2014 15" HP ZBook 15 G2 + R9 [email protected] (AKiTiO Thunder2) + Win 8.1 Enterprise [Yukikaze]  

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Yukikaze
(@yukikaze)
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Joined: 2 years ago
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December 30, 2016 5:32 am  

Upgrade time. I am currently in the process of selling my current video cards on eBay as I wanted an upgrade. While waiting for them to sell I decided to take advantage of the end of year sales on Newegg and after some deliberation decided to get an R9 Fury over an RX480 or a GTX1060. It cost 240$ after rebate, which made it very hard to pass on, as it is far more powerful than any other card in that price range, especially at high resolutions, despite its 4GB memory limitation.

I was a little worried about my dGPU being a K2100M and having driver issues between the AMD eGPU and nVidia dGPU, but this was entirely a non-factor, and the eGPU setup was trivial once a power solution was built and the Akitio was modified in order to fit the absolutely gigantic card (I used the body from my fried Thunder2 for this mod, as to not harm my functional ones). I am powering this with a 550W ATX power supply started with the paper-clip trick, as my Dell DA-2 wouldn't be even close to surviving the Fury. Power difficulties and card size aside, this was a trivial setup, with the card being instantly recognized by the OS and the latest drivers installing without a hitch. Surprisingly enough PhysX is enabled in the nVidia driver and my K2100M willingly offloads it.

I have to say that the Sapphire R9 Fury Nitro is a work of art. It is dead silent, despite sitting right in front of me on my desk and the fans rarely start, even under load, since the massive heatsink and the lack of a case mean that there isn't much of a need for ventilation. With 100% load, the card tops out at 66C with the fans running at 30%. It also looks damn cool.

Overall, the one unexpected problem I had was significant interference from the power cables messing up my DisplayPort link to the monitor and causing flicker. Thankfully, some clever cable placement solved that issue.

Laptop and 2nd External Monitor:
HP ZBook 15 G2
Core i7 4810MQ
16 GB DDR3 1600Mhz RAM
Intel Pro 2500 480GB SSD
nVidia Quadro K2100M 2GB GDDR5 dGPU (Note: The iGPU is disabled in the BIOS)
Windows 8.1 Enterprise 64-bit

eGPU and Main External Monitor (I do not run the eGPU with output on the internal screen):
Sapphire R9 Fury Nitro OC+ 4GB HBM
Corsair RM550x
Akitio Thunder 2
1m Thunderbolt cable (Akitio original)
LG 31MU97-B (4096x2160) and Dell U3011 (2560x1600) monitors connected to the eGPU via DisplayPort

EDIT: These results are outdated, see the posts below for additional benchmarks and a desktop comparison.

Here is the 3DMark11 result, with 11,940 total score and 15,268 graphics score at the Performance preset.

Here is the Firestrike result, with 10,260 total score and 13,334 graphics score.

Here is how I opened the front of the Thunder2 to accept longer cards. I did not like the bending method, so out came the saw. As a bonus, if I ever get a blower-style card I can actually close the case cover over it, leaving just the blower section sticking out. Of course, the Fury is so massive that is not possible, as the card is not only too long for the Thunder2, but also too tall.
Here is the end result. The Corsair PSU is hiding below the desk.

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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nando4
(@nando4)
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Posts: 1815
December 30, 2016 1:50 pm  

@Yukikaze, you have a very nice implementation there 🙂

Want to test if AMD X-Connect activates?

