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Zotac AMP BOX Mini Review - Budget Friendly, Promise Aplenty
 

Zotac AMP BOX Mini Review - Budget Friendly, Promise Aplenty  

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itsage
(@itsage)
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Joined: 3 years ago
 

Introduction

Zotac has been a leading manufacturer of mini PCs for many years. They offer a wide range of small form factor computers as well as many components catering to SFF enthusiasts. Zotac now joins the growing Thunderbolt 3 PCIe expansion market. Introduced alongside the AMP BOX, the AMP BOX Mini [ZT-TBT3M-180-BB] is the more compact solution that houses a mini-ITX card. This enclosure also provides four standard USB 3.0 ports that most newer ultrabooks lack. The cost-benefit analysis of pairing an external graphics enclosure with a portable computer still gives many consumers pause. Zotac is tilting the scale by pricing this newly-released AMP BOX Mini at $219.99; it’s the most affordable Thunderbolt 3 PCIe expansion box yet.

Zotac AMP BOX Mini
Specifications  compare 
Price US$
$220
PSU location-type
external-AC
PSU max power 180W
GPU max power
150W
Power delivery (PD)
15W
USB-C controller
TI83
TB3 USB-C ports 1
Ports max bandwidth 5Gbps
Size (in/mm, LxWxH)
9.06 x 3.90 x 7.20
230 x 99 x 183
Max GPU len (in/cm)
7.87/20.0
Weight (kg/lb) 0.85/1.87
Updated firmware 26.1 ✔
TB3 cable length (cm) 50
Vendor page link
User builds
link

Hardware Specifics

Zotac took the mini-ITX external GPU enclosure approach currently dominated by the AORUS Gaming Box and turned it on its side. Using a 90˚ angle PCIe raiser adapter commonly found in SFF desktops, the AMP BOX Mini takes a graphics card lying down. This arrangement makes its form factor similar to that of the Sonnet Breakaway Puck. While the Puck uses an MXM GPU, Zotac goes for mini-ITX PCIe fitment. The upsides are lower price and more choices for graphics cards than with MXM. The main downside is a less portable solution.

Another similarity with the Breakaway Puck is the three-piece construction and an external power adapter. There is a top cover, a bottom cover and a mid-section housing. The housing is the only part made of metal. The top and bottom covers are plastic. This results in a very light chassis, at less than 1 kg without a card installed. Combined with the external power brick, it’s a 2-kg package for those who plan to travel with an external GPU. The footprint is about that of a large hardcover book.

The external Delta 19V DC power adapter is rated for 180W. It’s not terribly big and can provide up to 150W to the graphics card via the PCIe slot (75W) combined with the 6-pin power cable (75W). This PCIe power cable is detachable and not needed with PCIe components such as NVMe SSD. There’s ample amount of room inside this box for passive cooling during non-eGPU use. The enclosure housing and top cover have plenty of cutouts for sufficient air circulation, so Zotac went without an enclosure cooling fan.

Zotac AMP BOX Mini + mini-ITX RX 580 external GPU

Internal access is quick and easy with the Zotac AMP BOX Mini. Top cover removal consists of undoing two rubber-top thumb screws then lifting the cover through the access cutout. Removing an installed card is a completely different story though. I found several usability concerns. First of all, the PCIe lock release tab faces inward and is hidden underneath the installed card. Another difficult to reach area is the PCIe power connector. The release tab for this connector faces the inside wall of the enclosure housing, making it impossible to reach with your fingers. The only way I was able to remove the connected power cable was by using a flat head screwdriver to apply pressure on the release tab all while pulling on the cable.

