[Unboxing]: AKiTiO Node Thunderbolt 3 eGPU Enclosure  

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theitsage
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December 16, 2016 4:35 am  

I was fortunate enough to receive one of the very first AKiTiO Node units in the US. Here is my first impression of this highly anticipated Thunderbolt 3 enclosure for external graphics card setup.

AKiTiO calls its Node a Thunderbolt 3 eGFX Box. The enclosure is nicely padded and arrived safely.

It comes with everything one would need for an eGPU build except for the graphics card.

Both the PCIe board and Thunderbolt 3 board are different than the boards in the AKiTiO Thunder3. The Node has a TPS65983 USB Type-C and USB Power Delivery Controller which has a High Speed mux for ThunderBolt and DisplayPort sideband data. The Thunder3 has the previous gen controller, TPS65982 (same with the Razer Core).

Unfortunately there's only one Thunderbolt 3 port. I was hoping for some hidden ports on this board.

As confirmed from earlier reports, Apple only has official support for the newer Texas Instrument controller, TPS65983. Unlike the "Unsupported" message when connecting the Thunder3 to a Late 2016 MacBook Pro, this AKiTiO Node connects immediately with full 40 Gb/s x1 Thunderbolt 3 speed right out of the box.

There's tons of room inside the AKiTiO Node to fit every full-length double-wide GPU ever made. The downside is that it's larger than I imagined from pictures online. The silver enclosure is the Thunder3 next to the Node outer case.

With an MSRP of $299 the AKiTiO Node is the best value Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosure on the market. It would be a perfect solution to expand the GPU options in the Mac lineup. The bad news is Apple has a software limitation in macOS to prevent such a setup. We are taking a closer look into macOS 10.12.2 to hopefully find a workaround soon.

 

Late 2016 13" MacBook Pro + [email protected] (AKiTiO Node) + Win10

I have some success with the Late 2016 MacBook Pro in Windows 10. The Node is currently equipped with an EVGA GTX 980 Ti Hybrid. The eGPU is powering the internal display so there's some bandwidth used up there that isn't if using an external LCD, consequently some performance loss. Here's Time Spy results - http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/16739069

 

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nando4
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December 16, 2016 6:54 am  

Beautiful unboxing. Thank you for posting. Besides the Thunder2, the Node does indeed look massive.

The big take home point between the Node and the Thunder3, other than chassis/PSU arrangements is  the TI83/TI82 chips used respectively. Of which, the TI82 chip results in compatibility issues with OSX 10.12.2

I think it's a good idea to limit the Node to only one Thunderbolt3 port. As an eGFX (eGPU) enclosure, it dedicates the full 32Gbps-TB3 traffic to the hosted video card.

Besides, the 2016 Macbooks with 4-TB3 ports have two dedicated 32Gbps-TB3 PCIe buses, each with 2 ports. Hosting say 2 TB3 devices each off a separate buses ensuring each gets the full TB3 bandwidth.

The reason? User previously would daisy-chain high bandwidth devices like storage controllers off their Thunder2 together with their eGPU and wonder why they'd get choppy FPS when the storage medium and video card was active simultaneously.

Unfortunately there's only one Thunderbolt 3 port. I was hoping for some hidden ports on this board.  

eGPU Setup 1.35    •    eGPU Port Bandwidth Reference Table    •    Several builds
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ikir
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December 16, 2016 7:25 am  

And now hard at work to get it running smooth on macOS 😉

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Yukikaze
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December 16, 2016 7:27 am  

Holy heck that is big. You can actually fit a card, a pump and a rad in there if you were so inclined. I think it is a little too big, to be honest...

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nando4
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December 16, 2016 8:02 am  

@theitsage, to further clarify my previous post,  would you mind booting Windows and taking and posting hwinfo64 screenshots like here https://egpu.io/forums/pc-setup/xps-15-9550-not-able-to-reach-40gbps-over-tb3/#post-295 against the Node plugged into each of the TB3 ports in your 2016 MBP (assuming it's a 4-port version) ?

From that we'll be able to:

- identify if the Node is using a single (DSL6340) or dual (DSL6540) TB3 controller. The Thunder3 uses a dual (DSL6540) controller, so may be another point of difference. Given the Node's single TB3 port it stands to reason AKiTiO/InXtron opting for a cheaper single controller.

- identify the physical ports (left/right and front/back) on your MBP that correspond to different 32GBps-TB3 PCIe channels.

