External GPU (eGPU) Resources

Yeah it depends on how the GPU is being utilized. For gaming, the trend will usually be you'll see more relative slowdown as you transition from GPU limited to CPU limited frame rates. In other words, as resolutions and qualities go down and frame rates increase.

If you want to get the equivalent of a GPU's native performance (i.e. if it were seated in an x16 PCIe 3.0 slot in an otherwise equivalent spec PC), the rule of thumb is you need to go up one "class" of GPU. For example, my GTX 1080 as an eGPU is doing almost exactly what a GTX 1070 in a desktop can do at 3440x1440 in Rise of the Tomb Raider with Ultra settings (49.56 vs 49.7FPS).

So, if you want:

Native GTX 1080Ti performance from an eGPU, use an RTX 2080Ti. This is your best shot for 4K@60FPS ultra settings in modern games.

Native GTX 1080 performance from an eGPU, use an RTX 2080 or GTX 1080Ti. This should be good for WQHD (3440x1440) @ 60+FPS ultra settings in modern games. Slightly overkill for 2560x1080 or even QHD (2560x1440).

Native GTX 1070 performance from an eGPU, use a GTX 1080, RTX 2070 or Vega 64. This should be good for 1080p @ 60+FPS ultra settings in modern games.

Native GTX 1060 performance from an eGPU, use a GTX 1070 or Vega 56. This should be fine for 1080p at high settings.

A Radeon RX 590 will be fine for gaming at medium settings @ 1080p.

These are of course just guidelines. Performance in individual titles and vs. different models of GPU cards will vary.

These guidelines do not apply if you're using the eGPU for something else like OpenCL/CUDA.
I'm pretty happy with my 4790K/EVGA 980ti in flight simulation at 1080p, but it sounds like I might be less happy with it as an eGPU. It's pretty close in performance to a 1070 in my PC. I was thinking about moving it to an eGPU, but it sounds like I might be happier selling the rig I have and buying a better GPU.
 
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apolloa

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The question I have is will the Blackmagic RP580 work in Windows, and will it pass sound from the Mac Mini into a monitor with built in speakers over Thinderbolt? Looking at the options here in the UK an EGPU case and Vega 56 is the same price, but it will also be a lot more noisy.
 

rmdeluca

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The question I have is will the Blackmagic RP580 work in Windows, and will it pass sound from the Mac Mini into a monitor with built in speakers over Thinderbolt? Looking at the options here in the UK an EGPU case and Vega 56 is the same price, but it will also be a lot more noisy.
If you connect the monitor to the GPU via DP or HDMI, then yes audio will be carried over the connection. The video card shows up in Windows as a separate sound card.

If you mean connecting the monitor to the GPU via a Thunderbolt cable, I'm not 100% sure but since it's still a Display Port connection underneath, I'd be shocked if it didn't carry audio too.
 

jjjoseph

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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
I do film and video production, have worked for various animation and tv studios, graphics companies, etc.. At work we use a CUDA expander, which holds GPU's but at home I have iMac with eGPUs. I have tested the 1080ti in a Sonnet, and Vega Frontier and RX580.

Right now I have a RX580 in the Blackmagic eGPU and the Vega Frontier in the Sonnet with upgraded Power Supply and fan.

eGPU is very welcome but the whole state of things is very frustrating. CUDA is deff faster than OpenCL for certain things and MacOS eGPU is not really supported. Their are ways to install the drivers, but I had too many kernel panics and say F* THIS. If you are every under the gun on a job or with clients, Nvidia and CUDA is a NO GO. Unless you don't need stability, and like to hack and tinker, maybe its your thing.

I would pick your setup based on what you want to do.

Final Cut Pro X uses AMD Gpu's very well, but also Intel Quick sync. eGPU is just getting worked out, but it will 100% be in Final Cut Pro X.

Motion uses GPU and should use eGPU as well, but Apple doesn't seem to care much about this program anymore, I would consider it pretty low on the Apple Software development list.

Lightroom and Photoshop use a lot of OpenGL and its also made by Adobe, they don't really care that much about production on MacOS, as much as they sell software to do it. If you wanna make adobe faster I would stay in PC, the Metal and OpenCL acceleration of Adobe CC on MacOS is laughable. Doesn't matter if you have an embedded GPU or an eGPU.