I found the most interesting component of the Zotac AMP BOX Mini to be its Thunderbolt 3 main board. This enclosure is priced reasonably enough that tinkerers may find its main board a suitable donor for a custom eGPU build. Even the power connector is the common-sized 5.5mm x 2.5mm barrel plug. For years our community has been modifying ATX PSUs to power AKiTiO Thunder2 & Thunder3 enclosures. Perhaps Zotac was aware of such possibility, so there’s a warranty sticker on one of the screws holding the TB3 main board in place. If you proudly wear an “I void warranties” t-shirt, the sticker won’t be a bother. I tried pairing this main board with the Dell DA-2 power adapter with some success. The difference in 19V vs 12V output can be remedied by using a step-up adapter.

The four USB-A ports are located at the front of the main board. They go through an ASM3074 USB 3.0 hub controller. As with other single Thunderbolt 3 controller enclosures, the keyboard and mouse connected through the AMP BOX Mini‘s USB ports may exhibit lagging behavior during heavy external graphics workload. Near the rear I/O on this Thunderbolt main board are the three crucial ICs. Here are close-up photos of the TI83 USB-C controller, DSL6540 Thunderbolt 3 controller, and Winbond EEPROM.

Testings & Benchmarks

With up to 150W out of 180W assigned to the PCIe card, the AMP BOX Mini is limited at 15W for Power Delivery. This is not enough to charge any Thunderbolt 3 laptop. It may slow battery drainage during use, but you definitely need to plug in another power source during heavy graphics use. Unfortunately this means this enclosure shouldn’t be paired with single-port TB3 ultrabooks that use the TB3 port for charging. The Razer Blade Stealth is such a machine. The Zotac AMP BOX Mini comes with Thunderbolt firmware version 26.1, similar to the rest of the enclosures released this year.

Officially the AMP BOX Mini is certified for PCIe expansion. Zotac is in the process of certifying the enclosure for eGFX. Another primary use for this box is high-speed external storage with an NVMe SSD. The installation process is identical to that of a graphics card except there’s no need for the PCIe power cable. I tried pairing a Samsung EVO 960 M.2 SSD via a PCIe adapter. Here are the read and write speed tests in both Windows 10 and macOS High Sierra.

Due to its form factor, there are only a handful of graphics cards that both fit this enclosure and work natively with macOS High Sierra. I sourced an HP OEM mini-ITX Radeon RX 580 4GB from an OMEN X Desktop computer. The space inside of the AMP BOX Mini allows a graphics card that’s up to 200mm in length. This is the current list of retail GPUs that may work.

 

Nvidia GeForce AMD Radeon
Zotac GTX 1060 Pro WX 5100
EVGA GTX 1050 Ti Sapphire RX 570
MSI GTX 1050 Gigabyte RX 560

Windows allows for more flexibility with graphics cards. Keep in mind the 180W power brick can only provide up to 150W to the external graphics card. Therefore power-hungry GPUs such as the R9 Fury Nano or the yet-to-be-released RX Vega Nano may not work due to higher TDP. I tried using a different PCIe power cable to run a Sapphire R9 285 Compact that’s rated for 190W TDP and did not experience crashes. Your mileage may vary depending on which applications you use.

Zotac AMP BOX Mini eGPU + 2016 15″ MacBook Pro in clamshell mode

To run a set of synthetic benchmarks, I paired this AMP Box Mini + RX 580 4GB external GPU with a late 2016 15″ MacBook Pro. The tests were run in both macOS 10.13.4 Beta 5 and Windows 10 1709. During testing the spacious enclosure helped cool the GPU effectively. The only noise emission was from the RX 580 graphics card. Keep in mind the external graphics drivers in High Sierra are currently not well-optimized. For example, the Shadow of Mordor results are significantly below expectation. 

2016 15" MacBook Pro10.13.4 External DisplayW10 Internal DisplayW10 External Display
Unigine Valley36.2 FPS48.1 FPS47.5 FPS
Unigine Heaven29.5 FPS46.5 FPS46.0 FPS
Tomb Raider 201348.7 FPS79.3 FPS83.0 FPS
Shadow of Mordor12.2 FPS64.7 FPS70.9 FPS
Dirt Rally28.6 FPS49.4 FPS51.6 FPS
Hitman27.4 FPS65.0 FPS67.8 FPS

Conclusion

It’s very encouraging to see more Thunderbolt 3 PCIe expansion enclosures available closer to $200. The build quality of the AMP BOX Mini falls far short of premium, but that can be easily ignored at this price point. While not an eGFX certified enclosure at this time, the Zotac AMP BOX mini is no doubt an affordable and promising option for mini-eGPU enthusiasts. Its main components provide a solid platform for those looking to build a custom external GPU enclosure.

