2016 15" HP ZBook 15 G3 [Xeon E3-1545M, Iris Pro p580, no dGPU] + GTX1070@32Gbps-TB3 (Aorus Gaming Box) + Win10pro [switch]
Finally got into the eGPU community with something to show for it.
Let’s start with my laptop: I purchased this ZBook last year without a dGPU. I don’t need the pro stuff from the Fire or Quadro, so no point in shelling that much $$ for them. The integrated Iris Pro 580 is actually decent in ancient games and you can play low-detail moba-type games.
The laptop does have a TB3 controller with two external USB-C ports. For those interested, it’s connected by PCIe x4 to the PCH and by default supports the full 40gbps communication speeds (unlike other laptops). It also supports 10gbps USB-3.1-gen2, not that I have any devices to test this with. What it does NOT support is charging via USB-C. So I can’t charge my laptop from the enclosure (which is a damn shame).
Next up, the little Aorus Gaming Box. It’s a first generation TB3 eGPU enclosure that comes with a bundled video card – a GeForce 1070 Mini OC – and also includes a 5Gbps USB 3.1 hub with one port functioning as a dedicated charging port for mobile devices (supports PD and QC3 standards). So if you’ve got a Samsung with QuickCharge you’ll be happy.
So onto the setup process (simple as can get!):
- connect the eGPU to a power socket; laptop was already ON
- connect the eGPU to the ZBook via USB-C (actually daisy chained beyond a ZBook docking station, because I had no room on my desk on the side with the USB-C ports!)
- validate the connection in the TB3 software; I got an error that my product might not work properly (ZBook G3 doesn’t officially support eGPUs)
- waited for the hardware autodetect to finish (it installed “something”); did NOT restart
- installed Aorus software utility from Gigabyte; did NOT restart
- installed Aorus graphics drivers from Gigabyte; restarted in the end
- After restart, the GPU was up and running; I had to reconfigure the monitor settings to make sure the eGPU-attached display was the primary (and only) display to avoid any performance impact; that’s it.
- Ran Witcher 3, 1080p all maxed out and actually started enjoying the views for once 🙂
Here’s a few cavets I noticed:
- it’s rather noisy and will exceed the noise level of the ZBook in full load; headphones or out-of-the-way installation recommended (or if you’re like me and you don’t mind it, it’s cool)
- since the ZBook doesn’t natively support GeForce class mainstream cards, the iGPU/eGPU switchover isn’t really working; disconnecting the eGPU can cause apps to crash (not always). My personal solution was to simply run everything via eGPU whenever it’s connected, as I don’t particularly care about the noise or extra power consumption.
- Sleep + eGPU connect during sleep is a bad idea. Usually needs a hard reboot to recover. The OS doesn’t mind that hard reset that much from what I gathered.
- It’s generally a good idea to close all apps and unplug the GPU if you don’t need it. Do the same (close all apps) before plugging it back in. I’ve had zero problems this way.
- currently suffers from performance issues due to Intel controller firmware. It’s the well known “half H2D bandwidth” that almost all TB3 enclosures experienced at launch.
- if you have an HP ZBook with a dGPU (Quadro or FirePro), you might run into problems with the eGPU. It’s best to disable the internal dedicated GPU (not the Intel!) altogether and remove the drivers entirely in order to prevent potential problems. This link has more info on that subject, from someone else using ZBooks.
- it was pointed out that the internal USB hub of the Aorus is not 10Gbps USB 3.1 gen 2; I don’t really care, as I wouldn’t attach anything with high bandwidth demands to the Aorus – I need the box for gaming not external-SSD-RAID0 🙂
- [updated 2 aug 2017] ran into a problem where the enclosure was not recognized by TB3 to matter what I did; I had to do a hard reset of the enclosure: to do this remove power and TB3 cable for like 5 minutes (15-20 seconds is NOT enough if no consumers are attached!)
Here’s a bit of geek-images. The GPU-Z and HWINFO screenshots. I’ll gladly do benchmarks if anyone points me to free benching software.
Oh and here’s the temporary setup I have now:
I’m updating my implementation table with a few observations:
- the intial observation related to low H2D bandwidth has been fixed as of the 25th of August (firmware download link: www.gigabyte.com)
- the new firmware impinges on USB bandwidth to provide full-throttle PCIe bandwidth; for me this is AWESOME, however I’ve seen complaints related to USB peripherials attached to the enclosure while GPU in use
- in my particular setup, there’s about a 10% change on shut down that the enclosure does not properly “sense” the shutdown and instead of powering off enters an odd state with its fans revving up to 100% (it makes an infernal racket!); removing the TB3 cable solves the issue, but sometimes (at least twice) led to a 100% unresponsive enclosure (which required removing the power cable for 20seconds to restore
- for the record, I am using the eGPU Daisy-Chained behind HP’s default TB3 dock (which has a button to power up the laptop even in clamshell mode); I loose about 7~9% PCIe bandwidth
- USB devices hooked up to the HP Dock will ALWAYS throttle down the bandwidth for the eGPU (so if I have a USB 3.0 SSD and try to copy stuff to it, the PCIe bandwidth to the eGPU will suffer greatly); I like this quite a lot as it allows me to have the dock as a 100% functional port replicator.
- I haven’t been able to use the eGPU to accelerate gaming on the internal display of the laptop; I didn’t try much as I use an external monitor for gaming. 15 inch is too little for games 🙂