I almost exclusively use Blackmagic Davinci Resolve and an eGPU works very well with it.
 

F-Train

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Some quick comments on Asus's XG Station Pro GPU housing:

I rarely keep the box that a device comes in, but this will be one of the exceptions. There's a carry handle and the interior has been well thought out. Whoever designed the packaging knows what he's doing. It will come in handy for storage or transport.

The housing is quite smart looking and takes up what I consider a reasonable amount of space. The fact that the power supply is separate helps. Partial disassembly of the housing to get it ready for installation of the GPU requires a (not included) Phillips #2 screwdriver. There are four screws, identical in size so interchangeable. Readying the housing is very simple.

I'll post more once UPS shows up with the GPU (AMD Radeon RX 590), although I probably won't do so until tomorrow. When it's all put together, I'll post a few photos.
 
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apolloa

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If you connect the monitor to the GPU via DP or HDMI, then yes audio will be carried over the connection. The video card shows up in Windows as a separate sound card.

If you mean connecting the monitor to the GPU via a Thunderbolt cable, I'm not 100% sure but since it's still a Display Port connection underneath, I'd be shocked if it didn't carry audio too.
Thanks, I did read that it won’t put out a 60HZ signal if it’s not using thunderbolt? I guess it’s made to be matched with the LG 5K monitor?
 

rmdeluca

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Thanks, I did read that it won’t put out a 60HZ signal if it’s not using thunderbolt? I guess it’s made to be matched with the LG 5K monitor?
I'm sorry, I'm having a hard time parsing what you wrote there.

What monitor are you looking at specifically, the Thunderbolt 3 LG 5K?
 

F-Train

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Update: Amazon has followed up with an e-mail saying that I'll receive the e-mail that Sapphire Technology requires to get the free games (see below) within 7-10. business days of shipping, which in my case was 16 November.
...

My AMD Radeon RX 590 just arrived. This is sort of off-topic, but may be of interest to people who purchase from Amazon U.S. this or other AMD GPUs in the next short while.

There is a promotion pursuant to which purchasers of the RX 590 are entitled to three free games, and purchasers of a number of other AMD GPUs are entitled to two games. There appears to be consensus that the games are worth US$60 each, so it's not minor.

Sapphire Technologies, whose Nitro+ version of the RX 590 I purchased via Amazon U.S., says this in its blog:

The bundle is a digital-only promotion – you will not find the key in the card’s box. Instead, it will be delivered to you by the store itself (usually via email soon after the purchase). We won’t be able to help if you’ve bought the card in a store that is not participating in this promotion.
When I purchased the GPU, I was aware of the promotion, but there was no mention of it in the Amazon listing. I just had a pleasant on-line chat with Amazon about this, with the following result:

  • Amazon regards itself, not Sapphire, as the vendor of the GPU that I purchased.
  • The Amazon agent with whom I chatted will be contacting the people at Amazon who run promotions to ensure that I get the necessary e-mail.
I'm not anticipating a problem, but there is an option to have a transcript of an Amazon Chat sent to oneself by e-mail, which I exercised. Turns out it works, too :)
 
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rmdeluca

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Yes the LG one as I said. I think it was in a you tube video, they said if you use DP it won’t give a 60HZ or something like that? You need to use thinderbolt to get a 60HZ signal.
You might need track that video down. There's multiple "LG 5K" monitors with Thunderbolt connections. If you're talking about the 5K UltraWide, that's got DP 1.4 ports so there's absolutely no reason it shouldn't do 60Hz over DP unless it's defective.

If it's the 5K UltraFine, there are no Display Port inputs on it, just TB3. Again, only if it was defective would it not play audio.
 

Upgrader

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I know very little about eGPU however I have watched quite a few reviews and they all say there is a penalty, 15-20%. I don't fully understand how it transfers data but appears to get worse the longer the cable between the two devices gets.

This is why I am waiting until I can get more comfortable around the actual difference it will make before jumping in. Waiting to see the feedback From @F-Train as that looks like a pretty nice solution.
Sorry, I should mention that my comment was subconsciously based on the use of non biased renderers like Octane or Redshift in Cinema 4D. I’m not a gamer and never think along those lines. With Octane, getting the data onto the card isn’t the thing that determines speed, it’s about what happens when the data gets there. In this respect you still get killer performance from the NVidia cards on a cMP over PCIe 2.0 so plugging into an eGPU via thunderbolt 3 on a new mini would never incur a speed penalty. But as stated elsewhere these renderers don’t support AMD but....

