2021 14" Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio [11th,4C,H] + RTX 2080 Ti @ 32Gbps-TB4 (WD_Black D50 * ADT-Link R43SG) + Win11 [itsage]
I have been experimenting with water cooling and it turns out an external GPU is the perfect learning platform. I didn't need to worry about TDP of both CPU and GPU or needing additional components in a typical Desktop custom loop. Without the constraints of the PC case and motherboard, I felt more confident in the event of water spilling I wouldn't damage expensive stuff. The build began with a great find at Microcenter on an EVGA RTX 2080 Ti XC Hydro Copper graphics card ($240). It was sold as-is due to issues reported by previous buyers. I tore the whole thing apart as soon as I got home to clean the water block and applied new thermal paste and pads. All was well!
Next was to procure the different components in a water loop. I got a FreezeMod 800L/H pump + reservoir ($74 Amazon), an open-box XSPC RX120 V3 radiator ($23 TitanRig), a 6-pack Bitspower G1/4" fittings for 16mm OD rigid tubing ($34 TitanRig), a meter long Bitspower 16mm OD rigid tubing ($8 Microcenter), 2x Bitspower 120mm cooling fans ($11 each Microcenter), a Lamptron CFP30 Fan & LED controller ($9 TitanRig), and a gallon bottle of distilled water ($2 grocery store). What I learned fairly quick is how expensive the fittings can get, and you would always need more fittings than you thought. I made a couple more trips to Microcenter to get 2x plug fittings ($5 each) to close unused inlets/outlets on the reservoir.
Also not accounted for in the component list are some tools needed to bend the rigid tubing. I have a heat gun in my household tool box, but had to purchase a Thermaltake Pacific PETG Hard Tube Bending Kit. It takes a lot of patience to learn the right melting point of the tubing material. I wasted nearly .5m of tubing due to overheating (warped, bubbles, and burnt). The end result is far from perfect but I archived a full loop without any leaking.
2021 14" Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio – Intel Core i5-11300H + Iris Xe Graphics iGPU /16GB RAM/256GB SSD
The hard part of this build is in hardware connection. The software part is almost plug-and-play. The non-functional piece is sleep mode. The laptop would go to sleep but the ADT-Link R43SG adapter does not power down. When Windows wakes up from sleep, it recognizes the Thunderbolt 3 dock, but cannot find an active PCIe component anymore. The different power states between three devices cause a real headache. A simple reboot does not get the eGPU detected again after sleep and wake issue. What I needed to do is a full power reset of WD_Black D50 and ADT-Link R43SG as well as disconnecting the M.2 adapter from the TB3 dock NVMe M.2 slot. Now, I either disconnect the Thunderbolt 3 cable or turn the laptop off completely when I'm done using this eGPU to prevent this hassle.
Best part of this eGPU is the performance. The JHL7440 Thunderbolt 3 controller in this WD-Black D50 Game Dock provides up to 3,000 MB/s throughput [discussion link]. It's higher than the typical limit of 2,800 MB/s in most Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosures. I had initially planned on connecting the PCIe 4.0 version of the R43SG 4.0 to the Surface Laptop Studio. Unfortunately, the M.2 slot inside this laptop is only running at PCIe 3.0. Another obstacle is the fact that Microsoft glued the battery packs to the bottom case so there's a thin ribbon cable attaching to the motherboard. Having a half opened laptop to use the R43SG adapter for eGPU wouldn't be very safe imo.
Some would say the 120mm radiator is insufficient to cool the RTX 2080 Ti. I have found it to be working very well with two cooling fans in push-pull configuration. I could actually overclock this card to near 2,200 MHz GPU and 8,500 MHz memory. The most stable settings I've found was 2,100 MHz GPU and 8,300 MHz memory. It is well above the default clocks of 1,545 MHz GPU and 7,000 MHz memory. Left screen capture is AIDA64 GPGPU with the default vBIOS, and right screen capture is with the OC applied.
