Late 2012 Mini eGPU Project

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by ziggy29, Sep 28, 2017.

  1. ziggy29 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2014
    Location:
    Oregon North Coast
    #1
    A few months ago, my Late 2012 Mini (quad 2.6 Ghz i7) started feeling quite slow despite the quad CPU and 16 GB of RAM. First thing I did was give it an SSD (external Samsung EVO 850). That made a massive difference for most things! But gaming still stunk; to use this as a decent gaming rig, the GPU was a bottleneck. I had a spare nVidia 1050 Ti lying around with 4 GB of VRAM. And recently Pascal drivers for this series and (unsupported) ability to use an eGPU with this model (despite only having 1st gen Thunderbolt) made me decide to try a proof of concept.

    Earlier today I took possession of a Mantiz Venus eGPU enclosure and put the 1050Ti in it. I put a TB3 to TB2 adapter inline and hooked it all up, then powered on the Mini. I confirmed my Mini saw it on the Thunderbolt bus and then ran the "automate.sh" script as called for on egpu.io. It was almsot trivially easy, following the instructions.

    After a reboot I was able to reconnect the display to the 1050Ti and get a picture. Well, time to benchmark, right? I put the connection back to the internal HD4000 graphics and downloaded Maxon's Cinebench 15 to test Open GL. I ran it three times. Average score was 18.36 FPS.

    Ick.

    Then I connected the display to the 1050Ti in the Mantiz box. Ran Maxon Cinebench 15 three more times.

    Average run -- 56.95 FPS -- more than three times the framerate! And that is with a "fair to middling" GPU card, far from high end! And that is with a Thunderbolt 1 connection.

    This is not supported officially (not at all for nVidia cards yet, and not for this model) but if I can get this from Thunderbolt 1, it's a potential game changer for Mac Minis and laptops moving forward, something that is portable but gives adequate (but not high end) gaming performance on the desktop. I'm encouraged and I'm going to keep poking around with this!
     
  2. Miat macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2012
    #2
    Excellent news. :cool:

    Only thing I don't like about my quad 2012 is the pokey little HD4000 iGPU.

    Apple adding native support for eGPUs in High Sierra is the best move they have made in years. I look forward to it. :)
     
  3. ziggy29, Sep 28, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2017

    ziggy29 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2014
    Location:
    Oregon North Coast
    #3
    Here's what I see now:
    Screenshot 2017-09-28 21.14.43.jpg
    --- Post Merged, Sep 28, 2017 ---
    Agreed. With a quad i7 and an SSD, and a capacity for 16 GB of RAM, this can still be a darned good machine for some time to come with the ability to get a better GPU. This technology is not yet supported but is getting there. And it works well; even a 10 GB/s Thunderbolt 1 connection is leaving the integrated graphics in the dust. I will be OK with this for now for a while, while waiting to see what the direction for eGPUs will be in High Sierra. (I have an HDD with High Sierra installed already as a sandbox for when this process will work there, too. Also waiting to see if the Pascal series will eventually be supported like the RX580 and others like it.)

    I should also note that gaming performance I have tried so far has varied widely, from no appreciable or even a negative impact (Elder Scrolls Online) to at least a 2x improvement at significantly higher graphic levels (World of Warcraft) and most others are somewhere in between, giving on average a 50-150% improvement at similar graphics settings. ESO is an outlier for some reason; it seems *worse* on the eGPU. Could be that their Mac version is just terribly optimized, period.

    Another potential gain is that if an external GPU is doing the work, there will be less heat in the case of the Mini, and perhaps less throttling under high graphical loads. I haven't confirmed that yet, but it seems logical and I'll look at that in the next few days.
     
  4. Miat macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2012
    #4
    I am not a gamer or doing 3D CAD or running multiple screens, etc, so I don't need a huge boost in GPU performance for it to really pay off for me. Would be using it for processing a couple of videos a week, running a 4K @ 60Hz screen, and speeding up the GUI.

    Which means that TB1 is fine for me, and I can go with a low end and hence cheaper eGPU. :)
     
  5. Boyd01 macrumors 601

    Boyd01

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #5
    That is very cool, I also have the same quad mini. But what are the economics of this? I mean, even a thunderbolt cable is rather expensive. How much would it cost to get everything needed to bring graphics on par with (for example) a quad core iMac that has a comparable geekbench rating but includes a discrete graphics card?

    The 2012 quad mini's still seem to fetch a pretty good price on the used market, so if I could sell mine for, say, $800 and buy an iMac, how would that compare? And of course the iMac would have the advantage of being new with warranty, faster internals and ports, and be compatible with most software right out of the box.

    Just curious as to whether this is a practical alternative or just a cool challenge to experiment with? I am not interested in games, but eventually will want a machine with better graphics to run high end video/3d software.
     
  6. ziggy29 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2014
    Location:
    Oregon North Coast
    #6
    Probably somewhere in between. For this Mac itself, not really cost effective, but all of this will (should) work well in a future new Mac (Mini or laptop) running TB3.
     

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5 September 28, 2017