Late 2016 HP Spectre 13 + R9 Fury [email protected] (AKiTiO Node) + Win10 [theitsage]^  

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theitsage
(@itsage)
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February 9, 2017 2:33 pm  

In Spring 2016 Radeon Technologies Group introduced AMD XConnect, its software solution for external graphics cards. This software utility automatically handles graphic switching between the computer's internal graphics card and the external Radeon GPU depending on the task. AMD XConnect seemed very promising at the time, as Razer was showcasing real-world use of such a setup with its Blade Stealth and Razer Core, the very first certified production external graphics card enclosure.

Scanning quickly through our eGPU implementations table you can see many more people have had success using Nvidia graphics cards over AMD ones. Nvidia didn't make a big deal about its eGPU software, Nvidia Optimus, but the software outdid AMD XConnect. External GPU setups with Nvidia cards are likely to work more quickly and easily compared to AMD ones.

Where is AMD XConnect at now, almost a year later? Starting with version 15.12, Radeon Crimson Edition is the graphics driver software for AMD graphics cards. This driver software package also contains the AMD XConnect utility to support the use of external GPU. Since late 2016 AMD has picked up the pace with driver releases. I've seen performance gains in my triple CrossFire RX 480 gaming desktop with every Radeon Crimson Edition update. Although it's been marginal improvement, it still makes the GPU function better. So let's find out how far AMD XConnect has come by testing the AKiTio Node Thunderbolt enclosure with an R9 Fury Nitro.

My previous Windows Thunderbolt 3 laptop was a Dell XPS 9350. As many of you have read about the Dell's crippled PCIe connection (2x instead of advertised 4x PCIe 3.0), I exchanged the XPS 9350 for an HP Spectre 13. This Spectre 13 is a late 2016 model with Kaby Lake and two Thunderbolt 3 ports. The first thing I did was verify the PCIe connection. I can confirm it's running at 4x PCIe 3.0.

The next step was to see which Thunderbolt firmware and controller this HP Spectre has. The Thunderbolt controller is 1577 with NVM firmware 16. From what we've learned through other Thunderbolt 3 computers, older NVM firmware on non-certified eGPU hosts means that Intel Thunderbolt Software declares "NO" to External GPU Support. This doesn't matter as long as you have an external graphics card enclosure with high compatibility such as the AKiTiO Node.

This post is neither a review of the HP Spectre 13 nor the AMD Radeon R9 Fury, but there's something to be said about the stark contrast in this pairing. The Spectre 13 is one of the thinnest and lightest Thunderbolt 3 laptops on the market. The R9 Fury Nitro is a tank of a graphics card measuring at 12.8x5x1.7 inches. The R9 Fury is twice the volume of the Spectre 13.

The only task I needed to do was open up Device Manager then right click the newly found Microsoft Display Adapter to update its drivers. Windows figured out the installation and after a few screen flashes AMD XConnect was up and running. I fully anticipated but did not encounter error 12, a common issue with eGPU setup in Windows.

It was amazing how seamlessly this eGPU implementation went. Besides Thunderbolt Software's warning about external GPU possibly not working properly after I plugged in the AKiTiO Node, there were absolutely no issues. AMD XConnect handled connecting and disconnecting the external graphics card without fail.

AMD XConnect supports these graphics cards:

  • Radeon RX 400 Series
  • Radeon R9 Fury
  • Radeon R9 Nano
  • All Radeon R9 300 Series
  • Radeon R9 290X
  • Radeon R9 290
  • Radeon R9 285

Running with an external display, the eGPU performed better by roughly 10%. If portability is a priority, this performance loss is not a significant trade-off.

 

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

eGPU enclosure buying guide

86 external GPU build guides


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Richard
(@rhx123)
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February 9, 2017 8:45 pm  

Great to know HP aren't blocking eGPUs purposefully. 

I wonder if this works with the last Devil Box/Mantiz?

XPS 13 9360 + Acer Graphics Dock


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theitsage
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February 9, 2017 8:50 pm  
Posted by: Richard

 

Great to know HP aren't blocking eGPUs purposefully. 

I wonder if this works with the last Devil Box/Mantiz?

I will try it with the Mantiz board later this week.

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

eGPU enclosure buying guide

86 external GPU build guides


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Excalibur
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February 9, 2017 10:09 pm  

Can you check the internal screen performance with XConnect?

