Late 2016 13" HP Spectre x360 (i7-7500U, HD Graphics 620, no dGPU) + GTX1070Ti@32Gbps-TB3 (PowerColor Devil Box) + Win 10 [FourteenMonkeys] // custom/modified enclosure
I did a lot of lurking before jumping in and this site was invaluable during the process. Here's the story of my newly-built eGPU for your reading pleasure:
- Late 2016 13” HP Spectre x360, model 13-w0XX
- Core i7-7500U, 16GB RAM
- Intel HD graphics 620, no dGPU
- Currently using 2x 1080p external monitors via TB3->dual DisplayPort dongle, plus internal 1080p monitor
- Windows 10 home 64-bit
- PowerColor Devil Box
- MSI GeForce GTX 1070ti Titanium
- 2m Cable Matters TB3 (40Gbps) cable
- Custom enclosure using MakerBeam XL (see below)
- Replacement case fans by Nanoxia (see below)
Installation steps / Photos
- I specifically bought the HP Spectre x360 in late 2016 because it had TB3 and I wanted, at some point, to do a single-cable docking solution with eGPU. The end of the year rolled around and I had the time, so I figured it’s time to jump in.
- The PowerColor Devil Box was on deep discount at NewEgg, including a rebate card, and it conveniently had all the ports and extra functionality I wanted: Ethernet, internal SATA, several USB, etc. I’d heard that the outside shroud could be removed to make it slightly less gigantic, so that was my pick.
- I’m a bit of a gamer, but I’m also doing some CUDA GPU programming using an old gaming laptop (GTX 770M) and I wanted to upgrade my horsepower. The cheapest recent NVIDIA card with 8GB was an MSI GTX 1070Ti at NewEgg, at about the price of the other 1070s on the site at the time. Before I ordered, I checked the Devil Box compatibility – the 1070Ti was on the list, and the particular MSI card I wanted was 140mm tall, exactly the limit that would fit. Or so it said.
- The Devil Box arrived before my GPU did, so I plugged everything in just to see how it worked. The case fans were loud! Those needed to go so I ordered replacements: Nanoxia Deep Silence PWM, in 120mm and 92mm to match the existing fans. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CHX0SQY and https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CHW2O9Y .
- It turns out that the Devil Box uses VGA-sized fan headers instead of normal ones, so I needed two adapters. I ordered 2x Gelid CA-PWM-02. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005ZKZEQA .
- I disassembled the shroud and removed the original fans. I also preemptively installed the latest firmware, which I found on this site here: https://egpu.io/forums/thunderbolt-enclosures/new-firmware-for-powercolor-devil-box-addresses-h2d-bandwidth-problem/#post-23910 . Now I’m waiting for the GPU.
- The GPU arrived! Time to plug everything in and watch it work seamlessly. Except, uh, the card didn’t fit. It turns out the sloping piece by the back of the Devil Box is not 140mm from the connector, it’s less. So I disassembled the case, put on some gloves so I didn’t slice my hands apart, and bent the sloping section up and back. Of course, now I can’t re-assemble the entire case, but at least the card fits and I can use it. I had to twist-tie the card to the case because after bending the sloped part away, the screw hole was now misaligned. Also, even if the back was perfectly square, my 140mm-tall card would have been too tight against the top due to the power connectors. If you’re going to get this box, I recommend a card no more than 130mm, and preferably less to avoid really bending the power connectors. I say basically the same thing on my NewEgg review here: https://www.newegg.com/Product/SingleProductReview.aspx?ReviewID=5109683
- Here are the shots of things installed in the Devil Box chassis after I bent it. The pencil mark inside the 2nd photo is where I was going to use a Dremel to cut a slot for the card, because I read about someone else doing that online, but that wouldn’t have solved the power connector problems. I needed another solution.
- Frankly, that looks terrible. Plus, I have a big fluffy white dog and I just know hair will get in there so it’s time to build a better solution. Like I said, I didn’t just want to Dremel out a hole for the card and probably for the PCI-E power connectors, so I ordered the MakerBeam XL starter kit from Amazon, the matching corner cubes, and a generic variety of M3 standoffs just to be safe. Those came in handy. Note, I got the black-coated version of MakerBeam XL but they also sell one in clear (which means it’s silver). The black coating doesn’t resist scratches very well, FYI. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06XHXJSVL , https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06XJ3RYZ4/ , https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06Y5TJXY1/ .
- It took several iterations for how to assemble the box and arrange (and securely mount) all the pieces inside, but it came together nicely in the end. I basically used the existing disassembled hardware from the Devil Box and figured out how to secure it to the MakerBeam frame. One of the benefits of using a T-slot system like MakerBeam is that you don’t need to cut, drill or tap anything. Instead, assuming you lay it out correctly, the parts slide along the beams until you tighten them so I was able to move things around as needed until it was time to finalize. I had to expand four holes of the MakerBeam angle brackets to fit the slightly larger screws on the PSU and front USB mount, but that was easy. If I wanted, I could disassemble the entire thing and put the Devil Box back together, but that’s not in the foreseeable future.
