two are true of the razer core x. And it's cheaper. And I don't know about noise as it wasn't compared to the sonnet in the review I watched.
     
  19. F-Train, Nov 14, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2018

    F-Train thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #20
    As I mentioned, the AMD Radeon RX 580 was originally priced at US$230. This is a graph of the Amazon price for Sapphire's Nitro version of the RX 580, which at one point a few months ago was $400.

    Probably due to the imminent release of the RX 590, Amazon prices for the RX 580 are suddenly coming down. If you check today's prices for various versions of the RX 580, there are what appear to be substantial discounts. Great prices, you think, unless you know the original MSRP. The other thing that is striking about this graph is the volatility of the price.

    Sapphire does sell the Nitro at a bit of a premium, but that doesn't come close to explaining this:

    Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 4.33.59 PM.png
     
  20. rmdeluca macrumors regular

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    Oct 30, 2018
    #21
    I think this is the document you want to know about Final Cut eGPU utilization:

    https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT209134

    I'm in the opposite camp. I'm thinking of biting the bullet on the Sonnet Breakaway box, putting my GTX 1080 in there and giving gaming with Bootcamp a try. If the resulting sub GTX 1070 performance isn't enough, no big deal. Hopefully within the next few months the Apple/NVIDIA Mojave debacle will be resolved and/or AMD will have competitive GPUs again.

    If that doesn't happen, still not the end of the world, I can always use the enclosure to house an AIC SSD (like an Optane) for some stupidly fast scratch space.
     
  21. F-Train, Nov 14, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2018

    F-Train thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #22

    I would like to see these enclosures in person, but so far I haven't identified a store in NY where I am able to do so. B&H, which stocks all three (Asus, Razer and Sonnet), apparently does not have any of them on display.

    Based solely on reading and videos, I am inclined to purchase the Asus. It looks well built, it looks good, I like that it has a power switch and a 1.5m Thunderbolt cable, and that the power supply is outside the enclosure. It is also said to be the quietest of the three.

    I would place the Sonnet enclosures second. My main reservations are looks, size, noise and suggestions on the internet that there may be issues with quality of components, including with the ports. I would like to get clarity on the third issue in particular.

    I am impressed with the Razer's design as it relates to getting a card in and out of the enclosure, but given that I don't expect to be changing cards with any regularity, it's not an important feature. For me, the Razer is too big and, by all accounts, too noisy.

    I also regard the Sonnet and Razer as complete non-starters unless I can use them with a cable at least 1.5m long. As I understand it, that may be possible given that I will not be using the enclosure to power a laptop (apparently, it's a bandwidth issue). A cable would apparently add about US$60 to the cost. I plan to send an e-mail to both manufacturers asking about this.
     
  22. rmdeluca macrumors regular

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    #23
    The problem with 1.5m TB3 is actually signaling, not power. You need an active cable to get longer than 0.5m yet still carry 40Gb/s.

    The Asus XG Station Pro that you're looking at happens to come with an active cable. Go ahead and double check with Sonnet and Razer as you planned to, but they should work with longer, active cables.
     
  23. F-Train thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #24
    I have also heard it described as a bandwidth problem that is resolvable if the Thunderbolt cable is not being used to provide power to a laptop, or only power on the order of 15%.

    I don't actually care what the technical details are, only that I have no intention of using one of these enclosures a half meter from the computer :)
     
  24. archer75 macrumors 68020

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    #25
    Big is something you want, some cards are quite long. It gives you more options. The asus XG pro 2 also has a small(low power) power supply. Having an external supply does keep the noise down but limits your upgrade options. It will work but you have to be aware of the limitations(power and length) when shopping for a video card.
     

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