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Ideas on Another Small Computer Build for My ASUS XG Station Pro?
 

Ideas on Another Small Computer Build for My ASUS XG Station Pro?  

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omardesu
(@omardesu)
Trusted Member
Joined: 12 months ago
 

Hello everybody!  It's been a long time since I've been on the site due to less eGPU usage and more SFF (small form factor) build usage.

Over the last few hours I've come to a dilemma again where I'm thinking about building another SFF computer, but this time without the hard requirement that the case needs to fit a full or mini-side GPU.  That is because before I built my SFF computer for home, I had my eGPU which is just gathering dust... unused... unloved.

Just to give a bit of background, here's what I have for my setups:

Gaming PC:  Dan A4 SFF Build (check my signature)

Travel PC for Gaming:  2016 15" MBP on Bootcamp

Backup Home PC:  2014 Mac mini (Bootcamp installed, but not normally needed now that the SFF build is primary)

What I want?  I want to eliminate the 2016 MBP as a my Travel Gaming PC.  My SSD size is only 256GB, and with all the updates that occur for the games on Bootcamp, I usually end up running out of space.  A few solutions could fix this: 1) make a bigger partition for Bootcamp (pro: don't need any new HW or $$$, con: reduces my MacOS partition size; I usually store my DSLR photos on my computer for a bit before transferring to external)  2) move games to an external SSD (pro: more space, con: not sure yet as I'm trying it tonight).  With both of these solutions, my eGPU will still remain out of use.

So aside from doing that, I could build another host computer with TB3 and run my eGPU.  Or I could take the Mac mini on the road with me.

 

Mac mini?  NUC?  SFF build?  Gaming laptop?

 

Any ideas from the community?

This topic was modified 1 month ago

1070 Ti: 2014 Mac mini / 2016 MBP 15"
Mini ITX Build in Dan A4 Case


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itsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin
Joined: 3 years ago
 

I think a convertible/hybrid ultrabook such as Thinkpad X1 Yoga would be a nice choice. For example, you can put the X1 Yoga in tent mode to sit on top of the XG Station Pro and game away. The only downside is insufficient Power Delivery from this ASUS eGPU enclosure.

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use | eGPU enclosure buying guide


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omardesu
(@omardesu)
Trusted Member
Joined: 12 months ago
 

@itsage I don't think I want another laptop.  I can't remember if it was you that had the In-Win Chopin, but something like that has been floating around in my head... 

How about an Chopin with a ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming ITX/TB3? I saw the block diagram of this the board, and it looks like the Titan Ridge is running through the PCH instead of direct to the CPU? Any thoughts? Could I be better off running a non TB3 mobo (a little cheaper) and adding Titan Ridge AIC?

See the block diagram for the ASRock X570 from Anandtech here.

This post was modified 4 weeks ago

1070 Ti: 2014 Mac mini / 2016 MBP 15"
Mini ITX Build in Dan A4 Case


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itsage
(@itsage)
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Joined: 3 years ago
 

@omardesu I wasn’t sure how portable you want the traveling PC to be. Hotel rooms always have TV should the screen requirement is not a big deal. It’s hard to be the 2018 Mac mini in terms of Thunderbolt 3 connection. However it’s expensive compared to a NUC or an integrated GPU ITX build. Personally I’d go with the NUC8 Hades Canyon 100W version (NUC8i7HVK). Its footprint would fit well sitting on top of the ASUS XG Station Pro.

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use | eGPU enclosure buying guide


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omardesu
(@omardesu)
Trusted Member
Joined: 12 months ago
 

@itsage the Hades Canyon would be pretty nice, but it does have a rather steep price point.  At 1k USD, I could probably find a decent gaming laptop or entry-level ultrabook.

One thing that I came across this weekend was a SFF case slightly smaller than an In-Win Chopin but could actually fit a mini GPU.  The case I'm talking about is the Velkcase Velka 3.  It looks like a pretty sweet case IMO, and I think I might actually pre-order one now.  Even if I use it w/out a mini GPU at first, I could still put a Titan Ridge card in it and make use of my eGPU.  The build that I'm spec'ing out is around $500 USD w/out GPU,  and reusing about $120 in CPU cooler and nVMe SSD (probably can get a Flex ATX PSU from an old server from work).  Add $90 for a Titan Ridge to run my eGPU or add $300 for a mini GPU.

