Mac Mini eGPU possibility

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Simplybetter, Jul 31, 2013.

  1. Simplybetter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2013
    Location:
    Australia
    #1
    Hi guys and girls,

    After reading the front page today and seeing the eGPU connected to the Macbook Air through two separate bridges I have become very interested in the feasibility of doing it myself.
    The article:http://www.macrumors.com/2013/07/30...graphics-card-with-complex-thunderbolt-setup/
    So i went searching and I looked at the company that makes the Express Card to Thunderbolt bridge in the article, Sonnet, and saw this :
    http://www.sonnettech.com/product/xmacminiserver.html
    Would this have the ability to connect a Mac Mini to a powerful GPU in one elegant solution?
    [​IMG]

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. phrehdd, Jul 31, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2013

    phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #2
    Technically it could/should be able to do so - but the real issue is more about OSX and drivers for the Mac Mini. Apple has for a long while had a funny way of "guiding" us in the "right" (their marketing scheme) direction.

    What you might do is contact the maker and ask directly what vid cards are supported if at all.

    This is from their site as a scenario for usage -

    Video Ingest Station

    xMac mini Server can transform a Mac mini Server into a video ingest station for Avid® and Final Cut® suites.

    With the addition of:

    A high-performance video capture card (like RED ROCKET, BlackMagic DeckLink, or AJA Kona) plugged into the full-length PCIe 2.0 slot

    A SAS controller card (such as ATTO H680) installed in a second slot connecting one SAS port to nearline rack mount RAID storage and the second SAS port to LTO-5 rackmount tape backup.



    As you can see, those are specialized cards. Below is from the FAQ -

    663 Is the NVIDIA Quadro 4000 for Mac compatible with Echo Express Thunderbolt Expansion Chassis? Aug-29-12
    No, the NVIDIA Quadro 4000 is not Thunderbolt-compatible. Apple and Intel have prescribed specific connectivity standards for products with Thunderbolt technology interfaces. These include drivers that are recognized by Thunderbolt and allow the product to connect and disconnect while the computer is running (hot plug/unplug). Products with Thunderbolt interfaces are tested by Intel and Apple and certified as compatible with these standards.

    For PCIe expansion chassis to function correctly in this Thunderbolt-connectivity paradigm, the drivers for PCIe cards used in the chassis must also be updated to support these requirements. In most cases, each card manufacturer is responsible for updating the drivers for their cards. For the Quadro, it is Apple that controls the driver in OS X.

    Intel has required all PCIe chassis manufacturers to agree to list only compatible cards that have been tested to support these standards. Apple has determined that for now, there are several technical reasons why it is not a good idea for a GPU card--including the Quadro--to connect over Thunderbolt. Therefore, GPU cards do not have Thunderbolt-compatible drivers. Until Thunderbolt-compatible drivers are released for GPU cards, they will not work over Thunderbolt.


    It appears it is as I said - a matter of OSX and device drivers. This key is to find the Thunderbolt-compatible drivers for GPU cards for OSX.
     
  3. mcnallym macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2008
    #3
    How you would power the GPU in the mini server enclosure, (there aren't additional power cables like the other thunderbolt chassis have, that can be seen mentioned/seen in pictures) and you could only fit a single slot card in, even if there was the driver support.

    £1000 for the enclosure
    £679 for the mini ( base quad )

    For that money you can get a 27" iMac 3.2 Quad i5 vs 2.3Ghz Quad i7 with 8Gb RAM vs 4Gb and a 1gb GTX675mx card, so why take the trouble.

    Even the GT640's are dual slot ( by the time the coooler is looked at so couldn't see fitting in.

    There were some single slot Matrox Cards listed at one point but not listed any more. No GPU cards are, as said already is a driver issue and can't see Apple pushing forwards with that.

    If you want GPU grunt under OSX then move along to the Mac Pro appears to be apples stance.
     
  4. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2006
    Location:
    New York City, NY
  5. Simplybetter thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2013
    Location:
    Australia
    #5
    True however what if you use the same setup as kloper on techinferno and use this instead of using the Sonnet Echo ExpressCard + PE4L configuration and bootcamp Windows 7 and use it for that. Do you think that would work?

    Your very right about the weird guiding that Apple give us.

