2019 16" MacBook Pro (RP5500M) [9th,8C,H] + RX 5700 @ 32Gbps-TB3 (ADT-Link R43SG * M.2-TB3) + macOS 10.15.1 & Win10 1903
This is my first attempt with M.2 eGPU Adapter which caters to laptops without Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. Thanks to NVMe M.2 Thunderbolt 3 enclosures becoming more affordable (as low as $50) we could finally build a DIY Thunderbolt 3 solution for around $100. I bought the ADT-Link R43SG based on @nando4‘s recommendation. It was $50 from Aliexpress and took a couple of weeks to arrive. The PSU pairing would depend on power requirement of your graphics card. For this build with a reference RX 5700, the Dell DA-2 220W output was sufficient.
2019 16″ MacBook Pro – i9-9880H/HD Graphics 630 iGPU & Radeon Pro 5500M dGPU/16GB RAM/1TB SSD
This was a surprisingly easy process. The Wavlink UTE02 NVMe M.2 to TB3 mainboard contains TI83 USB-C controller & Intel DSL6540 Thunderbolt 3 controller so it has native support in macOS. So was the Radeon RX 5700 graphics card. The unknown piece to me was the ADT-Link R43SG which hosts the graphics card and facilitates the PCIe connection from the slot through an M.2 connector then eventually to Thunderbolt 3 connector.
The ADT-Link R43SG board has plenty of toggle switches and power connectors. If you’re unsure of the settings, leave everything as is or read usage instructions in this R43SG-TB3 discussion. First step was to connect the 8-pin plug from Dell DA-2 power brick to the corresponding power receptacle on R43SG board. The package comes with an 8-pin to dual 6 + 2-pin PCIe cable to power the graphics card. I used it to connect the RX 5700 GPU. Last step was to secure the M.2 connector to the UTE02 TB3 board. Once these tasks were done, a simple hot-plug got the eGPU going in macOS!
In Windows this setup works the same way. Currently the modified Radeon drivers from Bootcampdrivers.com doesn’t work with the 2019 16-in MacBook Pro‘s RP 5500M dGPU just yet so the RX 5700 eGPU needs an external monitor for gaming use. There are more details in my previous build (XG Station 2 + RX 5700 XT).
I ran Unigine and 3DMark in Boot Camp only. For macOS performance numbers, you can check my other build with the 2019 16-in MacBook Pro + RX 580/RX Vega 56/RX 5700 XT/Radeon VII eGPUs. Due to no gaming drivers for the Radeon Pro 5500M discrete graphics card, I used the stock Apple Boot Camp drivers for these tests. The RX 5700 external graphics card was running Radeon graphics drivers version 19.11.1 (from BCD).
|RP 5500M dGPU||RX 5700 eGPU|
I’m very glad we start seeing more affordable choices for external graphics. This entire eGPU solution was $120 ($50 for ADT-Link R43SG, $50 for Wavlink UTE02, and $20 for Dell DA-2). Better yet the M.2 eGPU adapter is way more versatile thanks to compatibility with many laptops. It also has better performance than Thunderbolt 3 interface. My next build using this ADT-Link R43SG is with the MSI Prestige 15 (6-core i7-10710U). An intriguing host I also have in mind is the 2015 15″ MacBook Pro by using a NGFF M.2 nVME adapter.
This is cool as hell, kinda miss the old self build/hack days (not that I ever did anything more than copy a couple of easy builds from smart folks).
@eightarmedpet Definitely more fun piecing everything together than going with a ready-to-go eGPU enclosure. Too bad the 2018 Mac mini doesn’t have an M.2 or NVMe slot. I do have plans for putting together a Mac mini tower with eGPU inside.
Could you elaborate on the M.2 Connector (link between the ADT and Wavlink boards)? Was this included with the ADT or a separate purchase/you already had it? If not included, a product link would be awesome. Am not very familiar with these technologies.
Edit: looking at the ADT product page, it allows for cable length selection, so I am guessing it’s a part of that.
@mac_editor Yes the cable is included. Standard is 25cm and there’s an option for 50cm. I should have taken pictures of the unboxing but was too excited to get it running. @nando4 did a great detailing post on the different uses of this ADT-Link R43SG adapter.
Going through the Wavlink will deliver the usual TB3 performance correct? Only hooking up to a laptops m.2 slot will deliver more performance?