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theitsage
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December 16, 2016 3:15 pm  

I will spend more time this weekend to test the Node with these Thunderbolt laptops and report my findings:

- Late 2016 13" non-touchbar MacBook Pro - Thunderbolt 3

- Dell 13" XPS 9350 - Thunderbolt 3

- 2015 11" MacBook Air - Thunderbolt 2 (via Apple TB3<<-->TB2 adapter)

- Late 2011 17" MacBook Pro - Thunderbolt (via Apple TB3<<-->TB2 adapter)

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theitsage
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December 17, 2016 4:51 am  

I have some success with the Late 2016 MacBook Pro in Windows 10. The Node is currently equipped with an EVGA GTX 980 Ti Hybrid. The eGPU is powering the internal display so there's some performance loss. Here's Time Spy results - http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/16739069

@Nando4, here's the screen capture of HWiNFO64.

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ultraman982
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December 17, 2016 7:21 am  

This is really good news! I saw the Node on B&H, but I'm unsure whether to order or wait for Amazon. (Was yours direct from Akitio?)

The fact it's working is great though. Can you give an idea of the performance loss you're seeing from driving the internal display. It could be interesting since by powering the internal, and mirroring to an external you might be able to drive the 1-input LG 5k ultrafine with an eGPU.

Thanks for the update!

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con247
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December 17, 2016 6:26 pm  
Posted by: theitsage

 

I will spend more time this weekend to test the Node with these Thunderbolt laptops and report my findings:

- Late 2016 13" non-touchbar MacBook Pro - Thunderbolt 3

- Dell 13" XPS 9350 - Thunderbolt 3

- 2015 11" MacBook Air - Thunderbolt 2 (via Apple TB3<<-->TB2 adapter)

- Late 2011 17" MacBook Pro - Thunderbolt (via Apple TB3<<-->TB2 adapter)

   

Will you be able to test the 2015 Air in bootcamp? Do you think if that works, would this work on a 2014 rMBP with the TB2 adapter?

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nando4
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December 17, 2016 7:32 pm  

Nice pics there. Would you mind posting a hwinfo64 pic with the Node plugged into each of the different TB3 ports on your MBP?

Posted by: theitsage

 @Nando4, here's the screen capture of HWiNFO64.

   

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theitsage
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December 17, 2016 8:02 pm  

@Nando4, my MBP only has 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports. I'll plug it in the other one later and report back.

 

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Captainali
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December 17, 2016 9:59 pm  

Hey can you try this on a dell xps 

please .  I have one and also ordered a node would love to know if it works .   Thanks for you help

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nando4
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December 17, 2016 10:04 pm  

We have reports of the very similar AKiTiO Thunder3 working with a XPS 9550: https://egpu.io/forums/pc-setup/xps-15-9550-not-able-to-reach-40gbps-over-tb3/ . Just note that the XPS 9350/9350/9550 all have their TB3 port recorded running at half the rated 32Gbps-TB3 speed in that thread. That's 16Gbps, or TB2 performance level.

Posted by: Captainali

 

Hey can you try this on a dell xps 

please .  I have one and also ordered a node would love to know if it works .   Thanks for you help

   

eGPU Setup 1.35    •    eGPU Port Bandwidth Reference Table    •    Several builds
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Captainali
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December 17, 2016 10:17 pm  

yeab iv been reading that . such a bummer. hopefully it gets sorted 

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nando4
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December 18, 2016 12:33 pm  

Yes, hwinfo64 output from the other TB3 port would be useful. I see a 4-port Thunderbolt bridge. Just want to make sure that is from the Node.

 

@Nando4, my MBP only has 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports. I'll plug it in the other one later and report back.

/blockquote>

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ultraman982
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December 19, 2016 5:00 am  

Re availability of node from AKiTiO themselves:

The Node should be in stock again at the beginning of next year, most likely around February. If you would like to get it earlier than that, it would include additional shipping charges of around USD $110. If that's something you are interested in, please send us an e-mail at [email protected] with the title "AKiTiO Node early adopter" and include your full name and address.

I'm curious how soon Early Adopters get it. Also curious if I order from B&H if it will come earlier than Feb. They do have 7-14 day availability but may be estimation. 

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HWfreak
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December 20, 2016 11:47 am  

Is AKITiO NODE charging Macbook through TB3 cable?

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nando4
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December 20, 2016 11:55 am  

Per here "The AKiTiO Node only provides 15W through the Thunderbolt 3 cable. Therefore it's not charging the laptop."

Posted by: HWfreak

 

Is AKITiO NODE charging Macbook through TB3 cable?

