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[Unboxing] VisionTek Mini eGFX Thunderbolt 3 Enclosure  

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theitsage
(@itsage)
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February 12, 2019 3:49 am  

The retail VisionTek Mini eGFX arrived this past weekend. It's now available through VisionTek website directly. The packaging is the smallest and lightest I've seen. This is due the miniature footprint and light construction materials. The enclosure itself weighs only 1.9 lbs (850 grams).

It comes with a 240W AC power adapter, .5m Thunderbolt 3 cable, and install guide. The power brick weighs as much as the enclosure. Its power connector is the same as a standard 6-pin PCIe power connector.

Here are the closeup of this mini eGPU enclosure.

Removal of the three Phillips screws in the rear would allow the side panel to slide off. The inside has enough room for a mini-ITX GPU and nothing else. I had installed an RX 580 ITX, R9 Nano, and WX 4100. They all worked with the stock 240W power brick.

First test was in macOS. This eGPU enclosure comes with Thunderbolt firmware version 40.1 and a dual Alpine Ridge Thunderbolt 3 controller setup for stable expansion port operation. Power Delivery is set at 45W.

In order to use the R9 Nano in external graphics mode, I installed @mac_editor's Purge-Wrangler. The eGPU could power one 5K and two 4K monitors through its 1x HDMI and 3x DisplayPort outputs.

Next was Windows Bootcamp testing. I used @goalque's automate-eGPU EFI in order to use AMD eGPU without error 12. Here's HWiNFO64 showing the dual TB3 controller arrangement for expansion ports. 

We see the secondary Alpine Ridge LP [JHL6240] daisy chained to the primary Alpine Ridge 4C [JHL6540]. I had a discussion with my Intel contact to learn more about this particular solution and how it's able to remedy expansion port stability issues. Essentially the secondary TB3 controller provides a direct x1 PCIe lane to the Ethernet port and another x1 PCIe lane to the two USB ports. In single-TB3 controller enclosures, the expansion doesn't have direct PCIe access. I played American Truck Simulation (adapter connected through eGPU) for nearly an hour and there was no misbehavior.

I ran a few benchmarks through both the internal display of the 2017 13" MacBook Pro and the external monitor.

Internal Display External Monitor

I will be doing tests for a full review of this eGPU. Please let me know if I left out any information you’d like to know.

This topic was modified 2 months ago

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esatamacmodular
(@esatamacmodular)
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February 12, 2019 4:35 am  

nice review! I was wondering... when you say "TB3 controller provides a direct x1 PCIe lane to the Ethernet port and another x1 PCIe lane to the two USB ports. In single-TB3 controller enclosures, the expansion doesn't have direct PCIe access."

With the node lite (which is a similar size) there are 2 TB3 ports on the back. From what you have mentioned above about the VisionTek Mini, I'm thinking with the node lite the second TB3 port would not have direct PCIe access(?). Is the benefit just having a second alpine ridge controller or specifically how that second controller is routed? How unique is this feature?

iMac 2013 10.14.1, Macbook Air 2013 10.11, MBP 2016 13" 10.13.6 , HP 4530s 10.11, node lite, DA-2 PSU w/mod, PE4L 2.1b expresscard34, GTX460,1050Ti,1060,1070/Ti RX470,560,580


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theitsage
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February 12, 2019 5:04 pm  

@esatamacmodular This dual Thunderbolt 3 controller setup is rather sought-after. Besides this VisionTek Mini eGFX, the Razer Core V2 is the only other eGPU enclosure to feature it. When we first saw the announcement about "Core V2's dedicated PCIe lanes for expansion ports" we questioned how this was possible because one Thunderbolt connection from the host computer can only carry at most 4 PCIe lanes. If the eGPU was to utilize all 4 PCIe lanes, how are there more lanes for expansion ports?

What Intel did in this arrangement was to attach the expansion Ethernet/USB ports directly to the PCIe lanes exposed through another Thunderbolt 3 controller. This secondary TB3 controller is then daisy chained to the primary TB3 controller that hosts the eGPU. Devices like mouse and keyboard don't use much bandwidth at all so while they technically have full access to x1 PCIe connection, they don't impinge on the X4 PCIe connection of the eGPU. The gained advantage is minimal latency due to higher priority of service.

In single Thunderbolt 3 controller setup, the expansion I/Os go through a USB hub prior to getting PCIe access. This arrangement has lower priority of service and during high eGPU load, inputs through the expansion ports are delayed. This additional latency is amplified during gameplay when input is not seemingly real-time, we tend to compensate by giving even more input. Then when the TB3 connection finally gets to transmitting the expansion I/O input, they all come flooding.

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

eGPU enclosure buying guide

94 external GPU build guides


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nu_ninja
(@nu_ninja)
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February 13, 2019 12:11 am  

Seems like a potentially good enclosure for those looking for the "one cable solution".

Mid-2012 13" Macbook Pro (MacBookPro9,2) TB1 -> RX 460/560 (AKiTiO Node/Thunder2)
+ macOS 10.14.2+Win10
+ Linux Mint 19.1


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(@alex_broner)
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February 13, 2019 9:22 pm  

I agree, I'm very interested in this device for exactly this reason.

I'm very interested in measurements and observations on total noise under load. Obviously the gpu used will influence that.

