2019 13" MacBook Pro [8th,4C,U] + RX Vega 56 @32Gbps-TB3 (AKiTiO Node) + macOS 1...
 
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2019 13" MacBook Pro [8th,4C,U] + RX Vega 56 @32Gbps-TB3 (AKiTiO Node) + macOS 10.14.6 & Win10 1903 [cnon297]  

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cnon297
(@cnon297)
Eminent Member
Joined: 11 months ago
 

Why choose a Vega 56 with the 5700 XT out and big Navi on the way?  I wanted something that would work in both my ’09 Mac Pro (10.13) and ’19 MBPro eGPU (10.14).  Other factors like mature drivers, lower price, 2-slot width & quiet cooler design also played a role.  [UPDATE: added Windows 10 with help from @itsage.  Most replies were from the original macOS-only build.]

 

 

Computer: 

2019 CTO 13” MacBook Pro 1.4GHz 4-core i5-8257U, Iris Plus 645, dual TB3, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD

 

eGPU:

AKiTiO Node + PowerColor Red Dragon Vega 56 with 8GB HBM2 VRAM + 0.8m TB3 cable

 

Monitor:

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

 

OS:

macOS 10.14.6, Windows 10 1903 v1

 

 

Hardware setup:  

The PowerColor Red Dragon Vega 56 is 2-slots wide and easily fits inside the AKiTiO Node without issue.  And at 210W it’s well within the power budget of both my AKiTiO Node and Mac Pro.  It also frees up a slot in the Mac Pro vs my 2.5 slot 1080Ti.  A Plugable.com 0.8M TB3 cable was used to connect the Node to the 13” MBPro.  

 

 

Procedure: 

For macOS 10.14.6+ it doesn’t get any easier than this:

 

1- Connect TB3 & video cables to the Node and 13” MacBook Pro.

 

2- Turn on the 13” MacBook Pro and log in.

 

3- Turn on the display, then the Node.  Vega56 is quickly recognized!

 

I hesitate to call this a “build” as it was far too easy to setup in macOS.  To enable eGPU acceleration for apps that don’t automatically recognize it; right click on the app to access “Get Info.”  Then check the box for “Prefer External GPU.”  Most apps are located in the Applications folder.  However, some Steam apps are located in sub-folders in ~/Library/ApplicationSupport/Steam/steamapps/common

 

Eject the eGPU before disconnecting it or turning it off.  This is done from the top right of the menu bar.  However, sleep mode works well even if you’re using your MBPro in clamshell (closed-lid) mode.  So eject is only needed if you intend to power down to move your setup or swap graphics cards.  You can reconnect the eGPU anytime after logging into the MBPro.  I’ve had no luck powering up the eGPU before logging in, YMMV.

 

macOS 10.15 Catalina:  I don’t plan to upgrade to 10.15 (again) anytime soon.  The loss of 32bit apps puts a long time Mac user like me in a real bind.  My iTunes lib is offloaded to an external drive, lost dashboards, etc.  But no sense heading further down this rabbit hole for now…

 

Windows 10:  At 1st I used a clean install of Windows 10 1903 v2 that I downloaded from Microsoft.  It had previously worked for my Nvidia builds but failed for my Vega56 build.  Thanks to a suggestion by @itsage I switched to Windows 10 1903 v1 which worked immediately!  It was not available at Microsoft.com but can be found here:  https://tb.rg-adguard.net/public.php as build 18362.30.  I also started with the latest AMD drivers from bootcampdrivers.com as well as DDU to remove the default AMD drivers.  Currently the Vega56 only works on my 27” external 1440p monitor, not the MBPro 13” Retina display.  This is not a problem for me since I typically have my MBPro in closed lid mode when using an eGPU  If I get the 13” Retina display issue resolved I’ll add the results below.