We can actually use NVidia GPUs with Mojave as long as we buy them flashed from Macvidcards. They currently officially support eGPU on nMP’s but I’d guess this will be working for the new minis within a year or so.
 

F-Train

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Somewhat to my surprise, AMD's new RX 590 GPU works on Mojave 10.14.1 on a plug and play basis.

I'm writing this post with Sapphire Technology's Nitro+ RX 590 GPU installed in Asus's XG Station Pro housing.

The GPU is connected via HDMI to an Acer 27" monitor. When I first made the HDMI connection, I got only a partial screen. So I rebooted my mini,

et voilà, ça marche!

Now if I could just figure out how to get the annoying gaming lights to turn off :) The GPU comes with a disk containing Windows drivers and some additional material. This may include an app that will enable control over the lights, etc. I just have to find the Apple SuperDrive that I haven't used for years.

Please note that I do not use FileVault. If you do, it might be a good idea to check out another thread on the forum about FileVault and the Blackmagic eGPU.

More to come on installation of the GPU and the Asus housing.
 
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StellarVixen

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WOW! I hope that Navi cards will work like this when they get released.

Did you download any drivers for Mac OS, or it just worked, right out the box?
 

F-Train

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Congratulations. You're the first confirmation I've seen of the RX 590 running on Mojave in a non-hackintosh scenario.
Three points to make here:

If I can get this to work, anyone can. I have zero experience with putting together computer components.

Secondly, I didn't even know about the Asus housing, which is not on Apple's approved list, until @PJivan pointed it out and made a case for it.

Thirdly, I hope you had a good laugh over the personal message that I sent you about what connects to what :)

Always helpful when there are people around who know what they are talking about.
[doublepost=1542737674][/doublepost]
WOW! I hope that Navi cards will work like this when they get released.

Did you download any drivers for Mac OS, or it just worked, right out the box?
I decided to try it with Mojave 10.14.1 before messing around with the beta. I plugged in the housing and GPU, rebooted the mini, and all was well. Plug and play.
 
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archer75

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Typically drivers work for an entire series, meaning there aren't individual drivers for each card in the 500 series. Just one set of drivers. I would expect all 500 series cards to work out of the box.
 

rmdeluca

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Thirdly, I hope you had a good laugh over the personal message that I sent you about what connects to what :)
To be fair, once someone connects an eGPU there's usually three different locations one could conceivably connect a monitor to a port that fits. Two of them will likely get you a picture, but only one will utilize the eGPU. Unless you understand the full signal chain it might not be obvious which one to connect to.

For the record folks, plug your monitor(s) directly into the graphics card's monitor output(s). Any one of them that fits your monitor is fine, although you should prefer Display Port. Don't connect your monitor to a port on the back of the eGPU's enclosure, nor a port on your Mini.

The one notable exception to the above is when connecting a Thunderbolt 3 only monitor, in which case you'll need to connect to a port on the back of the eGPU enclosure. You'll also have to be more selective about which eGPU enclosure you use because separate hardware is required to connect a regular graphics card's Display Port link to a Thunderbolt 3 port.
 
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F-Train

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To be fair, once someone connects an eGPU there's usually three different locations one could conceivably connect a monitor to a port that fits. Two of them will likely get you a picture, but only one will utilize the eGPU. Unless you understand the full signal chain it might not be obvious which one to connect to.

For the record folks, plug your monitor(s) directly into the graphics card's monitor output(s). Any one of them that fits your monitor is fine, although you should prefer Display Port. Don't connect your monitor to a port on the back of the eGPU's enclosure, nor a port on your Mini.

The one notable exception to the above is when connecting a Thunderbolt 3 only monitor, in which case you'll need to connect to a port on the back of the eGPU enclosure. You'll also have to be more selective about which eGPU enclosure you use because separate hardware is required to connect a regular graphics card's Display Port link to a Thunderbolt 3 port.
Connections using the AMD Radeon RX 590 in the Asus XG Station Pro housing...

1. Thunderbolt cable (supplied) from the Asus housing Thunderbolt port to a Thunderbolt port on the mini. The Asus comes with a 1.5m/5' Thunderbolt cable. The Razer Control X and Sonnet Breakaway housings come with a 0.5m/20" Thunderbolt cable.

