2013 15" Lenovo Thinkpad W540 (Q K1100M) [4th,4C,Q] + RX 570 @ 10Gbps-TB1 (AKiTiO Thunder2) + Win10 & Linux Arch [TuxThePenguin0]
Lenovo Thinkpad W540 - i7 4700MQ, Intel HD Graphics 4600, NVIDIA Quadro K1100m, 24GB dual channel DDR3
Running Windows 10 1809 and Arch Linux
None yet, I will send some soon once I'm bothered
On Linux it was as simple as adding a configuration file to run X11 on the eGPU
On Windows the biggest problem was battling the automatic driver installation, as it normally installs the NVIDIA drivers first, which in my experience, reliably breaks installations after installing the AMD drivers.
The first thing to do is boot into safe mode and uninstall all the graphics drivers completely using DDU, then, if possible while still in safe mode, install the AMD drivers, then Intel, then NVIDIA.
To get the eGPU recognized in Windows it must be hot-plugged, however doing this results in worse performance until I do things like restart the DWM and the start menu process, the easiest workaround I have found is quickly plugging the Thunderbolt cable in as soon as the Windows logo appears
3DMark Timespy: 3330 (GPU: 3383, CPU: 3062)
3DMark Firestrike: 8773 (GPU: 10900, Physics: 8615)
I'm just going to dump all the things I have discovered about this setup here because there's a lot
- TB devices have to be hotplugged to work with a TB aware OS, i.e. Linux 4.13 or newer, Windows 10, etc.
- Plugging in at a multiboot manager like rEFInd *does* count as hotplugging, just as long as it's not connected around the same time the Lenovo screen appears
- With this Thinkpad and nothing else the GPU is unstable when it's allowed to change frequency dynamically, the workaround is to just lock it to the highest state
- If you mod the BIOS to give you an advanced menu DO NOT TOUCH THE THUNDERBOLT SETTINGS, I managed to irreversibly destroy TB support in Linux on my machine which was what finally pushed me to get a new motherboard with a working Quadro
- I've had no issues with OS support, Windows 10 1903 worked fine, so have all the newer Linux versions I've tried
- If you are going to do this I'd advise finding a shorter card like the one used in this persons guide or use a different enclosure
- This laptop is capable of using TB and Expresscard eGPUs, I haven't tested EC though because for me that would be a waste of money (I already had the enclosure and RX 570)
- In Linux if you are having very slow performance when using both an eGPU and iGPU at the same time make sure that you either disable the compositor if possible, remove all the monitors from one of the GPUs or completely disable one of the GPUs with a custom xorg.conf file, the Arch wiki can be pretty helpful about this
- Some time in future I will buy a CPU that supports IOMMU such as a 4800mq or 4900mq, once I do that I'll create a Windows VM and use IOMMU to pass through the eGPU to it and when I do I'll be sure to write about it here
Hey just wondering if you've tried using the external gpu with the official thinkpad docks. E.g will the gpu drive video through the dock thanks.
I don't think the PCIe docks support the W540, even if they did I don't own one and I bought the Thunderbolt enclosure before I even planned to buy this laptop (I upgraded from a 2011 Macbook) so I can't do any testing
😂i kinda forgot about this but thanks for replying. What i meant was the dock doesnt have thunderbolt but was wondering if i plugged in the egpu through the laptops thunderbolt port would the video still display through the docks dvi.
Any other problems you have noted apart from those due to power state changes and the presence of the NVidia dGPU? I have the choice to get a W540 with or without a quadro (without quadro has more ram and better drive), and if this build is really feasible I'd love to get the without quadro version especially if it helps me avoid the NVidia problems. That seems like it would help me avoid the problems with the conflicts and there's no real need for the quadro at all with a working eGPU anyway, for me.
To confirm, REISUB doesn't work in Linux with your crashed GPU?
For more details about your use case, have you tried gaming on the internal monitor? And which games have you tried in VR? Do you have any details to share regarding performance, stuttering, etc.?
Was the 570 over the NVidia analogue just based on choice or did the eGPU process seem like it would be easier that way? Or did you just own the 570 beforehand? Surely you could have avoided the conflict problems with 2 NVidia cards?