 

 

Performance:  In macOS the PowerColor Red Dragon Vega 56 is faster than my 980Ti and can even surpass my 1080Ti at 1080p and lower settings.  Tho in fairness both Nvidia cards are running older macOS & at least 1 older app (Tomb Raider 32bit).  The Red Dragon triple fans are quiet and will come to a stop if there’s no load.  They’ve only run at max speed briefly a couple of times during testing.  At max they’re loud yet still quieter than the reference blower design of my Radeon 7970.  Unlike the 3-slot Red Devil 56, my 2-slot Red Dragon 56 has only a modest factory overclock with the BIOS switch moved towards the display connectors.  The remaining BIOS position is a silent mode which causes a great deal of stutter & is best avoided IMO.  LED lighting is minimal & only illuminates the Red Dragon emblem on top of the card.  It can be shut off with the 2nd slider switch if desired.

 

Vega 56 buzz:  There is a slight buzzing sound emitted by the Red Dragon PCB under load.  This occurs even when the fans are stopped.  The buzzing isn’t loud but it is audible over the fans when running.  Over time I’ve found this mildly annoying - like I need to open the Node cover to let an imaginary fly out 🙁  It occurs only during gaming, not rendering (GeekBench, LuxMark).  It’s actually quieter than the buzzing a fly would make tho still noticeable.  Speakers or a headset drown it out.  The buzz isn’t detectable with the Vega 56 installed in my ’09 Mac Pro.  

 

AMD Win10 driver stability:  During testing I ran into several app crash issues and 2 black screens.  Unlike the online reports, I didn’t have to shut down from the black screen issues since my 13” MBPro simply rebooted itself.  By comparison I had no such issues under macOS!!  Coincidentally AMD just released a major driver update at the time of this build update (03/02/20) that was specifically intended to address stability issues.  I installed the new driver and haven’t had an issue since.  However, since I was partly through benchmarking I noticed the new driver was about 10-15% slower at 1080p.  IMO I’ll take a small fps hit in exchange for rock solid stability any day!  But if faster fps is more important, install the January 2020 drivers on bootcampdrivers.com instead.  Or maybe wait a bit until they optimize the new drivers…

 

 

Benchmarks:

Each result below was the highest of 3 runs. 

Geekbench4

Score macOS

Score Win10

Vega 56 Metal

122055

n/a

Vega 56 OpenCL

129556

170800

 

LuxMark v3.1 (OpenCL)

Samples/Sec macOS

Samples/Sec Win10

Hotel Lobby

4308 K

5282 K

Neumann Microphone

16529 K

19832 K

Luxball HDR

26600 K

28527 K

 

Unigine Valley:

ext = Asus 1440p monitor, int = MBPro 13” Retina display, m=macOS, w=Win10

Setting, Display

Average fps

Minimum fps

Maximum fps

Score

Extreme, ext

69.6m / 85.0w

30.1m / 28.6w

122.4m / 161.3w

2910m / 3555w

Extreme, int

47.3m

25.8m

83.0m

1978m

Extreme HD, ext

56.1m / 69.3w

26.6m / 29.6w

99.9m / 127.2w

2349m / 2900w

Extreme HD, int*

40.3m

23.2m

60.9m

1687m

 

Tomb Raider: 

V-Sync was set to off.  Tho the Retina display was mostly capped at 60Hz (Tomb Raider bug?).

Setting, Display

Average fps

Minimum fps

Maximum fps

1440x900 High, int

60.0m

59.2m

60.9m

1080p High, ext

230.6m / 241.9w

176.9m / 176.0w

282.0m / 290.0w

1080p High, int*

60.0m

59.1m

60.9m

1440p High, ext

164.1m / 173.0w

131.5m / 134.0w

200.0m / 206.0w

1440p, High, int*

62.7m

54.4m

70.6m

1440p Ultimate, ext

63.8m / 90.1w

52.8m / 70.0w

74.7m / 110.0w

1440p Ultimate, int*

43.6m

37.5m

47.8m

2560x1600 High, int*

58.1m

50.3m

65.1m

 

Rise of the Tomb Raider: 

V-Sync was set to off.  External monitor benchmarks are in clamshell mode (slightly faster).

