2015 13" Dell XPS 9350 + [email protected] (AKiTiO Thunder3) + Optimus + Win10 [theitsage]  

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theitsage
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December 13, 2016 3:32 am  

Frustrated with the many road blocks in macOS and the inability to get a fully working Thunderbolt 3 eGPU with my Late 2016 MacBook Pro, I decided to try its direct competitor, Dell XPS 13. This XPS 13 comes with a 13.3" QHD+ touch screen, Intel® Core™ i7-6560U, Iris Graphics 540, and one Thunderbolt 3 port. Overall it's as close to an apple to apple comparison to the 13" non-touchbar MacBook Pro.

Unlike the many hours modifying system files in macOS again and again for the MacBook Pro to communicate with my AKiTiO Thunder3 enclosure, the Dell XPS 13 immediately prompted me to select my Thunderbolt approval preference.

Once the GTX 980 Thunderbolt 3 eGPU got approved to connect, Windows 10 was able to download and install Nvidia drivers automatically through Device Manager. The drivers come with a Connect/Disconnect GPU utility in the system tray which allows an eGPU to be hot-pluggable.

Nvidia Optimus is also working great to drive the internal display. I ran Unigine benchmarks with and without an external display attached. The average performance loss with the eGPU driving the internal display is about 15%. Not a terrible compromise IMO. See the benchmark table.

I didn't want to bend the inner enclosure of the AKiTiO Thunder3 so I removed the PCIe & Thunderbolt 3 boards. The Dell DA-2 220W PSU has enough juice to power this setup without issues. As confirmed by several forum members (Splitframe and Richard), these Dell XPS laptops are running at only 16Gbps (x2 3.0) PCIe bandwidth instead of 32Gbps (x4 3.0) which Thunderbolt 3 should be running at. Nando4 provided his insights in the XPS 15 post by Splitframe.

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bananasplit
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December 20, 2016 10:25 pm  

Whats the difference between this and the AKiTiO node?

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spondbob
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December 30, 2016 5:05 am  

Hey I have couple questions. Which driver did you use for thunderbold and BIOS? And what Thunderbold Software says for External GPUs supported? You can open this by right click thunderbold icon in taskbar, select Settings, and click Details. Thanks

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theitsage
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December 30, 2016 11:30 pm  

@spondbob I started with BIOS 1.4.4 on my XPS 9350, then 1.4.10 and the latest 1.4.12. They all work fine with the latest Nvidia drivers. No versions of Thunderbolt Software provided through Dell shows "Supported" for External GPU on this XPS 9350. I tried installing various versions and there's no difference.

I believe the NVM and PD firmware version dictate whether a Thunderbolt Controller would support external graphics card.

With that said, the XPS 9350 works with the AKiTiO Thunder3 enclosure without issues. The Razer Core would likely work as well because they both have TI82 controller. Compatibility with the AKiTiO Node (TI83 controller) on the other hand is more reflective of what the Thunderbolt Software shows. My XPS 9350 does not work with it. I've tried several other Thunderbolt 3 laptops which say "Supported" for external GPU in Thunderbolt Software and they work well with the Node.

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spondbob
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December 31, 2016 7:54 am  

Thanks for the details. I was thinking to get an eGPU enclosure with GTX 980 for my XPS 13 9350 and wondering the compatibility as my Tunderbolt Software said No for eGPU supported. Attached file shows my latest Thunderbolt driver installed with 1.4.12 BIOS.

As you mention that the XPS 13 work well with TI82 controller, is there any other enclosure available in market with TI82 controller other than Akitio Thunder3 and Core? Or any possibility that it will work with TI83 controller? I don't feel like getting the Akitio Thunder 3 as the Node looks more promising. The price different is not much and it supports full length card. While the Core is not available yet here in Australia and it is much more expensive.

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cfsgpu
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January 20, 2017 12:32 am  

@theitsage Going to buy your exact setup (well, I already have the laptop itself of course). I need the external GPU for an upcoming AI course, not for gaming. Don't know if that will make a difference.

