2018 Mac Mini [8th,4C,B] + RX Vega 56 @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Sapphire GearBox) + macOS 10...
 
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2018 Mac Mini [8th,4C,B] + RX Vega 56 @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Sapphire GearBox) + macOS 10.14.2 & Win10 [itsage]  

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itsage
(@itsage)
Illustrious Member Admin
Joined: 4 years ago
 

I exchanged the 2018 Mac mini i5 configuration for the i3 base model. Given how hot these 8th gen CPUs run, the quad-core i3 seems like a decent pairing with the Mac mini cooling system. First thing I did was to upgrade the stock 8GB RAM to 32GB. While it was apart, I was going to reapply the thermal paste but thought I should run it as is first. I'll do it in a couple weeks then retest thermal performance with new paste.

 

System specs:

Late 2018 Mac mini – i3-8100B/UHD Graphics 630 iGPU/32GB RAM/128GB SSD

 

eGPU hardware:

Sapphire Gearbox + Radeon RX Vega 56 + .5m Thunderbolt 3 cable

 

Hardware pictures:

 

Installation steps:

This Sapphire Gearbox + RX Vega 56 pairing have native eGPU support in 10.14.2 so it was plug-and-play with the 2018 Mac mini. As you see in the photo above, the sound meter showed 48 dB. This was during idle. The noise source was the Sapphire Gearbox 40mm PSU cooling fans. Even in sleep mode these two tiny fan continued running. So did the blue light bar in front. To prepare for Windows Boot Camp, I added a third partition (32MB FAT) for automate-eGPU EFI.

This enclosure has three expansion ports: one Ethernet and two USB 3.1 gen 1. I connected a Matias USB keyboard as Logitech wireless mouse to one of the expansion USB ports. I didn't experience any lagging issues using the mouse in this configuration. This is likely due to firmware tuning. The Sapphire Gearbox has H2D running at half bandwidth to ensure expansion ports stability.

In Windows Boot Camp, there are a couple of options to get the RX Vega 56 eGPU going. The simple method is to hot-plug the AMD eGPU to install Radeon drivers. Once this step is done, switch the monitor connection from the Mac mini to the eGPU. You won't have boot screen and the AMD eGPU disables the iGPU using this method. I wanted to keep the iGPU activated so I'm using @goalque's eGPU-automate EFI as well as disablement of a couple PCIe components. 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].
  • Download and copy @goalque's automate-eGPU EFI to USB thumb drive [in macOS].
  • Hold OPTION at boot to select EFI drive and hit Q to access automate-eGPU EFI [boot selection].
  • Select View by Connection in Device Manager then locate and disable PCIe Root Port #2 - A339 and PCIe Controller (x16) - 1901 [in Windows].
  • Shut Mac mini down then connect eGPU to Thunderbolt 3 port closest to the HDMI port.
  • Boot into Windows using automate-eGPU EFI [boot selection].
  • Confirm a new Microsoft Basic Display Adapter in Device Manager then install Radeon drivers [in Windows].

I installed Intel Thunderbolt Software version [17.4.76.300] to confirm the dual Titan Ridge Thunderbolt 3 controllers and their ports. As seen below, Apple set Security Level to No Securiy (SL0). When the RX Vega 56 was working in Windows, I hot-plugged a Thunderbolt 3 to dual DisplayPort adapter to see whether the system would crash. There was no BSOD and both TB3 devices showed up in Intel Thunderbolt Attached list.

 

Benchmarks:

CL!ng, Luxmark and Unigine in macOS.

UHD Graphics 630 GPU RX Vega 56 eGPU iGPU and eGPU
UHD Graphics 630 iGPU RX Vega 56 eGPU Internal Display RX Vega 56 eGPU External Monitor

 

In Windows Boot Camp, I installed and ran Steam games on an external SSD connected to the Sapphire Gearbox USB port. There was no lagging issue with the mouse when during an half-hour Uruk-slaying session.

2018 Mac mini i3UHD 630 iGPU FHDVega 56 eGPU FHDVega 56 eGPU QHDVega 56 eGPU 4KVega 56 eGPU 5K
Unigine Valley2343,0921,961937537
Unigine Heaven1431,8781,251600332
Unigine Superposition82112,3628,2084,1922,501
Tomb Raider 20138.4 FPS126.0 FPS94.4 FPS49.9 FPS29.2 FPS
Shadow of Mordor9.3 FPS102.8 FPS84.3 FPS49.5 FPS30.7 FPS
Dirt Rally12.5 FPS58.3 FPS51.3 FPS39.3 FPS34.4 FPS
Hitman13.9 FPS80.3 FPS76.9 FPS59.6 FPS39.0 FPS

 

 

Comments:

The Mac mini i3 base configuration is a nice eGPU host with direct Thunderbolt 3 connection to the quad-core CPU. Higher specs i5 and i7 configurations should perform better but thermal management is a concern. During the several hours I ran Windows last night, the i3-8100b never went above 91 degrees Celsius.  The i5-8500B Mac mini I tested would reach 100 degrees within minutes.

external graphics card builds
best laptops for external GPU
eGPU enclosure buyer's guide

 
2020 13" MacBook Pro [10th,4C,G] + RTX 2080 Ti @ 32Gbps-TB3 (AORUS Gaming Box) + Win10 2004 [build link]  


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parutan
(@parutan)
New Member
Joined: 2 years ago
 

Hello, @itsage, thank you for posting your findings! I have a question that is irrelevant from your post, but any help would be very much appreciated!
I have a 2018 Mac Mini 1TB/i7/32GB/10G on Mojave 14.0, and the problem I am facing is that the very left thunderbolt 3 port (next to the HDMI) seems to improperly disconnect my OWC eGPU when I even every so slightly wiggle the cable. HOWEVER, this problem does not occur on the other thunderbolt 3 ports, AND when I plug in my thunderbolt 3 to tb 2 adapter into the mac mini's problematic port for my audio interface, I can wiggle the cable and it won't disconnect at all!
Could you (or anyone in this case) help me in seeing if your eGPU disconnects on your mac mini using the same TB3 port that is causing me issues? Thank you!

