2009 Mac Pro (HD7970) [1st,6C,W] + RX Vega 56 @ 16Gbps-TB3 (AKiTiO Node * GC-Tit...
 
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2009 Mac Pro (HD7970) [1st,6C,W] + RX Vega 56 @ 16Gbps-TB3 (AKiTiO Node * GC-Titan Ridge) + macOS 10.14.6  

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cnon297
(@cnon297)
Trusted Member
Joined: 2 years ago
 

Computer: 

2009 Mac Pro 3.46 GHz 6-Core W3690 Xeon, MSI Radeon HD7970 OC 3GB GDDR5 VRAM, 16GB RAM, 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD
Gigabyte GC-Titan Ridge 2.0 Thunderbolt 3 USB-C PCIe card

 

eGPU:

AKiTiO Node + PowerColor Red Dragon RX Vega 56 with 8GB HBM2 VRAM + 0.5m TB3 cable

 

Monitors:

Asus ROG PG279Q, 1440p, 144/165Hz, 4ms, Display Port 1.2, HDMI 1.4, G-Sync

 

Philips Brilliance 242G5, 1080p, 144Hz, 1ms, Display Port, 2x HDMI, DVI-DL, VGA. 

 

OS:

macOS 10.14.6 

 

 

Background:  

This build is a result of my recent Mac mini + Vega 56 eGPU build.  That Vega 56 started out in slot 1 of this tower.  Without it I no longer have a Metal-capable graphics card for macOS 10.14 Mojave.

 

My previous Radeon was an HD7970.  I tried to upgrade to 10.14 with it but the installer failed because it wasn’t a Metal graphics card.  The newer Vega 56 allowed me to upgrade to 10.14 and add NVMe boot drive support at the same time - a nice dual boost for a legacy cheese grater 😉  

 

Being  presently low on cash, a 2nd Metal card isn’t possible. On a whim I re-tested my Radeon HD7970 in slot 1 and… it works?!  Even better, Mojave shows the HD7970 now has official Metal support (see photo)!  When did that happen?  It has the same or better performance than at 10.13!  Sometimes it’s MUCH better!  Ex Tomb Raider at 1080p High in 10.13 benchmarked 84.0fps while the 10.14 app update benchmarks 126.9fps!  Now that I have 2 Metal cards, maybe I get an eGPU working with my Mac Pro at 10.14?

09 MPro graphics sys info 7970 slot1
09 MPro graphics sys info Vega56 eGPU

 

Hardware setup:  

’09 Mac Pro with 3.46GHz 6C W3690 Xeon (non-Apple CPU), model 5,1 (was 4,1), 16GB PC3-10600 DDR3 ECC memory (4x4GB), flashed MSI dual BIOS Radeon HD7970 OC in slot 1 (reference card with 9% factory overclock), an HP EX950 1TB M.2 NVMe in slot 2 via PCIe to M.2 carrier, Sonnet Allegro Pro 4-controller USB3 in slot 3, flashed Gigabyte GC-Titan Ridge 2.0 Thunderbolt 3 USB-C card in slot 4.  Last is my Vega 56+AKiTiO Node eGPU connected to my ’18 Mac mini - and now my ’09 Mac Pro! 

 

 

Procedure: 

Despite the flashed TB3 card and included boot-loader utilities, the most consistent results I’ve had were by hot plugging a TB3 device and then rebooting my Mac Pro.  Take care to NEVER hot plug the TB3 cable at the back of the Mac Pro!  Only hot plug TB3 at the device!  Why?  The Gigabyte GC-Titan Ridge TB3 USB-C ports are dangerously close to the Mac Pro back plate.  It’s easy to accidentally short the TB3 cable to the case / ground!

 

1- The Node+Vega 56 eGPU and Mac Pro should be powered off with the TB3 cable connected to one of the Mac Pro Titan Ridge TB3 ports - but not connected to the eGPU TB3 port.

 

2- Turn on the Mac Pro and its 1080p monitor and log into macOS.

 

3- Turn on the Node with its 1440p monitor and hot plug the TB3 cable at the Node.  The eGPU power LED will turn on and fans will spin up; but the eGPU monitor will remain blank.

 

4- Perform a “Restart” from the Apple menu.  Both internal and eGPU graphics cards and monitors will be active before you login.  Done!

 

NOTE:  Never cycle power in place of the Restart or the eGPU monitor won’t activate!  If you accidentally cycle power, start over at step 1.

