2018 Mac mini - eGPU (Starting Over)
Ok, I'm new here. I've had issues and I need some advice. Specifically, I'm looking for eGPU advice for a 2018 Mac mini that is absolutely stable with Catalina 10.15.5.
My experience so far is this: I purchased the Sonnet 550 enclosure and the a Saphire RX580 card (lite). The combination wasn't stable. After 3 or 4 hours of nice game-play on Tomb Raider, the system would have random eGPU disconnects. This combination ended with a red-screen (of death) and I was no longer able to get the eGPU to send any image to my LG 1080p 144MHZ ultra-wide monitor (even after cool-down). So, I assumed that I had a bad graphics card and sent it back to Amazon for a replacement. I then ordered the Saphire Nitro+ RX580 because it was thought to be a more conventional RX580.
Again, the system worked fabulous for about 4 hours before it became unstable and again created random disconnects (but, no red-screen of death). So, I said... heck with it.... Catalina 10.15.5 isn't ready for eGPU use and sent the hardware back. Note: I also was not happy at all with the thunderbolt3 connection on the back of the Sonnet 550. It only seated about 1/2 way into the connection.
I've tried Tomb Raider on the lowest settings of the internal GPU and it's an intolerable gaming experience.
I've read that the Radeon 5700 XT is a more stable eGPU choice than the RX580. I've also read that the VEGA 56 and 64 are good choices. I'm unhappy with the thunderbolt3 cable seating in the Sonnet, so my next enclosure will either be the CoreX or the CoreX Chroma (which has 50 more Watts).
My LG montor has (3) ports. The DP is used with my work-laptop. The HDMI1 was hooked directly to the Mac mini. HDMI2 was hooked to the eGPU enclosure. I know that it is necessary to either buy a dummy HDMI emulator (which, I haven't) or connect it to a valid HDMI port.
Just to make sure my Mac-mini wasn't faulty, I reloaded the OS, did a diagnostic (hold down D) check. And, I did a full 4X memory test of my 32Gb (OWC) memory via MEMTEST86 and there were ZERO memory errors.
Ultimately, my question is: What combination of hardware will create a "flawless eGPU experience" with the 2018 Mac mini? I've read all the bad-stuff that happens and the work-arounds. I just want the best eGPU experience possible (without hardware glitches). I'm not overly concerned with either price or cutting-edge performance. But, I don't want to be experimenting with hardware setups that are either unknown or known to be problematic. I'd much rather duplicate a hardware setup that someone has validated works well with a 2018 Mac mini & Catalina 10.15.5. THANK YOU!!!
It’s true that running MacOS Catalina does require certain compromises though.
Catalina has a wake-from-sleep bug.
So, instead of using the option to sleep after xx minutes of inactivity, you’ll want to power off your displays manually, or let the Mac screen saver run, when you step away from your desk for an extended period.
And with the Mac Mini, Catalina of course doesn’t show the white Apple logo and boot progress bar at startup on a display connected to your eGPU.
Mini I5, do you have any monitor connected directly to the HDMI port of the Mac Mini? I’ve read that either a monitor or headless dummy adapter plug is needed. I’d prefer to run with only 1 ultra wide monitor connected to the egpu card. Does the mini need something connected directly to it? Thanks.
I don't have anything connected to the Mini's HDMI port. My display is connected to the Gaming Station.
I am running 10.15.5 with FileVault turned OFF.
A few steps to follow when you've received and assembled your new gear:
Leave your display plugged into the Mini's HDMI port this one time, power on the Mini, and boot into / sign on to Catalina.
When you are on the Catalina desktop, hot-plug your (powered on) eGPU into the Mini.
Catalina will recognize your enclosure and card, and your eGPU will be functional.
The next time you start-up your Mini, you can do so with your display plugged into the eGPU.
(For others reading - since Catalina doesn’t show the Apple logo and white progress bar during startup of a Mini connected to an eGPU, you’ll see a black screen for a minute or so until the Catalina desktop appears)
@mini-i5, Thanks for all the helpful information. I've ordered a 5700XT card and a Core X enclosure. The Gaming System enclosures are 2X normal price right now. I opted for a 3 fan 5700XT because I want to make certain that more-than-adequate cooling is available. I suspect that the 580 cards are more problematic for Catalina than the 5700XT cards. Anyway, I now know how to proceed. Fingers crossed for a nice stable build.
Mission accomplished. I have a stable machine now running Catalina 10.15.6 -- which installed without any glitches while the monitor was running from the eGPU. I do have a headless adapter plugged into the Mac mini. It makes rebooting easier and doesn't seem to cause any problems.
This system just seems to work nice. It is quiet. I've set the monitor to "turn off" every 4 hours. I set the Mac-mini Energy Saver to A) Never let the display go to sleep and (2) Prevent computer form sleeping after the display is off.
Rise of Tomb Raider graphics are incredible when set to very-high settings.
Thanks for you help/advice.
Yeah, it’s hard to beat the Nitro +. Maybe the best card out there on Mac OS.
Hey, I’ve found Apple fixed the wake from sleep bug with the 10.15.6 update.
It’s great using the sleep function once again.
Sleep gives my Samsung X5 external SSD several welcome “cool down” breaks during the work day. 🧊🧊
Would you say the Sonnet was significantly quieter than the Razer ...?
Also as I've seen many reviews and accounts of RX580 working great - Sonnet hardware at fault? or simply that your requirements were too much for the RX580? No way I can afford a 5700 XT at this point (mayyybe a 5500 XT) but for now just trying to get a stable, affordable setup to test that is quiet or I can make quiet once I know it meets my needs.
Mac Mini (late 2012) / 2.3Ghz quad i7 / 16GB / Samsung 850Pro 256GB SSD (OS) + 1TB original HD (storage) / Intel HD 4000 1536 MB / Mac OS 10.12.6 Sierra / EIZO 27" 2560x1440 via display port