 

See also

This topic was modified 5 days ago

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use | eGPU enclosure buying guide


blawlog, Fuze911, ikir and 3 people liked
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dvogiatzis
(@dvogiatzis)
Eminent Member
Joined: 2 years ago
 

Hello,

I see on your last attached photo that you're using an ultra wide monitor. What's the resolution on that 2560x1080 or 3440x1440 pixels? And are all the tests run on that resolution?

I'm an owner of an ultrawide and macbook pro 15" (late 2017) and looking for a good egpu combination.

MacBook Pro 15" (Mid 2017), Aorus Gaming Box GTX 1070


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itsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin
Joined: 3 years ago
 

@dvogiatzis The tests were ran at 1920 x 1080 in both Windows and macOS. The external display I use is a Samsung CHG90. Its native resolution is 3840 x 1080.

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use | eGPU enclosure buying guide


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jerry Kansai
(@joi_kansai)
Estimable Member
Joined: 2 years ago
 

So from the size, Evga gtx 1060 sc will also fit inside it? (17cm-12cm-dual slot)

Razer Blade 15 2018, i7 8750H 16gb ddr4 2666mhz 1tb 970Evo
Razer Blade Stealth 12,5 2016 i7 7500U 8gb ddr3 1866mhz 500gb 970Evo
MacBook Pro 13 mid 2012 i5 3210M 12gb ddr3 1600mhz 500GB HDD
Razer Core V2 rtx 2070 Black 2040mhz Boost clock
Previous setting: rtx 2080ti Asus Turbo, rtx 2080 xc gaming, rtx 2080 Fe, Zotac Mini 1080ti, Evga 1080 FTW2 gaming.
Dual Monitor Predator XB241YU 165Hz 1440p, LG l24UD58 60Hz 4K
Portable Monitor Magedok 1440p HDR 60Hz usbA/C monitor


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itsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin
Joined: 3 years ago
 

@jerry_kansai EVGA GTX 1060 SC should fit nicely. 17cm is right about the same length as the RX 580 GPU I’m using in this AMP BOX Mini atm.

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use | eGPU enclosure buying guide


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jerry Kansai
(@joi_kansai)
Estimable Member
Joined: 2 years ago
 

Thanks for the reply, can’t wait to be available in EU. I have it laying down at home as a gifts and need smaller house (enclosure) for it, nice to pair with ultrabook with i7 7500U, the Core V2 left too big space for it, and I’m using it for bigger card with HQ CPUs laptop. It’s also nice to travel with.

Razer Blade 15 2018, i7 8750H 16gb ddr4 2666mhz 1tb 970Evo
Razer Blade Stealth 12,5 2016 i7 7500U 8gb ddr3 1866mhz 500gb 970Evo
MacBook Pro 13 mid 2012 i5 3210M 12gb ddr3 1600mhz 500GB HDD
Razer Core V2 rtx 2070 Black 2040mhz Boost clock
Previous setting: rtx 2080ti Asus Turbo, rtx 2080 xc gaming, rtx 2080 Fe, Zotac Mini 1080ti, Evga 1080 FTW2 gaming.
Dual Monitor Predator XB241YU 165Hz 1440p, LG l24UD58 60Hz 4K
Portable Monitor Magedok 1440p HDR 60Hz usbA/C monitor


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itsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin
Joined: 3 years ago
 

It’ll fit like a glove. The AC adapter should be able to handle the GTX 1060 too.