Also does an active 2 meter TB3 cable work with this setup?
@sernie It’s likely not going to work through Thunderbolt 2 interface because the UTE02 main board needs bus-power from the Thunderbolt 3 port. Using the Apple Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt adapter would not provide bus power. If your 2015 27″ iMac has the Fusion drive, it’s actually the best Mac to use this ADT-Link R43SG M.2 eGPU adapter. You can swap the spinning drive out for SATA 2.5″ SSD, then pop the ADT-Link R43SG M.2 connector into the iMac PCIe SSD slot using a NGFF NVMe M.2 adapter. The PCIe extension cable can be routed through the rear exhaust vent cutouts. Piggyback the eGPU on the iMac stand with something like the Twelve South Backpack.
This reply is very helpful. Thank you for these suggestions. Yes I am running an iMac with a Fusion Drive. Does this mean I can actually use an EGPU through the ADT-Link R43SG as well as use an NVMe M.2 adapter? Sorry if this seems to be a noob question because I am really looking at upping the performance of my mac the cheapest route possible.
@ritterbutzke Yes direct M.2 slot connection would be faster. Routing through the Thunderbolt 3 connection results in performance similar to a Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosure. It should work the same way regarding Thunderbolt 3 cables. As long as the Thunderbolt 3 port from the host computer provides sufficient bus power to run the UTe02 TB3 board, this setup will work.
@sernie The PCIe SSD slot inside Mac computers are not standard keys. Therefore you’d need an adapter to connect the M.2 to the PCIe SSD slot. This NGFF NVMe M.2 adapter is one I’d recommend. I’ve used it in many Mac NVMe SSD upgrades. The late 2015 Macs have x4 PCIe 3.0 through the SSD slot so you’d get full bandwidth.
I ran some benchmarks last night and updated the OP with numbers. The 5700 eGPU is almost twice the performance of the 5500M dGPU. One thing to note is that when both CPU and dGPU were running, the cooling fans immediately came on full speed. This was not the case when using the eGPU.
But this would still work with the Mac mini simply through one of the four TB3 ports, right?
EDIT: base on the comment above I now understand that the M.2 would be faster/better performance
You could connect a Thunderbolt 3 device that has two Thunderbolt 3 ports to the Thunderbolt 2 Mac so that you can power the Thunderbolt 3 NVMe enclosure by connecting it to the Thunderbolt 3 device. But Thunderbolt 3 devices are expensive so you might as well get a Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosure at that point.
Yes, the Mac Mini can power a Thunderbolt 3 NVMe enclosure. It's limited by the Thunderbolt 3 connection just like any Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosure.
M.2 is faster only if it's a PCIe 3.0 x4 connection (no Thunderbolt 3 between CPU and eGPU). Actually, PCIe 3.0 x1 might also give better eGPU performance even though it has less bandwidth than Thunderbolt https://egpu.io/forums/thunderbolt-enclosures/a-call-for-measurements-isolating-the-thunderbolt-effect/paged/5/#post-14987
First off, this is really cool! Second, you say this setup will work for computers without TB3, so would this in theory be able to work with a surface laptop 3 that has usb-c but no TB3? Excuse me for being such a noob lol.
@charbarhoo GPUs connect to the computer using PCIe. A USB controller cannot do PCIe unless it's USB4 (doesn't exist yet) or Thunderbolt 3. You need a connection on your computer that does PCIe. Possible connections are Thunderbolt, PCIe, mPCIe, M.2, ExpressCard. Check the eGPU.io's Buyer's Guide.
Hello there itsage, I'm a new forum member here on egpu.io. I had discovered your post while searching around to find cheap alternatives to egpu boxes. I was wondering if you could answer something though about this setup for me. I know with other cheap solution for external gpus setups, like the exp gdc beast for example, that when everything is hooked up to a laptop, the gpu doesn't power up until the laptop is powered on, and vice versa. So what I'm wanting to know is if this is the case when using the R43SG with a M.2 to TB3 enclosure, or if it'll have to be powered on and off manually when using such a setup.
Thanks in advance,
Andrew Keller aka anjuskel
@andrew_keller The ADT-Link R43SG can function both ways. By default it’s set to sense power signal from the host machine and will turn on/off accordingly. You can also put the toggle switch to have it power on all the time regardless of host computer power state.