In all honesty, I think I'm drifting away from my eGPU...  I feel like I'd rather have a purpose built PC than something I have to fiddle with to get working correctly (especially in Bootcamp).  Oh well, let's see what happens.  I'm taking my eGPU and Mac mini with me to work this week, so I can fiddle around with what can work for me, but I still think I'd pick up the Velka 3.  I've got the bug for SFF builds now and at $140 for case, riser, and 2x case fans, that's not a bad deal in my book...

*edit - I'll snap a pic of my "traveling setup" when I get to Taiwan tomorrow.  Now I'll have my "as is" and with my eGPU and Mac mini since I'm bringing it this week.

This post was modified 4 weeks ago

1070 Ti: 2014 Mac mini / 2016 MBP 15"
Mini ITX Build in Dan A4 Case


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itsage
(@itsage)
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Joined: 3 years ago
 

The 2013 Mac Pro trashcan is a failure but in a sense it’s an incredible SFF. It’s about 3.35 liters but can be specced with a 12-core CPU and two discrete graphics card 6 years ago. I’ve been hoping for some kinds similar SFF case but it’s not possible due to heavy custom components to make it work. Have you thought about building a travel setup out of your carrying case?

This post was modified 4 weeks ago

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use | eGPU enclosure buying guide


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joevt
(@joevt)
Prominent Member
Joined: 2 years ago
 
Posted by: @omardesu

One thing that I came across this weekend was a SFF case slightly smaller than an In-Win Chopin but could actually fit a mini GPU.  The case I'm talking about is the Velkcase Velka 3.  It looks like a pretty sweet case IMO, and I think I might actually pre-order one now.  Even if I use it w/out a mini GPU at first, I could still put a Titan Ridge card in it and make use of my eGPU.  The build that I'm spec'ing out is around $500 USD w/out GPU,  and reusing about $120 in CPU cooler and nVMe SSD (probably can get a Flex ATX PSU from an old server from work).  Add $90 for a Titan Ridge to run my eGPU or add $300 for a mini GPU.

The Velka 3 is nice.

Instead of a Titan Ridge card, find a Mini-ITX motherboard (Z370 or X570) with a Thunderbolt 3 port? Then you can use the slot with an ITX graphics card.

Mac mini (2018), Mac Pro (Early 2008), MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015), GA-Z170X-Gaming 7, Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 580 8GB GDDR5, Sonnet Echo Express III-D, Trebleet Thunderbolt 3 to NVMe M.2 case


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omardesu
(@omardesu)
Trusted Member
Joined: 12 months ago
 

@joevt Those were the videos I came across...  lol.

What you mentioned is the problem I ran into when I had built my first SFF PC which had TB3 on the board.  Given the choice between eGPU and discreet GPU onboard directly to the CPU, I’d take the dGPU.  Here’s a comparison of what I could be dealing with:

ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-itx/AC:  1x TB3 port but with Alpine Ridge (TB2 speed via PCH) + eGPU.  This is my current MB in my small PC.

or

ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming-itx/TB3: 1x TB3 port with Titan Ridge (Full TB3 speed but still via PCH) + eGPU.  I was contemplating this setup.

or

Any other itx mobo + Titan Ridge card + eGPU.  This would have the eGPU going direct to the CPU unlike the 1st two setups and at full TB3 speeds.

or

Any other itx mobo + mini GPU.  This would have the least amount of overhead as it would be running PCI x16 directly to the CPU.

The previous 3 options’ speeds would be x2 to PCH, x4 to the PCH, and x4 to the CPU, respectively.  What that means to me performance-wise, I’m not sure...  But why not go for the most self sufficient setup which would also be the least amount of overhead and the fastest option?

For me, I wouldn’t mind having multiple SFF PC’s since those can be future-proofed by their upgradability.  This is why I lean towards them and less on the eGPU setup.

A

This post was modified 4 weeks ago

1070 Ti: 2014 Mac mini / 2016 MBP 15"
Mini ITX Build in Dan A4 Case


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Eightarmedpet
(@eightarmedpet)
Noble Member
Joined: 3 years ago
 

@omardesu the Thor case is going into production soon too, well, on Kickstarter, and that IMO is by far the best looking SFF case that will be available.