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use | eGPU enclosure buying guide


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ikir
 ikir
(@ikir)
Prominent Member
Joined: 3 years ago
 

Super interesting product!


MacBook Pro 2018 Touch Bar i7 quad-core 2.7Ghz - 16GB RAM - 512GB PCIe SSD
my awesome Radeon VII eGPU
my Mantiz Venus extreme mod with Sapphire Nitro+ RX Vega 64


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betova
(@betova)
Active Member
Joined: 2 years ago
 

Got one of these. I think eGPU boxes are still a little bit expensive for what they do, but this is probably the most affordable.
It still costs more than the video card it's housing!
Works fine with a Gigabyte RX560 and my Mid 2013 MBA though...

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


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nando4
(@nando4)
Noble Member Admin
Joined: 3 years ago

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 chx
(@chx)
Estimable Member
Joined: 3 years ago
 

It's truly baffling how this enclosure is called "promise aplenty" vs the Lenovo Graphics Dock is called "dead on arrival". If anything, this box is the one dead on arrival: it's too big for the cards it supports (up to 1060) vs the Aorus which is smaller despite internal PSU and RX580/1070/1080 or the Lenovo Graphics Dock which is the most portable of the bunch even if at the price of slightly weaker GPU vs the Puck RX560. Really, not professional.

As for ripping out the card from it, the bare Aorus boxes you can find on eBay are even better for that purpose... not to mention the Akitio Thunder3 PCIe PCB Bizon is selling on eBay for $100. And it's 12V, too.

Lenovo ThinkPad 25 -- GALAX SNPR TB3 1060 -- Lenovo Graphics Dock -- Benq BL2411PT - - two PackedPixels - Dasung not-eReader backer


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Attackid
(@attackid)
Active Member
Joined: 2 years ago
 

Hey @chx, I do see your point on why other enclosures would be a better purchase but I can also see the points on why someone would purchase one.

If say someone wanted a fairly cheap option with only needs of a 1050 Ti and didn't want an second hand enclosure  ( warranty claims possibly), future mini-ITX cards upgradability, and had a fairly small size, this enclosure would be great for that niche market.

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


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itsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin
Joined: 3 years ago
 

@chx if you built a small eGPU with the AKiTiO Thunder2/3 before, you will understand “promise aplenty”. I’m glad the Lenovo TB3 Graphics Dock works for your use. For a lot of people it does not.

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use | eGPU enclosure buying guide


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(@christophe_lumia)
New Member
Joined: 2 years ago
 

DO you think this box might be able to handle (size and power) the gtrx1080 from zotac? Or the gtx1080 mini from gigabye?

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


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itsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin
Joined: 3 years ago
 

@christophe_lumia The included power brick will not be able to handle the GTX 1080. Look into this thread for information on power supply modifications.

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use | eGPU enclosure buying guide


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Johannes
 Johannes
(@Johannes)
Joined: 1 year ago
 

I would like to use one of those AMO Boxes with an RX 560 on my Mac mini late 2012 (16GB RAM) and a DELL U2515H. I am running El Capitan at the moment because Sierra does not support HiDPI mode. Would like to play thru windows (bootcamp) games like Vermintide 2 or Blood Bowl 2. Cheers


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(@thalamuskoko2)
New Member
Joined: 1 year ago
 

Hello,

I would like to run on my Macbook Pro 2011 13", i7 2,8GHz
with GTX 1070 Mini 8GB (Gigabyte 16,9cm or MSI 17,5cm)
.. won't Zotac's own 1070 Mini with 21cm fit?!

Especially, does it bless me to take full advantage of the USB 3.0 Ports in bandwidth read/write despite TB1 & onboard USB 2.0 limitation?