Setting, Display

Overall fps

Mountain fps

Syria fps

Geotherm fps

1440x900 High, int

82.66m

103.27m

71.71m

71.37m

1080p High, ext

92.94m / 89.57w

118.46m / 131.73w

78.19m / 73.92w

79.83m / 60.70w

1080p High, int*

67.81m

81.91m

59.51m

60.71m

1440p High, ext

72.96m / 74.53w

90.61m / 99.29w

60.59m / 65.88w

65.65m / 57.08w

1440p High, int*

46.16m

51.11m

43.31m

43.61m

1440p Very High, ext

67.34m / 63.12w

85.09m / 81.02w

57.13m / 56.22w

58.09m / 51.05w

1440p Very High, int*

43.75m

49.13m

41.09m

40.57m

2560x1600 High, int*

42.58m

46.42m

39.66m

41.08m

*using the RDM utility to enable hidden resolutions on the 13” Retina display in macOS.

 

 

Miscellaneous Items: 

  • Clamshell mode:  I bought a USB-C to 4-port USB-A 3.0 hub (BYEASY) from Amazon to reduce Win10 resources compared to hubs with HDMI, SD cards, etc  The USB-C side is a captive adapter and can serve as a USB-A to 4-port USB-A 3.0 hub (BYEASY).  An Apple wired keyboard & Logitech wireless mouse transmitter are attached so I can use the notebook in clamshell mode in macOSX & Win10.  
  • Power Delivery:  Despite only 15W PD the AKiTiO Node + 13” MBPro work well together!  For light use (browsing, spreadsheets, etc) 15W is enough to maintain 100% battery charge.  Gaming or benchmarking will slowly discharge the 13” MBPro battery tho it shows that it’s being charged during this time.  Afterwards the Node slowly charges the MBPro back to 100%.  This may not work as well for 15” & 16” MBPro models with larger power requirements.  

 

 

Conclusion:  It’s surprising how well the Vega 56 benchmarks in macOS vs Win10 - with macOS sometimes performing faster due to Apple’s excellent AMD driver optimization!  Compared to my 1080Ti however, my Vega 56 is much slower in Win10 despite being occasionally faster in macOS.  It makes me wonder how much better GTX cards could be in macOS with updated drivers.  I bought my MSI 1080Ti Gaming X because it was the best performing (quiet & fast) Gfx card for the money at the time (2017 = pre-feud).  And I was hoping not to buy a newer card for years.  But performance has lagged ever since in macOS once the Apple-Nvidia feud became public.  I’m not picking sides since I really don’t give a rat’s arse about AMD vs Nvidia, Mac vs PC, Ford vs Chevy, etc!  I simply don’t like my expensive Gfx hardware being hamstrung by what amounts to petty bickering between 2 major corporate entities that seem to care less about their customers than themselves!  Message to Apple & Nvidia:  Screw the finger pointing, just work it out!

 

Despite the frustration it’s been a thrill to finally have an eGPU that works in both macOS and Win10!  I wish it was my MSI Gaming X 1080Ti instead for performance reasons - not to mention the investment ($780US in 2017).  But my Red Dragon Vega 56 is a good match for my 1440p monitor and gaming at high settings with 144Hz refresh in both macOS and Win10!  And at $276US (Amazon renewed) it’s a good combination of performance and value (IMO).  

2019 13" CTO MBPro dual TB3 4-core 1.4GHz i5 + Akitio Node + Vega56
2009 Mac Pro 5,1 3.46 6-core Xeon + Apple-Nvidia GT120 + MSI 1080TI Gaming X

 
2019 13" MacBook Pro [8th,4C,U] + HD 7970 @32Gbps-TB3 (AKiTiO Node) + Win10 1903 [build link]  


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itsage
(@itsage)
Illustrious Member Admin
Joined: 4 years ago
 

@cnon297,  Thank you for sharing this nice build! If you want to set up Boot Camp, I'd recommend going with Win10 1903 V1 ISO. You can check this discussion which has download link and ways to prevent Windows Updates.

