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).
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@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.
"Desultory reading is delightful, but to be beneficial, our reading must be carefully directed." — Seneca
@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?
I'd be interested to see if the same setup could be done to an old iMac 27' Late 2015 or those that are still in Thunderbolt 2 below.
@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.