 

 

Performance: 

The Vega 56 eGPU is being held back by the Mac Pro PCIe 2.0 bus especially with modern games.  Legacy games seem less affected.  The reason behind this is the Titan Ridge TB3 card is PCIe 3.0.  Installing it into a PCIe 2.0 bus causes it to run at 20Gbps instead of 40Gbps.  By comparison, my i3 Mac mini with 40Gbps TB3 and the identical Vega 56 eGPU can perform significantly faster depending on the app.  One outlier was the GB4 Metal benchmark which was slightly faster on the Mac Pro 20Gbps TB3 bus.  

 

The Radeon HD7970 works well with legacy games at 1080p high & ultra settings.  But for modern games the 3GB VRAM limits things to 1080p medium at 60fps -or- 720p high settings if you want closer to 80 fps.  

 

 

 

Benchmarks:

Each result was the highest of 3 runs.  Graphics cards were set to their factory overlocks.  MSI Radeon 7970 (9% OC).  PowerColor Vega 56 Red Dragon (2% OC)

 

Geekbench 4:

Benchmark 

Score

Intel (64-bit) SC

3213

Intel (64-bit) MC

14838

HD7970 Metal

107172

HD7970 OpenCL

105898

Vega 56 Metal

129352

Vega 56 OpenCL

133138

 

Unigine Valley:

r = Radeon 7970 in slot 1, v = Vega 56 eGPU

Preset

Average fps

Minimum fps

Maximum fps

Basic

69.6r / 69.0v

26.4r / 25.6v

112.9r / 111.7v

Extreme

46.6r / 60.5v

24.0r / 24.8v

84.7r / 98.7v

Extreme HD

37.1r / 51.4v

21.2r / 24.6v

65.7r / 94.9v

 

 

Tomb Raider: 

r = Radeon 7970 in slot 1, v = Vega 56 eGPU

V-Sync was set to off.  Monitor refresh set to 144Hz.

Display, Preset

Average fps

Minimum fps

Maximum fps

1080p High

126.9r / 143.9v

99.6r / 141.7v

152.0r / 144.6v

1080p Ultra

69.1r / 117.0v

56.9r / 96.8v

83.2r / 138.0v

1080p Ultimate

47.8r / 82.9v

37.8r / 67.6v

54.8r / 94.1v

1440p High

139.9v

116.8v

144.6v

1440p Ultra

79.4v

69.0v

91.1v

1440p Ultimate

60.1v

48.3v

71.4v

 

 

Rise of the Tomb Raider: 

r = Radeon 7970 in slot 1, v = Vega 56 eGPU

V-Sync was set to off.  Monitor refresh set to 144Hz.

Display, Preset

Overall fps

Mountain fps

Syria fps

Geotherm fps

720p Medium

81.87r / 84.04v

115.56r / 115.63v

71.96r / 72.46v

56.53r / 62.19v

720p High

78.33r / 81.71v

108.50r / 111.14v

67.16r / 69.75v

57.58r / 62.37v

1080p Medium

62.64r / 74.65v

77.80r / 97.42v

53.66r / 62.60v

54.98r / 61.95v

1080p High

55.53r / 71.49v

71.95r / 92.13v

41.88r / 58.68v

50.51r / 61.58v

1440p Medium

62.54v

79.27v

51.29v

55.16v

1440p High

59.50v

75.28v

47.70v

53.55v

 

 

Luxmark v3.1: 

LuxBall 

Samples/sec

Xeon W3690

1686 K note1

HD 7970

11103 K

Vega 56

26544 K

HD + Vega

36537 K

 

Hotel 

Samples/sec

Xeon W3690

409 K note1

HD 7970

2035 K

Vega 56

4204 K

HD + Vega

6242 K

CPU + GPUs

7020 K note1

 

Neumann 

Samples/sec

Xeon W3690

1590 K note1

HD 7970

6451 K

Vega 56

15964 K

HD + Vega

22202 K

CPU + GPUs

25111 K note1

note1:  The CPU benchmarks ran only 1 time each.  Subsequent runs result in a BuildProgram(-11) error or crash.  This may be due to a macOS update since I haven’t run this benchmark recently.  

 

 

CL!ng v1.11:

A newer benchmark that doesn’t crash on the OpenCL CPU test.