 

external graphics card builds
best laptops for external GPU
eGPU enclosure buyer's guide

 
2013 Mac Pro (FP D500 x2) [3rd,12C,E] + RX 5700 XT @ 16Gbps-TB2>TB3 (Mantiz Saturn Pro) + macOS 11 [build link]  


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cnon297
(@cnon297)
Eminent Member
Joined: 11 months ago
 

@itsage, Thanks!  For my Vega56 eGPU I performed a clean install of BootCamp and Win10 1903 V2.  But I’ll download 1903 V1 and try again. 

 

FWIW my 980Ti & 1080Ti eGPUs had the same error 12 (insufficient resources) issue in 1903 V2 that was resolved after disabling the Bluetooth and camera devices.  But no amount of disabled devices could free enough resources for my Vega56 eGPU.  I suspect the error 12 message for my Vega56 may not actually be caused by “insufficient resources.”  

2019 13" CTO MBPro dual TB3 4-core 1.4GHz i5 + Akitio Node + Vega56
2009 Mac Pro 5,1 3.46 6-core Xeon + Apple-Nvidia GT120 + MSI 1080TI Gaming X

 
2019 13" MacBook Pro [8th,4C,U] + HD 7970 @32Gbps-TB3 (AKiTiO Node) + Win10 1903 [build link]  


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itsage
(@itsage)
Illustrious Member Admin
Joined: 4 years ago
 

@cnon297,  Windows 10 1903 V1 (OS Version 18362.30) is very crucial in getting an AMD eGPU to work in Boot Camp. I can hot-plug AMD eGPU and it works with the 2019 13-in MacBook Pro using this version. Make sure to disable Windows Updates once you have it working.

 

external graphics card builds
best laptops for external GPU
eGPU enclosure buyer's guide

 
2013 Mac Pro (FP D500 x2) [3rd,12C,E] + RX 5700 XT @ 16Gbps-TB2>TB3 (Mantiz Saturn Pro) + macOS 11 [build link]  


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cnon297
(@cnon297)
Eminent Member
Joined: 11 months ago
 

@itsage, I removed Win10 1903 V2 from my 2019 13" MBPro (dual TB3) and re-installed BootCamp with Win10 1903 V1.  Afterwards my Vega 56 + Node eGPU worked immediately!  In addition, I did not have to disable FaceTime camera or Bluetooth devices as was required for my Nvidia eGPU + Win10 builds.  Also, I did not hot-plug the Vega 56 eGPU, it was connected and powered up before powering up the 13"MBPro.  In that regard it actually works better in Win10 than macOS.

 

One minor issue is the 13" Retina display is stuck at the blue Windows logo (just before login). Frankly I don't mind this because I typical use my 13" MBPro in clamshell / closed lid mode when connected to an eGPU (both MacOS & Win10).  Rebooting Win10 without the eGPU connected enables the 13" Retina display. 

 

FWIW I did troubleshoot with DDU and installed the latest drivers from BootCampDrivers.com.  I also tried disabling as many devices as possible to free resources.  Even tho that failed, I'm very satisfied with the results.  Because I finally have a single, working eGPU in both macOS and Win10!  

2019 13" CTO MBPro dual TB3 4-core 1.4GHz i5 + Akitio Node + Vega56
2009 Mac Pro 5,1 3.46 6-core Xeon + Apple-Nvidia GT120 + MSI 1080TI Gaming X

 
2019 13" MacBook Pro [8th,4C,U] + HD 7970 @32Gbps-TB3 (AKiTiO Node) + Win10 1903 [build link]  


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itsage
(@itsage)
Illustrious Member Admin
Joined: 4 years ago
 

@cnon297, Having the eGPU connected prior to boot will deactivate the iGPU. This causes the stuck Windows logo. You'd need an EFI Boot loader such as automate-eGPU EFI or modified apple_set_os v0.5 to keep the iGPU activated.

