Late 2018 Mac mini i3 + R9 [email protected] (VisionTek mini eGFX) + macOS 10.14.2 & Win10 1809 [theitsage]
At CES 2018 I saw the smallest eGPU enclosure. Unfortunately it never got the green light for production. A few weeks ago, @yukikaze shared the link to an eBay auction for a prototype of this mini eGPU. This must be a test unit sent to Intel for certification. The eGPU enclosure came with an ITX GTX 1060 but I swapped it out for an R9 Nano White Edition.
This VisionTek mini eGFX was built to compete with both the Gigabyte AORUS Gaming Box and Razer Core V2. TUL wanted to make it smaller than the Gaming Box by using an external power adapter. To match the Core V2 expansion port arrangement, they added a second Alpine Ridge Thunderbolt 3 controller to host one Ethernet and two USB 3.1 gen 1 ports.
Late 2018 Mac mini – i3-8100B/UHD Graphics 630 iGPU/32GB RAM/128GB SSD
VisionTek mini eGFX + Radeon R9 Nano White Edition + .5m Thunderbolt 3 cable
- One ASUS MB16AC 15.6-inch FHD IPS USB-C Portable Monitor
- One HP Z27q 27-inch IPS 5K Monitor + Thunderbolt 3 to dual DisplayPort adapter
- Two LG 27UD69P-W 27-inch IPS 4K FreeSync Monitors
- One Matias mini Tactile Pro Keyboard for Mac
- One Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum Mouse
In macOS Mojave, the only component that doesn't have native eGPU support is the R9 Nano. @Mac_editor's Purge-Wrangler came to the rescue to get the R9 Nano going. All four monitor output ports were working. I connected two DisplayPort cables to the HP 5K monitor, one DisplayPort cable to the right LG 4K monitor, and one HDMI cable to the left LG 4K monitor. The ASUS portable USB-C monitor connected to the Mac mini's USB-C port closest to the Ethernet port to provide Boot screen.
The 2018 Mac mini can work with an eGPU in Boot Camp plug-and-play. Some caveats are no boot screen through eGPU-connected monitor and deactivated iGPU when eGPU is present. Some have also struggled when FileVault is enabled. There are a few workarounds available in our community to remedy these limitations. The first one is @goalque's automate-eGPU EFI. The other is an older solution that relies on rEFInd boot manager.
I have been testing the automate-eGPU EFI in the past month. While it works great and provides the highest bandwidth for the eGPU, there are some inconsistencies with Thunderbolt device detection. For this build I used rEFInd boot manager and found TB3 eGPU detection was more consistent. These are the basic steps I took to get this setup going:
- Boot into Recovery mode to disable SIP through Terminal. Open Startup Security Utility to set Secure Boot to No Security and External Boot to Allow booting from external media [in Option Boot]
- Download and install Windows 10 ISO through Bootcamp Assistant [in macOS]
- Select View by Connection in Device Manager then locate and disable PCIe Root Port #2 - A339 and PCIe Controller (x16) - 1901 [in Windows]
- Complete Boot Camp driver installation then download and unpack Display Driver Uninstaller [in Windows]
- Run DDU with Admin privileges to remove drivers for AMD and Nvidia drivers [in Windows]
- Download and install rEFInd then mount EFI partition to enable spoof_osx_version 10.9 [in macOS]
- Shut Mac mini down then connect eGPU to Thunderbolt 3 port closest to the HDMI port
- Boot into Windows vis rEFInd Boot Manager [boot selection]
- Confirm a new Microsoft Basic Display Adapter in Device Manager then install Radeon drivers [in Windows]
I wanted to test 5K monitor loopback through the eGPU so I used the Thunderbolt 3 to dual DisplayPort adapter to power the HP Z27q. By default macOS scales the 5K monitor UI to look like 2560x1440. Unigine ran at this resolution. This is similar to what an iMac 5K would behave with an eGPU. Here's the difference between 5K monitor loopback vs direct external monitor.
|5K Monitor Loopback||5K External Monitor|
I also ran Luxmark 3.1 on the R9 Nano eGPU in macOS.
