I've been waiting for a month now, but it's finally here. My Mac mini 2018/2020 arrived!
- Computer: Mac mini 2018/2020, 8GB ram, 512GB SSD
- Replacement ram: 2x Kingston HyperX 2666MHz CL15 16GB, HX426S15IB2K2/32
- External GPU enclosure: Razer Core X
- GPU: PowerColor Red Dragon 5700 XT
Before I even booted it I had a mission. Two 4Gb sticks had to be exchanged for two 16Gb sticks. Getting the connections loose for the fan and led light without breaking them, and sliding the computer out of it's enclosure, was nerve-wracking. With this new experience under my belt I feel I can probably do it again without much hassle though. It's fiddly more than it is directly difficult.
One needs the proper tools, and luckily I came prepared with an iFixit toolkit. Their guide was with me on the iPad every step of the way. My greatest takeaway from the comment field: counter the force on the pull tabs with a spudger or something to lessen the risk of pulling the socket from the motherboard and you're golden. Pry gently and wiggle the power connector loose, I pushed it back in with a spudger.
Shoving it all together I left the baseplate off, only leaving the bottom shield. Thence I added some padding to lift it up a tad for airflow and set it upon a Satechi aluminium hub for a base. After which I hooked it all up. It. Looks. Glorious.
The Razer Core X and PowerColor Red Dragon 5700 XT had arrived earlier and was truly plug and play. My little computer nook is now fully operational! Thanks to long HDMI cables I connected both the Mac and the eGPU to the 4K Philips display. It works nearly flawlessly. I can't get it to boot through the eGPU, but in a way I don't mind not having the eGPU suck power doing basically nothing. This way I can turn it on for games and video editing.
With wireless everything else it's quite a nice setup. If I do say so myself.
An update to MacOS 10.15.5 later and everything was running just fine. Memory was registered properly as 32GB, and the eGPU runs as expected (though I've only tried it in Firewatch so far). I've installed Macs fan control to set a custom fan curve and set the ramp-up to start from 65c. Turbo Boost Switcher is also used for ordinary desktop stuff like web browsing. The stock speed is perfectly adequate for those uses.
Ambient temps in my apartment are quite high, it being summer in Sweden and our apartment buildings rarely if ever come with AC, at 25-27c. Still the temps only hover around 40c in non-demanding use with the occasional spike to 60c when doing some GIMP work. Heck, Firewatch didn't trigger the fans much at all. Though I didn't keep an eagle eye on the temps while gaming, mostly going by ear. Admittedly it's a rather non-demanding game CPU wise and non-scientific.
The only thing left for me to do is to replace the padding I use for the Satechi Hub. I'll get some rubber grommets of some kind to reduce slippage risk and increase the clearance a tad more. But that's for a later day.
@leovinus, Thank you for sharing this nice build. Looks great with all components sitting on the shelf. The first time opening a small computer like the Mac mini is always nerve-wracking. Once you do it, it's much easier. I must opened my 2018 Mac mini half a dozen times testing things. It's a well-built machine and should last many years with good ventilation.
@itsage, Thanks! Hopefully it doesn't have to come apart again any time soon. But it did give me enough confidence to open up and re-paste my old trooper, a MacBook Air 2011 with an i7. The operation was a success. I honestly like it. I kind of want to get my hands on more Apple gear to pry apart now!
The only thing I've noticed that I'm not 100% satisfied with on the Mac mini build is the intermittent flicker when using the eGPU as the primary display (over HDMI). Just a random white flash now and again. It doesn't occur when routing the signal back across the TB3 and out through the mini's own HDMI port. I'm assuming it's a flaw in the OS. There seems to be many different kinds of flicker due to many different things, I just hope the next OS update fixes it.
Any suggestions on how to solve it are welcome though. Resetting the SMC/PRAM? Displayport cable instead of HDMI from the eGPU? A script that forces the eGPU to be the boot device without crashing? Again, any and all suggestions welcome.
Edit1: My apologies for posting this initially in the wrong thread, thanks for fixing it @itsage!
Edit2: After some experimenting, the flashing occurs mainly when both the mini and the eGPU are hooked up simultaneously. Booting and then disconnecting the HDMI on the mini lessens it dramatically. While gaming it flashed only once or twice over the course of more than an hour. It seems to occur mostly when in the OS as well, as it is somewhat more recurring on the desktop than in-game. Still to a lesser degree. Looking in activity monitor it's obvious that MacOS still prefers the iGPU for some tasks even if the eGPU is the only output connected. I wonder if - if it's possible - turning off the iGPU entirely would solve the issue.
I don't have much love for HDMI in macOS. DisplayPort connection is way better if your monitor can accept it. In one of my setup, I experience a similar flickering symptom you described. Unfortunately the computer (NUC7i5) only has HDMI-output so I have no other choice. Once I switched to using an eGPU with it and connected the monitor through DisplayPort, no issues since.
@itsage, A DisplayPort cable of sufficient length has been ordered. Thank you for the info! I'll report back if the cable solves it as it did for you.