Mid 2011 Mac mini + R9 Fury [email protected] (AKiTiO Node) + macOS10.12.2 [theitsage]^  

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theitsage
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February 17, 2017 5:16 pm  

External GPU implementations have proved to be successful for Mac laptops. But what about Mac desktops that have no standard PCIe slots? The Mac Pro trashcan and Mac mini are such machines. There is definitely demand for a more powerful GPU setup from Mac Pro users. There's virtually no demand on the Mac mini front, so it's not often you see an eGPU setup with it. YOLO, my friends!

The Mid 2011 Mac mini was one of the first Macs to have Thunderbolt connectivity (full list of Thunderbolt-equipped Macs). I hadn't been making use of this Mac mini and figured I would try something fun. I did some upgrades to what many would consider an outdated and least powerful Mac then paired it with the highest performing AMD graphics card that works in macOS. This Mac mini is now running 10.12 Sierra with a pair of SSDs in RAID-0, 8GB of RAM, and an R9 Fury X external GPU.

You may have seen disassembled photos of the AKiTiO Node. The enclosure has a lot of room inside. I measured the empty space between the power supply housing and the front of the enclosure. It turned out to be a perfect fit for a Mac mini. The AKiTiO Node's fan and its bracket do have to be removed to accommodate this unusual pairing.

Routing the Mac mini's power cord and Thunderbolt cable was a challenge because I didn't want to modify the casing of the Mac mini or the AKiTiO Node. I plugged the cables into the back of the Mac mini prior to fitting it inside the AKiTiO Node. I initially wanted the underside of the Mac mini to face outwards and without the bottom cover for better air flow (read: to look cool). This placement did not work very well due to the hidden location of the Power button. Placing the Mac mini with the Apple logo face outwards provides easier access to the Power button.

The next hurdle was the R9 Fury X's liquid cooling lines. They are rather stiff and don't tend to stay where you want them. Fortunately the tabs for the AKiTiO Node's fan bracket are in such a spot that they apply a decent pressure against the radiator to keep the whole cooling system in place. This Mac mini + R9 Fury X external GPU setup could run fully enclosed within the AKiTiO Node. Yet it's too cool to be hidden away.

In order to install automate-eGPU.sh script v1.0.0, I had to use the Mac mini's Intel HD 3000 iGPU through HDMI connection to see the screen. Once eGPU script was up and running, I switched over to the DisplayPort connection on the R9 Fury X external graphics card.

As we have found with other Mac eGPU builds, the Apple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt adapter not only enables older Macs to use TB3 enclosures but also improves the success rate in macOS. This external GPU setup has worked surprisingly well. Sleep and wake-up are non-issues, which I did not expect to be possible with an eGPU attached in macOS. This Mac mini has been running flawlessly for almost a week as if the R9 Fury X was an integral component.

The R9 Fury X's performance is definitely bottlenecked by the 1st generation Thunderbolt connection (10Gbps). Still it's a huge improvement over the Intel HD 3000 iGPU which came stock in this Mac mini. If you're a lucky owner of the quad-core Late 2012 Mac mini, pairing it with an eGPU is a no-brainer. The Late 2012 Mac mini i7-3615QM paired with the R9 Fury X would likely outdo a base Mac Pro trashcan in certain tasks. On top of that, the total cost to build a Franken-Mac mini like this is less than half the starting price of a Late 2013 Mac Pro.


I received many requests for additional photos of this eGPU setup. There were also questions about running it with a non-watercooled GPU. This Mac mini external GPU is now running with a Sapphire R9 Fury Nitro. These were the steps I took to put this setup together.

Mac mini power cable and Thunderbolt cable were routed through the gap in the front fascia of the AKiTiO Node.

With the AKiTiO Node front fan and its bracket removed, the Mac mini fits perfectly in this space.

I positioned the Mac mini with the Apple logo facing outwards so that I can access the Power button.

R9 Fury Nitro mounted in front of the Mac mini with room to spare.

The cables can be routed to the bottom and ran underneath the AKiTiO Node enclosure.

Mac mini + AKiTiO Node + R9 Fury Nitro all hooked up and running like a dream.

Here’s a quick video of this eGPU setup in action. Listen for the “whoosh” sound right before the screen came on – that’s the success sound with AMD eGPU in macOS. 😀

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

eGPU enclosure buying guide

86 external GPU build guides


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Yukikaze
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February 17, 2017 5:21 pm  

Holy crap this is awesome. Love the Mac being placed INSIDE the Node. Talk about a tiny system!