I wanted to ask if you'd like to see if can get AMD X-Connect (AMD's accelerated internal LCD mode equiv to NVidia Optimus) working on your system? If so, the steps to do that would look like:

1. Enable the iGPU in the ZBook G2 BIOS

2. Disable the K2100M dGPU via it's hosting bridge in Device Manager -> View -> Devices By Connection

3.  Remove AMD, Intel HD and NVidia drivers.

4. Install Intel HD and AMD drivers.

Then check for the AMD X-Connect system tray icon to appear like shown by goalque at https://egpu.io/forums/mac-setup/thunderbolt-3-egpu-with-late-2016-macbook-pro/#post-47

Then could experiment to see if installing the NVidia driver breaks X-Connect and if reinstalling the AMD driver breaks Optimus, etc. Optimus requires all dGPUs to be disabled to be activated. Possibly X-Connect following suit.

eGPU Setup 1.35    •    eGPU Port Bandwidth Reference Table    •    Several builds
2015 15" Dell Precision 7510 M1000M + macOS 10.14 & Win10


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Yukikaze
(@yukikaze)
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Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 832
December 30, 2016 5:33 pm  

X-Connect requires Windows 10, which I do not have, nor can upgrade myself to...

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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theitsage
(@itsage)
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Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 3232
December 30, 2016 11:36 pm  

That's a nice build! I agree Fiji GPUs are the best value atm. I picked up a Sapphire R9 Fury X with liquid cooling a few days ago for $268. It went into my tower Mac Pro but it would be quite a beast in OpenCL tasks for eGPU implementation.

Would you mind sharing approximate costs for your eGPU build so far? We'd like to update the working setups on this Work & Play page.

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

eGPU enclosure buying guide

86 external GPU build guides


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Yukikaze
(@yukikaze)
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Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 832
December 31, 2016 5:37 am  

Assuming this is being purchased off Amazon/Newegg today, then the costs are:

Akitio Thunder2 - 220$.

Sapphire R9 Fury Nitro - 240$ after MIR.

Corsair RM550x, 70$ for a manufacturer refurb (w/1yr warranty).

Parts for 4-pin ATX to Barrel Plug adapter: 1.5$ for 4-pin extender cable, 5$ for 10 barrel plugs with screw terminals (because I couldn't find less than 10, lol).

Total: 536.5$.

That's it, nothing else is needed to make this work.

For the previous iteration of this setup you listed from my previous implementations, the cost would be:

GTX960 4GB - 90$ + 14$ shipping on Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales.

Akitio Thunder2 - 220$.

Dell DA-2 - 13$ on ebay.

Cabling to create the adapter from the Dell DA-2 to the eGPU - ~10$.

Total: 347$.

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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nando4
(@nando4)
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Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 1815
December 31, 2016 10:02 am  

If you did want to upgrade to Windows 10, it's still possible for free if using assistive technology like narrator : http://www.howtogeek.com/265409/you-can-still-get-windows-10-for-free-from-microsofts-accessibility-site/

Posted by: Yukikaze

 

X-Connect requires Windows 10, which I do not have, nor can upgrade myself to...

   

eGPU Setup 1.35    •    eGPU Port Bandwidth Reference Table    •    Several builds
2015 15" Dell Precision 7510 M1000M + macOS 10.14 & Win10


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Yukikaze
(@yukikaze)
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Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 832
January 1, 2017 1:14 am  

I know about that 🙂 My T430s just got upgraded from Win7 to Win10 through this method two days ago.

Doesn't help me with the ZBook as the laptop is owned by my workplace. I can't upgrade to an OS version our IT doesn't support yet. They started rolling it out, but mostly to people receiving new machines, not people who have older ones. Will probably be another quarter or two before I get it on my main.

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)
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Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 832
February 18, 2017 10:16 pm  

I snapped some pictures of our desk setups in this album, if anyone is interested 🙂

We switched to using monitor arms, which leads to a lot more open desk space. I also got a Dell U3011 as a secondary monitor. Damn, this thing is huge.

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)
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Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 832
February 25, 2017 4:02 am  

After tinkering with MSI Afterburner, I managed to get enable memory overclocking on my R9 Fury.

Here is a re-benched 3DMark11 run, at 1100Mhz core and 600Mhz HBM, yielding a P13095 score, with 17897 GPU score. These clocks are stable: I was throwing Rome2 at them for the better part of the day today, aside of looping some benchmarks for stability beforehand. The end result is a 17.2% increase in the GPU benchmark score due to a 4.7% core clock speed increase, and a 20% memory overclock.