CL!ng 09 Mac Pro W3690 OCL
CL!ng 09 Mac Pro V56 Red Dragon eGPU OCL
CL!ng 09 Mac Pro V56 Red Dragon eGPU MTL
CL!ng 09 Mac Pro MSI 7970 OC slot1 OCL
CL!ng 09 Mac Pro MSI 7970 OC slot1 MTL

 

 

Miscellaneous Items: 

MSI Radeon HD7970 OC (R7970-2PMD3GD5/OC) is a dual BIOS reference design.  It’s been flashed by MacVidCards to show Mac Boot screens.  Boot screens are only available with the BIOS switch set towards the video ports which slows the GPU to stock speed.  With the power off, slide the BIOS switch away from the ports to get a 9% MSI overclock; but you loose the boot screens.  I leave it set to overclock.  It’s easy to shut down & slide the BIOS switch.  The Mac Pro side panel is quick-release and tilts; making BIOS changes a snap!  BTW, Newegg still has a web page for this card with a video by Paul from Paul’s Hardware.  “Excellent!”   It’s worth a look!

09 MPro TB3 sys info eGPU wtih Drobo

Drobo: The docs included with my flashed GC Titan Ridge 2.0 TB3 card indicate Drobos aren’t compatible.  I experimented with the included OpenCore and Clover utilities without success.  So how did I get it to work?  Hot plug & reboot!  It sounds simple but gets complicated when you have multiple TB3 devices.  You have to hot plug & reboot in sequence.  That means after I start up my tower and log in, I need to hot plug a TB3 device then restart, then hot plug another TB3 device and restart again.   The order is critical!  At 10.13 I had to hot plug & reboot starting with the Drobo.  In 10.14 it only works if I start with the eGPU.  However, the end result is that both my TB3 devices work well together in my Mac Pro + Titan Ridge TB3! 

 

10.13 TB3 eGPU.  It worked with both Nvidia and AMD eGPUs (and Drobo 5Dt).  I also mixed AMD & NVIDIA cards simultaneously.  I miss running my MSI 1080Ti Gaming X in macOS since the 10.14 upgrade!!!  <RANT warning>  Apple: sue NVIDIA instead of screwing your loyal customers!!!  Or was that meant to soften up the user base for when they later restricted AMD eGPUs on M1 Macs?  Along with soldered in storage, memory, etc, it’s inexcusable, monopolistic, anti-competitive, anti-consumer CRAP!  Disabling our software library was equally as evil.  Perhaps arguably more so…

 

It’s hard to believe I was a rabid Apple fanboy going back 20 years, eh?  At least I toned it down before posting.  

 

 

 

Conclusion: 

(after switching to decaf)

Legacy Mac Pros are still relevant today!  The main reason for their continued success is the ability to use off the shelf components; sometimes with a little help from a custom Flash.  It’s unfortunate to see Apple trying to artificially limit capability even for these older Macs.  Regardless, this eGPU build was a lot of fun for me personally.  When I bought this Mac Pro I never imagined that it could be upgraded to this extent!  

 

 

PS - If I seem irritable it’s because my i3 Mac mini failed a few days ago and was sent back for repair.  It was bought to eventually replace my ’09 Mac Pro.  Now I’m unsure it’s fit to replace a door stop!  And this decaf isn’t cutting it…

2012 15" MacBook Pro hi res, 2.7GHz 4C i7, GT650M + Vega 56 eGPU
2009 Mac Pro 5,1 6-core Xeon 3.46GHz + HD 7970OC

 
2009 Mac Pro (HD7970) [1st,6C,W] + RX Vega 56 @ 16Gbps-TB3 (AKiTiO Node * GC-Titan Ridge) + macOS 10.14.6 [build link]  


nando4 and Mini i5 liked
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joevt
(@joevt)
Noble Member
Joined: 4 years ago
 
Posted by: @cnon297

are dangerously close to the Mac Pro back plate.  It’s easy to accidentally short the TB3 cable to the case / ground!

That makes no sense. The Mac Pro back plate is supposed to be ground. The back plate touches all the PCIe back plates of all the PCIe cards so they are also all grounded. The outside of the Thunderbolt cable (the shield) is also ground. One problem with having USB-C ports too close to the edge is that a USB-C connector might not be able to be inserted fully, but that's only a problem if the computer back plate uses metal that is too thick.

Posted by: @cnon297

The reason behind this is the Titan Ridge TB3 card is PCIe 3.0.  Installing it into a PCIe 2.0 bus causes it to run at 20Gbps instead of 40Gbps. 

No way to know that without putting the Titan Ridge TB3 card in a PCIe 3.0 slot (such as in a Netstor NA255A connected to the Mac Pro). Something else is causing your two Thunderbolt devices to connect with Thunderbolt link width x1 (bad cables or firmware).

