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A Call For Measurements: Isolating the Thunderbolt Effect.
 

A Call For Measurements: Isolating the Thunderbolt Effect.  

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itsage
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I ran the R9 Fury X through this test bench. I could replicate eGPU-accelerated internal display test by connecting the monitor through the on-board HDMI port. The difference is surprisingly marginal as found on my recent review of the RX 580 eGPU.

This is rather remarkable given the R9 Fury X is the most powerful AMD consumer GPU atm. @Sky11, can you comment on this improvement with AMD XConnect in the latest Radeon drivers

Internal LCD External LCD

 

R9 Fury X was running with the Sonnet Breakaway Box.

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Sky11
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Hi Sage, 

Regarding Internal Display performance vs External (eGPU-driven) performance

  • Scenario #1: Hybrid Graphics
    • This is the scenario when you have a laptop with Integrated Graphics (iGPU) only, like XPS13, Spectre 360, Carbon X1, etc.
    • In this scenario you will see one type of performance delta between iGPU-driven display and eGPU-driven display - assuming that you are in Extended Desktop mode and you switch between the internal and external displays.
    • The actual performance delta varies depending on the application. I have seen range from like ~1% (which is way below my expectations) to ~11-12% (Doom4, Vulcan). Can you try the same test (internal vs external) with Doom4?
  • Scenario #2: MultiAdapter
    • Take for example XPS15 laptop with internal NVIDIA GPU. If you connect AMD-based eGPU, XConnect will work, but the performance delta between internal and external display loses the meaning. Why? because you always have to have a display directly attached to eGPU. If you start an application on eGPU-driven display, and then drag to internal display, we have no idea or control what GPU will be used. Some apps will pause and switch to internal GPU, some apps will continue to run on eGPU - and I have no estimates of performance delta

Now back to your desktop setup. I do not know what mode NVIDIA and AMD will operate on a desktop+eGPU. Do you see XConnect tray icon?

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itsage
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Thank you for the insight @Sky11. The XConnect icon shows up just like it does on a Thunderbolt laptop. Nvidia Optimus icon also also shows up in the notification area when I ran GTX 980 Ti. The behaviors are all the same in my observation.

Per your explanation, I’m currently using this test bench in Hybrid Graphics mode (there’s no dGPU in the motherboard PCIe slot). I will get Doom 4 and run it through this setup.

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Sky11
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That's great - which means you can compare apples to apples 🙂

One additional comment - on your desktop motherboard, the top slots are definitely wired to CPU (PEG), but i am not so sure about bottom slots / shorter slots - some may be wired to the "Southbridge" - PCH. Likely you will see lower performance, BUT it really depends on system BIOS implementation as well.

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ed_co
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Should be great to find the mobo which has the TB3-CPU, otherwise we couldn't be able to completely isolate the thunderbolt effect... There is not such motheboard? I can't imagine that there is no one out there...

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itsage
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I was testing the Razer Core + GTX 980 Ti with this test bench last night. Upon a restart to do further testing with the on-board PCIe slots, I encountered “ACPI BIOS ERROR” at boot. Do you guys have recommendations that I can remedy this error?

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Sky11
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Sage, if you remove the any add-in cards, clear CMOS on the motherboard, does the motherboard boots ?

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itsage
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Thank you for suggestion. I removed all components and the coin battery to clear CMOS. Unfortunately that did not fix the ACPI BIOS ERROR at boot.

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nando4
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@itsage, the ACPI error indicates an invalid configuration when the eGPU is detected upon boot. The workarounds then to avoid BIOS eGPU detection but still enable the eGPU could then be:

– hotplug the eGPU after BIOS POST but before Windows starts. Can add a Windows bootmenu delay to halt Windows loading so can do this before the OS boots:
https://www.tenforums.com/tutorials/22455-enable-disable-f8-advanced-boot-options-windows-10-a.html

– hotplug the eGPU in Windows

– sleep the system, poweron the eGPU, resume the system

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itsage
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I finally got this test bench going without error 12. Here are some numbers comparing x16 PCIe slot, X4 through PCH PCIe slot, and X4 through PCH Thunderbolt 3. The eGPU is a Razer Core + GTX 980 Ti.

