2018 Mac Mini [8th,4C,B] + RX Vega 56 @ 32Gbps-TB3 (AKiTiO Node) + macOS 10.14.6...
 
Notifications
Clear all

2018 Mac Mini [8th,4C,B] + RX Vega 56 @ 32Gbps-TB3 (AKiTiO Node) + macOS 10.14.6 & Win10 20H2  

  RSS

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

Computer: 

2018 CTO Mac mini. 3.6GHz 4-Core i3-8100B, UHD Graphics 630, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD

 

eGPU:

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

 

Monitor:

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

 

OS:

macOS 10.14.6, Windows 10 20H2

 

 

Hardware setup:  

This CTO Mac mini has 16GB upgradable RAM.  512GB soldered-in SSD that’s reasonably fast (2696MB/s read, 1887MB/s write) and has enough space for macOS and Windows.  The 3.6GHz 4 core i3 doesn’t have hyper-threading or turbo-boost and lacks the 2 extra cores of the i5 & i7 Mac minis.  Yet Geekbench 4 shows that it’s 49% faster than my ’09 Mac Pro 6C W3690 (upgrade) in single core and barely 0.2% faster in multi core.  Maybe it’s not fast compared to other recent Macs, but fine for me.  

 

My tried and true PowerColor Red Dragon RX Vega 56 is a 2-slot card with an oversized cooler, 3 axial fans, and a modest factory overclock.  It’s 12”l x 5.5”h x 1.65”w and easily fits the AKiTiO Node.  At 210W it’s well within the Node’s 400W range.  However, this Vega PCB is only half the length of the card.  The cooler is 1/2 flow-through; similar to RTX 30 reference coolers.  The flow-through part pushes heat to the Node exhaust fan.  So by coincidence, this model Vega 56 is an ideal match for the AKiTiO Node!  Ditto a 220W RTX3070 if hell freezes over (re Apple-NVIDIA feud).  

2 PC Vega56 Node flow mu
3 PC Vega56 Node installed mu

 

 

Procedure macOS: 

Tho not part of the build, I bought this Mac mini used and performed a clean install of macOS 10.14 from a USB Flash Drive using an HDMI monitor:

 

This procedure may differ from others because it’s a single monitor eGPU build:

 

1- Start with all 3 power cables (Mac mini, AKiTiO Node, monitor) plugged in but everything turned off.

 

2- Connect a TB3 cable from the Mac mini to the Node TB3 port.  Then connect a video cable from the Node to the monitor.  I used a Display Port cable.

 

3- Turn on the Node and monitor first.  Then turn on the Mac mini.  

 

4- An Apple symbol and progress bar appear on the eGPU monitor during boot up.  The screen will go blank several times.  Then the login prompt appears!

 

This build was truly plug & play in macOS! 

 

 

Procedure Windows 10:  

I started by installing Boot Camp & Windows 10 with an HDMI monitor connected to the Mac mini HDMI port.  The eGPU and its Display Port monitor were not connected.  Other members reported success with the newer Win10 20H2 ISO vs the older AMD-friendly 1903 v1 ISO.  So I tested Win10 20H2 and it worked perfectly!

 

After completing the Win10 install including boot camp drivers, restart Win10 and log in.  Then hot plug the TB3 eGPU (with monitor) and wait for Windows to install the drivers.  This process can take several minutes so be patient.  Finally, new Graphics & PCI drivers are installed and Windows notifies you to Restart - don’t Restart!

 

Instead, Shut Down from the Windows Start menu before proceeding!

 

Once shut down, unplug the HDMI cable from the mini so that only the eGPU with its monitor are connected.  Then power on the mini.  The Windows login screen appears on the eGPU monitor!  Just to be safe, create a Windows Restore Point before installing your favorite apps. 