Current: Thinkpad W540 - i7 4900MQ - 32 GB DDR3L - Quadro K2100M - Akitio Thunder2 - GTX 660 OEM
Retired: Thinkpad W520 - i7 2860QM - 32 GB DDR3L - Quadro 1000M - EXP GDC Beast - GTX 560 Ti - GTX 660 OEM


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theitsage
(@itsage)
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February 10, 2017 2:52 am  

@Excalibur the results in my original post were through the internal display. Here's the results with an external display. It's a 10% difference.

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

eGPU enclosure buying guide

86 external GPU build guides


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theitsage
(@itsage)
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February 10, 2017 4:23 am  

I decided to run the same tests on the XPS 9350 (while I have it for the next few days) with this R9 Fury Nitro eGPU.

AMD XConnect with internal display

10% gain with external display

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

eGPU enclosure buying guide

86 external GPU build guides


nando4 liked
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Excalibur
(@excalibur)
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February 10, 2017 7:50 am  

Thanks for the information. RX 480 seems very promising.

Current: Thinkpad W540 - i7 4900MQ - 32 GB DDR3L - Quadro K2100M - Akitio Thunder2 - GTX 660 OEM
Retired: Thinkpad W520 - i7 2860QM - 32 GB DDR3L - Quadro 1000M - EXP GDC Beast - GTX 560 Ti - GTX 660 OEM


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enjoy
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February 10, 2017 10:02 am  

Over 1200 points on Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0 - means that you can play all games To the MAX - Full HD 1920x1080 on the Internal and External Display if someone is interested - eGPU power 🙂

ϟ AKiTiO Thunder2 + EVGA GTX 1060 6GB SC Gaming (macOS Sierra 10.12.4 and Windows 10)
 MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Later 2013) 3.2GHz Quad Core Intel i7-4750HQ / 8 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 / 256GB SSD + 1TB
mini eGPUPCI Express vs. ThunderboltMac CAN gameGaming Laptops vs. MacBook Pro with eGPU


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darren
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April 8, 2017 11:02 pm  

Thanks for the great guide!  Would anyone happen to know if all recent Spectre x360 13" models have full pciex4 eGPU capability on the TB3 port?  I'm looking at model 13-AC023DX and perhaps some other variants.

Soon I will add my system & eGPU details or a build link to this my signature to give context to my posts


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theitsage
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April 8, 2017 11:20 pm  

Yes it has 4x PCIe lanes. I was able to confirm that when I was testing the HP Spectre 13 X360 with the Mantiz Venus eGPU boards. Better yet, it was one of the few TB3 which was eGPU certified. This means plug and play with every Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosure on the market.

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

eGPU enclosure buying guide

86 external GPU build guides


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darren
(@darrenk)
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April 8, 2017 11:35 pm  

Thanks!  Was mostly making sure that eGPU support wasn't limited to certain model numbers or certain retailers.  The ones I'm considering are all late 2016 or early 2017 with Kaby Lake and 16GB/512GB.  I never put it beyond manufacturers to gimp certain models but hopefully not at the higher end ones.

Soon I will add my system & eGPU details or a build link to this my signature to give context to my posts


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darren
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April 9, 2017 5:32 pm  

Few more questions, please.  I've read a couple reviews and looked at the HP product page, but it's not clear to me what port the included charger uses.  I'm wondering if it can be charged by the Node, or at least if the included charger can be used while attached to the Node.  Guessing both TB3 ports can be used simultaneously for charger + Node but wanted to make sure.

Also, in terms of plug and play you mentioned, any crashes or issues with plugging or unplugging while both units are powered, or is there a procedure that must be used.

The x360 is starting to look more appealing, do you have any major concerns about it, with or without the Node?

Any preference for RX480 over GTX 1060 for use with the Node or Spectre?  I'm sure performance of either one with external monitor is fine based on your measurements.

Soon I will add my system & eGPU details or a build link to this my signature to give context to my posts


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kogare
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April 15, 2017 8:07 am  

Hi, thanks you for the info for the akitio node with hp spectre 13.

I just got my hp spectre 13 I7 kaby lake version, akitio node is too bulky for me because I travel alot.

I'm thinking to get akitio thunder 3 0r 2 instead with 1050 ti, can you confirm that I can use either on of them with this laptop?

The one in stock is thunder 2 in my country, Indonesia, its very difficult to get this kind of hardware in my country, or should I just buy it overseas which will cost me more.

I really need egpu badly.. ;( please help

Soon I will add my system & eGPU details or a build link to this my signature to give context to my posts


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