Edit
Z170X Test Bench x16 PCIe 3.0 x4 – PCH PCIe 3.0 Thunderbolt 3 eGPU
       
Unigine Valley 95.1 FPS 90.3 FPS 83.7 FPS
Unigine Heaven 90.7 FPS 87.6 FPS 79.0 FPS
Unigine Superposition 93.2 FPS 91.7 FPS 86.9 FPS
3DMark Time Spy 36.0 FPS 35.1 FPS 33.5 FPS
3DMark Fire Strike 88.2 FPS 84.7 FPS 71.7 FPS
       
Rise of the Tomb Raider 60.0 FPS 60.0 FPS 58.5 FPS
Tom Clancy’s GhostRecon 87.9 FPS 69.2 FPS 56.6 FPS
Shadow of Mordor 128.5 FPS 113.4 FPS 97.3 FPS

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nando4
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@itsage, nice work getting it all going.    Did you want to do a x2 PCH test as well (16Gbps)?  TB3 is 22Gbps so is slightly faster than x2 3.0 so we’d expect TB3 results to be slightly better by comparison *if* TB3 latency is also not a performance detractor. The way to force the card to run at x2 is to isolate lanes 3-4 using stick tape.  Only need to do it on one side.  Confirm x2 3.0 operation by using GPU-Z‘s render test “?” question mark next to the Bus Interface .

http://cfile3.uf.tistory.com/image/1668D21E4A793AA1229E75

If x2 3.0 is more reflective of TB3 performance then the card (taped to run x2) can be installed in a CPU attached PCIe slot so can get x2 PCIe-CPU performance.

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vava726
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1) games are playable and around 60 fps.

2)the drop is lower than 18% (imagine a further reduction with future specific driver for egpu)

3) Tb3 gaming is possible, the new products of gigabyte and zotac at Computex show that the cost of enclousers will be under the 200$ in a couple of months

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enjoy
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Great work @itsage - can you run the benchmarks with 1440p and 4k too, if you have time of course 🙂

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itsage
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@Nando I will try the X2 PCIe 3.0 test.

@enjoy I will run benchmarks in 1440p and 4k next.

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itsage
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Fry’s sent me an update the Gigabyte GA-Alpine-Ridge is back-order and no ETA. I’m doing 1440 and 4K benchmarks in the mean time.

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wimpzilla
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@TheITSage: Do you mean that the chip itself is sold out due to some rush buy? To build enclosures?

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itsage
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Sorry for the confusion. I’m talking about the Gigabyte Thunderbolt 3 PCIe ad-on card.

Gigabyte GA Alpine Ridge ad on pcie card

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ed_co
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Posted by: nando4

@itsage, nice work getting it all going.    Did you want to do a x2 PCH test as well (16Gbps)?  TB3 is 22Gbps so is slightly faster than x2 3.0 so we'd expect TB3 results to be slightly better by comparison *if* TB3 latency is also not a performance detractor. The way to force the card to run at x2 is to isolate lanes 3-4 using stick tape.  Only need to do it on one side.  Confirm x2 3.0 operation by using GPU-Z's render test "?" question mark next to the Bus Interface .

http://cfile3.uf.tistory.com/image/1668D21E4A793AA1229E75

If x2 3.0 is more reflective of TB3 performance then the card (taped to run x2) can be installed in a CPU attached PCIe slot so can get x2 PCIe-CPU performance.

Maybe is just stupid, but, what about doing it at x1?? Because TB1 is 10Gbps and is should be a good comparative too!!

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itsage
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Here are the results of this test bench when ran with an Nvidia GTX 980 Ti. Razer Core was the enclosure for eGPU.

 
Test Bench @ 1080p x16 PCIe 3.0 x4 – PCH PCIe 3.0 eGPU x4 – TB3
       
Unigine Valley 95.1 FPS 90.3 FPS 83.7 FPS
Unigine Heaven 90.7 FPS 87.6 FPS 79.0 FPS
Unigine Superposition 93.2 FPS 91.7 FPS 86.9 FPS
3DMark Time Spy 36.0 FPS 35.1 FPS 33.5 FPS
3DMark Fire Strike 88.2 FPS 84.7 FPS 71.7 FPS
       
Rise of the Tomb Raider 60.0 FPS 60.0 FPS 58.5 FPS
Tom Clancy’s GhostRecon 87.9 FPS 69.2 FPS 56.6 FPS
Shadow of Mordor 128.5 FPS 113.4 FPS 97.3 FPS
 
Test Bench @ 1440p x16 PCIe 3.0 x4 – PCH PCIe 3.0 eGPU x4 – TB3
       
Unigine Valley 58.1 FPS 56.3 FPS 53.9 FPS
Unigine Heaven 57.1 FPS 55.6 FPS 52.2 FPS
Unigine Superposition 62.5 FPS 62.0 FPS 59.7 FPS
       