Due to the limited storage on my base configuration i3 Mac mini, all games were installed and ran off an external SSD connected via the USB port of the enclosure. I connected the keyboard and mouse through the other USB expansion port.
|2018 Mac mini i3||UHD 630 iGPU FHD||R9 Nano eGPU Loopback||R9 Nano eGPU FHD||R9 Nano eGPU QHD||R9 Nano eGPU 4K|
|Tomb Raider 2013||8.4 FPS||81.7 FPS||89.4 FPS||65.9 FPS||35.3 FPS|
|Shadow of Mordor||9.3 FPS||55.5 FPS||73.1 FPS||57.5 FPS||35.1 FPS|
|Dirt Rally||12.5 FPS||47.0 FPS||57.0 FPS||49.4 FPS||36.4 FPS|
|Hitman||13.9 FPS||74.8 FPS||81.5 FPS||73.9 FPS||46.8 FPS|
The rEFInd workaround produces a more consistent eGPU detection on the 2018 Mac mini. There's a slight decrease of H2D bandwidth compared automate-eGPU EFI. I observed booting issue into macOS via the rEFInd boot loader. It's likely due to the Apple T2 chip on 2018 Macs because I never encountered this booting issue when I used rEFInd on 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pros.
VisionTek did a nice job with this mini eGFX. It has the dual Thunderbolt 3 controller setup of the Core V2 in a footprint smaller than the Gaming Box. The 45W should be able to provide sufficient charging power to most Thunderbolt 3 ultrabooks.
Looks like a great counterpart for a Mac Mini, an Intel NUC, or a workstation laptop (>100W power draw). The dual-controller arrangement makes peripherals reliable in the latter case, and the lack of power-delivery is of no concern in all three cases. Any rumors as to when this thing (or something based off it) might make it to market?
And that is a lot of screens for one Mac Mini, lol.
My eGPU Zoo - Link to my Implementations.
Want to output [email protected] out of an old system on the cheap? Read here.
"Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done, and why. Then do it."- Robert A. Heinlein, "Time Enough for Love."
@yukikaze Yes, other than the lack of Power Delivery this eGPU enclosure is a very portable solution. I believe the variant/production version of this prototype will be announce next week at CES 2019.
I've been testing it more in the past week by letting the system go to sleep then wake it up daily. No BSOD and things worked as expected in Windows 10. Also AIDA64 now showed full bandwidth for the R9 Nano eGPU instead of the lower 2,2XX MiB/s reading from a couple weeks ago (same Windows 10 and Radeon drivers version). I'm still using the same rEFInd workaround to keep iGPU activated.
@theitsage, it’s only my opinion, maybe it’s time to buy new games (joke) for gaming benchmarks. It’s already old titles and poeple already playing the next serie of the games, Tomb Raider is even 2 series. And on notebookcheck game FPS poeple will find hardly those titles for checking or comparing the performance.
Razer Blade 15 2018, i7 8750H 16gb ddr4 2666mhz 1tb 970Evo
Razer Blade Stealth 12,5 2016 i7 7500U 8gb ddr3 1866mhz 500gb 970Evo
MacBook Pro 13 mid 2012 i5 3210M 12gb ddr3 1600mhz 500GB HDD
Razer Core V2 rtx 2070 Black 2040mhz Boost clock
Previous setting: rtx 2080ti Asus Turbo, rtx 2080 xc gaming, rtx 2080 Fe, Zotac Mini 1080ti, Evga 1080 FTW2 gaming.
Dual Monitor Predator XB241YU 165Hz 1440p, LG l24UD58 60Hz 4K
Portable Monitor Magedok 1440p HDR 60Hz usbA/C monitor
Really hope this sees light of day in a nicely designed metal enclosure with ports in a sensible place.
oh and agreed reg games, let’s see how PUBG runs... 😉
I hear you both on the game selection. I chose them over a year ago because they were compatible with both Windows and macOS. In due time and when all the new versions have macOS compatibility I'll get them. My newest macOS compatible game is American Truck Simulator. 😆