macOS Pascal Drivers: GTX 1080 Ti + 2016 15" MacBook Pro
 
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macOS Pascal Drivers: GTX 1080 Ti + 2016 15" MacBook Pro  

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itsage
(@itsage)
Founder Admin
Joined: 5 years ago
 

 

The first week of April has been insanely great for Mac users. Apple apologized that its Late 2013 Mac Pro trashcan failed to meet users' needs. It vowed to completely redesign its next Mac Pro to make up with its core user base, the creative professionals. Two days later, Nvidia announced a beast of a graphics card, the GTX Titan Xp. It subtly dropped the news Pascal drivers for macOS would arrive within a week to support this new GPU and a whole host of GTX 10 series graphics cards.

We prepped our Mantiz Venus Thunderbolt 3 external GPU enclosure with a GTX 1080 Ti then hooked it up to a Late 2016 15" MacBook Pro. Everything was ready to go pending the web drivers from Nvidia. April 11, 2017 marked an 11-month wait for Pascal driver support in macOS since the GTX 1080 release on May 27, 2016. This was a much longer delay than the previous seven-month wait for Maxwell drivers. All was forgiven though. Nvidia web drivers 378.05.05.05f01 are here, and they work with some visual glitches with Goalque's automate-eGPU script to enable GTX 10 series eGPU support in macOS. This is the beta version of the drivers and hopefully these glitches will be remedied by the time the Pascal drivers are finalized.

There have been many questions and concerns about bottlenecking on eGPU implementations. Before we discuss the CPU performance, let's assess the full path the GPU travels via the external enclosure to accelerate your ultrabook. This is a typical channel for how the external GPU communicates with the CPU:

GPU « » External Enclosure « » Thunderbolt cable « » Computer « » PCH « » CPU

 

Maximising TB3 eGPU performance: TB3-CPU vs TB3-PCH, how many PCIe lanes are attached?

The past five months have taught us there are frustrations in selecting the right components for your eGPU build to get the most performance. Some notable issues we've discovered include the 2x PCIe lane cripple with the majority of the Dell XPS line, the TI83 enclosures' firmware Host-to-Device half-speed limit and Intel's Thunderbolt 3 fine print (pg6) which states Thunderbolt "DATA" (i.e., PCIe traffic) is throttled down to 22Gbps. Our reports have prompted Dell to clarify its XPS laptops PCIe lanes and have encouraged external GPU manufacturers to push Intel for firmware updates.

To get the most out of an eGPU setup, you should start with a computer that is a good Thunderbolt 3 host. From the limited resources we've gathered to date, the Late 2016 15" MacBook Pro is currently the best host for external GPU implementation. We found Apple attached the PCIe lanes directly to the quad-core i7 CPU in the newest 15" MacBook Pro laptops.

This is unlike the majority of Thunderbolt 3 laptops which route the PCIe lanes through the PCH. The disadvantage of having the Thunderbolt connection through the PCH is that the PCH shares bandwidth with other internal components (e.g., PCIe flash storage, network cards, USB ports) and potentially limits the eGPU performance. Nando prepared this table explaining max bandwidth for eGPU usage on the Late 2016 MacBook Pro.

late-2016 15″ Macbook Pro late-2016 13″ Macbook Pro Touch Bar

No. of active eGPUs : bandwidth per eGPU

1: 22Gbps
2: 22Gbps/16Gbps  (on alternate/same side)
3: 22Gbps on side with single eGPU, 16Gbps on side with dual eGPUs
4: 16Gbps

No. of active eGPUs : bandwidth per eGPU

1: 22Gbps/16Gbps (left/right) minus other PCH devices overhead
2: 16Gbps  (on alternate sides or left side only) minus other PCH devices overhead
2: 8Gbps (right side only)  minus other PCH devices overhead 
3: b/w 8Gbps-16Gbps depending on ports used minus other PCH devices overhead
4: 8Gbps  minus other PCH devices overhead

 

GTX 1080 Ti Performance Testing

We wanted to test the GTX 1080 Ti Thunderbolt 3 eGPU with the Late 2016 15" MacBook Pro to present a best-case scenario performance wise. We are using an AKiTiO Node and a Mantiz Venus TB3 external GPU enclosure for these tests. We also have a full comparison on different external enclosures in our eGPU buyer's guide. The Unigine tests were run through the MacBook Pro's internal display via the ghost HDMI adapter. Here are our initial findings:

Late 2016 15" MacBook ProLuxmark 3.1Valley 1.0Heaven 4.0
AMD Radeon Pro 450 + Intel HD 5305,822706360
AMD Radeon Pro 455 + Intel HD 5305,901798404
AMD Radeon Pro 460 + Intel HD 5306,056895495
Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti TB3 eGPU22,6732,0261,177
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti TB3 eGPU23,1722,3531,422
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti TB3 eGPU external display23,1723,0312,640

It's an exciting time for our eGPU community. Apple is beginning to take steps in the right direction to address the power and performance needs of its pro users. At the same time Nvidia is expanding the selection of graphics cards available for eGPU implementation on Macs.