Rise of the Tomb Raider 60 FPS 59.2 FPS 58.3 FPS
Tom Clancy’s GhostRecon 66.0 FPS 53.7 FPS 45.9 FPS
Shadow of Mordor 89.2 FPS 82.3 FPS 73.6 FPS
 
Test Bench @ 2160p x16 PCIe 3.0 x4 – PCH PCIe 3.0 eGPU x4 – TB3
       
Unigine Valley 26.6 FPS 26.1 FPS 25.6 FPS
Unigine Heaven 24.5 FPS 24.3 FPS 23.8 FPS
Unigine Superposition 31.9 FPS 31.9 FPS 31.2 FPS
       
Rise of the Tomb Raider 46.8 FPS 45.6 FPS 46.0 FPS
Tom Clancy’s GhostRecon 37.8 FPS 33.2 FPS 30.1 FPS
Shadow of Mordor 51.4 FPS 50.3 FPS 46.3 FPS

 

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Yukikaze
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This is excellent work, itsage. Thank you for going through all the headache to get us these results!

Want to output [email protected] out of an old system on the cheap? Read here.
Give your Node Pro a second Thunderbolt3 controller for reliable peripherals by re-using a TB3 dock (~50$).

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itsage
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Posted by: Yukikaze

This is excellent work, itsage. Thank you for going through all the headache to get us these results!

I’m always up for a good challenge. Thank you again for the fun idea!

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enjoy
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Thank you very much for the 1440p and 4k benchmarks, the results confirmed our conclusion that if you up the resolution the performance drop is lower. I think after these results finally the eGPU haters will shut up, because for 1080p we have 15-20% performance drop for 1440p is 8% and for 4k the eGPU performance is the same like Desktop PC 🙂 eGPU is the future even Apple knows that now! Forza eGPU 😉

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itsage
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Posted by: nando4

@itsage, nice work getting it all going.    Did you want to do a x2 PCH test as well (16Gbps)?  TB3 is 22Gbps so is slightly faster than x2 3.0 so we’d expect TB3 results to be slightly better by comparison *if* TB3 latency is also not a performance detractor. The way to force the card to run at x2 is to isolate lanes 3-4 using stick tape.  Only need to do it on one side.  Confirm x2 3.0 operation by using GPU-Z‘s render test “?” question mark next to the Bus Interface .

http://cfile3.uf.tistory.com/image/1668D21E4A793AA1229E75

If x2 3.0 is more reflective of TB3 performance then the card (taped to run x2) can be installed in a CPU attached PCIe slot so can get x2 PCIe-CPU performance.

Thank you for these instructions @Nando4. I’m running an RX 580 at x2 3.0 speed in the top PCIe slot of this Test Bench. I will have the results in x16, x4, x2, and x1 in the next few days.

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drachma
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Posted by: enjoy

Thank you very much for the 1440p and 4k benchmarks, the results confirmed our conclusion that if you up the resolution the performance drop is lower. I think after these results finally the eGPU haters will shut up, because for 1080p we have 15-20% performance drop for 1440p is 8% and for 4k the eGPU performance is the same like Desktop PC 🙂 eGPU is the future even Apple knows that now! Forza eGPU 😉

3840x2160 pixels * 26 FPS = 215 million pixels per second

1920x1080 pixels * 60 FPS = 124 million pixels per second

 

but the bottleneck is actually happening at the lower pixels/second case! 

so there is more data overhead in a "frame" getting sent over the link than in just the raw number of pixels. Since we are only seeing the difference at high FPS and not so much at low FPS.

 

which is a pretty great problem to have. it means when you're pushing the performance of your card, you don't lose many FPS from the TB3 link when it really counts. When you are up around 60FPS you can afford to lose 5-10FPS and not notice as much.

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itsage
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I followed Nando‘s recommendation to tape the GPU contact pins so that I could run it as dGPU on the Z170 Test Bench at different PCIe speeds. It was an interesting experiment. I used GPU-Z to confirm the card was running at the speed I wanted. Invisible tape was very handy and made for an easy cleanup, just in case you want to replicate this test yourself.

Here are the results of the Radeon RX 580 ran as dGPU (top PCIe slot) at x16, x4, x2, and x1. I’m also adding the x4 TB3 eGPU results for quick reference.