 

 

License issue:  

My Windows 10 Pro Retail license unexpectedly “Deactivated” during this build.  This never happened with previous Win10 eGPU builds.  Even stranger is that it took 10+ minutes to deactivate!  FYI I always use slmgr to remove my Win10 license from a previous build before creating a new build.  It didn’t help this time.

 

I followed the Windows Activation troubleshooting procedure but it wasn’t helpful.  A Microsoft account appears to be needed to resolve this.  I’ve only created offline accounts until now so this oughta be fun ;/  If I find out what happened to furbar my license I’ll post an update.  But at least it’s working so I was able to run benchmarks for the Win10 part of this build.

 

 

Fan Noise:  

The Mac mini, Node Exhaust, and Vega 56 triple fans are nearly inaudible; tho they can get loud under load.  However, the Node PS fan seems to drone on continuously which I find annoying.  It’s less noticeable if you can place the Node under your desk.  In my case, the AKiTiO-supplied 0.5M TB3 cable is barely long enough but limits my mini to a covered shelf.  No overheating issues so far.  But I plan to relocate the mini to the desktop for improved air flow once I buy a longer TB3 cable. 

1 Mac mini Node desk mu

 

 

Benchmarks - Cross-Platform:

Each result was the highest of 3 runs.  Power was cycled between benchmarks and resolution changes.  Deviation between runs was minimal in all cases.

 

Geekbench 4:

Benchmark 

Score macOS

Score Win10

Intel (64-bit) SC

4769

4585

Intel (64-bit) MC

14875

13894

Intel 630 Metal

23182

n/a

Intel 630 OpenCL

21954

24633

Vega 56 Metal

125610

na

Vega 56 OpenCL

134652

168604

 

Unigine Valley:

m = macOS 10.14, w = Windows 10

Preset

Average fps

Minimum fps

Maximum fps

Basic

95.8m / 110.6w

33.7m / 24.6w

141.2m / 162.0w

Extreme

70.4m / 72.9w

33.3m / 30.8w

126.1m / 143.1w

Extreme HD

56.6m / 66.1w

29.2m / 31.1w

101.7m / 138.0w

 

Rise of the Tomb Raider: 

m = macOS 10.14, w = Windows 10 DX11 (DX12 was unstable)

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

Display, Preset

Overall fps

Mountain fps

Syria fps

Geotherm fps

1080p Medium

92.28m / 103.81w

123.29m / 138.49w

79.67m / 84.94w

71.97m / 84.97w

1080p High

89.62m / 92.53w

117.41m / 120.15w

77.51m / 81.69w

72.08m / 74.02w

1080p Very High

85.11m / 77.28w

113.25m / 101.42w

72.09m / 67.79w

67.98m / 61.12w

1440p Medium

75.05m / 79.76w

93.19m / 103.39w

62.50m / 65.10w

67.47m / 68.40w

1440p High

72.10m / 72.56w

89.02m / 91.36w

61.15m / 62.53w

64.38m / 62.17w

1440p Very High

67.02m / 59.68w

85.32m / 74.83w

56.18m / 51.60w

57.82m / 51.33w

Notice that win10 suffers a sharp drop in fps at “Very High” vs macOS.

Visually this appears as a delay in loading textures between scenes.

 

 

Benchmarks - Windows 10:

Each result was the highest of 3 runs.  Power was cycled between benchmarks.  Deviation between runs was minimal in all cases.

 

3D Mark:

Benchmark

Score

Fire Strike

12067

Fire Strike Extreme

7263

Time Spy

5104

4 FireStrike Vega 56 eGPU i3 mini
5 FireStrike Extreme Vega 56 eGPU i3 mini
6 TimeSpy Vega 56 eGPU i3 mini
7 GPUz Vega 56 eGPU i3 mini

 

 

Miscellaneous: 

The Recovery and Startup Disk menus are working from the eGPU monitor - nice!  This may be from the previous owner installing 10.15 Catalina which updates the mini firmware.  I also have Filevault and SIP enabled for now.