   

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HWfreak
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December 20, 2016 12:38 pm  

So it is useless for Razer Stealth Blade.

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theitsage
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December 20, 2016 4:41 pm  

I second what Nando4 said. The Node provides only 15W through the Thunderbolt 3 cable. Even though it's not charging the battery, it slows down the battery drainage during use.

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demon151
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December 20, 2016 8:08 pm  
Posted by: theitsage

 

I will spend more time this weekend to test the Node with these Thunderbolt laptops and report my findings:

- Late 2016 13" non-touchbar MacBook Pro - Thunderbolt 3

- Dell 13" XPS 9350 - Thunderbolt 3

- 2015 11" MacBook Air - Thunderbolt 2 (via Apple TB3<<-->TB2 adapter)

- Late 2011 17" MacBook Pro - Thunderbolt (via Apple TB3<<-->TB2 adapter)

   

Waiting for your result in 11" macbook air via thunderbolt 2 <~~> thunderbolt 3 . Plannning to buy the 15" mgxa2 for work and for game ^^ . Biggg thanks

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theitsage
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December 21, 2016 2:00 am  

@Nando4, here's another screen capture of HWiNFO64

My XPS 13 9350 has Thunderbolt Controller 1575 and the Node refuses to work with it. Does anyone has experience with changing Device Hardware ID? I looked into Devcon.exe and was hoping to change VEN_8086&DEV_1575 to DEV_1576 or DEV_1577.

The 2016 13" non-touchbar MacBook Pro has Thunderbolt Controller 1576 and works well so far. Intel Thunderbolt Software can't run because it detects Boot Camp environment.

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nando4
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December 21, 2016 4:55 am  

@theitsage, thank you for posting this important hwinfo64 screenshot. Is that off the other TB3 port? Looks the same as the previous one on pg1 of this thread (port5 -> bus4 -> bus5 -> bus65 -> bus66 -> bus67 ).  I'd need the exact PCIDs of each bus/device to make sure. Likely the bus5 and GTX980TI PCI IDs are different across the ports.

If so, then the hwinfo64 result tells us that your MBPs TB3 ports are simply shared off the port5 root port (x4 3.0), via a 4-port bridge.  This means the 32Gbps PCIe bandwidth is shared across ports. 

Why does your 2-port MBP have a 4-port? The systemboard must be mostly the same as the 4-port 13" MBP so Apple reduced parts inventory. Across your 2-ports, the shared bandwidth is not too bad. Across 4-ports in the other 13" MBP it's not such a good idea if wanting performance. There it would have been preferred that Apple used 2 dual channel controllers though that would mean more systemboard real estate AND increased cost for more silicon.

I wonder if the 2016 15" MBP with 4 TB3 ports uses 2 dual channel controllers?  It's a bigger systemboard and is targetted for performance users, so fingers crossed, it does.

To answer your question, we cannot change PCI IDs of Intel chips. It's sometimes possible for AMD/NVidia cards via cross flashing with their eeprom burning tools.

Posted by: theitsage

 

@Nando4, here's another screen capture of HWiNFO64

My XPS 13 9350 has Thunderbolt Controller 1575 and the Node refuses to work with it. Does anyone has experience with changing Device Hardware ID? I looked into Devcon.exe and was hoping to change VEN_8086&DEV_1575 to DEV_1576 or DEV_1577.

The 2016 13" non-touchbar MacBook Pro has Thunderbolt Controller 1576 and works well so far. Intel Thunderbolt Software can't run because it detects Boot Camp environment.

   

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hjkar
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December 26, 2016 10:30 am  

@theitsage

Have you found a fix for the incompatibility between your XPS 13 and the Node? What exactly happens when you plug it in? 

I have a G501VW with the same Thunderbolt 3 controller and under the Thunderbolt 3 menu, it specifies that external GPUs are not supported. Although people have claimed that computers with the 1575 controller work with older enclosures (Core, Thunder3, Thunder2), no one has been able to confirm that the Node will play nice with 1575 controllers. 

 

@nando4, could you share your insights as to why  the 1575 controller is not fully compatible with eGPUs such as the Node and presumably more future enclosures?   

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theitsage
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December 27, 2016 2:24 pm  

Unfortunately no progress with the XPS 13 + AKiTiO Node. When I plugged it in, the eGPU spins up like it would but the computer refuses to detect there's a graphics card attached. My guess is the TI83 controller in this Node enclosure is able to communicate that info to the operating systems better than the TI82.