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."


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theitsage
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February 17, 2017 5:37 pm  
Posted by: Yukikaze

Holy crap this is awesome. Love the Mac being placed INSIDE the Node. Talk about a tiny system!

I was amazed when it fitted in there like a glove!

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

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Yukikaze
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February 17, 2017 6:14 pm  

Will a long non-watercooler video card will fit there? Like the Fury Nitro?

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."


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theitsage
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February 17, 2017 6:23 pm  

Absolutely. I'm actually putting together a video showing the Fury Nitro in action with this Mac mini. Non-water-cooled GPUs are much easier to mount as well.

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eGPU enclosure buying guide

86 external GPU build guides


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Yukikaze
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February 17, 2017 6:29 pm  

Yeah, the easier mounting was why I wondered that. A quad-core Mac Mini stuck into the Node with the Nitro for a GPU would be a rather impressive little machine.

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."


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nascasho
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February 18, 2017 6:27 pm  

Saw this on Reddit and joined to say OMG this is awesome.

My daily driver is a 2012 Mac Mini, and the last of the true quad core (i7 3610qm) Minis. I've hit my limit using it since the apps I use require GPU acceleration and the HD4000 has hit its limits for sure. I started to use my 2015 13' rMBP since the iGPU is much faster for my needs, but the dual core CPU makes me rip my hair out at times, but I need the portability...

I've been mentally preparing to dish out cash on the 2017 Mac Pro when it arrives - bit if this works, you'll save me so much damn money!

So just so I understand, all I need to get started are as follows?

Is it literally as simple as setting up the GPU within the enclosure, plugging in the thunderbolt connection, running through internal graphics to display, run script mentioned above, then connect the eGPU to display?

Just making sure I have all my eggs in a basket before I hit "Buy Now" lol.

Side note, you guys accept donations?

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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February 19, 2017 4:23 am  

@nascasho welcome aboard! You have the best Mac mini. Adding an eGPU will definitely give it a new lease on life. The build process is as straight forward as you mentioned. The best donation is spreading the word about eGPU.io and participating in the Forum.

I received many requests for additional photos of this eGPU setup. There were also questions about running it with a non-watercooled GPU. This Mac mini external GPU setup is now running with a Sapphire R9 Fury Nitro. These were the steps I took to put this setup together...  [ copied to opening post ]

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

eGPU enclosure buying guide

86 external GPU build guides


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Yukikaze
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February 19, 2017 4:40 am  

This is epic. Simply epic. Can you wire it up for power-up by keyboard, so that you don't have to press the power button on the machine itself?

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."


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theitsage
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February 19, 2017 8:12 pm  
Posted by: Yukikaze

This is epic. Simply epic. Can you wire it up for power-up by keyboard, so that you don't have to press the power button on the machine itself?

I'm not sure if I could do it through the keyboard. The good news is, I found a perfect part for this external Power button mod. I saved these real nice Power buttons from old MacBook Pro's top cases. They were individual component and made out of aluminum rather than part of the keyboard on newer unibody MacBooks.

Look at the size of this Power button next to the AKiTiO logo on the front fascia. 😀

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eGPU enclosure buying guide

86 external GPU build guides


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oberton
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February 21, 2017 8:48 am  

So can i connect 4k monitor and get 60 Hz outlet?

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Mehenn
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February 21, 2017 10:31 am  

I won't see why not. I think with that GPU you can have at least 3. From which 2 can be legacy displays (DVI/HDMI). But I am 100% confident that you can have 3 x DP monitors running [email protected]


late-2016 13" Macbook Pro + [email protected] (TB3 to TB2 adapter) (AKiTiO Thunder2) + macOS 10.12.3
late-2016 13" MBP + Quadro M2000/FirePro WX5100/GTX750-TB3 (AKiTiO Thunder3) + macOS 10.12.3
(Custom Thunder cables)


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theitsage
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February 21, 2017 2:41 pm  
Posted by: oberton

So can i connect 4k monitor and get 60 Hz outlet?

This R9 Fury X has 3 DisplayPort 1.2 so it should have 4K 60Hz monitor support. The User Guide actually has a Display Configurations section which mentioned it's possible to power 6 displays through a Multi Stream Transport (MST) DisplayPort Hub such as this Club-3D CSV-5300.