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2021 14" Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio [11th,4C,H] + RTX 2080 Ti @ 32Gbps-TB4 (WD_Black D50) + Win11 [build link]  


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ikir
 ikir
(@ikir)
Prominent Member
Joined: 5 years ago
 

Nice result! Can you compare valley in external screen to internal one?


MacBook Pro 13" 2020 Touch Bar M1 8-core CPU 8-core GPU - 16GB unified memory - 512GB PCIe SSD
MacBook Pro 13" 2020 Touch Bar i7 quad-core 2.3Ghz - 16GB RAM - 1TB PCIe SSD

my awesome Radeon VII eGPU
my Mantiz Venus extreme mod with Sapphire Nitro+ RX Vega 64

 
2018 13" MacBook Pro [8th,4C,U] + Radeon VII @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Mantiz Venus) + macOS 10.15 [build link]  


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Matthew
 Matthew
(@Matthew)
Joined: 4 years ago
 

Great article, thanks! I have a MB Pro 13" 2016. I didn't realize the different TB3 ports had different bandwidth. In your comparison, you list #1 - #4. However, I'm not clear on how those map to the actual MB Pro ports. Would #1 be the farthest back port of the left, #2 being the closest left front port? And #3 being farthest back right, and #4 being closest front right?

To do: Create my signature with system and expected eGPU configuration information to give context to my posts. I have no builds.

.

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itsage
(@itsage)
Founder Admin
Joined: 5 years ago
 

IKIR, I will be testing this setup further and external display performance is on my to-dos.

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external graphics card builds
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2021 14" Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio [11th,4C,H] + RTX 2080 Ti @ 32Gbps-TB4 (WD_Black D50) + Win11 [build link]  


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itsage
(@itsage)
Founder Admin
Joined: 5 years ago
 

Matthew, the 1 - 4 numbers are the quantity of possible eGPU pairing with the MacBook Pro. The table shows theoretical max bandwidth.

For your Late 2016 13" touchbar MacBook Pro, the left side ports are routed through a 4x PCIe connection. The right ones are 2x.

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external graphics card builds
best laptops for external GPU
eGPU enclosure buyer's guide

 
2021 14" Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio [11th,4C,H] + RTX 2080 Ti @ 32Gbps-TB4 (WD_Black D50) + Win11 [build link]  


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loose_cannon
(@loose_cannon)
New Member
Joined: 5 years ago
 

ITSAGE, do you happen to know the theoretical max bandwidth of the Late 2016 13" non-touchbar MacBook Pro TB3 ports?

To do: Create my signature with system and expected eGPU configuration information to give context to my posts. I have no builds.

.

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ikir
 ikir
(@ikir)
Prominent Member
Joined: 5 years ago
 

Right port on the non-touch bar are the same as the other 13", so full bandwidth.


MacBook Pro 13" 2020 Touch Bar M1 8-core CPU 8-core GPU - 16GB unified memory - 512GB PCIe SSD
MacBook Pro 13" 2020 Touch Bar i7 quad-core 2.3Ghz - 16GB RAM - 1TB PCIe SSD

my awesome Radeon VII eGPU
my Mantiz Venus extreme mod with Sapphire Nitro+ RX Vega 64

 
2018 13" MacBook Pro [8th,4C,U] + Radeon VII @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Mantiz Venus) + macOS 10.15 [build link]  


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Rain
 Rain
(@Rain)
Joined: 4 years ago
 

ITSAGE,

Do you have any comparison of the best-case performance of a 15" and 13" model?
How much faster is the quad core in real world usage?

I'm trying to pick between the two, but 1:1 comparisons are hard to find.

To do: Create my signature with system and expected eGPU configuration information to give context to my posts. I have no builds.

.

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itsage
(@itsage)
Founder Admin
Joined: 5 years ago
 

I have tried non-tb 13" MBP, tb 13" MBP, and now the 15" MBP. If you're after max performance, the 15" is the one to get. Its internal architecture is better.

We don't have many 1:1 comparisons on these 2016 MBPs. Our Thunderbolt eGPU for Mac 2017 Update article has some performance numbers of the 13" vs. 15".

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external graphics card builds
best laptops for external GPU
eGPU enclosure buyer's guide

 
2021 14" Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio [11th,4C,H] + RTX 2080 Ti @ 32Gbps-TB4 (WD_Black D50) + Win11 [build link]  


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itsage
(@itsage)
Founder Admin
Joined: 5 years ago
 

I think IKIR meant left-side ports on the non-touchbar MBP. They are the same as the left-side ports on the touchbar version shown in the table.

LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Youtube | Instagram
 
external graphics card builds
best laptops for external GPU
eGPU enclosure buyer's guide

 
2021 14" Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio [11th,4C,H] + RTX 2080 Ti @ 32Gbps-TB4 (WD_Black D50) + Win11 [build link]  


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