Just to make sure I don't make a mistake, could you confirm this is the enclosure?

https://www.amazon.com/Thunder3-Pcie-Expansion-Box-Currently/dp/B01K5Z13I2

and this the actual GPU:

https://www.amazon.com/EVGA-GeForce-Cooling-Graphics-06G-P4-4992-KR/dp/B00YDAYOJG

 

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theitsage
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January 20, 2017 1:33 am  
Posted by: cfsgpu

 

@theitsage Going to buy your exact setup (well, I already have the laptop itself of course). I need the external GPU for an upcoming AI course, not for gaming. Don't know if that will make a difference.

Just to make sure I don't make a mistake, could you confirm this is the enclosure?

https://www.amazon.com/Thunder3-Pcie-Expansion-Box-Currently/dp/B01K5Z13I2

and this the actual GPU:

https://www.amazon.com/EVGA-GeForce-Cooling-Graphics-06G-P4-4992-KR/dp/B00YDAYOJG    

Those parts are identical to what I've used. In this post it's the reference GTX 980, but I've also tried it with EVGA 980 Ti reference cooler. How are you going to power this setup?

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cfsgpu
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January 20, 2017 1:51 am  
Posted by: theitsage

 

Posted by: cfsgpu

 

@theitsage Going to buy your exact setup (well, I already have the laptop itself of course). I need the external GPU for an upcoming AI course, not for gaming. Don't know if that will make a difference.

Just to make sure I don't make a mistake, could you confirm this is the enclosure?

https://www.amazon.com/Thunder3-Pcie-Expansion-Box-Currently/dp/B01K5Z13I2

and this the actual GPU:

https://www.amazon.com/EVGA-GeForce-Cooling-Graphics-06G-P4-4992-KR/dp/B00YDAYOJG    

Those parts are identical to what I've used. In this post it's the reference GTX 980, but I've also tried it with EVGA 980 Ti reference cooler. How are you going to power this setup?

   

@hteitsage I don't know. What are you using? I'm really trying to replicate your setup - I'll fight with the parts that you haven't done, such as getting it to work with linux + tensorflow. For the hardware I'd rather save time by following you.

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theitsage
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January 20, 2017 1:59 am  

The Thunder3 is a good start. If you're not comfortable with soldering power cables, it may be worth it to wait for the Node which is ready to go with almost any GPU you want.

For linux + tensorflow, here's a turnkey solution for you -  https://egpu.io/testing-acer-graphics-dock-xps-13-9360/

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

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cfsgpu
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January 20, 2017 4:19 am  
Posted by: theitsage

 

The Thunder3 is a good start. If you're not comfortable with soldering power cables, it may be worth it to wait for the Node which is ready to go with almost any GPU you want.

For linux + tensorflow, here's a turnkey solution for you -  https://egpu.io/testing-acer-graphics-dock-xps-13-9360/

   

I'm looking at the node, but the "no refunds" is quite scary - considering they say the Thunderbolt software needs to report "eGPU supported: yes" and for my XPS says no 🙂 (I updated BIOS and all the firmware to the current versions just now).

About the other thing (thanks) the review says it's not really high end anymore (since that card was released in 2014), so not sure it's a good investment? Since clearly all solutions are going to approach $1000 after everything, I'd rather not feel I've bought a mediocre solution.

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nando4
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January 20, 2017 6:57 am  
Posted by: cfsgpu

I'm looking at the node, but the "no refunds" is quite scary - considering they say the Thunderbolt software needs to report "eGPU supported: yes" and for my XPS says no 🙂 (I updated BIOS and all the firmware to the current versions just now).

About the other thing (thanks) the review says it's not really high end anymore (since that card was released in 2014), so not sure it's a good investment? Since clearly all solutions are going to approach $1000 after everything, I'd rather not feel I've bought a mediocre solution.