 

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86 external GPU build guides


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Barni
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February 21, 2017 5:59 pm  

Hi @theitsage, great post...

i own a Mac mini late 2012 with 16GB Ram, 1TB SSD and want to upgrade it with an eGPU for a better FCPX performance and the possibility to add an 4K monitor... 

You mentioned that this paired with the R9 Fury X would likely outdo a base Mac Pro trashcan. The 2012 Mac mini also only have an 10Gbps Thunderbolt 1 and you said only this limiteds the R9 Fury X.

What would be the best graphics card for my setup without wasting money for performance i cannot use?

I also want to use the Akitio Thunder2 PCIe Box which is limited in space.

THX

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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Yukikaze
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February 21, 2017 6:31 pm  

If you are willing to mod a Thunder2, then you can fit anything. I use a R9 Fury (non-X) with a Thunder2. It requires enclosure modding (or removing the PCB, which is easy to do, and housing it in an alternative enclosure) and needs a power supply solution, but it is pretty much the best bang-for-the-buck video card right now. Otherwise, you have a problem: Very few AMD video cards fit into the Thunder2 without modification. You are pretty much limited to a RX 460 in that department. With nVidia cards, your options are some versions of the GTX950 and most versions of the GTX750Ti.

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."


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theitsage
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February 21, 2017 7:14 pm  

@barni IMO the R9 Fury Nitro is the best bang for the buck in terms of performance. It's especially true for OpenCL apps such as FCPX. I saw very little difference in performance between the Fury X vs. Fury. The Fury X is nearly twice the cost of the Sapphire R9 Fury Nitro.

As @Yukikaze said,  you are limited to lower performing GPUs if you want to retain the original enclosure shape of the Thunder2. I'd recommend modding and fitting a full-length GPU in there. It's cooler that way.

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

eGPU enclosure buying guide

86 external GPU build guides


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nascasho
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February 23, 2017 1:56 am  
Posted by: theitsage

 

@barni IMO the R9 Fury Nitro is the best bang for the buck in terms of performance. It's especially true for OpenCL apps such as FCPX. I saw very little difference in performance between the Fury X vs. Fury. The Fury X is nearly twice the cost of the Sapphire R9 Fury Nitro.

As @Yukikaze said,  you are limited to lower performing GPUs if you want to retain the original enclosure shape of the Thunder2. I'd recommend modding and fitting a full-length GPU in there. It's cooler that way.

   

@theitsage Has there been any benchmarks done to show how badly a GPU's performance will be bottlenecked from running on a 10Gbps port? Just curious since I was going to get the RX470, but if there is a difference to getting a faster card then I'm all game and will buy the R9 Fury Nitro you suggested.

Thanks for your time!

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theitsage
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February 23, 2017 3:45 am  

@nascasho I tested the AKiTiO Node + GTX 980 Ti with four Mac laptops spanning three generations of Thunderbolt connectivity. https://egpu.io/thunderbolt-egpu-for-mac-2017-update-macos-sierra/

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

eGPU enclosure buying guide

86 external GPU build guides


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appleblue
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February 23, 2017 4:10 am  

Hi theitsage,

I'd like to know the firmware version of your Akito NODE (mine is 21.1), I got a Mac mini (Late 2012), OS X 10.12.3, MSI Armor GTX 970 and Akito NODE. I've try to follow the step your provide and also disabled the SIP but got no luck on this.  The error says thunderbolt device is connected, but no external GPUs detected. Any help? Thanks in advance.

 

Bruce.

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nascasho
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February 23, 2017 3:30 pm  
Posted by: theitsage

 

@nascasho I tested the AKiTiO Node + GTX 980 Ti with four Mac laptops spanning three generations of Thunderbolt connectivity. https://egpu.io/thunderbolt-egpu-for-mac-2017-update-macos-sierra/

   

Omg I love you...

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mbenson_2
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May 2, 2017 10:04 pm  

Is there any way to use this setup to connect to a Thunderbolt Display with a 2012 Mac mini? 

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jim_survak
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June 8, 2017 9:22 pm  

Came here looking for ideas on exactly this process with my Mac mini 2012. Thank you so much IT Sage!

As an aside, I've seen on the Mac guides here that XFX GPUs are not preferred: is that still the case? Someone in the PC Gaming forums said that they're going to put an XFX RX 460 in an enclosure & no one mentioned him having potential problems.