To do: Create my signature with system and expected eGPU configuration information to give context to my posts. I have no builds.

.

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

Picking mine up today but you’ve made me think going i7 may have been a mistake if cooling really is an issue. 

Hopefully my set set up will be as straight forward as yours.

Would love to see the same games benchmarked on the i7 too...

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

 
2017 13" MacBook Pro [7th,2C,U] + RX 5700 XT @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Mantiz Venus) + macOS 10.15.4 & Win10 2004 [build link]  


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

Mac mini set up!
I am very excited and you are a real champ @itsage !
Hotplugging not needed. Disabling those ports was the key for me, how on earth did you find out which ones to disable?

Hmmm may have spoke too soon.... worked one and now nope. Hot plugging isn’t even working. 

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

 
2017 13" MacBook Pro [7th,2C,U] + RX 5700 XT @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Mantiz Venus) + macOS 10.15.4 & Win10 2004 [build link]  


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itsage
(@itsage)
Illustrious Member Admin
Joined: 4 years ago
 

@eightarmedpet I observed some inconsistencies in the way the Titan Ridge controllers detect Thunderbolt 3 devices. I had a fairly easy time getting the 2018 Mac mini i5 going with a number of different workarounds. The Mac mini i3 is more picky. What I learned is Intel Thunderbolt Software can help kick-start an active Thunderbolt 3 connection at boot. I use version [17.4.76.300] on 2018 Macs. Once you get a hang of which port and how to connect with a particular eGPU, you can uninstall Intel Thunderbolt Software. The eGPU is non-detectable sometimes when using @goalque's automate-eGPU EFI in Bootcamp. I will try the older workaround using rEFInd bootloader and report back.

@parutan Please take screen capture of Device Manager with all PCIe roots expanded. I have not seen one from a 10G 2018 Mac mini configuration. My guess is that it uses the PCIe x16 Controller. I don't know why it would cause stability issues on one of the four Thunderbolt 3 ports however. I used the TB3 ports closest to HDMI port because it's the one I had the most consistent success with different eGPU testing. You can use the port next to it which is on the same TB3 controller.

external graphics card builds
best laptops for external GPU
eGPU enclosure buyer's guide

 
2020 13" MacBook Pro [10th,4C,G] + RTX 2080 Ti @ 32Gbps-TB3 (AORUS Gaming Box) + Win10 2004 [build link]  


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

Yeah think I might just return my Mini. Might write up my experience as got it working again but it’s not great with... guess what? My 5k display.

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

 
2017 13" MacBook Pro [7th,2C,U] + RX 5700 XT @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Mantiz Venus) + macOS 10.15.4 & Win10 2004 [build link]  


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lanark
(@lanark)
New Member
Joined: 2 years ago
 

@parutan I've got an OWC Helios with a Radeon RX 580, similar build to yours but 1G not 10G... struggling to get things working. Somehow got the drivers installed via hot plugging but now seeing error 12 no matter which TB3 port I use. Any pointers would be greatly appreciated.

To do: Create my signature with system and expected eGPU configuration information to give context to my posts. I have no builds.

.

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

Ok, I got it working again, but in the most ridiculous convoluted way, and due to that I'm returning the Mini.
The way I got the eGPU detected without error 12 was...

  • Boot into Windows normally, using native boot selector.
  • Plug in eGPU (error 12).
  • Restart (not shut down) with everything plugged in.
  • Boot into EFI Bootloader and select Windows.
  • Windows boots and eGPU works but resolution is now 4K not 5K (assume something needs to be edited somewhere in the EFI folder which I may look into).

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

 
2017 13" MacBook Pro [7th,2C,U] + RX 5700 XT @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Mantiz Venus) + macOS 10.15.4 & Win10 2004 [build link]  


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itsage
(@itsage)
Illustrious Member Admin
Joined: 4 years ago
 

That's too bad about your setup and LG 5K issue. I tried rEFInd yesterday on the 2018 Mac mini to determine whether TB3 eGPU detection inconsistency issue was due to automate-eGPU EFI. The 2018 Mac mini experienced the same flaky behavior too. My best guess is the Titan Ridge controllers and Apple T2 chip have something to do with this. I have seen the same behavior on the 2018 13" MacBook Pro as well. 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro worked with rEFInd and automate-eGPU EFI much more predictable.

external graphics card builds
best laptops for external GPU
eGPU enclosure buyer's guide

 
2020 13" MacBook Pro [10th,4C,G] + RTX 2080 Ti @ 32Gbps-TB3 (AORUS Gaming Box) + Win10 2004 [build link]  


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

That is frustrating... I'm just back from the Apple store after returning my mini, such a shame as it was nearly the perfect eGPU host. 
Back to the 2017 13 MBP!

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

 
2017 13" MacBook Pro [7th,2C,U] + RX 5700 XT @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Mantiz Venus) + macOS 10.15.4 & Win10 2004 [build link]  


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