2018 Mac Mini [8th,4C,B] + RX Vega 56 Nano @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Gigabyte Gaming Box) + ...
 
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2018 Mac Mini [8th,4C,B] + RX Vega 56 Nano @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Gigabyte Gaming Box) + macOS 10.14.4 & Win10 1809 [itsage]  

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

This is the portable eGPU build a lot of people wanted but no vendor built. I bought the RX Vega 56 Nano Edition on Newegg when it was on sale for $350. The enclosure was from the Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box. The only missing component was a PCIe Y adapter to power the Vega Nano. Other than that there was no modification to make this pairing work.

Coincidentally Gigabyte released firmware 1.3 to quiet the two 40mm enclosure fan. This firmware turns these two fans off during idle. They kick on when the eGPU reaches a certain temperature. The result is much quieter operation. My room ambient noise is 40dB. Before firmware 1.3 the Gaming Box idle noise was high 40s (47.7dB). Once flashed to firmware 1.3, it's running at low 40s (42.8dB).

 

System specs:

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

 

eGPU hardware:

Gigabyte Gaming Box + RX Vega 56 Nano Edition + .5m Thunderbolt 3 cable

 

Hardware pictures:

 

Installation steps:

It was plug-and-play in macOS Mojave. I connected an ASUS portable FHD monitor through a USB-C connection to always have boot screen. The Vega Nano eGPU powered the Samsung 49" monitor through HDMI cable and HP 27" 5K monitor through a pair of DisplayPort cables. I was able to run AORUS Engine app in macOS to change the RGB light strip.

In Windows 10, there are a couple of options to get the RX Vega 56 eGPU going. The simple method is to hot-plug the eGPU then install Radeon drivers. Once this step is done, shut the system down and switch the monitor connection from the Mac mini to the eGPU. You won't have boot screen because the eGPU disables the iGPU during boot. I wanted to keep the iGPU activated so I'm using automate-eGPU EFI. 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]
  • Complete Boot Camp driver installation then download and unpack Display Driver Uninstaller [in Windows]
  • Run DDU with Admin privileges to disable Windows auto-installation of drivers [in Windows]
  • Download automate-eGPU EFI onto a FAT thumb drive or a small partition (24MB) of the internal drive [in macOS]
  • Shut Mac mini down then connect eGPU to Thunderbolt 3 port closest to the Ethernet port
  • 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]

 

Benchmarks:

I ran the Vega Nano Gaming Box first through loopback mode by connecting the ASUS USB-C portable monitor through one of the USB-C ports in the back of the Mac mini. External monitor mode was through the HP monitor at FHD. Due to limited internal storage, I installed all games on an external USB 3.0 SSD connected to the Mac mini's USB port.

In order to run Steam games in loopback mode, I located the main app inside the Steam folder. Open the Information tab then set it to prefer external GPU. The games may show the Intel iGPU is primary graphics card but you can tell which one is working through Activity Monitor GPU window.

2018 Mac mini i3macOS LoopbackmacOS External MonitorWindows LoopbackWindows External Monitor
Unigine Valley1,8762,4042,7032,920
Unigine Heaven1,0691,3571,6041,790
Unigine Superposition------9,83911,918
3DMark Time Spy------5,3296,077
3DMark Fire Strike------16,35019,353
Tomb Raider 201344.2 FPS62.8 FPS109.0 FPS123.8 FPS
Dirt Rally51.1 FPS68.0 FPS74.0 FPS74.6 FPS
Shadow of Mordor41.8 FPS54.4 FPS90.6 FPS104.3 FPS
Hitman39.9 FPS52.5 FPS72.8 FPS80.4 FPS
Strange Brigade------86.0 FPS95.0 FPS

Comments:

This RX Vega 56 + Gaming Box build is less than $600 to put together. This is half the price the Blackmagic eGPU Pro.

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

 
2018 Mac Mini [8th,4C,B] + RX Vega 56 Nano @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Gigabyte Gaming Box) + macOS 11 & Win10 2004 [build link]  


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OliverB
(@oliverb)
Noble Member
Joined: 2 years ago
 

Great. A lot of GPU power in a handy box.

2018 15" MBP & 2015 13" MBP connected to RTX2080Ti GTX1080Ti GTX1080 Vega56 RX580 R9-290 GTX680

 
2018 15" MacBook Pro (RP560X) [8th,6C,H] + RX 5700 XT @ 32Gbps-TB3 (ASUS XG Station Pro) + Win10 & macOS 10.15.4 [build link]  


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tsakal
(@tsakal)
Reputable Member
Joined: 2 years ago
 

Thank you for excellent guide once more.
quick question, did you notice any issues regarding the power draw?
it seems that the gaming box psu is good enough for the Vega 56, right?

A) 2020 MacBook Pro, i7-1038NG7, 32GB RAM, 1TB, EGPU Razer Core X, Nitro+ RX5700 xt 8Gb, Samsung 65 Q70R
Mac OS Catalina 10.15.5, Internal Bootcamp Windows 10 2004 pci.sys swap.
B) 2.7 GHz I7 4 Cores, 16Gb, 1TB MBP 13 2018 TB3 , EGPU Razer Core X, Nitro+ RX5700 xt 8Gb, LG 32UK550
Mac OS Catalina 10.15.2, Ext SSD Windows 10 1903 V1 .295

C) 2.7 GHz I7 4 Cores, 16Gb, 1TB MBP 13 2018 TB3 , EGPU Gigabyte Gaming Box RX580 8Gb, Mac OS Catalina 10.15.2, Ext SSD Windows 10 1803

D) 3.1 GHz I7, 16Gb, 1TB MBP 13 2015 TB2 , EGPU Gigabyte Gaming Box RX580 8Gb


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

Worked without any power issues on this Mac mini. I will pair it with the 2017 13" MacBook Pro next. I will observe how it performs when 60W PD is sent to the laptop.