I can set the Thunderbolt controllers in my Mac mini 2018 to PCIe 2.0 link rate (5 GT/s) or PCIe 1.0 link rate (2.5 GT/s) using the fast.sh script (uses pciutils). The downstream Thunderbolt connection will still be 40 Gbps (x2 link width) and the downstream tunnelled PCIe link rate will be 8 GT/s.

Mac mini (2018), Mac Pro (Early 2008), GA-Z170X-Gaming 7, Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 580 8GB GDDR5, Radeon Pro W5700, Sonnet Echo Express III-D, Trebleet Thunderbolt 3 to NVMe M.2 case


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cnon297
(@cnon297)
Trusted Member
Joined: 2 years ago
 
Posted by: @joevt
Posted by: @cnon297

are dangerously close to the Mac Pro back plate.It’s easy to accidentally short the TB3 cable to the case / ground!

That makes no sense. The Mac Pro back plate is supposed to be ground. The back plate touches all the PCIe back plates of all the PCIe cards so they are also all grounded. The outside of the Thunderbolt cable (the shield) is also ground. One problem with having USB-C ports too close to the edge is that a USB-C connector might not be able to be inserted fully, but that's only a problem if the computer back plate uses metal that is too thick.

@joevt, it might not make sense, but I observed it directly several times.  If I accidentally touched the silver shield of TB3 the connector to my Mac Pro backplane it either crashed - or - the tower fans slowed and the display dimmed briefly and returned to normal.  This never happens when I hot plug at the TB3 device - even if the silver connector portion touches the case.  I don't know the cause, possibly a ground loop?  Or something unique to the legacy Mac Pro PS? 

Posted by: @cnon297

The reason behind this is the Titan Ridge TB3 card is PCIe 3.0.Installing it into a PCIe 2.0 bus causes it to run at 20Gbps instead of 40Gbps.

No way to know that without putting the Titan Ridge TB3 card in a PCIe 3.0 slot (such as in a Netstor NA255A connected to the Mac Pro). Something else is causing your two Thunderbolt devices to connect with Thunderbolt link width x1 (bad cables or firmware).

hmm.  When I bought the GC-Titan Ridge TB3 it came with OpenCore.  I experimented with it and was able to get System Information / Thunderbolt to display 40Gbps (possibly 40Gbps x1 iirc).  But it still seemed to run at 1/2 speed so I thought the Sys Info number was bogus / cosmetic.  Maybe I missed something? 

My comment about the PCIe 2.0 bus causing PCIe 3.0 cards to run slower was partly based on my 1TB HP EX950 NVMe SSD.  It tops out at 1500MB/s in my PCIe 2.0 Mac Pro even tho it runs >3000MB/s on a PCIe 3.0 bus.  Since both my Titan Ridge TB3 and EX950 NVMe are PCIe 3.0x4 I assumed the same cause & effect.  I apologize if I got that wrong.  I'll re-download OpenCore as well as fast.sh and pciutils and see if I can crank up the TB3 link rate.  Thx!

 

2012 15" MacBook Pro hi res, 2.7GHz 4C i7, GT650M + Vega 56 eGPU
2009 Mac Pro 5,1 6-core Xeon 3.46GHz + HD 7970OC

 
2009 Mac Pro (HD7970) [1st,6C,W] + RX Vega 56 @ 16Gbps-TB3 (AKiTiO Node * GC-Titan Ridge) + macOS 10.14.6 [build link]  


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joevt
(@joevt)
Noble Member
Joined: 4 years ago
 
Posted by: @cnon297

hmm.  When I bought the GC-Titan Ridge TB3 it came with OpenCore.  I experimented with it and was able to get System Information / Thunderbolt to display 40Gbps (possibly 40Gbps x1 iirc).  But it still seemed to run at 1/2 speed so I thought the Sys Info number was bogus / cosmetic.  Maybe I missed something? 

If you don't have a PCIe 3.0 x4 connection and you can't trust System Information.app, then the only way to test the actual Thunderbolt connection speed is to add a couple 4K displays after a Thunderbolt dock. If they both work, then you must be getting 40 Gbps.

Mac mini (2018), Mac Pro (Early 2008), GA-Z170X-Gaming 7, Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 580 8GB GDDR5, Radeon Pro W5700, Sonnet Echo Express III-D, Trebleet Thunderbolt 3 to NVMe M.2 case


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