2019 15" Clevo PB50 (RTX2060) [9th,6C,H] + RTX 2080 Ti @ 32Gbps-M2 (ADT-Link R43SG) + Win10 // custom enclosure
So some basic info about me and my motivations of this build.
I love VR. I have Valve Index which I ordered the day Half-Life: Alyx was announced. Before that I had HTC Vive (the original one) that I only used seldomly because the ergonomics of the device was not very good for me (a far-sighted person wearing glasses) so there was a pretty big "getting it running" psychological barrier.
This went away with the Valve Index for two reasons - 1) It's SO freaking easy and convenient to just put it on and start playing, and to top that off, the controllers stay on your hands even if you don't grip them - they have straps. 2) I bought custom made lenses from Widmo VR to exactly match my prescription glasses of +2.7. Now I just take my glasses off, put on the HMD and bam! I'm im the Matrix.
I bought this laptop having very good experience with my previous Clevo (P640RE which I ordered from PC Specialist). This time I chose Obsidian PC as they really well focus on good thermals and they also supply their own software that automatically provides driver upgrades (and really bleeding edge ones, not like other manufacturers that basically dump the install CD to the site and leave it rotting there for 5 years), precise fan curve control and all that jazz.
So you would think that RTX 2060 paired with 144 Hz G-Sync display is enough for gaming right? WRONG! The Index is SO power demanding and if you are also a casual streamer you also use the GPU for encoding using NVENC, finally, there is a tool called OVR Toolkit that creates floating copies of actual desktop windows in the VR space around you so you can watch the Twitch chat since you can't just put that on a second display when you are in VR, can you?
So it was around January I decided I wanted to experience Half-Life: Alyx in the best way possible. I have money to spend, but I am not one to spend it on overpriced big brand bullshit that cuts me from modularity (for this reason I didn't buy the AORUS 2080Ti egpu). I also read the nando4's highly educational comparison between TB3 and M.2 here and I figured since I have no way of knowing what kind of game will HLA be (that is, what packet size will it use), I wanted the unrestricted direct access of the M.2 that I would maybe later downgrade to TB3 for convenience.
Clevo PB50RD (built by Obsidian-PC in autumn 2019)
i7-9750H - 6cores, 2.6GHz (4.5Ghz turbo)
32GB DDR4-2666 RAM
15" full-hd 144Hz display (AUO B156HAN)
iGPU Intel UHD 630
dGPU NVidia RTX 2060
This computer is a serious beast. The ultra-thin bezels give it basically a 14"-like chassis so it's very portable and the online pictures don't do it very good justice - IRL it looks much less bulky. It also has ridiculously good thermals - I have never seen the RTX 2060 go over 70°C. I keep the laptop proped, but still, an amazing feat for such a compact computer. I guess it makes sense since it has massive heat pipes and two fans that blow both from the rear and from the sides. Connectivity also exceeds what's regular in this price range as I have 3x USB3 type A, 1 USB type C, Thunderbolt 3, 1Gbe, HDMI, miniDP (both directly connected to the dGPU for VR or G-sync), separate mic and phones jack on the correct side (which is left since virtually all headphones have the cable on the left one), freakin removable battery. Did I mention the internal 144 Hz display has G-sync? Inside we have two M.2 M-key, and one SATA 2,5". Ideal for eGPU purposes.
Not doing anything funky OS-wise, just regular Win10Pro I also use to produce music and DJ and code and everything...
- MSI NVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti OC GAMING TRIO
So I installed the R43SG to the second M.2 slot of my computer, leaving the system drive in the first and tested with a USB3 card I had lying around. This proved to be working.
I called up my neighbour who used to do a lot of mining and he lent me an old RX 580 over the weekend. I tested it and the card just booted up and straight up worked in my system. I spent almost an hour diagnosing why it gave me worse performance in VR than the dGPU until I actually googled the card to find out it IS about 40% slower than my dGPU
Verifying it works, I bought the 2080 Ti. Had to also borrow a different PSU as I didn't have enough cabling to fit all the power slots on this power hungry beast and it refused to run before I powered them all, although it lit up the LEDs which was mildly confusing.
Having played first hour and half of HLA on release day, it became obvious I need a proper chassis for the eGPU with all my cats running around. I figured since I basically bought the longest freakin card that exists, I will have no problem changing it later for a different one, if that will be ever needed...
So I called up my friend with a CNC laser in his garrage (don't ask) and the next day, he drew me a CAD model of the enclosure, then lasered it out out of sheet metal (and a thicc one at that, he only had 1.5mm on stock, so this thing is freakin heavy!). We focused on enough air for the GPU and also enough holes to be able to easily connect and disconnect stuff. After lasering, we sanded it down a little and bended and welded together. It's built like a tank, I am sure it will outlive me.
