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Late 2018 Mac mini i3 + RX Vega [email protected] (Gigabyte Gaming Box) + macOS 10.14.4 & Win10 1809 [theitsage]  

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theitsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 3933
April 3, 2019 3:00 pm  

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.

This topic was modified 2 months ago

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

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OliverB
(@oliverb)
Noble Member
Joined: 7 months ago
Posts: 1206
April 3, 2019 8:41 pm  

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


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tsakal
(@tsakal)
Estimable Member
Joined: 8 months ago
Posts: 183
April 5, 2019 1:45 pm  

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. 2.7 GHz I7 4 Cores, 16Gb, 1TB MBP 13 2018 TB3 , EGPU Gigabyte Gaming Box RX580 8Gb

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


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theitsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 3933
April 5, 2019 2:59 pm  

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.

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

eGPU enclosure buying guide

94 external GPU build guides


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(@alexander_kim)
Active Member
Joined: 3 months ago
Posts: 18
April 26, 2019 8:02 am  

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

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


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