2015 13" Dell XPS 13 9350 [6th,2C,U] + GTX 980 @ 16Gbps-TB3 (AKiTiO Thunder3) +...
 
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2015 13" Dell XPS 13 9350 [6th,2C,U] + GTX 980 @ 16Gbps-TB3 (AKiTiO Thunder3) + Win10 [itsage]  

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itsage
(@itsage)
Illustrious Member Admin
Joined: 4 years ago
 

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.

external graphics card builds
best laptops for external GPU
eGPU enclosure buyer's guide

 
2020 13" MacBook Pro [10th,4C,G] + RTX 2080 Ti @ 32Gbps-TB3 (AORUS Gaming Box) + Win10 2004 [build link]  


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bananasplit
(@bananasplit)
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Joined: 4 years ago
 

Whats the difference between this and the AKiTiO node?

To do: Create my signature with system and expected eGPU configuration information to give context to my posts. I have no builds.

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spondbob
(@spondbob)
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Joined: 4 years ago
 

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

To do: Create my signature with system and expected eGPU configuration information to give context to my posts. I have no builds.

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itsage
(@itsage)
Illustrious Member Admin
Joined: 4 years ago
 

@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.

external graphics card builds
best laptops for external GPU
eGPU enclosure buyer's guide

 
2020 13" MacBook Pro [10th,4C,G] + RTX 2080 Ti @ 32Gbps-TB3 (AORUS Gaming Box) + Win10 2004 [build link]  


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spondbob
(@spondbob)
New Member
Joined: 4 years ago
 

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.

thunderbolt

To do: Create my signature with system and expected eGPU configuration information to give context to my posts. I have no builds.

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cfsgpu
(@cfsgpu)
Active Member
Joined: 3 years ago
 

@itsage 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

 

To do: Create my signature with system and expected eGPU configuration information to give context to my posts. I have no builds.

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itsage
(@itsage)
Illustrious Member Admin
Joined: 4 years ago
 
Posted by: cfsgpu

 

@itsage 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?

external graphics card builds
best laptops for external GPU
eGPU enclosure buyer's guide

 
2020 13" MacBook Pro [10th,4C,G] + RTX 2080 Ti @ 32Gbps-TB3 (AORUS Gaming Box) + Win10 2004 [build link]  


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cfsgpu
(@cfsgpu)
Active Member
Joined: 3 years ago
 
Posted by: itsage

 

Posted by: cfsgpu

 

@itsage 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.

To do: Create my signature with system and expected eGPU configuration information to give context to my posts. I have no builds.

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itsage
(@itsage)
Illustrious Member Admin
Joined: 4 years ago
 

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/

external graphics card builds
best laptops for external GPU
eGPU enclosure buyer's guide

 
2020 13" MacBook Pro [10th,4C,G] + RTX 2080 Ti @ 32Gbps-TB3 (AORUS Gaming Box) + Win10 2004 [build link]  


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cfsgpu
(@cfsgpu)
Active Member
Joined: 3 years ago
 
Posted by: itsage

 

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.

To do: Create my signature with system and expected eGPU configuration information to give context to my posts. I have no builds.

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