 

external graphics card builds
best laptops for external GPU
eGPU enclosure buyer's guide

 
2013 Mac Pro (FP D500 x2) [3rd,12C,E] + RX 5700 XT @ 16Gbps-TB2>TB3 (Mantiz Saturn Pro) + macOS 11 [build link]  


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cnon297
(@cnon297)
Eminent Member
Joined: 11 months ago
 

@itsage, I setup a USB flash drive with automate-eGPU EFI per @goalque instructions.  The 13" Retina display is now active under Win10, but the Node+Vega56 is no longer detected.  It doesn't show up in Win10 device mgr either (not even an error 12 message).  Power cycling or hot-plugging the eGPU has no effect.  FWIW I get the message "eGPU not detected" using the EFI boot.  But if I'm interpreting the instructions correctly; I believe this message is supposed to be ignored.  

 

Rebooting restores the eGPU in Win10 but the 13" Retina display flickers at the Win10 logo as before.  I haven't tried the modified apple_set_os v0.5 yet as I didn't see it in the eGPU.io software menu & wasn't sure how to locate it.  Do you have a link I can refer to?

 

Also, I apologize for tying up any more of your time.  Your suggestion of using 1903 v1 instead of 1903 v2 is what enabled my Node+Vega56 eGPU under Win10 (Thank you!)!  I don't mind not having access to the 13" Retina display under Win10 since I'm almost always in Closed Lid mode when using eGPUs.  I don't mind troubleshooting the issue further if it's not an inconvenience.  I'd end up using closed lid mode regardless which is why I'd feel badly using your free time for this.  Kind regards.....joe

2019 13" CTO MBPro dual TB3 4-core 1.4GHz i5 + Akitio Node + Vega56
2009 Mac Pro 5,1 3.46 6-core Xeon + Apple-Nvidia GT120 + MSI 1080TI Gaming X

 
2019 13" MacBook Pro [8th,4C,U] + HD 7970 @32Gbps-TB3 (AKiTiO Node) + Win10 1903 [build link]  


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itsage
(@itsage)
Illustrious Member Admin
Joined: 4 years ago
 

@cnon297, Here's the discussion link to modified apple_set_os v0.5 that I've been using on the 2019 13-in MacBook Pro.

 

external graphics card builds
best laptops for external GPU
eGPU enclosure buyer's guide

 
2013 Mac Pro (FP D500 x2) [3rd,12C,E] + RX 5700 XT @ 16Gbps-TB2>TB3 (Mantiz Saturn Pro) + macOS 11 [build link]  


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Neo Smith
(@neo_smith)
Active Member
Joined: 7 months ago
 

Thanks for your sharing! But I think the Geekbench4 OpenCL score is a little bit low, because guys on Youtube get more than 150k score with Vega56 eGPU

Macbook Pro 2018 / Vega56(eGPU)


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cnon297
(@cnon297)
Eminent Member
Joined: 11 months ago
 

Hi @neo_smith, I appreciate the info so I re-ran the GB4 OpenCL test just now.  There was a GB4 upgrade from 4.3.3 to 4.4.2 but the results were about the same:  130247.  

 

Is it possible the YouTubers had a different configuration?  Perhaps a more extensively overclocked Vega 56?  Mine is a the PowerColor Red Dragon Vega 56 with only a modest overlock (1177MHz GPU, 1478MHz Boost, 800MHz memory)? 

 

 

GB433 V56 eGPU OCL 030629
GB442 V56 eGPU OCL 030629

2019 13" CTO MBPro dual TB3 4-core 1.4GHz i5 + Akitio Node + Vega56
2009 Mac Pro 5,1 3.46 6-core Xeon + Apple-Nvidia GT120 + MSI 1080TI Gaming X

 
2019 13" MacBook Pro [8th,4C,U] + HD 7970 @32Gbps-TB3 (AKiTiO Node) + Win10 1903 [build link]  


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