I tried this same XPS 13 with AKiTiO Thunder3 back-to-back and the GPU in Thunder3 works as expected (eventhough Intel Thunderbolt Software says External GPU not supported).

The very good news is that this incompatibility could be resolved with a Thunderbolt firmware update. I got an Intel Skull Canyon NUC to test and its Thunderbolt 3 controller has the device hardware ID of 1575. The Thunderbolt firmware is much newer and it shows external GPU supported.

I'm hoping as more people are interested in eGPUs, manufacturers will update Thunderbolt firmwares in their lineups at shorter interval.

Posted by: hjkar

 

@theitsage

Have you found a fix for the incompatibility between your XPS 13 and the Node? What exactly happens when you plug it in? 

I have a G501VW with the same Thunderbolt 3 controller and under the Thunderbolt 3 menu, it specifies that external GPUs are not supported. Although people have claimed that computers with the 1575 controller work with older enclosures (Core, Thunder3, Thunder2), no one has been able to confirm that the Node will play nice with 1575 controllers. 

 

@nando4, could you share your insights as to why  the 1575 controller is not fully compatible with eGPUs such as the Node and presumably more future enclosures?   

   

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nando4
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December 27, 2016 2:36 pm  

@theitsage, there is a Dec-21 BIOS update for the XPS 9350 . Have you installed that? It adds Apple USB-C LCD support, so must alter TB parameters.

Also, have you tried to see if booting/hotplugging with PERST# PCIe track isolated on the video card helps at all as mentioned here?

Finally, I know the TB boards are different between the Node and the Thunder3. Is the PCIe board different too? If so, have you tried swapping them to isolate further if the TB board is definitely the problem here.

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hjkar
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December 27, 2016 2:53 pm  

@theitsage

It's interesting to note that the NUC has a 1575 controller. If you feel comfortable doing this, perhaps you could install the NUC drivers onto the XPS 13 and see if that works? I've seen posters install drivers from other manufacturers with no issues. Given that the XPS and the NUC share the same controller, I don't think there should be a problem. 

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theitsage
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December 27, 2016 3:04 pm  

To further complicate things, there are Thunderbolt Software and Thunderbolt Firmware. Intel Thunderbolt Software is fairly universal and most computers would be able to install (except for Macs running Boot Camp - the installer specifically says no go for Boot Camp).

The Thunderbolt Firmware has to be from the manufacturer for the right model of computer. The older Thunderbolt firmware in the XPS 13 is the culprit.

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dopefish
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January 8, 2017 5:56 am  
Posted by: theitsage

 

To further complicate things, there are Thunderbolt Software and Thunderbolt Firmware. Intel Thunderbolt Software is fairly universal and most computers would be able to install (except for Macs running Boot Camp - the installer specifically says no go for Boot Camp).

The Thunderbolt Firmware has to be from the manufacturer for the right model of computer. The older Thunderbolt firmware in the XPS 13 is the culprit.

   

Any luck with the Akitio Node and the Dell XPS 9350 after the latest Thunderbolt drivers from Dell? 

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VlooMan
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March 25, 2017 11:46 pm  

Thank you very much, pal! Great work! I have tested this successfully with:

2016 13" Macbook Pro, AKiTiO Node, 32Gbps-TB3, EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Ti SC, macOS (haven't test in Windows, but I am sure it will work)

2016 13" Macbook Pro, AKiTiO Node, 32Gbps-TB3, MSI GEFORCE® GTX 980 TI GAMING 6G, macOS

 

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VlooMan
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March 26, 2017 12:05 am  

And one more from the Valley Benchmark with:

2016 13" Macbook Pro, AKiTiO Node, 32Gbps-TB3, MSI GEFORCE® GTX 980 TI GAMING 6G, macOS

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VlooMan
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March 28, 2017 6:55 pm  

I am back with another update. If you update to Sierra 10.12.4 it's ver probable that your Web Driver will stop working and you will have to install an alternative. Fortunately I found this article:

https://www.tonymacx86.com/threads/nvidia-releases-alternate-graphics-drivers-for-macos-sierra-10-12-4-367-15-10-45.218005/

NVIDIA Alternate Graphics Drivers for macOS 10.12.4 (16E195)
https://images.nvidia.com/mac/pkg/367/WebDriver-367.15.10.45f01.pkg

Enjoy!

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VlooMan
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March 28, 2017 7:03 pm  

Just make sure to use the "automate-eGPU.sh" script otherwise the graphic card will not be detected

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