    Until Intel open their eyes and see that one of the greatest uses of Thunderbolt is eGPUs and that it could be Thunderbolts rise to fame, I don't think Apple are going to budge very much unless they make their own eGPU propriety solution, which would be highly unlikely and is very anti-Apple like in thinking.
     
  6. Simplybetter thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2013
    Location:
    Australia
    #6
    If you read the technical specifications it has a user serviceable PSU.
    Where have you got the idea that they are only single slot? It says it support 1 full length, full height PCIe 2.0 card and 1 half length low profile PCIe 2.0 card.
    With a proper video card your performance would still be at a minimum 4x better than the GTX675mx in the iMac. The reason why you would pay for it was if you wanted good grunt thats not at a Mac Pro price.
     
  7. JamSandwich macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 19, 2006
    #7
    That was an interesting article and certainly pertinent to me as I've thought on a few occasions about buying in the relatively near future a Windows PC for playing games.

    Being able to have a solution that basically used my Mini would be fantastic... but at this juncture doesn't seem like it's particularly affordable. I'll certainly be keeping my eye open. For $150 I would consider something to beef up the performance even if it's only on the Windows side. Sure would beat rebuying the core components in the Mini (CPU, memory, motherboard).

    I don't think such a product will come along anytime soon, though... pretty niche market and I'm sure whatever does emerge will likely be pricier.
     
  8. Aegelward macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #8
    I have to say, rather than fooling around with desktop class cards for an eGPU why isn't anyone considering the possibility of say, slapping a mobile GT750m into a 2.5" HDD sized chassis, or a GT770-780M into a 3.5" HDD size chassis.

    Given that Thunderbolt only really works at 4x PCIe, and the fact these would be far more portable and compatible solutions it really surprises me that no companies have investigated this possibility.
     
  9. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #9
    We might expect to see some external items for Thunderbolt coming along as the next version is also coming out TB2. Also there will be USB 3.1 which claims similar speed (theoretical of course) to TB 1.

    Apple has a roadmap that seems to make each device they sell less and less user friendly for upgrades. The exception being the RAM in the Mac Mini. I admit I am not happy with this vision of Apple. I do get the fact it makes for less problems and guides us into a way of using the computers, buying the devices and most importantly - predicted antiquating of hardware by design. Yep, Apple insists we don't upgrade our systems but instead dump systems for new systems.

    Back to the point - if there are specialized video cards out there that work with TB, it would be logical to see lower end ones that rival moderate to better standard video cards. In my estimates, a far superior design is one that does distributed processing and internal to the computer are the arbitrators for these items (multiple video chips outside the computer and in the computer is the chipset that controls these external devices and all the data on the line).
     
  10. mcnallym macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2008
    #10
    I think you have mis-read what I said!

    I said a single slot card, ie a card taking a single slot, not that you could only fit a single card.

    You have a single riser card that then has a PCI-Express Connector on each side.

    You have two single PCI blanking plates the back. One each side of that riser. Yes you can put 2 cards in, however you could not put in a card that takes two slots, ie a "dual slot card", hence you can only fit a "single slot card"

    As has been pointed out to me there are GT640 cards that are out there using a single slot, however does a GT640 outperform the iMac GT675mx. I use that as the comparision as for the price of the enclosure and a base mini here in the UK then you can buy the iMac with that fitted already.

    I haven't found a more powerful card then the GT640 that only uses 1 slot yet ( quite happy that they may be out there, I just haven't found one )

    You then have the price of the GPU card on top, so paying more for less performance, and if you can find a more powerful GPU card then will also need to change the PSU out for one that actually has connectors for the Power on the mini, and 6pin PCI-E power connectors, and fits into the space provided within the 1U enclosure. Here is more expense, if you can actually find one.

    Hence the reason I was saying would make more sense to just buy the iMac when you look at what you are spending.

    Of course you still have the Driver Issue at this point to solve.

    The bit regarding the Mac Pro is how Apple's stance is if you want more then what get in the iMac for GPU then get a Mac Pro, not that it was right that Apple do this.
     
  11. Punicasoft macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2013
  12. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2009
    #12
    For what you want, you want to use the Sonnet Tech Echo Express PRO. It has two full length slots on "top" of each other so you can either a double "width" card as they call it, or two single "width" cards.