Radeon RX 580 x16 PCIe 3.0 x4 PCIe 3.0 x2 PCIe 3.0 x1 PCIe 3.0 x4 TB3 eGPU
           
Unigine Valley 56.6 FPS 56.3 FPS 55.4 FPS 53.5 FPS 50.8 FPS
Unigine Heaven 56.8 FPS 56.7 FPS 56.3 FPS 55.0 FPS 49.2 FPS
Unigine Superposition 64.6 FPS 64.7 FPS 64.4 FPS 63.8 FPS 55.3 FPS
3DMark Time Spy 30.4 FPS 30.2 FPS 30.0 FPS 29.3 FPS 27.4 FPS
3DMark Fire Strike 68.2 FPS 67.6 FPS 67.5 FPS 66.5 FPS 57.0 FPS
           
Rise of the Tomb Raider 60.0 FPS 60.0 FPS 60.0 FPS 59.6 FPS 58.1 FPS
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 70.8 FPS 67.8 FPS 61.4 FPS 49.1 FPS 41.5 FPS
Shadow of Mordor 101.9 FPS 100.5 FPS 99.8 FPS 94.4 FPS 83.3 FPS

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kotlos
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Was the eGPU attached to the same system? If yes, that is quite a bit of performance drop for the TB3 when compared to the x4 on a PCIE slot...

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itsage
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It’s the same system. You can click on the numbers to see the screen captures. I noticed that the eGPU tests were ran with an older Radeon drivers (from the week before). I will find time to run it again with the same version Radeon drivers.

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switch
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These numbers suggest that it's not actual bandwidth that's a bottleneck, but the TB overhead (not to mention the PCH), coupled with the fact that full-speed TB3 is actually PCI-e x2, not x4, due to DP and USB-C reservation.

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nando4
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Posted by: itsage

I followed Nando‘s recommendation to tape the GPU contact pins so that I could run it as dGPU on the Z170 Test Bench at different PCIe speeds. It was an interesting experiment. I used GPU-Z to confirm the card was running at the speed I wanted. Invisible tape was very handy and made for an easy cleanup, just in case you want to replicate this test yourself.

Here are the results of the Radeon RX 580 ran as dGPU (top PCIe slot) at x16, x4, x2, and x1. I’m also adding the x4 TB3 eGPU results for quick reference.

Radeon RX 580 x16 PCIe 3.0 x4 PCIe 3.0 x2 PCIe 3.0 x1 PCIe 3.0 x4 TB3 eGPU
           
Unigine Valley 56.6 FPS 56.3 FPS 55.4 FPS 53.5 FPS 50.8 FPS
Unigine Heaven 56.8 FPS 56.7 FPS 56.3 FPS 55.0 FPS 49.2 FPS
Unigine Superposition 64.6 FPS 64.7 FPS 64.4 FPS 63.8 FPS 55.3 FPS
3DMark Time Spy 30.4 FPS 30.2 FPS 30.0 FPS 29.3 FPS 27.4 FPS
3DMark Fire Strike 68.2 FPS 67.6 FPS 67.5 FPS 66.5 FPS 57.0 FPS
           
Rise of the Tomb Raider 60.0 FPS 60.0 FPS 60.0 FPS 59.6 FPS 58.1 FPS
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 70.8 FPS 67.8 FPS 61.4 FPS 49.1 FPS 41.5 FPS
Shadow of Mordor 101.9 FPS 100.5 FPS 99.8 FPS 94.4 FPS 83.3 FPS

 @itsage, this is a significant test result. We see that even x1 3.0 dGPU direct PCIe benchmarks has better results than x4 3.0 TB3.  With these sample benchmarks bandwidth isn’t the drag on the FPS and conversely nor would PCH vs CPU connectivity since x1 3.0 isn’t going to bottleneck DMI.

Instead,  as advise privately by a vendor doing TB3 testing,  here we are seeing it’s the Thunderbolt 3 controller’s encoding/decoding speed that is causing the performance loss.

I hope Intel improve encoding/decoding speed  in Thunderbolt4 along with the other TB3 performance detractors we’ve noted.

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Sky11
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Posted by: nando4
Posted by: itsage

I followed Nando's recommendation to tape the GPU contact pins so that I could run it as dGPU on the Z170 Test Bench at different PCIe speeds. It was an interesting experiment. I used GPU-Z to confirm the card was running at the speed I wanted. Invisible tape was very handy and made for an easy cleanup, just in case you want to replicate this test yourself.

...

Here are the results of the Radeon RX 580 ran as dGPU (top PCIe slot) at x16, x4, x2, and x1. I'm also adding the x4 TB3 eGPU results for quick reference.