@andrew_keller Yes it worked perfectly when connected through the M.2 Thunderbolt 3 board in this setup. Here’s the discussion on ADT-Link R43SG with additional information on the toggle switches and different settings.
I’ll have to take a look at it then. I’ve ordered both the R43SG and a equivalent M.2 to TB3 enclosure online both for a good price, lowest I could find. If anyone is interested in the site I purchased them, PM me
@ondert Definitely! When I have more time, I will take apart my Phanteks Evolv Shift X and use the components in this eGPU setup for the 2018 Mac mini. The nice thing about this case as well as many ITX cases is that the GPU connection typically goes through a PCIe riser which provides a lot of flexibility. The Mac mini will occupy motherboard + CPU cooler area. I can use the same arrangement of SFX PSU, cooling fans, GPU mount, and cable management. The Mac mini will be placed vertically for the I/Os accessible from the top. One Thunderbolt 3 controller hosts the eGPU, the other hosts an NVMe 1TB drive. I will use a USB fan controller to run the case cooling fans (4x 140mm).
That would be terrific! I have a Dan A4 SFX case at home, if only I know CAD programs so I could have design some 3D parts to put all of them together in it.
I'm looking to do something very similar with an ITX case. My Red Devil 5700 xt just arrived but I can't decide on a power supply. What would you consider to be the sweet spot in terms of wattage?
Hero @itsage strikes again! Nice work!!!
You really are an inspiration to the eGPU community. While I've been going the other route and just going with SFF builds and Windows 10, you're still plugging away with the eGPU's and Macs (and other computers as well)!! I'm interested to see how your Mac mini Evolv Shift X tower comes out. While I would never need that much power coming out of a Mac, it's a pretty cool concept.
@omardesu Here are some early steps of my Mac mini ITX tower build. I was going to use the ADT-Link R43SG M.2 eGPU adapter but I realized using the Mantiz Venus Thunderbolt 3 board and its expansion I/O daughterboard would give me even more flexibility. First of all is the nice integration of two externally mounted USB 3.0 ports. The Evolv Shift X includes a USB 3.0 cable that can go right into the expansion daughterboard. The Mantiz mainboard is smaller so it doesn’t restrict internal airflow as much. Last but not least is the option to use SATA connection for external SSD. My plan is to use the second TB3 controller on the Mac mini to host an NVMe drive via Wavlink UTE02 Thunderbolt 3 enclosure.
Thank you for such an amazing build guide. I'm wondering about one thing though, why did you go for ADT-Link pcie x16 to M.2 with Wavlink UTE02 M.2-TB3 adapter. Why didn't you just get ADT-Link R43SG-TB3 which is a pcie x16 to thunderbolt 3 adapter?
Also I'm new here! just made an account so that I could comment 🙂
looking forward to being a long time member!
EDIT: I think I got it after going through the ADT-Link discussion forum (correct me if I'm wrong). So the ADT-Link R43SG-TB3 is basically a pcie x16 to nvme adapter with a nvme to tb3 adapter being shipped in one package. And thus you buying the ADT-Link R43SG and Wavlink UTE02 M.2-TB3 doesn't make any difference than buying ADT-Link R43SG-TB3 as a whole?
God only knows,
"Though it's not so easy to get through
Here I am, I'm sure that things will go my way".
@dramikei Welcome aboard! They are essentially the same kit, combing the ADT-Link R43SG M.2 eGPU adapter with a M.2-TB3 board. I went with the Wavlink UTE02 because of its flexibility, an NVMe Thunderbolt 3 enclosure for external SSD. It was also on sale for a great price, $50.
The less fancy ADT-Link cables also work. Or buy an M.2 to PCIe x4 adapter (no cable):
If I understand well, this is a way to build our own egpu ... tb3 -> nvme -> Pcie
Then how you can have better performances ? The TB3 limit the bandwidth no?
Thanx in advance
Thunderbolt 3 NVMe adapter is just a way to make a Thunderbolt 3 egpu.
For best performance, you need to eliminate Thunderbolt altogether and connect directly to an M.2 slot of your computer.
Yes, At the end I understand well 🙂 Nvme is in case we have direct access.
Interesting stuff! Divide by two+ the price to connect e CG to a laptop...