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2017 15" HP ZBook 15 G4 (Q M1200) [7th,4C,H] + Quadro K2000 @ 10Gbps-TB3>TB1 (At...
 

2017 15" HP ZBook 15 G4 (Q M1200) [7th,4C,H] + Quadro K2000 @ 10Gbps-TB3>TB1 (Atto Thunderlink) + Win10 [Yukikaze]  

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Yukikaze
(@yukikaze)
Prominent Member Moderator
Joined: 3 years ago
 

So it looks like the Atto Thunderlink units are still going strong on ebay, and the prices are dropping. I bought a second unit to play with (the first one is used for a SSD) for 35$ including shipping. It was missing the power supply and Thunderbolt cable, but it works with any 12v power supply that has a 2.5mm by 5.5mm barrel plug (same size as used by the AKiTiO Thunder units) and I have (way too many) Thunderbolt cables anyway.

I received the unit yesterday and today I got some spare time to try and make a cleaner eGPU with it than my previous attempt​. From ​my test of the CY Thunderbolt3 to PCIe board​ I have a PCIe x4 to m.2 adapter coupled with a m.2 to PCIe x4 adapter. The latter also has a power connector, so the combination of the two together creates a 90 degree powered riser that supports 4 lanes at Gen2 speeds. Since the Atto Thunderlink is a Thunderbolt1 device, this is sufficient to extract every bit of bandwidth it has, while allowing me to provide extra power to the PCIe slot.

front

For some high-res images, see here:
Front
Back
Closeup (Riser) - You can see the 4-pin connector on the riser allowing me to feed power directly to the slot, bypassing the Thunderlink PCB. The cost of both the PCIe to m.2 and m.2 to PCIe adapters is about 5$ for both if you're willing to wait for them to be sent from China.

I used a 6-pin to barrel plug adapter to power the Thunderlink PCB, and a fed power to the extra power plug on my riser with another cable. The PSU was a regular ATX unit. I installed the Quadro K2200 into the riser, hooked up a 2m Thunderbolt cable to the Apple TB3 to TB adapter and connected this contraption to my ZBook.

Everything worked flawlessly: The card was detected, the drivers picked it up and the bandwidth to the eGPU is the same as other TB1 setups:

Bandwidth

At a cost of about 50$ (including a Thunderbolt cable) this compares favorably to the GDC Beast units for cost, while offering a potential eGPU solution for those of us with TB1 laptops or SFF PCs. This is especially attractive for older Macs, the Lenovo W540 and the Lenovo T430s as a low-cost eGPU solution. Just like the Beast, a power supply is a necessary additional purchase, while a case is optional (With some Dremel work, the Thunderlink itself can be slightly modified to serve as a pretty good stand for the setup). A Dell DA-2 power brick can be used for sub-200W video cards if you can put together a basic cabling job to split its 8-pin output into a barrel plug and a 6/8-pin PCIe power plug. This is similar to the mods that we used to power AKiTiO Thunder2 units back in the day.

If you are interested in procuring one of these for yourself, find recycler type sellers that offer them with a Best Offer option and send an offer in the 30-50$ range.

This topic was modified 2 months ago

Want to output [email protected] out of an old system on the cheap? Read here.
Give your Node Pro a second Thunderbolt3 controller for reliable peripherals by re-using a TB3 dock (~50$).

"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: 3 years ago
 

I was trying to find some schematics in order to see how much power can the circuitry of the Thunderlink survive. I did not manage to find this, but I found this instead: This is a sale listing in the Ukraine, of someone selling an eGPU enclosure based on the Thunderlink adapter. Their asking price was ~200$ and it was shown to work with a RX 580 4GB in OS X 10.13.6. It looks like they soldered power lines straight to the board to bypass the barrel plug (the back of the PCB is not shown, but it looks like it just goes to the solder points for the barrel plug).

This gave me the confidence that for some reason I did something wrong the first time I tried this. I pulled the PCB out of the Thunderlink unit, and this time made sure to keep the fan connected to the header (since last time disconnecting the fan caused me problems). I connected my ATX PSU to the barrel plug and stuck my Quadro K2000 in the slot. This is connected to the same ZBook with the same Apple TB3 to TB adapter. Just like in my powered riser attempt, everything works!

noriser scaled

The K2000 consumes about 50W of power, which is significantly over the 25W this enclosure was designed with with respect to devices. I then overclocked the socks off the K2000 to push its power consumption higher. From 954Mhz on the core, I went up to 1,177Mhz (A 23.3% OC), and from 4,000Mhz on the GDDR5 I went to 5,460Mhz (A 36.5% OC). The card and enclosure remained stable, even when running over a 2m TB cable and the Apple adapter. I could run Unigine Valley on a loop for about 2 hours without crashes or artifacts. Such an OC should have significantly increased the power consumption, which gives even more confidence in the circuitry of this board.

K2000 OC

The benchmark results rose by 17%, making my little K2000 about the equivalent of a GT1030 in performance (not bad for the 20$ or 25$ that I paid for it a while ago). Of course, it consumes about twice the power to do so, but you can't have it all 🙂

It looks like the Atto Thunderlink is the holy grail for cheap TB1 to PCIe boards, after all! When coupled with a RX460 or RX560, this can easily enable an older Mac to drive high resolution displays by using a basic 100W power brick. In that regard, this is similar to an Akitio Thunder unit, just cheaper. By using an ATX power supply, it seems like any kind of video card can actually be accommodated, up to and including the RX 480/580 and the RX Vega cards.

This post was modified 2 months ago

Want to output [email protected] out of an old system on the cheap? Read here.
Give your Node Pro a second Thunderbolt3 controller for reliable peripherals by re-using a TB3 dock (~50$).

"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."


jeemaline and itsage liked
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