We are in a tricky time for eGPU's, feels like one step forward and 1.5 back, when things were getting so close to trouble free in both OS....

2017 13" MacBook Pro Touch Bar
GTX1060 + AKiTiO Thunder3 + Win10
GTX1070 + Sonnet Breakaway Box + Win10
GTX1070 + Razer Core V1 + Win10
Vega 56 + Razer Core V1 + macOS + Win10
Vega 56 + Mantiz Venus + macOS + W10

---

LG 5K Ultrafine flickering issue fix


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joevt
(@joevt)
Prominent Member
Joined: 2 years ago
 

@omardesu looks like in the Velka 3, if they move the GPU closer to the PSU then you could add a second PCIe slot using the rear M.2 slot - but you would have to remove the PCIe bracket from the GPU and second PCIe card and/or increase the height of the case by a not insignificant amount (unless you use a low profile PCIe card). I don't think anyone makes an appropriate M.2 to PCIe x4 adapter. The R43UR might be most appropriate but the PCIe slot would be facing the wrong direction, but maybe the front of the case has the most room, but for a Thunderbolt 3 add in card, you would have to connect the front to the rear with longer DisplayPort to Mini DisplayPort cables, but maybe you're not using a USB-C or Thunderbolt display.

 

Mac mini (2018), Mac Pro (Early 2008), MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015), GA-Z170X-Gaming 7, Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 580 8GB GDDR5, Sonnet Echo Express III-D, Trebleet Thunderbolt 3 to NVMe M.2 case


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omardesu
(@omardesu)
Trusted Member
Joined: 12 months ago
 

@eightarmedpet The Thor is a very nice looking case indeed, but holy moly with that $299 price tag and another $50 for case RGB.  If I didn't have my Dan A4 already, I might have considered this.  But with the size of that case being really similar to the Dan A4,  the name of the game is downsizing even more for this secondary PC.

@joevt I really think I will stay away from the eGPU.  I am rediscovering it this week as I play around with my 2014 Mac mini.  If I can get it to do what I want, then the 2nd PC might even go out of the window, but for me, I might still pick up the Velka 3 in the event I want to downsize my Dan A4 even more.

1070 Ti: 2014 Mac mini / 2016 MBP 15"
Mini ITX Build in Dan A4 Case


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The_Livy
(@the_livy)
Eminent Member
Joined: 12 months ago
 
Posted by: @joevt

I don't think anyone makes an appropriate M.2 to PCIe x4 adapter.

Also need to remember that another PCIe device (even connected to a separate M.2 slot on the board itself) means that you need a CPU with some PCIe lanes to spare, otherwise you'd be running the graphics card at x8 again. And that, in turn, would sort of defeat the idea of not using the eGPU for overhead reduction, wouldn't it?

This post was modified 4 weeks ago

2017 13-inch MacBook Pro TB
Aorus Gaming Box (EVGA GTX1060 3G) - silent modded
How to undervolt your GPU


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joevt
(@joevt)
Prominent Member
Joined: 2 years ago
 

@the_livy My discussion about the M.2 to PCIe x4 adapter applies to the first video from Optimum Tech (it has better close ups than the LTT video). The motherboard has two M.2 slots, one on either side of the motherboard. I did not research if they were connected to CPU or PCH lanes or if they reduce CPU lanes. It's just an option for adding Thunderbolt while keeping the dGPU (probably not something to consider because it won't fit 🙂

Mac mini (2018), Mac Pro (Early 2008), MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015), GA-Z170X-Gaming 7, Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 580 8GB GDDR5, Sonnet Echo Express III-D, Trebleet Thunderbolt 3 to NVMe M.2 case


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omardesu
(@omardesu)
Trusted Member
Joined: 12 months ago
 

So I brought my eGPU with me to Taiwan where I travel frequently for work.  Just so everybody is aware, I just want to play Fortnite.  And for those who don't know the details, the game runs much better and gets higher FPS in Windows than it ever will in MacOs.  I'm sure this is the trend across the board for almost all games...  Tried a few configurations (game settings = 1080 res, 120 FPS cap, view distance on Epic, all other settings on Low):

Baseline:  15" MBP in Windows + external monitor (see 1st picture below).  Result is smooth gaming with about 75+ FPS and without any lag spikes.  This is my benchmark for playing away from home, and I don't want anything below this.  But if I'm traveling anywhere else, I just play at 60 FPS on my MBP's internal screen.  At home with my SFF computer, same settings but with FPS capped at 160 FPS since my gaming monitor is 144 Hz.  I could get 144 Hz no problem, and if I put all the settings to Epic, I can still get 144 Hz.