The 120Hz panel on this Surface Laptop Studio is very nice. I'm able to run the eGPU in loopback mode and lose about 10% performance, but in FHD the FPS is making the most of 120Hz refresh rate so it's a very good pairing. Here are some synthetic benchmark numbers in both loopback and external monitor.
|Loopback Internal Display||External HDMI Monitor|
Cooling performance is excellent with this "open" custom loop. The eGPU temp never went above low 40˚C. I'm setting the fan controller knob at the minimum settings and there's very little noise during use. Most of the warm air and noise come from the SLS base. The Lamptron CFP30 controller handle RGB on the fans too. The default blue matches both EVGA RTX 2080 Ti XC Hydro Copper and Windows 11 background perfectly. This eGPU setup costs more than a certified eGFX such as Razer Core X Chroma or Mantiz Saturn Pro, but it provides better performance and flexibility. Best of all is the water cool factor.
Love the build!
Side question: @itsage do you think the Studio is the best laptop for eGPU that you've ever used? (You seem to have a lot of laptops)
I'm debating between keeping my MBP 16' i9 vs selling it to buy the studio. It looks awesome and you confirmed it working with eGPU.
@mozky, H-CPU laptops with a direct connection from Thunderbolt controller to the processor are best for eGPU performance. 11th generation H-CPU such as this Surface Laptop Studio has integrated TBT controller so it's a direct connection. The 15-in and 16-in MacBook Pros have a fairly unique arrangement for 6-9th generation H-CPU regarding Thunderbolt connection. Apple route the TBT controllers directly to the CPU rather than going through the PCH first (like most other laptops). I would hang on to the 2019 16-in i9 rather than sell it to buy SLS. The eGPU performance is very comparable between them. Maybe wait for the next version of the SLS because I personally don't like the sharp edges and the awning design of the bottom case. Microsoft may have improved the hinges of the touch display too by then.
@itsage, thank you for the advice and explanation. I read that SLS has a haptic touchpad and was hoping I can make the switch. I've always prefered Windows but the Apple touchpad is just awesome (not the size, just the force touch is additive).
@mozky, I agree with the second-to-none Apple trackpad. The one thing I have not found replacement for in Windows is drag with three fingers. The trackpad on the SLS is really good, but not on par with MacBook Pro just yet.
Another obstacle is the fact that Microsoft glued the battery packs to the bottom case so there's a thin ribbon cable attaching to the motherboard.
Have you tried removing the battery/looking at the seams? On the picture from your other post it looks like there are some kind of holders on sides + 4 flaps that you can pull on I guess. If it's glued I hope the removal process is at least easier than on previous surfaces and it won't start burning I was waiting for an iFixit teardown but so far it doesn't look like it's coming. I'm curious about alder lake laptops performance/power consuption. SLS is not yet available in EU anyway, might as well wait for 2nd gen device.
Also one more stupid question, does that laptop stand has a fan too? Do you by any chance have a link for it? I did not find any nice looking stand that does not have a protruding legs on the front. This water-cooling setup looks dope.
@elonesh, I have not removed the battery packs and don't plan on doing that anytime soon. Those tabs are for the battery adhesive strips as you indicated. My laptop stand doesn't have any fans. It's an Aluratek Universal Foldable Laptop Stand [Model AULS01F].
I hope it is allowed to ask questions here in this thread about your (amazing) build.
The SLS is finally available to preorder in my country and will be available at the end of February.
I just wanted to know if you did run into any scenarios where you felt like the CPU was the bottleneck? I am quite sad about Microsoft sticking to quad cores for their top of the line devices. I am not sure it will handle my tasks well. As an example, I am already quite unsatisfied with my Book 3 and it's CPU performance for edititing and 3D modeling - not to mention my worries for eGPU performance on games.
@strako, Depending on your use with the SLS + eGPU, the quad-core CPU might not be the bottleneck. I would still recommend waiting for the revision of SLS if possible. You'll have 12th gen CPU and possible a redesign.