It is interesting that overclocking the memory has such a large effect on the Fury: The 500Mhz HBM at stock has a whopping 512GB/s of memory bandwidth, more than pretty much any card out there (even the mighty Titan X Pascal card has less, and the GTX1080 has "only" 320GB/s, despite both cards soundly beating the Fury in sheer performance), so it is hard to image that the extra memory bandwidth is of any gain. What I think is happening is that the increased clock speed of the memory reduces the memory latency. While the number of clocks it takes to fetch a memory access does not change, each of these clock ticks is shorter, hence the cores wait for the memory access for a shorter period of time.

EDIT: I re-ran today at stock clocks, and ended up with pretty much the same result. It looks like the initial lower score that I reported in my first post was an anomaly! In this case, overclocking the Fury does not do much...

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)
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Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 832
February 25, 2017 10:09 pm  

Okay, after the overclocking result anomaly has been sorted out (and by sorted out, I mean the result got thrown out the window), I have decided to try and a comparison between a desktop and my eGPU setup, to try and spot the Thunderbolt2 bottleneck in a similar way as I did with my T430s and its Thunderbolt1 eGPU.

My weapons are 3DMark11 at the Performance preset (the default for the free version), as well as 3DMark Advanced, which covers Fire Strike Extreme, Fire Strike 1.1, Sky Diver 1.0 and Cloud Gate 1.1, all running at default settings. As I am not running Windows 10, I cannot test Time Spy here, due to a lack of DX12 support.

I am comparing to a desktop i7-4770 (or the slightly faster i7-4770k, for which I found stock-clock results), which actually puts my CPU at a distinct disadvantage, but I could not find any results with lower clocked 4th gen desktop i7s. The 4770(k) seems to score 10-20% higher on the physics tests, which is more-or-less in-line with the clock-speed difference between the two. As a result, this test is going to exaggerate the Thunderbolt2 bottleneck, as some of the improvement in graphical performance should be attributed to the faster CPU (contrary to public opinion, the GPU score does vary with the CPU being used, for example, here is an i7-6700 compared to an i3-6300, both running an R9 Fury).

Test Laptop Desktop

Laptop

(Graphics)

Desktop

(Graphics)

Total Score Difference (%) Graphics Score Difference (%)
3DMark11 Performance 13,032 14,419

17,367

18,083

9.7% 3.6%
3DMark Fire Strike Extreme 1.1 6,247 6,635

6,858

7,119

5.8% 3.6%
3DMark Fire Strike 1.1 10,393 12,753

13,374

15,795 18.5% 19.2%
3DMark Sky Diver 1.0 22,353 31,269

37,744

48,258 28.5% 21.7%
Cloud Gate 1.1 18,724 25,928

63,354

89,870 27.7% 29.5%

Conclusions:

  1. Again, as in the case of the T430s, as the frame-rates rise, the bottleneck effect increases. We can see that at 1440p, the difference is very small, but at the massive frame-rates achieved by Sky Diver (over 170 fps on the laptop) and Cloud Gate (over 260 fps on the laptop) the hit is considerable.
  2. It is interesting to see that the 3DMark11 and the regular Fire Strike preset buck the trend a little, showing that there is a lot of variability in between tests, and telling us that there will be large changes between games, as well.

The conclusion here as well is that you should not aim for high refresh-rate gaming on a Thunderbolt2 eGPU. Aiming for around 60fps on an external monitor is a reasonable goal, going for 144 fps is likely not tenable. As such, the selection of a video card and a monitor (and thus resolution) combo should be based on desktop performance results that lead to around 60fps, and trying to go for higher frame rates will introduce growing diminishing returns.

I cannot do this test with regards to Thunderbolt3, as I do not own a Thunderbolt3 laptop, but it seems safe to assume that the trend will continue with regards to frame-rate bottlenecks, but the effect will be reduced by having twice the bandwidth. The actual performance decrease from Thunderbolt3 should probably hover around 10%, going as low as 5% in lower fps cases, and going up to around 15% at higher fps cases.

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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