Test 1:  2014 Mac mini + eGPU in Windows.  The overall performance I would say is just bad.  I could get over 75 FPS sometimes when I'm only running in one direction.  But if I jump and look around from side to side, there's a lot of stuttering and is not smooth at all.  Playable, but I wouldn't want to play on that consistently.

Test 2:  MBP + eGPU in MacOs 10.15.  The overall performance was slightly better than the Mac mini, but not as good as the MBP in Bootcamp.  The optimization on MacOs is just not as good as it is on Windows.  I was able to get over 75 FPS; however, there were a lot of FPS lag spikes.  I would say it's more playable than the Mac mini but still not ideal.

There was no reason for me to run the eGPU with MBP in Bootcamp since the dGPU was already performing enough hit my 75 FPS for my external monitor.  With that said, performance wise, I have to say the eGPU has no benefit over my MBP in Bootcamp.  If I ran another small PC (@itsage had suggested a Hades Canyon NUC) with my eGPU, could that be better than my MBP setup?  Probably.  But the price and footprint are points that I can't overlook if I compare it to a new SFF build in the Velka 3 which I feel would be more future-proof since I could always upgrade the components rather easily than the NUC.

 

Here's a picture of my setup in my hotel room when I'm traveling:

away setup 01

2016 Macbook Pro 15", 22" Sceptre monitor (75 Hz), peripherals.  After pack everything up and checkout of the hotel, everything stays at except my MBP which I take home with me.

 

Broken down:

away setup 03
away setup 02

 

And into my Walleye Tactik bag:

away setup 04
away setup 05

 

Since I had my eGPU here this week, this is what it looks like packed in.  I can't fit all my things inside this one bag anymore...

away setup 06 egpu

 

The Velka 3 that I'm looking into buying and building is roughly half the size of the XG Station Pro and it would have an internal power supply, so I should be able to fit the keyboard and headphones if the Velka 3 was in the bag.

Velka 3 dim:  18.7 x 9.7 x 22.6 cm

XG Station Pro dim:  37.5 x 10.7 x 20.5 + extra space for the external power brick

Not looking good for my eGPU...

This post was modified 3 weeks ago

1070 Ti: 2014 Mac mini / 2016 MBP 15"
Mini ITX Build in Dan A4 Case


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omardesu
(@omardesu)
Trusted Member
Joined: 12 months ago
 

Well... I ended up picking up an In-Win Chopin and ran a Ryzen 5 3400G APU.  Not such a bad build for just over $500 USD.  The parts list from PCpartpicker is below; however, I did end up putting the Noctua NH-L9i into this build using Noctua's AM4 adapter kit ($8).  But the price would be negligible since the Ryzen CPU's come with a cooler anyways.

PCPartPicker Part List: https://pcpartpicker.com/list/Vq2Hhg
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3400G 3.7 GHz Quad-Core Processor  (Purchased For $138.59)
Motherboard: Gigabyte B450 I AORUS PRO WIFI Mini ITX AM4 Motherboard  (Purchased For $119.99)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix Sport LT 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-3200 Memory  (Purchased For $74.99)
Storage: HP EX920 512 GB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive  (Purchased For $78.99)
Case: In Win Chopin HTPC Case w/150 W Power Supply  (Purchased For $96.99)
Total: $509.55
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2019-11-11 15:27 EST-0500
 
At this point, it can get me 75 FPS in Fortnite on 1080p with low settings, although when the case heats up I start dropping frames (will need to troubleshoot that later)...
 
I'll add some pictures eventually and next to the Dan A4.  I don't want to post the pics from my phone as they aren't that great.
 
Lastly, I did end up pre-ordering the Velka 3 which should be shipping next month.  No rush to build that up now as I'd have to dump another $300-400 for GPU and PSU or more if I want to upgrade the CPU.  But with no rush, I can see what deals come along on Black Friday and Cyber Monday...
This post was modified 4 days ago

1070 Ti: 2014 Mac mini / 2016 MBP 15"
Mini ITX Build in Dan A4 Case


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