 

I considered a 2014 i7 Mac mini instead.  It has 2 drive bays: 2.5” SATA3 and an optional PCIe 2.0x2-lane Blade SSD for Fusion drives.  The Blade slot can be made M.2 NVMe compatible with an adapter if running macOS 10.13+.  IMO owner-upgradable storage is a major benefit!  But the soldered-in memory and dual core CPUs are not.  TB2 eGPU isn’t plug-and-play either tho there are plenty of successful mini TB2 builds here.  Ultimately the deciding factors were; the ’18 i3 mini CPU and 630 graphics are faster than the ’14 i7 mini, the ’18 mini storage is faster, and the ’18 mini is likely to be supported longer. 

 

 

Conclusion:  

The 2018 i3 Mac mini + Node Vega 56 are an excellent combination!  They allow me to migrate from my older Macs without giving up my legacy apps!  I’m not sure how much longer that will last.  But when the time comes I’ll be able to run the latest macOS.  OTOH, the soldered-in SSD is a significant downside.  Especially since I already own a faster 1TB HP EX950 M.2 SSD.  If I could’ve re-used it I’d have enough in my budget for an i5 Mac mini and twice the storage!  After 20 years in macOS I’m really starting to sour on Apple.  Hopefully the upcoming right-to-repair legislation will put a damper on this anti-consumer, anti-competitive trend.  I’m not holding out much hope tho.

 

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]  


Mini i5 and itsage liked
ReplyQuote
itsage
(@itsage)
Founder Admin
Joined: 5 years ago
 

@cnon297, Thank you for sharing this excellent build! The eGPU boot screen support is only for a limited number of System Firmware version so don't update macOS unless you have to. It was very nice when that worked on my 2018 Mac mini.

 

LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Youtube | Instagram
 
external graphics card builds
best laptops for external GPU
eGPU enclosure buyer's guide

 
2021 13" ASUS ROG Flow X13 (RTX3050Ti) [R5K,8C,H] + RTX 3080 @ 64Gbps-XG (XG Mobile) + Win10 20H2 [build link]  


ReplyQuote
Mini i5
(@mini-i5)
Prominent Member
Joined: 2 years ago
 

@cnon297, Very cool setup 😎

You might find a good sale price on a TB3 NVMe drive enclosure, allowing you to make use of your EX950 SSD

In my experience, there's no difference in speed or reliability running MacOS and my pro Mac apps from a larger capacity Samsung X5 TB3 external SSD attached to my 2018 Mini. This is my daily driver 👍🏻

 

 

2018 Mac Mini + AMD RX 5500 XT (Sonnet Breakaway Box 650) Big Sur 11.5 + Windows 21H1

 
2018 Mac Mini [8th,6C,B] + RX Vega 56 @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Sonnet Breakaway 650) + macOS 11.1 & Win10 [build link]  


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

@itsage, thanks for the firmware warning!  You just can't take anything for granted with Apple these days.   

 

@mini-i5, thanks and I agree about TB3 NVMe being a viable solution.  I'm just disappointed at the soldered-in-everything approach on so many levels, I could fill pages...  In fact I actually finished this build last weekend but spent this past week cutting out unnecessary comments.  Being a formerly rabid Apple fan boy, it's hard not to express disappointment with capabilities and features that we've lost.

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]  


itsage liked
ReplyQuote
Mini i5
(@mini-i5)
Prominent Member
Joined: 2 years ago
 

@cnon297, Sure, expandability is low-key making a comeback though.

Open-box 2019 Mac Pro models are down to $3,500 at MicroCenter. That price is tempting. 