- I ended up needing a few extra pieces at Home Depot – 10mm M3 socket-cap screws, a few M3 washers and lock washers, etc. All of that is in the metric specialty hardware section.
- I also got a sheet of Lexan because I wanted to enclose the new chassis in something clear that wasn’t glass. Turns out I don’t really have the right tools to cut Lexan, so after I managed to get the first side done (with a handheld jigsaw), I punted and cut the rest of the panels out of a cardboard box. Maybe I’ll hire a plastics company to do it right, maybe I’ll just live with it for a while, or maybe I’ll go in a different direction and make the panels from diamond-tread aluminum sheeting like truck boxes. https://www.homedepot.com/p/M-D-Building-Products-36-in-x-36-in-x-0-025-in-Diamond-Tread-Aluminum-Sheet-in-Silver-57307/203930831 .
- I mounted the replacement fans in the same rough positions as the original Devil Box: larger intake and smaller exhaust in the back. I cut a small piece of screen to act as a filter in front of the intake fan. I also mounted the front USB port using the MakerBeam braces. Here’s what it looks like all put together. The reflection from the Lexan is pretty bad so I’m holding my electronics tools case next to the box in the second shot.
- The final dimensions are roughly 330mm long by 180mm wide by 230 tall, plus a few extra mm on the front and top for the fan brackets, etc.
Here’s the good news: the case fans work really well. Without the case fans and the GPU in the open-air chassis with no enclosing panels, a stress test with default FurMark settings pushes the card to 80 degrees C after about 5 minutes. With the fans, and the case fully enclosed as above, the same FurMark run tops out at 70 degrees C. And the Nanoxia case fans are effectively silent, they’re quieter than the background noise in my office (including the road noise from outside).
Here’s the better news: it looks like I’m getting full 32Gbps-TB3 bandwidth. I thought my HP Spectre x360 was going to be limited to OPI GT2 speeds but it doesn’t appear to be the case. Here’s the CUDA-Z run:
And here are a few benchmarks:
Both of these benchmarks were run full-screen on one of my two external monitors, while the other one (and the laptop screen) were on and in extend-desktop mode. And the GPU is totally stock, I didn’t touch clocks or voltages. With my underpowered CPU I doubt there’s a point. I can’t do a direct comparison of the card with TB3 vs. direct PCIe installation because I don’t have a functioning desktop right now, but based on an Internet benchmark I found I’m taking about a 10% performance hit due to eGPU overhead based on Time Spy, graphics score of 6777 (from https://wccftech.com/nvidia-geforce-1070-ti-fire-strike-extreme-and-time-spy-benchmarks/ ) vs. my graphics score of 6135.
For what it’s worth, the combination of case + GPU cooling kept the card cool enough during Time Spy so the GPU fans turned off entirely during the CPU test. And the PSU fan (noisy little 40mm fan due to the flex-ATX form factor) didn’t turn on at all. The SeaSonic 500W PSU in the Devil Box has a sticker on it that says the fan doesn’t turn on unless PSU load reaches 50%, and the 1070Ti is pretty efficient so I’m betting I don’t get to 250W draw unless something unusual is happening. As I’m typing this, the box is currently silent and the GPU/PSU fans are stopped. The case fans run all the time but I can’t hear them.
Comments / Conclusion
- I now have seamless single-cable hot-plug docking+charging. This is a big convenience, both because it makes adjustable desk cable management easier and especially for travel because I can just leave the OEM charger in my bag. I wrote half of this post remotely, then came home, plugged in, waited for about 6-7 devices to be recognized and my monitors to turn on, and finished the post on an external screen. Here's a meta shot of my full workstation with me editing this post:
- It was a lot of tinkering effort to get there, and the Devil Box was definitely not plug-and-play. Even if I had bought a smaller card and the original chassis had fit (both in the back and at the top power connectors), I still would have wanted to replace the fans.
- Bottom line: if you’re willing to tinker -- and if you’re reading this, you probably are – picking up a Devil Box for $200-ish (after rebate) is a very inexpensive way to get into TB3 eGPU especially if you've already got a card that will fit in the actual chassis and you don't have to MacGyver your own. Unless you already have the spare parts or you don’t care about noise, you should also plan on quiet fan replacement for another $50-ish (two fans + two adapter cables) and a longer TB3 cable for another $60-ish.
Comments and questions welcome!
I just got a devil box and im trying to run it on a Razer blade stealth 2016 but it doesnt seem to work. all the games crash even the ones that I work on my laptop by default. Did u have the update the drivers for the devilbox?
I updated the firmware on the Devil Box before I put in the GPU, and I already had updated TB3 software on my PC because I was using a TB3 monitor adapter before I got the Devil Box. My TB3 software version is 126.96.36.199. I can't remember the firmware version for the Devil Box but I linked to it above.