Mid 2015 MBP 15" /w Radeon R9 M370X + [email protected] (AKITiO Thunder2) + Dell UP2715K 5K Dual-Cable +macOS10.11.6 & Win10 [Halbertus]^  

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Halbertus
(@halbertus)
Eminent Member
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 25
March 17, 2017 8:55 am  

This is my second try on getting a reliable eGPU Setup. I have been testing out an Akitio Thunder 2 with EVGA GTX 980 a few months ago and ran into a lot of issues regarding my setup. I am running a pretty niche display (Dell Up2715k) being one of the two 5K screens available to hook up via 2x DisplayPort. Thats why I am pretty limited in choice and research of compatible graphics cards.  Thanks to this nice community I decided to give it another try.

This is going to be a status report and will be updated as I make further progress.

Setup:

  • Mid 2015 MacBook Pro Retina /w AMD Radeon R9 M370X on macOS 10.12.3 (16D32)
  • Bizon Box 2S (= Akitio Thunder 2 + Dell D-A), bought used for very attractive price (Just to clarify: I know this is quite a controversial product being mainly a modded Akitio Thunder 2 in a nice enclosure and the questionable commercial use of automate-egpu by goalque,  but in my region there is no way I can obtain  the Akitio Node anytime soon)
  • Dell UP 2715K

Choice of Graphics Cards

I plan on testing out one nVidia and one AMD graphics card to see, which one has better driver support for 5K display output. These are the ones i currently have on order:

EVGA GeForce GTX 980 04G-P4-2983-KR Superclocked

Sapphire Radeon NITRO RX 480 8GB

I will update this post as soon as i have new information to report!

Please let me know in case you have recommendations on further graphics cards to test out.

MacBook Pro 15" Mid 2015 w/ AMD Radeon R9 M370X
Mac Pro 2013 D300 + ASUS XG Station Pro + ASUS ROG VEGA 56
[email protected] Dell UP2715K


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Yukikaze
(@yukikaze)
Prominent Member Moderator
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 825
March 20, 2017 3:04 am  

Oh. This is of serious interest to me because I plan to get a the HP Z27q (also a 27" 5K display, just a lot cheaper than the Dell) once I get the refund for a dead LG monitor that they no longer have in stock. Any chance that you'd try to drive the monitor in Windows as well, or do you purely use OS X? I have the R9 Fury, so drivers wise it should be similar enough to the RX480 so I can see how setting this up works.

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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Halbertus
(@halbertus)
Eminent Member
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 25
March 23, 2017 8:56 am  

Just a quick update while still in the process of testing things out:

I got my hands on an nVidia GTX 970 and I can confoim my Dell UP2715K is working fine in 5K 2560*1440 HiDPI Mode. Caveat: I have to turn the monitor off and on again, aber MacBook is booted.

Desktop performance is nice but I am not getting any performance gains in professional applications. I.e. Playback Performance in Premiere Pro / DaVinci Resolve has not gotten any smoother under mac OS

Just for kicks i installed Windows 10 on my MacBook and when following a strict boot routine (First Boot into macOs, then choose Bootcamp as startup disk, reboot) I got amazing performance. Not a single dropped frame in Premiere Pro while doing a 4K Multicam Edit.

So I can report mixed success so far 🙂

MacBook Pro 15" Mid 2015 w/ AMD Radeon R9 M370X
Mac Pro 2013 D300 + ASUS XG Station Pro + ASUS ROG VEGA 56
[email protected] Dell UP2715K


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Halbertus
(@halbertus)
Eminent Member
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 25
March 26, 2017 4:05 pm  

Some new discoveries on how to enable 5K MST when running Radeon cards:  https://www.tonymacx86.com/threads/radeon-compatibility-guide-ati-amd-graphics-cards.171291/page-100#post-1462727

Unfortunately I returned my RX480 just yesterday

With EVGA GTX980 5K resolution is working fine though! - Unfortunately there are some problems with cursor misplacement when moving pointer from left so right panel, several users have been reporting this issue and there does not seem to be a fix

MacBook Pro 15" Mid 2015 w/ AMD Radeon R9 M370X
Mac Pro 2013 D300 + ASUS XG Station Pro + ASUS ROG VEGA 56
[email protected] Dell UP2715K


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Halbertus
(@halbertus)
Eminent Member
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 25
March 31, 2017 12:26 pm  

Okay, finally I can make a little more detailed report on this project.

I used the fantastic automate-eGPU script by goalque and FricoRico running  macOS Sierra 10.12.3 (16D32) to enable display out on eGPU. I was able to obtain and test the following graphics cards:

GTX 970 (Palit JetStream): Working on external Screen, 5K HiDPI mode with nVidia drivers and boot-args nv_spanmodepolicy=1, fans noisy (defective card?)

RX 480 (Sapphire): Kind of working with kext edits according to the guide by theitsage, unfortunately I could not get MST mode to work, so that I could see 2 x 2560 screens in system report, but they would not get stitched together as two panels of the Dell Up 2715k. I also tried adding a custom resolution in SwitchResX without success

GTX 980 (EVGA): So, after my GTX 970 being faulty and the MST mode for Dual Cable Display not fully supported in current sierra radeon drivers I decided to give it another go and ordered a used EVGA GTX 980. With nVidia drivers still installed and also boot-args set to correct spanmodepolicy Dell UP2715K is indeed working great.

Also I tried compatibility with Windows10 via Bootcamp installation. Booting into Windows, with enclosure and GPU being connected the only necessary step was installing nVidis drivers into Windows and restart the computer.

Pro:

  • Whole Setup 100% Silent in desktop mode
  • Enough graphics power to work on serious tasks, when connected to 5K Display (i.e. InDesign, Premiere Pro and Photoshop)
  • CUDA-Support
  • Smooth desktop performance running macOs and Windows
  • Gaming in 2560*1440 seems possible (tested shortly)

Cons

  • Power Cycling of external Display is necessary once after boot
  • No wake from sleep mode (so I disabled sleep)
  • In 2/10 cases Windows does not boot up correctly, Fix: restart, try again
  • Sometimes there are glitches in cursor positioning in macOS, which seems to be a problem resulting from the somewhat wacky nVidia driver. Also legit Mac Pro owners are suffering from that problem

I made two videos, so you could have a look at how this setup performs.

macOS:

Windows 10:

I hope this helps anyone deciding on whether building a similar eGPU setup is worth it. Although there are certain limitations to my mind this solution will help to overcome the terribly product portfolio Apple is having up for sale currently.

Cost for this project all-in-all: 650€

MacBook Pro 15" Mid 2015 w/ AMD Radeon R9 M370X
Mac Pro 2013 D300 + ASUS XG Station Pro + ASUS ROG VEGA 56
[email protected] Dell UP2715K


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Halbertus
(@halbertus)
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Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 25

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theitsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 3207
March 31, 2017 1:04 pm  

Very good to see this setup is working for you!

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

eGPU enclosure buying guide

86 external GPU build guides


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Halbertus
(@halbertus)
Eminent Member
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 25
April 5, 2017 1:44 pm  

Just downgraded to OS X El Capitan 10.11.6 (15G1421). Great results:

  • No more cursor glitches
  • Wake from sleep works

eGPU setup is working near to perfect for me now! 

MacBook Pro 15" Mid 2015 w/ AMD Radeon R9 M370X
Mac Pro 2013 D300 + ASUS XG Station Pro + ASUS ROG VEGA 56
[email protected] Dell UP2715K


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