 @itsage, this is a significant test result. We see that even x1 3.0 dGPU direct PCIe benchmarks has better results than x4 3.0 TB3.  This is showing that bandwidth isn't the drag on the Thunderbolt 3 benchmarks, nor would PCH vs CPU connectivity since x1 3.0 isn't going to bottleneck DMI.

Instead, as advise privately by a vendor doing TB3 testing, it's the Thunderbolt 3 controller's encoding/decoding speed that is causing the performance loss. Your results support this.

I hope Intel improve encoding/decoding speed  in Thunderbolt4 along with the other TB3 performance detractors we've noted.

It is not a trivial task guys... may require both silicon and software optimizations... and big hairy hand to push for make that happen... 

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ed_co
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You should re activate this thread with new X299 TB3 rigs!! And see if there is any mobo which performs TB3-CPU connection. Cheers.

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itsage
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I saw this Gigabyte X299 Designare motherboard at CES. It most likely has TB3-CPU arrangement. It’s one of the very few that has dual Thunderbolt 3 ports and dual DisplayPort In. Someone who’s looking to build a Hackintosh to use the LG 5K Ultrafine or TB3 display can do so with this motherboard.

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itsage
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@ed_co The older X99 Designare has TB3«»CPU and it’s a very good value atm. I just upgraded my TB3 test bench to this motherboard. Details are here.

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NCC74656
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I'm looking at a new laptop that is compatible with m.2 and tb3.

so from what i read here the performance between a m.2 and tb3 is rather negligible... so with a newer laptop that can do either one might see a small (few fps) boost with m.2 but the compatibility and setup of TB3 would make things easier than the M.2 so perhaps the m.2 isn't worth the effort?

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karatekid430
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@nando4

These are the critical CUDA-Z host-to-device (H2D) values I've seen posted here and elsewhere that can be used to gauge relative bandwidth to each other:

x4 3.0 M.2 = 2940MiB/s = 24.66Gbps
TB3 = 2260MiB/s = 18.96Gbps
TB2 = 1250MiB/s = 10.49Gbps
TB1 = 790MiB/s = 6.63Gbps
EC2 = 380MiB/s =  3.19Gbps

I have measured the full 22Gbps = 2750MB/s on Thunderbolt 3 to my eGPU. I know M.2 is 3.94GB/s theoretically, and we have the Samsung 970 Pro advertising 3500MB/s reads. So these are a little off. Just curious though, what is EC2 aside from Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon)? It does not seem to match the context of ports.

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karatekid430
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Okay, so do we have word from Intel about this? I was emailing Mika Westerberg from Intel about the Linux Thunderbolt driver, and even he did not know about the 22Gbps limit and asked me for sources. So it is clearly not widely publicised - Intel probably does not want people to realise that the comparison of 40Gbps to USB 3.1 10Gbps is off.

The best explanation so far is for dual-port controllers. Somebody said it is reserving 10Gbps for USB on the other port. But that does not explain why they cannot compete for bandwidth - at least it will all be there if only one is used at a time. Also, why do they have to reserve USB bandwidth and not PCIe bandwidth? Why could it not be different for single port controllers? Why could there not be an override?

They are going to be screwed with USB 3.2 - trying to reserve 20Gbps for USB, if that is the case.

My proposed solution would be to enable 32Gbps for devices that do not utilise DisplayPort - such as my eGPU, and my Dell Thunderbolt 3 NVMe SSD (has the exact same M.2 NVMe 512GB Toshiba in their Dell 9370). There would be no downside for such devices.

Perhaps Intel did not want to confuse people. But honestly, a lot of people find USB-C confusing, anyway. So I do not see the problem. This is what has to happen in technology, and the faster we learn to embrace the changes, the happier we will be. If you embrace the changes whole-heartedly and quickly, the painful transition period gets over and done with. USB-C is only about dongles whilst you are holding onto the legacy stuff. Once you ditch the legacy stuff, the only cable you will ever need is the USB-C to USB-C (or Thunderbolt 3 certified equivalent).

I got my hands on the MSI Thunderbolt M3 AIC - extremely difficult, and I only recently realised it even exists. JHL6540, NVM 19 reported in Linux, and has a lot of resemblance to the Asrock AIC. It arrived, and soon after both USB-C ports had fallen off the PCB. Not soldered properly. However, it does have a JTAG header so if anybody has any ideas how to modify the NVM firmware to help this situation, I would be willing to give it a shot. I will try to solder the ports back on in the mean time.

Pending: Add my system information and expected eGPU configuration to my signature to give context to my posts


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