When I came home and tried the card, it fitted perfectly, but was still a little fiddly in that. I unscrewed the rubber feet of the R43SG, bought longer screws and driller holes in the bottom side of the enclosure so I could screw the board to the enclosure INCLUDING the feet to use them as standoffs. I also sawed a little piece of wood to support the far end of the GPU because it is seriously heavy and it put a lot of strain on that board. I also had to put some rubber feet stickers since the screws that were holding the board to the chassis scratched my table. This also helped with a little bit of air access from the bottom grill. A nice thing is that the screws electrically connect to the ground of the R43SG that connects to the PSU ground. I verified with a multimeter that the enclosure is connected to my radiator piping (that is also grounded).
Finally, it was time to make the connection more convenient since I didn't feel like using my laptop with bottom cover removed. So first I looked up the price of the replacement bottom cover to know how much it's going to set me back if I f*ck this up. 40€ - OK, that's reasonable. So I bought a dremmel and sawed a hole in the cover, vaccuming directly where I was cutting so I don't have any metal dust on the cover. Excuse my crude handywork, this was the first time I did something like that. I also had to cut not only through the plastic, but also through a layer of EM shielding sheet metal that also works as SSD cooler (provided that you put thick enough thermal conductive strip on it to reach it)
I used the provided MSI Afterburner tool to do the "OC Scan" to auto-overclock the card to the max, so that's why you're seeing these weird clocks. I've never seen it go over 61°C with all this fresh air around it.
1) Connect R43SG to the second M.2 slot
2) Connect all PSU cables to GPU and R43SG
3) Power on computer - it will restart automatically exactly once before booting
3.1) Optional: Ignore any BSOD that comes up and wait for second start
4) Install latest driver for desktop cards, use nvidia-error43-fixer to fix error 43 - this will make dGPU error 43 for this session
5) Play 😉
For uninstallation, simply shut down, remove M.2 cable and restart. dGPU will be working or will be in error 43 - simply remove and let Windows re-detect in Device Manager to be portable again.
(all external display)
It gave me enough power to experience VR AAA titles in high supersampling rates and stream it at the same time.
But despite the raw power the GPU has, I was still running into some limitations when running the Valve Index at 120 fps. CPU or bus bound I think.
So I will probably not be using this permanently since it is still pretty clumsy to assemble and disassemble. I always thought I need one machine for everything but since I have new job that doesn't require me to travel, I will probably be selling the Clevo laptop and switch to mini-ITX desktop where I will put the 2080 Ti. The laptop was sitting at home 99% of the time anyway and I am using my Surface Go for light work or RDPing to home when I need some travel work. This will prevent me from gaming on the go with the RTX 2060 dGPU... I need to think about this.
But I am pretty sure I will not be using this enclosure in the long run, so if anyone is interested in buying this ridiculous feat of backyard engineering, let me know I think I would pass it for like 100$ including the R43SG + whatever the shipping costs are, I am sure it would survive harsh handling
Thank you for submitting your build. Lovely work.
As you are have top tier eGPU hardware, would you mind submitting more performance benchmarks? eg: Forza 4 Horizon, Firestrike.
Hi, I have already built a desktop for the RTX 2080 Ti, and it is clear how much of a bottleneck the M.2 was.
Most apparent when loading between levels in Half-Life: Alyx, where I assume it pushes textures into the VRAM.
On the eGPU setup, it took maybe good 30-40 seconds to load a level, while here it takes about 5 seconds.
Mind you, the desktop has Ryzen 7 3800X but that certainly doesn't make that big of a difference.
The frame rate is also something else, over M.2 I would get frequent reprojections even at 120 Hz,
while here I get literally spotless gaming at 150% upscale on 144 Hz.
So for my usage - top tier VR gaming - the eGPU turned not to be the solution. Certainly feels like
a letdown after all that work on the chassis, but at least it was fun doing it
Too many bandwidth demanding devices are plugged on your PCH I think.
Sata SSD, Nvme SSD, and eGPU. All these go through DMI 3.0 which is only 32Gbps to communicate with CPU.
Hope you don't play those games which read&write the SSD constantly while running.
However, if the games you play just r&w while switching game levels, then that competition for bandwidth won't affect much.
I mean yes, demanding devices but I am sure the traffic on those SSDs is minuscule during gameplay. So it would explain the long loading times, not the slower framerate.
I am certainly happy to have gone through that build, and maybe it will come in handy sometime if nobody buys it.
I know I am very hard on that setup, I am sure it would have been excellent for any regular gaming (but then again that would be very annoying to have that eGPU directly between me and the laptop) but for VR gaming on the Index (which itself is a top tier headset with crazy demands if running on those higher framerates) it was not enough for me