 

XPS 9350 user loses eGPU functionality updating TB NVM 8 to 16

Warning: A reddit XPS 9350 user lost Devil Box eGPU detection after updating his 9350's Thunderbolt firmware from NVM 8 to NVM 16. See reference

eGPU Setup 1.35    •    eGPU Port Bandwidth Reference Table    •    Several builds
2015 15" Dell Precision 7510 M1000M + macOS 10.14 & Win10


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cfsgpu
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January 21, 2017 2:21 am  
Posted by: nando4

 

Posted by: cfsgpu

I'm looking at the node, but the "no refunds" is quite scary - considering they say the Thunderbolt software needs to report "eGPU supported: yes" and for my XPS says no 🙂 (I updated BIOS and all the firmware to the current versions just now).

About the other thing (thanks) the review says it's not really high end anymore (since that card was released in 2014), so not sure it's a good investment? Since clearly all solutions are going to approach $1000 after everything, I'd rather not feel I've bought a mediocre solution.

 

XPS 9350 user loses eGPU functionality updating TB NVM 8 to 16

Warning: A reddit XPS 9350 user lost Devil Box eGPU detection after updating his 9350's Thunderbolt firmware from NVM 8 to NVM 16. See reference

   

I don't know if my previous firmware says "eGPU supported: yes" as I didn't check, but I can confirm that the latest one says "no". So looks I'm already screwed. At least I didn't spend any money yet.

However the BIOS says "support Dell Dock: Yes" or something like that. Isn't this Dell Dock some kind of proprietary eGPU thing?

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ghost
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August 23, 2017 11:11 am  

@theitsage Hey, I bought a dell xps 13 9360 and this enclosure:  https://www.sonnetstore.com/collections/thunderbolt-expansion-systems/products/egfx-breakaway-box with the GTX 1060 6GB

THE MOST works, but I cant use my internal Display to start applications with the eGPU. There is no option to start a program with the card, and programs only start with the eGPU with an external display. Its just frustrating, it worked one time, (I played GTA on my internal display with the GPU!) I was able to select in nvididas control panel which card is prefered to start an application, but I dont know how I managed to get this option. I was able to simply disonnect the external display and resume using the card. After a restart, It didnt work anymore. Do you know, how to ONLY use the internal display with the eGPU? I am goeing to france for a half year and I dont want to carry a screen with me.

Greetings

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theitsage
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August 23, 2017 12:24 pm  

@ghost Nvidia Optimus doesn't always work properly to accelerate the internal display. One way I've learned to confirm whether internal display acceleration works with eGPU is to look at "Configure Surround, PhysX". By default, Nvidia Optimus can sort out the arrangement for a computer with iGPU-only and eGPU. Sometimes it can't as you have experienced.

Open Nvidia Control Panel and click to select Configure Surround, PhysX. Click the drop-down menu under PhysX settings to assign the eGPU as the processor. Here's a screen capture of what it looks like.

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BigLustyPanda
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August 23, 2017 3:39 pm  

@itSage
I have an xps 13 9360, which egpu do you think works best for it? and does most egpu require to use external display?

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theitsage
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August 24, 2017 3:27 pm  

@BigLustyPanda The XPS lineup has x2 PCIe lane issue so using the eGPU with an external monitor is recommended. Your XPS 9360 has iGPU only so the eGPU can easily accelerate the internal display. An AKiTiO Node or Sonnet Breakaway Box with GTX 1060 is a nice choice atm. If you prefer portability, get the AORUS GTX 1070 Gaming Box.

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Tiger16
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February 24, 2018 4:25 am  

*EDIT* In an amusing twist, I solved the problem of my XPS 13 not detecting the GTX 970 via Thunder3 by seating the card into the PCI slot more firmly. I'm very much new to all this, and having never actually plugged in a PCI card before, I was too gentle before. I'm up and running perfectly now, and my Unigine benchmarks are as expected for a GTX 970 accelerating the internal display on an XPS 13. Thanks for all the help here and I'll load a few pictures of my custom enclosure sometime soon.

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