eGPU boost for Mac Mini Late 2012 upgraded with 16 GB RAM & trying to hack it to up to 4k?  

 

cyberdogg
(@cyberdogg)
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April 2, 2018 12:02 pm  

Hi,

Since Apple officially updated HighSierra to the latest version, 10.13.4 (edit: it should be 10.13.3 for Thunderbolt 1 & 2 for possible compatibility but my point stands), that supports eGPU for the limited number of recent Apple computer products, would it be (theoretically) plausible or possible to acquire eGPU box with Thunderbolt 2 to install a mid-end GPU card that could be configured with Mac Mini Late 2012 edition to "hack" it to upgrade to 4k resolution for viewing on Sony Bravia 55" 4k HDTV, besides the benefit of faster graphic processing?

I tried researching on 4k upgrade by hacking, but some forums referring to this hack may be outdated with some difficult to configure, using only Terminal to execute manual commands, not to mention trying to download from GitHub that confuses me since I'm not familiar with GitHub when it comes trying to obtain programs to hack the Mac Mini Late 2012 computer.

I'm holding on to Apple Mac Mini Late 2012 edition for a few following reasons:

1.) It is the last Mac Mini computer that allows for manual upgrade of memory (RAM). I boosted it from 4 GB to 16 GB by manual upgrade. (The later Mac Mini like 2014 edition has RAM soldered in that makes it impossible to upgrade manually.)

2.) Despite its age, it runs good at this current time, even with the demanding programs such as Unigine's Mac version of "Valley" for benchmarking. 

3.) Lastly, I am still upset at Apple Computer Inc for the number of reasons that might be better left unspecified. Also in particular Apple's continuing neglect of Mac Mini, with the rumored 2017 Mac Mini that comes with 4k display resolution feature, yet it's hard to find/discern if this is true now. 

I am looking for a confirmation whether Mac Mini Late 2012 could be power-boosted by hacking (besides 4k display trick) with Thunderbolt 2-equipped eGPU, despite Apple's official statement that the latest MacOS update is intended for the listed recent Apple products.


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TobyB
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April 4, 2018 6:11 pm  

If your using an eGPU then then 4k limiation wouldn't be there as your not using the Intel GPU that can not do 4k.  the only hack is enabling the eGPU.


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Yukikaze
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April 4, 2018 6:25 pm  

You can run a 4K display off an eGPU, assuming you can get an eGPU to work. If you stay on 10.13.3, this is doable even on the older TB1 system. For a simple solution, find a (used) AKiTiO Thunder2 and add a low-power 4K capable card into it. If all you want is driving a 4K display (that is, gaming performance is of no concern), then something like a GT1030 won't even require you to replace the power supply the Thunder2 comes with.

My eGPU Zoo - Link to my Implementations.
Want to output 4K@60Hz 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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cyberdogg
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April 5, 2018 8:16 am  

Thanks for the replies with constructive comments.

As of now, I have ordered the Mini Displayport to HDMI converter module to configure the Mac Mini with the installed trial/pay software called SwitchResX. This might amplify the Mac Mini's limited internal hardware to force it to upgrade it to 4k resolution, according to the useful advice posts within the thread I found at Apple web site (ironically enough, despite it not being official as a hidden feature). 

As for the external eGPU device, should I decide to return to dabbling in graphic design and illustration, I'll keep you informed with my process in setting up eGPU for Mac Mini Late 2012, for those interested as the owners of the otherwise semi-obsolete Mac Mini late 2012 edition, with the photographs and my commentary in this thread. 

I must say that I'm still upset at Apple for crippling the backward-compatibility feature of Thunderbolt 1 and 2 with its latest release of MacOS 10.13.4, which means that we would have to upgrade to the newest Mac hardware with Thunderbolt 3 that is still expensive, for those who prefer to be frugal or are rather impecunious. And Apple's minimal or lack of support for NVIDIA in eGPU configuration that means technical headache.

It's like Apple doesn't care about the small faction of the customer base that still rely on older Mac hardware with T1 and T2 among other problems, being out of touch. 

Hopefully, Apple will listen to the eGPU community to be more responsive by being more customer-friendly, by removing the limitations enforced in latest MacOS updates.

Again, thanks for the suggestions.


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Fry-man22
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April 5, 2018 11:13 pm  

I think the "hack" in question is just going to give you a software upscaled 4K image. It will be rendered at 4K in the OS, but it will not be that size when it is handed to your display. It also lists 30Hz as the max refresh rate. That's not going to look good on your TV. It's going to look bad, that's why it's not officially supported.

If you really want a 4K/60 image the your display deserves, then the eGPU route is the only way to go. That will look good, but it's harder to make work because IT'S not officially supported :).

I would recommend buying an eGPU from somewhere that has a 30 day return policy (Amazon) to try and then you can see if you can make it work without the $700 investment for sure.

It might also be a good idea to consider your future plans before investing in the eGPU. I have a 2012 rMBP that I fully expect to replace with another MBP once they have 6 core CPUs. This means there is a use for my eGPU past my 6 year old laptop. If you can't say the same and expect to leave the Apple ecosystem after the mini dies, then maybe just letting your TV upscale the 1080p signal in the mini is the way to go until it kicks the bucket.