And now my regular suburban Apple Store has a big Cheese-Grater on display, whereas before Apple kept the Mac Pro hidden away at their Hollywood-adjacent stores…

 

 

2018 Mac Mini + AMD RX 5500 XT (Sonnet Breakaway Box 650) Big Sur 11.5 + Windows 21H1

 
2018 Mac Mini [8th,6C,B] + RX Vega 56 @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Sonnet Breakaway 650) + macOS 11.1 & Win10 [build link]  


cnon297 and itsage liked
ReplyQuote
itsage
(@itsage)
Founder Admin
Joined: 5 years ago
 

@mini-i5, I'm also waiting for the 7,1 to go into clearance pricing when Apple announce its replacement. That would likely be my last Mac purchase. They can last a long time. I have a 2009 4,1 running 24/7 as a NAS.

@cnon297, Many long-time Mac users are sharing your frustration. I'm slowly but surely cutting ties. By the end of the month I will stop using an iPhone. Transitioning away from macOS won't be easy or completely. I found myself using Windows and Linux more lately so that's a start.

 

LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Youtube | Instagram
 
external graphics card builds
best laptops for external GPU
eGPU enclosure buyer's guide

 
2021 13" ASUS ROG Flow X13 (RTX3050Ti) [R5K,8C,H] + RTX 3080 @ 64Gbps-XG (XG Mobile) + Win10 20H2 [build link]  


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

@mini-i5, sadly that’s out of my price range.  Even if it wasn’t, I’m still holding a grudge since Apple disabled my $780 MSI 1080Ti a year after I bought it ;(  The problem isn’t just a lack of owner-upgradability; it’s the monopolistic and anti-competitive changes to their products.  It takes a $6K computer (with 256GB proprietary SSD) just to get back some of the features and capabilities Macs use to have.  But despite my experiences I’m a huge fan of the ’19 Mac Pro design!  It’s neat, clean, no messy cabling issues and 8 PCIe slots (my ’09 has only 4).  I hope you get the deal!  

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]  


Mini i5 liked
ReplyQuote
cnon297
(@cnon297)
Trusted Member
Joined: 2 years ago
 

@itsage, I also have a ’09 Mac Pro that just won’t quit 😉  And I’m hanging onto a CTO 2012 15” MacBook Pro with High Res anti-glare display.  The one thing they both have in common?  Apple-supported owner upgrades!  The MacBook Pro even has step by step instructions from the “About This Mac” Support tab!  

UPDATE:  Well, it used to 🙁  Apple removed that link even tho they left the support article in place (that link goes to a quick-start guide instead).

2012 MBPro missing manual

Not that you'd need the actual manual.  No security screws anywhere, the bottom is attached with Philips screws.   Once removed the upgrades are pretty straight forward:

2012 MBPro upgrades

To date the 1TB 7200rpm HD has been replaced with a Crucial MX500 2TB SSD, memory upgraded from 8GB to 16GB, and the Optical drive is now a blu-ray burner (found it on Amazon).  The battery is still original tho - and not glued in place 😉

 

I’d be very interested to learn which smartphone you choose!  I recently tried migrating from an iPhone 8+ to a Galaxy S21 (FWIW the 8+ replaced a Xs Max pre-COVID due to faceID).  But I couldn’t get Android Auto to stay connected to my car so back it went before the 14 day grace period expired.  In hindsight I wish I upgraded my stereo to a nav model instead.  Compared to the iPhone 12 that it’s priced against the S21 has major advantages: a 120Hz display (vs 60Hz), 128GB starting storage (vs 64GB) a 2nd gen under-screen fingerprint sensor (vs none), triple cameras (vs 2) and bi-directional Qi charging (vs 1-way).

 

[Last update] I had to RMA the Crucial SO-DIMMs shown in the photo because the MacBook Pro would become unreliable after a couple of days (app crashes, reboots, beep codes).  So instead I located 16GB (2x8GB) of the exact same Apple OEM brand of SO-DIMMs (Samsung DDR3 PC3L-12800 low power) and they've been rock solid reliable ever since.  FWIW, the Crucial MX500 has also been rock solid.  It's only that particular memory upgrade that was unreliable.

 

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]  


itsage liked
ReplyQuote