And pretty please, could I have some hardware pictures
I'm not entirely sure how you could get a W540 without a Quadro, iirc that model only ever came with a dGPU installed, there is a good chance it is actually a T540p which doesn't have Thunderbolt so be aware of that.
I have never actually used REISUB before so I can't say anything about that.
When gaming on the internal monitor it works fine but performance is pretty bad thanks to it being 1080p, not to mention that I think even though the W540 was advertised as having TB2 it may actually only be using a TB1 controller.
The VR performance is excellent, I haven't played too many games yet since they are pretty expensive and I have other priorities but the performance has been pretty much what you would expect from an RX 570 with maybe the occasional stutter when loading in large amounts of textures.
I chose the RX 570 because it was a lot cheaper than a 1060 (I got it when the mining boom ended) and because of its much better Linux and MacOS support, there were no conflicts to avoid with using two NVIDIA GPUs since the AMD one works just like a normal GPU would as long as it is hotplugged in any Thunderbolt aware OS (Including Linux now as of some recent kernel update), if anything it's likely that an NVIDIA GPU would have caused more issues thanks to Linux driver conflicts and a complete lack of support in MacOS.
I'll post some hardware pictures soon but the last few days have been pretty rubbish for me and things are kind of a mess because of that, also be warned that it looks pretty terrible since not only do I not have a proper enclosure for it yet, I also lost my electrical tape half way through so some of the wires are covered in kapton and duct tape (yes I know it's a horrible idea but it's only "temporary")
- Thanks for the reply
I will interrogate the seller a bit more to make sure it's a w540 and does have thunderbolt capabilities. Thanks, I just assumed, perhaps a bit naively, that there were versions with and without the dGPU.
Edit: seller has confirmed it has a quadro - a K1000M, so not the best but should probably be fine, though I was looking forward to avoiding eGPU problems due to the dGPU.
REISUB is a very good way to reboot more safely and gently, useful if you are in a state where the system is unresponsive and you need to reboot, but without the damage of potential file system corruption and HDD damage holdfrom justing the power button until the computer turns off.
Haha I'm not really bothered about appearances (would I really be going for a ThinkPad if so?) I just want to see how you've connected things and what potential problems you've had.
For some other questions about your usecase- did you have any whitelisted bios issues with your W540? They seem to be an unexpected problem with thinkpads and eGPUs.
And when you say the end of the Akitio is cut off, is that an eGPU specific term (sorry, I'm very new to all this) or have you actually sawn off the end of the internal frame? Which brings me on to a question of form factors - would you recommend any enclosures which are big enough that I don't have to pay the price and performance premium for a smaller card and also big enough that passive air cooling is sufficient? No worries if you can't, I've just seen some people saying the degree to which th build works depends on the enclosure a bit so I just want some feedback from someone with a build very close to what I'll be having.
I didn't know 1080p was high enough for an internal monitor to cause terrible performance, I'll keep that in mind.
Hope the next few days are less rubbish for you!
I have not had any whitelist issues with my Thinkpad BIOS, the only whitelist in the system is for the WiFi card which means that all Thunderbolt devices and 3rd party screens work perfectly.
Also when your seller says that the W540 has a K1000m, maybe they mean a K1100m? As far as I know the W540 only came with a K1100m or K2100m and if I recall correctly the W530 had a K1000m or K2000m.
When I say I cut off the end of the frame I mean it, I took a saw to the internal frame in a spot I chose so that I wouldn't lose anything useful aside from the fan mount and I made the cleanest cut I could and then filed it down a bit to remove the end of the frame since it was in the way of the end of the GPU, I then painted over the exposed steel with some anti-rust paint so that I can keep the enclosure from… well… rusting 😛 (I also covered the painted area in electrical tape to stop the paint from being scratched off just in case)
If you can it would be a much better idea to buy a larger enclosure, getting the Akitio Thunder2 (which specifically mentions that it is not for eGPUs on the store page) working for running eGPUs has been a fun but time consuming task which involved soldering small wires, cutting some fairly thick steel and will need me to fabricate a case at some point, the only issue is that at least off the top of my head I cannot think of any Thunderbolt 1/2 eGPU enclosures that would do any better and don't cost an insane amount (my whole build was done on a very tight budget).
Oh and 1080p is not normally enough to cause a huge drop in performance but when there is only a TB1 link between the laptop and the GPU it hurts performance a lot more than other setups.