2012 Mac mini: Core i7, 16GB RAM, Toshiba 1TB SSD, Seagate 1TB HDD, Sonnet B350 w/ XFX Radeon RX-480 8GB
Custom: Ryzen 7 1700, 16GB Corasir DDR4-3200MHz RAM, 2x Corsair 500GB Neutron SSD, Seagate 3TB SSD, EVGA Nvidia 980Ti
Alienware 13: Core i5-4210U, 16GB RAM, PNY XLR8 500GB SSD, Nvidia 860m 2GB, w/ AGA


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Yukikaze
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June 8, 2017 10:15 pm  

It isn't all XFX cards, it is the XFX cards that have "special" BIOSes, which usually means XFX designed boards. Reference cards with a XFX brand sticker should work fine. XFX specialty boards have issues.

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."


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jim_survak
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June 8, 2017 11:14 pm  

Thanks Yukikaze!

Is there a way to know? Is there a specific Google search I can do to help me find out?

My specific model is the XFX RZ-480P8LFLR; it's the model from Best Buy, if you're in the USA. GPU-Z in Windows has its BIOS version listed as 015.050.000.000.000000 and the "UEFI" option is checked. Not sure if that provides any insight but I thank you all the same!

2012 Mac mini: Core i7, 16GB RAM, Toshiba 1TB SSD, Seagate 1TB HDD, Sonnet B350 w/ XFX Radeon RX-480 8GB
Custom: Ryzen 7 1700, 16GB Corasir DDR4-3200MHz RAM, 2x Corsair 500GB Neutron SSD, Seagate 3TB SSD, EVGA Nvidia 980Ti
Alienware 13: Core i5-4210U, 16GB RAM, PNY XLR8 500GB SSD, Nvidia 860m 2GB, w/ AGA


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theitsage
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June 9, 2017 12:51 am  
Posted by: jim_survak

Thanks Yukikaze!

Is there a way to know? Is there a specific Google search I can do to help me find out?

My specific model is the XFX RZ-480P8LFLR; it's the model from Best Buy, if you're in the USA. GPU-Z in Windows has its BIOS version listed as 015.050.000.000.000000 and the "UEFI" option is checked. Not sure if that provides any insight but I thank you all the same!

Not what you want to hear but that card does not work in macOS. I tried one in my Mac Pro tower last summer.

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jim_survak
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June 11, 2017 8:31 pm  
Posted by: theitsage
 
Not what you want to hear but that card does not work in macOS. I tried one in my Mac Pro tower last summer.

Bummer. That's alright, I've been itching to get an ASUS card again anyway. I bought this XFX for a PC build I had done. Thanks again IT Sage.

2012 Mac mini: Core i7, 16GB RAM, Toshiba 1TB SSD, Seagate 1TB HDD, Sonnet B350 w/ XFX Radeon RX-480 8GB
Custom: Ryzen 7 1700, 16GB Corasir DDR4-3200MHz RAM, 2x Corsair 500GB Neutron SSD, Seagate 3TB SSD, EVGA Nvidia 980Ti
Alienware 13: Core i5-4210U, 16GB RAM, PNY XLR8 500GB SSD, Nvidia 860m 2GB, w/ AGA


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RiddlerJD
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June 17, 2017 10:13 pm  

I have been able to setup a Mac mini 2012 2.6 i7 with 10.12.5 and AMD R9 in an AKiTiO Node, via this websites instructions. Thanks!  My question is that I bought what I thought is an AMD R9 Fury on eBay since my Amazon order has been on backorder for over a month and a half.  But 'About this Mac' registers the card as an 'AMD R9 xxx 4096 MB'.  Did I not get a true R9 fury card?  The Valley benchmark is slightly better with a Score 1640 and FPS of 39.2 w/ Ultra and 8xAA, but the OpenCL of Geekbench 4 is 74,216 and LuxMark came in at 11,895.  Is the difference truly due to the above numbers being a Fury X?  I also upgraded this Mini with Samsung SSDs which has been a nice update.  For a 2012 machine it does seem to run smoothly, just concerned that my graphics card may not be what I thought I bought.  Also, have you had any heat issues with the mini inside the Node?

JD

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lifecom
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June 18, 2017 8:42 pm  

Whats about Mac Mini 2011 and Windows with eGPU? All Mac Mini models before 2012 not support install Windows in EFI mode, only BIOS. However, I was able to install Windows in EFI-mode with Mac Mini mid 2011. Only one device caused the crash - Intel HD 3000. I had to disable the driver update through system policies. And it is defined as a standard Windows-based video adapter. Everything is working. But maybe there is a better way?

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