2016 15" MacBook Pro (RP460) [6th,4C,H] + Radeon VII @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Razer Core) + Win10 1809 [itsage]
I learned a lot about Thunderbolt 3 eGPU on the base-configuration 2016 15" MacBook Pro. I sold it last year and have been looking for a higher-configuration model since. Last week I traded my 2017 Alienware 15 R3 for the 2016 15" MBP [i7-6920HQ RP460 16GB RAM 1TB SSD]. With Intel 9th gen CPU laptops becoming available, how does the 6th gen i7 in this MacBook Pro hold up? Let's pair it to the Radeon VII eGPU.
2016 15" MacBook Pro - i7-6920HQ/HD Graphics 530 iGPU & Radeon Pro 460 dGPU/16GB RAM/1TB SSD
The 2016 15" MacBook Pro is one of the more tricky Macs to set up in Windows Boot Camp. The main challenge is its lack of Large Memory allocation compared to 2017 and 2018 iterations. Secondarily having the Radeon Pro 460 dGPU would disable the Intel iGPU by default. In order to activate the Intel iGPU, I used apple_set_os.efi through @goalque's automate-eGPU EFI. This boot loader also integrates Clover so that I could allocate Large Memory for this Mac in Windows through a modified DSDT (thanks to @nando4). Here's my setup procedure:
- Install Windows 10 ISO through Bootcamp Assistant [in macOS]
- Install DDU to remove all default graphics drivers and disable Windows automated driver installation [in Windows]
- Create a 24MB FAT partition in Disk Utility and copy @goalque's automate-eGPU EFI onto it [in macOS]
- Copy 2016 15" MacBook Pro compiled DSDT.aml to EFI/CLOVER/ACPI/WINDOWS folder inside EFI partition [in macOS]
- Hold OPTION at boot to select EFI drive and hit Q to access automate-eGPU EFI [boot selection]
- Install Intel iGPU drivers for the integrated graphics card then restart [in Windows]
- Download and run gpu-switch integrated.bat as Admin to attach the iGPU to internal display - install 2013 Visual C++ if needed [in Windows]
- Select "View by Connection" in Device Manager then locate and disable PCIe Controller x16 - 1901 [in Windows]
- Shut MacBook Pro down then connect eGPU to any Thunderbolt 3 port [system OFF]
- Boot into Windows via automate-eGPU EFI [boot selection]
- Confirm a new Microsoft Basic Display Adapter in Device Manager then install Radeon drivers [in Windows]
Once the steps above were completed, my 2016 15" MacBook Pro works just like an Intel iGPU-only laptop in Windows. This has multiple advantages. First is the ability to use AMD XConnect for internal display acceleration with an Radeon eGPU (or Nvidia Optimus with a GeForce eGPU). Second is better battery life on the go. The Radeon Pro 460 dGPU can be re-enabled if needed. The modified graphics drivers from Bootcampdrivers.com would allow one set of drivers to work for both dGPU and AMD eGPU.
I spent most the afternoon figuring out a stable overclock for the Radeon VII. I finally settled at 1940 MHz GPU clock @ 1116 mV and 1200 MHz Memory clock. This provides a nice boost over the stock settings at 1801 MHz GPU clock @ 1136 mV and 1000 MHz Memory clock.
These synthetic benchmarks were ran first through the internal display at stock settings. I then ran it in overclocked settings through internal display and external monitor.
|Stock Internal Display||OC Internal Display||OC External Display|
Compared to my X399 Threadripper build, this 2016 15" MacBook Pro doesn't seem too bad when it comes to eGPU performance. The direct Thunderbolt 3 to CPU connection certainly helps. The laptop also benefits from not having to cool the dGPU. I ran it for over 5 hours today and heat was no concerns. I'm hoping to test an i7-9750H laptop (Razer Blade 15) in the next few weeks and compare its eGPU performance.
That's a nice setup, I was hoping to build a similar one by myself. Do you have any issues with restarting (to windows and mac) or it works flawlessly?
@sh3rl The Radeon VII has sleep issue (fans run full speed) so I returned it already. If you're looking for a high performing Radeon eGPU, go with an RX Vega 64 or wait a couple more weeks for RX 5700.
Has this issue been resolved? I have pretty much the same laptop (with the exception of my cpu being the 6820), and I’m looking to get the Radeon 7 in a razer x chroma for unreal development.
@jonathan_salvatore No, this is an issue with the Radeon VII and AMD needs to fix it with a firmware update. There are a couple of workarounds. One is an enclosure such as NetStor HL23T-Plus that has a 2-stage sleep mode. It allows the Radeon VII to sleep properly. I've observed recent builds of macOS not fully putting the Thunderbolt 3 enclosure to sleep so that the Radeon VII fans don't speed up when the computer goes to sleep.
Does this happen in Windows as well? If not I don’t really care as much since I will be doing almost all my work there for game development. If so, is it just an issue of noise or could it cause problems to the card itself or my laptop? Im ok to put up with a loud fan and wait for a driver update if that’s the case, I don’t mind settling for a Vega 64 but I would rather have the 16g of vram.
@jonathan_salvatore The fans run full speed which is very loud, can hear across the hall. It's definitely not good for the card because fans will wear out quickly. I tried many different enclosures, systems, operating systems, and this issue persists. The two exceptions are Netstor HL23T-Plus (two-stage sleep mode) and Mantiz Venus (not-full sleep mode).
Kk, thank you for the info, I have been hearing a lot of good things about the mantis Venus and will maybe just get that over the chroma cause I really want the VII lol.