    Double "width" as Sonnet Tech calls them would be perfect for GPU's. With that said, it isn't as pretty as the chassis above and you would still have to figure out a way to get more power to the GPU as it only can supply 150watts max.

    http://www.sonnettech.com/product/echoexpresschassis.html

    Edit: Oh yeah, and again this will still only run in Windows.

    Edit2: It's "only" $680 from BHPhotoVideo: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=860815&is=REG&Q=&A=details
     
  13. EpicBlob macrumors member

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2012
    Location:
    Mid-West
    #13
    I have my 2012 mac mini ($800 base model) connected to a ViDock which houses an nVidia 660 GPU. I use the sonnet echo TB adapter since the ViDock is Expresscard.

    I works fine in windows 7/8, but os x is still an issue. People have gotten cards to work under os x with thunderbolt though, so it'll work for all of us eventually.

    But I would seriously look into my system man, it is a beast. My mac mini is stacked on top of my ViDock so it takes barely any space, and works great for all my gaming/video editing.
     
  14. entzoe05 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2012
    #14
    Hi, here's my OSX eGPU implementation on Mac Mini. I also started a thread in this forum. My setup is directly using Thunderbolt end to end.

    Hope this all helps

    http://forum.techinferno.com/diy-e-gpu-projects/7598-%5Bguide%5D-akitio-thunder2-mac-mini-2012-os-x-10-9-4-evga-geforce-gtx-760-4gb.html
     
  15. aab23c macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2015
    #15
    updated modified driver?

    anyone have one?

    I keep getting an installation failed problem...goes until it validates packages, and then craps on itself
     

    Attached Files:

  16. MacVidCards Suspended

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2008
    Location:
    Hollywood, CA
    #16
    There is a little known secret if you are using a card that exists in OS X already.

    If you connect the eGPU and it sees Nvidia card it will let you install.
     
  17. aab23c macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2015
    #17
    Re:

    Right, my problem was the driver would not even install...when Nvidia posted the new 02f driver on 22 April, the driver installed but still came up on restart as incompatible, worked with NVIDIA live support, and they concluded yup the driver is still not good...so waiting :mad:
     
  18. MacVidCards Suspended

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2008
    Location:
    Hollywood, CA
    #18
    I have 2014 Mini running latest driver just fine.
     
  19. jblagden macrumors 65816

    jblagden

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2013
    #19
    Aside from the hardware, you just need to edit three kext files, empty the kext cache and reboot. And you'll need to do this each time you get an OS update. By the way, you should keep in mind that it's not going to be hot-pluggable, so you'll need to reboot every time you want to plug in or unplug the eGPU. Here's a guide for the kext files: http://forum.techinferno.com/implem...s-tb1-akitio-thunder2-osx10-9-4-[entzoe].html
     
  20. aab23c macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2015
    #20
    Thanks

    thanks for the links, the information in the forums there helped me get the driver working and the. It was a piece of cake
     
  21. wiredup72 macrumors regular

    wiredup72

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2011
    #21
  22. jblagden, Apr 24, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015

    jblagden macrumors 65816

    jblagden

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2013
    #22
    Mac Mini eGPU possibility



    No one has tried that because it's impossible; Nvidia doesn't sell the mobile graphics cards directly to customers. Besides, the nice thing about desktop graphics cards is that they're easier to upgrade when the need for a better one arises. Though by that point, PCIe might be replaced by an even faster interface. That's what happened to AGP; PCIe came along and made AGP obsolete.
     
  23. MacVidCards Suspended

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2008
    Location:
    Hollywood, CA
    #23
    There are about 12 good reasons why this won't happen.

    The biggest one is that neither Apple not Intel have any reason to allow it.

    They have succsessfully clipped the wings of any TB eGPUs to keep you buying new Mac computers with new Intel CPUs in them.

    Making it easier to use eGPUs means people keep old computer and throw money at NVIDIA and AMD. So aside from making it difficult hatdware wise they have also tossed in software blocks. Things that were doable with 2012 Mini are far more difficult with 2014.

    Pretty sure I am the only one on planet to get 2014 Mini outputting from eGPU to a display in OSX.
     
  24. wiredup72 macrumors regular

    wiredup72

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2011
    #24
    Excellent explanation of your opinion. One of those things that is so obvious, I wish I had thought of it first. It's always Intel :shakesfist@intel
     

Share This Page