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


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Scott
 Scott
(@Scott)
Joined: 10 months ago
 

Any suggestions in powering the Gigabyte 2070 ITX with this? I've assembled PCs in the past but haven't hacked together something like a egpu power supply before


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(@dahiru_aliyu)
New Member
Joined: 1 year ago
 

There is a 230w version of the amp box mini available on Zotac's site, SKU is ZT-TBT3M-230-BB vs ZT-TBT3M-180-BB for the original one

Dell Latitude 7390 2 in 1 - Zotac Amp Box Mini - MSI 1050ti OC


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itsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin
Joined: 3 years ago
 

@dahiru_aliyu Thank you for sharing availability of a 230W option. At the time of the review, this enclosure didn’t have eGFX certification and 230W didn’t get the go-ahead.

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use | eGPU enclosure buying guide


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Paul
 Paul
(@Paul)
Joined: 9 months ago
 

Hi!

Does anyone know, how much is the power delivery wattage of the 230w version? Given the power supply to the card stays the same at 150w, would it be right to presume that 65w goes to the laptop?


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Ricz
 Ricz
(@Ricz)
Joined: 8 months ago

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Steve4432
 Steve4432
(@Steve4432)
Joined: 7 months ago
 

It may work. There is some confusion however, since The Zotac AMP BOX Mini has actually three SKU-s:

180W version (ZT-TBT3M-180-BB-US/EU)
230W version with 6 pin PCIE connector (ZT-TBT3M-230-BB-US/EU/KR/UK/AU)
230W version with 8 pin PCIE connector (ZT-TBT3M-230-BB-USA/EUA/KRA/UKA/AUA)

The 180W version (which is only marketed as an SSD box even though the included manual clearly depicts a graphics card installation) is now discontinued. The 230W version is marketed both for SSDs and Graphics Cards. All three versions will support graphics cards only up to 150W - the 230W PSU does not have enough margin to support a 225W card (75W PCI + 150W through the 8 pin connector).

It seems like the box itself is the same in all three SKU-s (the 6 pin PCIE versions actually have an 8 pin connector on the motherbord), only the PSU and the included PCIE cables (6 vs 8 pins) are different.

Now back to your question: a stock GTX 1660 requires an 8 pin connector, but is rated for 150W according to nVidia, so the 230W version with 8 pin PCIE connector should suffice. Unfortunatelly ASUS does not list the actual power requirement of the PH-GTX1660-O6G card, which is an overclocked version and may draw more peak power than 150W (as it has an 8 pin connector). So there is some ambiguity.


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EGPU_FAN92
 EGPU_FAN92
(@EGPU_FAN92)
Joined: 5 months ago
 

Hey guys, i wanted to inform you that i use the following config and it works.

Zotac AMP Box Mini, 230 Watts with 6pin Connector
https://geizhals.de/zotac-amp-box-mini-zt-tbt3m-230-bb-a2005143.html

PNY GTX 1660Ti 6GB XLR8 Gaming Overclocked Edition
https://www.amazon.de/PNY-GeForce%C2%AE-Gaming-Overclocked-Grafikkarte/dp/B07NXVKDLW/

This german review states that this card has a max TDP of 120 Watts under gaming load
https://www.computerbase.de/2019-02/geforce-gtx-1660-ti-test/4/#abschnitt_messung_der_leistungsaufnahme

Manufacturers page, also states 120 Watts
https://www.pny.com/pny-geforce-gtx-1660ti-xlr8-oc-single-fan

The enclosure has an 8 Pin Connector, but only a 6 pin cable is provided. So get a cable like this one:
https://www.amazon.de/adaptare-35118-Grafikkarte-Stromkabel-8-pin-PCIe-Stecker-Stecker/dp/B01M8FDA2P/

I´m using a Lenovo Yoga S730 (Ideapad 730S in USA). I connected the EGPU on the second port on the right side, because it gave me crashes with the first one. I´m suspecting that the battery charging through the enclosure does not properly work because of the supplied PSU. However, this does not bother me because i am using a seperate Thunderbolt 3 Dock for this case. The noise of the GPU under load is hearable but thats expected giving the fact that its only one fan on the GPU.