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cyberdogg
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April 10, 2018 4:57 pm  

Thanks for your pragmatic advice.

I tried Mini Displayport (male) to HDMI (female) adapter cable following the instructions mentioned in the other post (by embedded links) above, and sadly it failed to work in upscaling, despite numerous attempts.

In particular, Mac Mini cannot function with UHDTV in conjunction with the resolution-defining software other than "System Preference," and the display looks scrambled/spazzy with rolling interface or blacked out with UHDTV saying "unsupported device."

Maybe it has to do with 30Hz that screwed it up to render UHDTV connection incompatible. I had to manually reset Mac Mini to restore back to its original state, using a separate monitor to visibly re-adjust the settings since UHDTV blacked out that made it inaccessible unless the custom resolution is deleted to return to 1080p/60Hz.  

The good news is that there is the custom script fix, just released to our delight, that is available to rectify the current macOS 10.13.4 by overriding its blockage of TB 1 & 2, so I should consider investing in eGPU not only to run 4k natively according to GPU's stated capacity but also boost the graphical performance as you advise, to continue to holding to my Mac Mini Late 2012 model until it croaks.

I learned that the latest Apple will do with the refreshed line of Mac Mini (and Mac Pro) will be in the year 2019, which is still a long time to wait. Yet another reason to stay with Mac Mini Late 2012 with upgraded RAM of 16GB rather than compromised upgrade like Mac Mini 2014 edition that is essentially lobotomized with its soldered RAM to prevent upgradability.

I don't know what the hell was Apple thinking when it came to that. It's like they spite the customers to deny upgrading by pressuring to upgrade to better computers released later for profit. Yet another reason I dislike Apple.

IMHO, Apple Inc, under its current CEO, has not really innovated in terms of substance since the lamented passing of Mr. Jobs.

Yet another reason I like "retrocomputing" with the idea of improving my computer's performance with eGPU to overcome limitations due not just to semi-obsolescence but also frugality by shaving off further expenses in upgrading to the newer and more expensive Apple-brand hardware.


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LongEz
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May 6, 2018 9:01 pm  

 

Exactly!!  I use 2.6GHz Core i7 16GB Late 2012 Mac Mini and for the last several years, have been lusting for 4k to edit my birding photos and 4k video clips.  

Recently I discovered the x-plane flying simulator for Mac, so now I am also thirsting for faster graphics with lots of video ram.

One additional benefit of the Mac Mini has been the ability to use a 21:9 aspect ratio display.  Being a progressive eyeglass user, the 21:9 format is more comfortable to view than my prior 4:3 aspect iMac 27.  

Posted by: cyberdogg

The good news is that there is the custom script fix, just released to our delight,

I discovered this just this morning - very tempting, but no guarantees.

I am so conflicted between

  • wanting an Apple supported "it just works" solution,
  • the feeling that my Mac Mini "still works,"
  • and the "Don't Buy, Update Coming Soon" for nearly everything at macrumors.com.

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noreallyitsme
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May 9, 2018 3:26 am  

So what are our options here? I’m in the exact same position as you - Sony tv and all lol

love th current set up, 4K for just viewing and movies and pictures would be amazing!


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LongEz
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May 9, 2018 1:15 pm  
Posted by: noreallyitsme

So what are our options here?

"Our" options seem to be

  1. Boot with usual monitor connected to DisplayPort
  2. Disconnect monitor
  3. Connect a TB1/2 to TB3 adapter ($50) 
  4. Connect a TB3 eGPU either:
  •      minimal powered "custom card" such as the Sonnet Puck with 560 ($400) or 570 ($600) 
  •      a maximal powered "off-the-shelf" card in a full size enclosure ($700-$1300) 

BUT the TB1 to TB3 path will limit the maximum performance possible.  

I cannot find any relevant benchmarks.


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LongEz
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May 10, 2018 6:10 pm  
Posted by: LongEz

 

I cannot find any relevant benchmarks.

Ok so here are some Valley benchmarks of my current Mac Mini 6,2 Late 2012 (Intel Core i7-3720QM  2.6GHz 4 core 16GB memory Intel 4000 graphics) driving a 24.5" LG 21:9 2560x1080 Ultra-wide.

Medium, 2560x1440 windowed:        FPS 3.2 Score 133
High, 2560 x 1080 vsync fullscreen: FPS 4.8 Score 200
Medium, 2560x1080 fullscreen:        FPS 6.7 Score 279
Medium, 1920x1080 windowed:        FPS 8.3 Score 348

Since I am considering the Sonnet Breakaway with the 580 which is an Apple supported external GPU configuration, for comparison I looked at this mac-mini-late-2012-sonnet-breakaway-box-350-with-rx-580-8gb, ($699) which he benchmarked (with a 2.3Ghz/slower processor but I don't think the difference is significant) at:

High, 2560x1440 Full Screen: FPS 35.5 Score 893

Which would seem to say I can expect a 10 to 11 fold increase in frame rate with a bump in quality settings from Medium to High.

He also states that once configured, it will  boot directly into the eGPU mode without messing with monitor cabling.

This is sounding pretty sweet.


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