Chassis: Lenovo W541
CPU: Core i7-4940mx
Storage: SanDisk SATA SSD 240GB
Monitor: Internal (1920x1080), External (1920x1080)
GPU: AMD Sapphire HD 7770
eGPU Enclosure: Atto Thunderlink TLNS 1101-D00 + a PCIe x16 riser ribbon with molex connector
Power Supply: desktop thermaltake unit for now using PCIE power and molex
TB Cable: Apple 0.5m, White (MD862LL/A)
Inspired by this and this, and my first ever foray into the world of eGPUs, is this build taking advantage of the ATTO Thunderlinks selling cheap on ebay and the little-used thunderbolt 1 on the thinkpads W540, W541 and select T430s models (of which I also have one). I originally ordered all of the parts back in march, but I failed to check if the thunderbolt cable I used was actually thunderbolt, so I spent hours of my time trying to fix an unfixable issue and even tried to return the thunderlink. Lo and behold, 3 months later, I think back and realize that what I had ordered was a miniDisplayPort cable with a deceptive listing that should have been really obvious. Now I have a real thunderbolt cable, and the system is actually doing something.
I am using my running desktop computer's power supply for now, but I hope to get something that can supply PCIe power and molex on its own. For some reason, the system seems to work pretty well with the molex connector also supplying power to the Thunderlink, no separate brick required (although this may be causing crashing). After trial and error, I have found that it basically only works when I first plug in the thunderbolt cable, then the molex, with PCIe power always plugged in. It will only work if hot-plugged after startup is complete. When this works, AMD drivers are able to load, and I seem to have picked up AMD's eGPU software allowing me to monitor and eject the GPU.
Once it was working, I plugged in an external monitor to the GPU and it connected successfully. I started up Oxygen Not Included as a test and it was flawless, and moving around task manager reported 80% usage without having any stutters. I'm not sure if this is only 4Gbps or if it is using full TB1 bandwidth, but it seems to be performing very well. It will crash eventually when I leave it out, leaving a BSOD, or sometimes a direct restart or loss of power.
My plans are now to upgrade the laptop with 2x8GB RAM, and then get myself an RX 480 to really test the limits of this connection. I am in search of a power supply that would fit my needs so that my desktop can go back to my desk, hopefully one that is a brick rather than a unit. It would also be nice to have a box that all of this can go in, as the thunderlink motherboard is much smaller than the casing but the casing cannot fit a full-size GPU. I intend to test this with my T430s as well, and to see if it works better on linux.