This post was modified 5 months ago

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Naz
 Naz
(@Naz)
Joined: 5 months ago
 

Hi there thanks for sharing you configuration, as I’m using my Zotac Amp box mini I find the heat and loudness of the fan to be quite an issue while gaming, is there anyway of getting passed that by somehow adding a fan into the setup (somehow?) I know there’s only one 6pin connector to the board but maybe there’s a way I haven’t come across yet.


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itsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin
Joined: 3 years ago
 

@Naz Which graphics card are you using with the AMP BOX Mini? If possible it’s best to remove the shroud to help with heat dissipation. The top lid can be left open too. Here’s my build with a Gigabyte RX 580 ITX (130mm fan).

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use | eGPU enclosure buying guide


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(@naznaz)
New Member
Joined: 5 months ago
 

Hi ! @itsage thanks for quick reply, in the zotac amp box mini I have the EVGA 1060 SC 6GB, I think the GPU is small enough to fit in another fan ? But I'll try removimg the top shroud, don't think it'll help in terms of loudness tho ,😅

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


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steve4332
(@steve4332)
Eminent Member
Joined: 7 months ago
 
Posted by: NazNaz

Hi ! @itsage thanks for quick reply, in the zotac amp box mini I have the EVGA 1060 SC 6GB, I think the GPU is small enough to fit in another fan ? But I'll try removimg the top shroud, don't think it'll help in terms of loudness tho ,😅

You can definetly install a custom fan. Use a GPU-CPU PWM fan adapter, buy a 12cm or 14cm (slim) fan and fasten it the card's heatsink with zipties.

This is how it looks like with a 14cm slim fan:

IMG 0458

Here are some fan size comparisons (standard thickness 14cm and 12cm fans).

IMG 0405

A 14cm full sized fan (27cm thickness) will probably not fit (if you want to have the cover on - if you don't then it doesn't matter) and a 12cm full sized fan (25cm thickness) might be a tight fit.

This post was modified 5 months ago

Apple Mac Mini 2018 + Zotac AMP Box Mini + Sapphire RX 570 ITX


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(@naznaz)
New Member
Joined: 5 months ago
 

Hey again thanks for the reply, could you be more specific as to how I can plug in the Pwm fan adapter to the GPU,does the old fan of the EVGA 1060 SC have to be removed in order to make place for a better fan ? Or can I have the old fan in addition to the new one ?
Sorry for all the questions, I appreciate all the help you have provided me I’m a bit of a noob on this subject 😅

This post was modified 5 months ago

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


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steve4332
(@steve4332)
Eminent Member
Joined: 7 months ago
 
Posted by: NazNaz

Hey again thanks for the reply, could you be more specific as to how I can plug in the Pwm fan adapter to the GPU,does the old fan of the EVGA 1060 SC have to be removed in order to make place for a better fan ? Or can I have the old fan in addition to the new one ?
Sorry for all the questions, I appreciate all the help you have provided me I’m a bit of a noob on this subject 😅

Yes, you'll have to remove the shroud and the GPU fan (which is either fastened to the shroud or to the heatsink).

GPUs usually have a different fan headers than motherboards (they follow the JST PH connector standard). If you disassemble your GPU cooling solution you'll usually find that the GPU fan is connected to a GPU board via a JST PH 4 pin connector. This connector has the same wiring as CPU PWM fans, but you'll need an adapter to connect a fan with a standard PWM connector to the JST PH socket on your graphics card.

You can make the adapter yourself if you are ready for some hacking:

Apple Mac Mini 2018 + Zotac AMP Box Mini + Sapphire RX 570 ITX


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(@naznaz)
New Member
Joined: 5 months ago
 

Thank you for your help 🙂 I’ll get to ordering the parts and modding my egpu let’s hope it goes well

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


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GlaDOS
 GlaDOS
(@GlaDOS)
Joined: 6 days ago
 

I have 230W 6pin version and Zotac 1070 mini, and they work perfectly. You only need 8pin cable or get 6+2pin version. Also, remove top cover or it will get very hot


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