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

 
2018 Mac Mini [8th,4C,B] + RX Vega 56 Nano @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Gigabyte Gaming Box) + macOS 11 & Win10 2004 [build link]  


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Alexander Kim
(@alexander_kim)
Eminent Member
Joined: 2 years ago
 

Would Vega 56 nano work with Sonnet breakaway 350W box?

Mac mini 2018 / i7 8700b / 32GB ram / 256GB ssd


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mar_kelp
(@mar_kelp)
Eminent Member
Joined: 3 years ago
 
Posted by: itsage

Worked without any power issues on this Mac mini. I will pair it with the 2017 13" MacBook Pro next. I will observe how it performs when 60W PD is sent to the laptop.

@itsage, were you able to test this config with the 13" MacBook Pro and Power Delivery? Given the dearth of Vega small form factor cards, any information is helpful.

Especially as Navi RDNA 5700 series becomes available and (perhaps in the future?) with SFF card options given the lower power consumption estimates.

2017 13" MacBook Pro Touch Bar + RX 580 Gaming Box + macOS 10.14.3 and Windows 10 (BootCamp with rEFInd)

 
2017 13" MacBook Pro [7th,2C,U] + RX 580 @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Gigabyte Gaming Box) + macOS 10.13 & Win10 [build link]  


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

@mar_kelp For the most part the Gaming Box + RX Vega Nano eGPU can run stable. I tested the setup with a 2017 13" MacBook Pro when the battery was very low (20% charge on battery). The only test that crashed the eGPU was Fire Strike. With undervolting the Vega Nano eGPU could run without crashing.

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

 
2018 Mac Mini [8th,4C,B] + RX Vega 56 Nano @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Gigabyte Gaming Box) + macOS 11 & Win10 2004 [build link]  


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

I upgraded the 2018 Mac mini to Windows 10 1903 today. A nice surprise I found is that AMD eGPU could be hot-plugged without encountering error 12. As seen in the build guide, I use an ASUS 15" portable FHD monitor through a USB-C cable. It runs off the Intel UHD Graphics 630 iGPU. I don't have any monitor connected to the RX Vega Nano eGPU. No EFI boot loader was used. Simply boot into Windows 10 1903 then hot-plug Vega Nano eGPU.

Radeon drivers 19.5.2 were installed from Windows 10 1809 so as soon as the Thunderbolt 3 eGPU was detected, Radeon drivers were loaded and XConnect notification appeared. One PCIe root port I disabled permanently is 1901 which hosts no component on my system (it's there for 10GbE if your Mac mini is configured with one).

I installed Thunderbolt Control Center to keep tab on whether Thunderbolt ports/controllers are awake at boot. I don't believe it matters having this software in Boot Camp. The four TB3 ports are visible as #1 to #4 starting from HDMI port to Ethernet port. Another behaviour I noticed is that once a TB3 port is associated with the AMD eGPU through hot-plug, it will not work the next hot-plug. What I do is a trick learned from the 2018 15" MacBook Pro. I disassociate the AMD eGPU to TB3 port by manually uninstall it in Device Manager prior to hot-unplug. Subsequent hot-plug would then work well every time with every TB3 port. Make sure [ ] Delete the driver software for this device is unchecked.

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

 
2018 Mac Mini [8th,4C,B] + RX Vega 56 Nano @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Gigabyte Gaming Box) + macOS 11 & Win10 2004 [build link]  


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Eightarmedpet
(@eightarmedpet)
Noble Member Moderator
Joined: 4 years ago
 

Wow, this is super interesting and pretty big! Have you tried the same version on your MacBook again? Mine claims it’s no eligible for the upgrade within windows updater.

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 Indeed it is a big deal with AMD eGPU in Boot Camp! I tested this setup more since my last post. It's at a point where I do not need to uninstall RX Vega Nano in Device Manager to disassociate Thunderbolt 3 prior to hot-unplug. What I found is through the use of my USB-C monitor, one Thunderbolt 3 controllers always stays awake booting into Windows even when there's no Thunderbolt 3 device connected. The USB-C monitor uses one of Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports so the TB3 controller hosting it has to work at boot.

When I switched to using a HDMI cable from the Mac mini to monitor at boot, no Thunderbolt 3 controller was awake and therefore hot-plug was not reliable. Apple can definitely tune their firmware to officially support eGPU in Boot Camp if they choose to. In the mean time we can connect a USB-C device to one of the ports booting Windows. In the 2017 13" MacBook Pro for example, we want to use the left-sided TB3 controller for full x4 PCIe bandwidth. Cold-plug a USB-C thumb drive to one of the left TB3/USB-C ports then boot into Windows and the left Thundebolt 3 controller should be awake. I have not tried W10 1903 again on my 2017 13" MBP because of corruption issues when installing Radeon drivers.

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

 
2018 Mac Mini [8th,4C,B] + RX Vega 56 Nano @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Gigabyte Gaming Box) + macOS 11 & Win10 2004 [build link]  


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