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joevt
(@joevt3)
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February 14, 2019 1:34 am  
Posted by: theitsage

We see the secondary Alpine Ridge LP [JHL6240] daisy chained to the primary Alpine Ridge 4C [JHL6540]. I had a discussion with my Intel contact to learn more about this particular solution and how it's able to remedy expansion port stability issues. Essentially the secondary TB3 controller provides a direct x1 PCIe lane to the Ethernet port and another x1 PCIe lane to the two USB ports. In single-TB3 controller enclosures, the expansion doesn't have direct PCIe access. I played American Truck Simulation (adapter connected through eGPU) for nearly an hour and there was no misbehavior.

That doesn't explain why a single Thunderbolt controller has problems with peripherals. In the case where a second Thunderbolt controller is not used, The second Thunderbolt 3 port of the single Thunderbolt controller is used to connect a USB hub. Some design flaw makes using Thunderbolt USB + USB Hub with GPU from PCIe 3.0x4 problematic with a single Thunderbolt controller. Maybe the USB part is not fully independent of the the PCIe part of the Thunderbolt controller? Does using a USB hub anywhere else have this problem? Does Titan Ridge have the same problem as Alpine Ridge? The BlackMagic eGPU has a Titan Ridge controller which has a USB port that is separate from the second Thunderbolt port.

One thing to note is that using two Thunderbolt controllers makes the VisionTek count as two Thunderbolt devices. The Thunderbolt port of a host can daisy chain 6 Thunderbolt devices, but this is not a problem because you're not supposed to be able to daisychain eGPUs.

Posted by: esatamacmodular

With the node lite (which is a similar size) there are 2 TB3 ports on the back. From what you have mentioned above about the VisionTek Mini, I'm thinking with the node lite the second TB3 port would not have direct PCIe access(?). Is the benefit just having a second alpine ridge controller or specifically how that second controller is routed?

The Node lite is exactly like the VisionTek Mini, if you daisychain a Thunderbolt dock (containing Ethernet and USB controllers) to the Node lite's second Thunderbolt port because that is how the second Thunderbolt controller is connected in the VisionTek Mini.

The Node lite is also exactly like other eGPUs with a single Thunderbolt controller if you connect a USB hub to the second Thunderbolt port. Maybe someone can reproduce the peripheral problems with that configuration. Being able to choose from different USB hubs might be interesting tests.

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


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PlayerSlotAvailable
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February 16, 2019 3:41 pm  

I have been on the lookout for a new eGPU (my Aorus 1070 doesn't work).

This seems really promising. Almost all the alternatives to my Aorus has been far too large and heavy. But this one also seems more difficult. I am not tech savvy enough to understand most of this. Do anyone know if this will work on an older Razer Blade Stealth (late 2016, Kaby Lake i7 7500U)?  

And this one doesn't come with a graphics card unlike the Aorus. What kind of Graphics cards work with this? I don't know what "mini-ITX GPU" means, but I googled it and found a "GTX 1060 Mini ITX OC 6G" card that is smaller than the cards I am used to. The ones listed in this unboxing are also all AMD I think. Does it work with Nvidia? 

 

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


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(@alex_broner)
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February 18, 2019 8:28 am  
Posted by: PlayerSlotAvailable

I have been on the lookout for a new eGPU (my Aorus 1070 doesn't work).

This seems really promising. Almost all the alternatives to my Aorus has been far too large and heavy. But this one also seems more difficult. I am not tech savvy enough to understand most of this. Do anyone know if this will work on an older Razer Blade Stealth (late 2016, Kaby Lake i7 7500U)?  

And this one doesn't come with a graphics card unlike the Aorus. What kind of Graphics cards work with this? I don't know what "mini-ITX GPU" means, but I googled it and found a "GTX 1060 Mini ITX OC 6G" card that is smaller than the cards I am used to. The ones listed in this unboxing are also all AMD I think. Does it work with Nvidia? 

 

Bummer about the Aorus. I think your best bet is to pick a GPU from the list on visontek's site, that way you know it has been tested and it works. Also look and see if there are builds others have posted with your model of laptop and look at what they tried? Sometimes various things need updating to make egpus work.  Beyond that it may require a technical consultation with someone more knowledgable than myself. What was the problem with the Aorus? Did you contact razer support? Gigabyte support?

visiontek's site:

https://www.visiontek.com/visiontek-thunderbolt-3-mini-egfx.html

Matebook X Pro i7 mx150


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PlayerSlotAvailable
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February 18, 2019 12:51 pm  

So my problem with the Aorus Gaming Box, was that
1 out of 4 times, it would not connect. It would just not show up in the device manager.  
1 out of 4 times I would get a BSOD.  
1 out of 4 times it would connect, then a few seconds later, disconnect. Then connect, then disconnect, and so on.  
1 out of 4 times it would work.    

Through support I managed to stop the BSOD, it was caused by the pre-installed KillerWiFi application. So now it works half of the time.  

I recently got to test the Aorus on another laptop to identify if the problem was with the Razer of with the Gamingbox. And it broke. The entire laptop stopped working, brand new laptop. 
Seeing that the gaming box managed to brick a laptop after connecting it, I think it is safe to say the problem is mostly, if not only on the Gaming Box' side.   

Since it is a problem with the Aorus gaming box, Razer refuses to help.  

I haven't contacted Gigabyte about it. 

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


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(@alex_broner)
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February 28, 2019 12:00 am  

Ugh. Bricking a laptop sounds like a power supply issue causing a power surge. Then again, I'm new to egpu tech so I don't know for sure. My condolences. Hopefully the VisionTek will work better.

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