2. Display Port, HDMI or DVI cable (not supplied) from the RX 590 GPU to the monitor. The GPU has two Display Port ports, two HDMI ports and one DVI port. I used an HDMI port/cable because my Display Port cable is buried in a box somewhere :)

3. Power cable (supplied) from the Asus housing to the Asus power supply to a wall outlet.
 
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apolloa

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Connections using the AMD Radeon RX 590 in the Asus XG Station Pro housing...

1. Thunderbolt cable (supplied) from the Asus housing Thunderbolt port to a Thunderbolt port on the mini. The Asus comes with a 1.5m/5' Thunderbolt cable. The Razer Control X and Sonnet Breakaway housings come with a 0.5m/20" Thunderbolt cable.

2. Display Port, HDMI or DVI cable (not supplied) from the RX 590 GPU to the monitor. The GPU has two Display Port ports, two HDMI ports and one DVI port. I used an HDMI port/cable because my Display Port cable is buried in a box somewhere :)

3. Power cable (supplied) from the Asus housing to the Asus power supply to a wall outlet.
As I understand it the shorter 0.5m thinderbolt cables run faster speeds then the longer cables, so having a shorter one is better.
Keep us updated on how it goes getting it to work in Windows and how your games play on it :)
 

rmdeluca

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As I understand it the shorter 0.5m thinderbolt cables run faster speeds then the longer cables, so having a shorter one is better.
As long as the cable is active (or optical, if they ever become available) then it's fine being longer than 0.5m. You'll get the same speeds.
 
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F-Train

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Re implementation of an external GPU...

I've checked the box "Prefer External GPU" in the Info panels for Final Cut Pro, Compressor, Lightroom, etc. (see photo).

Interestingly, this box appears to be available for every Mac application and every third party application that I have on my computer (e.g. Adobe apps, Carbon Copy Cloner, etc.), with the notable exception of the Photos app.

My assumption is that only certain apps will use the external GPU, but I certainly don't claim any expertise on this. Also, as far as I can tell, enabling this has to be done on an app by app basis. There does not appear to be a global checkbox in, for example, System Preferences.

I'll have to do some hunting around to see if I can find out what "prefer" means.

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 5.19.28 PM.png
 
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F-Train

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Updated Test: See post #182

Here's my first test result...

Last week, using my Mac mini (i5/8GB/256GB), I had Compressor convert a Samsung 4K promotional video from H.264 to H.265. The conversion took 05:16, and the file went from 637.5MB to 259.5MB. Details in this post: https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/mac-mini-i5-tests.2153750/page-2#post-26790734

I just repeated this test with "Prefer External GPU" checked in Compressor's Info panel. The conversion took 02:01 and the file went from 637.5MB to 209.9MB.

The differences, in both the time the task took and the reduction in file size, are extraordinary.

Possible factors, in addition to the external GPU: on 15 November, four days after my first test, Compressor went to 64-bit; and my mini currently has only 8GB of RAM.

More testing to come.
[doublepost=1542760741][/doublepost]
As I understand it the shorter 0.5m thinderbolt cables run faster speeds then the longer cables, so having a shorter one is better.
Keep us updated on how it goes getting it to work in Windows and how your games play on it :)
Hi,

@rmdeluca has addressed your comment about Thunderbolt cable length. I'd add that one can probably use longer, active cables with the Razer and Sonnet housings, although obviously at additional cost. Personally, I am not prepared to be stuck with placing an external GPU within 0.5m/20" of my computer.

I have no plans to install Windows, but @rmdeluca is using the Asus housing and an Nvidia GPU on Windows/Bootcamp. See post #106.
 
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F-Train

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The RX590 has the same device ID as the RX580 (as well as 480), so most probably it will work fine but may be detected as an RX580 (in name) until Apple updates macOS.
Hi,

I raised the question that you quote in post #119. The issue has been academic since post #137, and we are now at post #149 :)

Cheers
 
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NerdsLTD

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I ended up choosing the OWC Helios FX enclosure because it's quiet and on sale paired with the VEGA 580. I'm thoroughly impressed with the performance boost both on the MacBook Pro and the new Mac mini. This is a great thread. Keep the information coming!
 
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