2012 14" Lenovo Thi...
 
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2012 14" Lenovo Thinkpad T430s + Atto Thunderlink (TLFC-1082) + PCE164P-N03 + RX460 [email protected] + Win10 Pro x64 (1809) [Yukikaze]  

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Yukikaze
(@yukikaze)
Prominent Member Moderator
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 893
December 19, 2018 5:08 am  

For the story behind the making of this build, see here.

System Specs

Chassis: Lenovo T430s (2355HKU)
BIOS Version: G7ETB3WW (2.73)
CPU: Core i7-3520M (dual-core, 2.9ghz)
Memory: 8GB (2x4GB) Hyundai DDR3 1600Mhz
Storage: myDigitalSSD BP4e 120gb mSATA SSD + Intel X-25M 160GB SATA SSD
Monitor: Internal (1600x900)
 

eGPU Hardware

GPU: XFX RX 460 4GB Single Slot
eGPU Enclosure: Atto Thunderlink TLFC-1082 + PCE164P-N03 (PCIe x1 to x16 "mining" version)
Power Supply: Stock Thunderlink 60W power brick for the Atto unit, Dell DA-2 with 2.5x5.5mm barrel plug for the PCIe riser.
TB Cable: Apple 0.5m, White (MD862LL/A)

The setup was plug-and-play once I added the powered riser between the Thunderlink and the video card. AMD drivers install without issues, and the eGPU is fully functional. In this build I only used the internal monitor, and even that works.

Some pics in action below. You can see some more screenshots, photos and even a benchmark in the other thread.

My eGPU Zoo - Link to my Implementations.
Want to output [email protected] out of an old system on the cheap? Read here.
"Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done, and why. Then do it."- Robert A. Heinlein, "Time Enough for Love."


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Yukikaze
(@yukikaze)
Prominent Member Moderator
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 893
December 24, 2018 5:00 am  

Some updates and some benchmarks:

  1. I attempted to move the PCB from the Thunderlink into a different case. In the process I disconnected the fan header. While the device was initially functional, once it came under any kind of load, the enclosure would disconnect. Initially, I thought I killed it somehow, but then I realized the fan header might be used to make sure the fan is functional, and if the fan is not working, the controller powers down. After connecting the fan back to the enclosure, everything went back to working. If you make use of one of these boards, keep the fan connected.
  2. Using an ATX PSU to feed power to both the PCIe riser and the TB1 board works as well. I used the old 500W unit out of my Node Pro and was able to get everything working just fine.
  3. Driving a 4K display works just fine across this eGPU connection. I ran my 4K Sony TV without any issues.
  4. If you shave off a bit of the plastic on the USB connector of the  PCE164P-N03's cable, you can route if out of the two connector ports (the ones originally used for the Fiber Channel modules) on the rear of the Atto Thunderlink. This removes the need to run the Atto open. You can then place the video card into a small case next to it. Looks much nicer.

Below is a head to head comparison between this build and the same card in my ZBook G4 (TB3, AKiTiO Node Pro): Keep in mind that the eGPU interface is at least six times slower in the Thunderlink setup (TB3 vs PCIe x1.2 over TB1: 2,374MB/s vs 398 MB/s Host-2-Device and 2,374MB/s vs 376 MB/s Device-2-Host), and the ZBook has twice the cores on a CPU four generations newer. The average performance difference is 14%. All benchmarks were done on an external monitor.

Overall, this is a pretty good solution for a TB1 system lacking an Expresscard/mPCIe slot (plenty of older Macs fall into this category, as do some old NUCs). The total price is cheap (40$ Atto Thunderlink, 15$ TB cable, 20$ ATX power supply, 7$ PCIe riser = 82$ for everything required but the card itself. A bit more if shipping is expensive, and a bit less if you already have some parts, like the TB cable or the power supply). This is less than half the price of a TB3 solution (and about a third of the price if you take the TB-to-TB3 adapter into account), which is good for people on a budget, or for adding a 4K output to an old system otherwise not capable of that. This isn't going to be the best gaming setup in history, but it makes for a good shot in the arm of an old, but otherwise capable, system. For a card pairing, I recommend one of the RX4XX series of cards if buying used, or a RX560 or RX580 when buying new. All of these should be readily workable on OS X, including Mojave. The R9 Fury is another workable option (if you don't mind the card being a bit of a power hog), and they seem to cost about 110-120$ at the moment on ebay.

My eGPU Zoo - Link to my Implementations.
Want to output [email protected] out of an old system on the cheap? Read here.
"Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done, and why. Then do it."- Robert A. Heinlein, "Time Enough for Love."


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