GC-TITAN-RIDGE with LG Ultrafine 4k
Afternoon all. I've been experimenting with an eGPU setup for a few months now, reading these forums a lot, and it's in a place now where it's almost there, but still has a lot of quality of life issues which I can't live with forever, and I'm after some advice from the experts. Sorry about the long post, skip reading between the horizontal lines if you want less context.
There are two basic problems, and at least one is a pretty common one: how do I drive an LG UltraFine monitor (mine's a 4k) with the fewest compromises; how do I reliably boot a Mac mini to an LG UltraFine with Filevault ON and password on startup.
So for starters, my setup:
- Mac mini 2018
- Razer Core X
- Vega 56
- LG UltraFine 4k (and I'd like to add another one before the end of the year)
- A boat load of USB-C and USB-B peripherals
- A work laptop with a single TB3 connector and no other USB-C ports
The name of the game here seems to be compromises: I can run a DP to USB-C cable from Vega to UltraFine, but I lose brightness, volume and the many additional ports on the back, and I don't run the work laptop through the eGPU, so every day I have to switch around a lot of cables.
So, some options:
- Run the eGPU as Prefer External Monitor -- performance sucks for gaming, which is at least half of what I wanted it for, but most other issues get solved.
- Buy a TB3 dock for the peripherals to simplify a lot of the cable management -- could do, but a lot of money for a simple task.
- Buy a Huawei VR 2 cable, or Wacom Link -- gives me brightness and sound, but is a USB2 data connection so I imagine that I still lose the ports, and it's pretty expensive for the luxury (and out of stock everywhere too). Combined with a TB3 dock, this might work, but it's cabling/device hell.
- Wait and pray for a GPU with USB4/TB3 outputs. The Vega is good enough, but I can see myself upgrading it eventually. I know that some USB-C VR outputs exist in W5700 cards, but honestly, I don't need a workstation card, and it only gives me one output, not two (which I'd need for the future monitor). This seems like a solution only for people with very deep pockets.
My plan is therefore to buy a GC-TITAN-RIDGE card, put it in a PCIE enclosure with 2x TB3 connections, use one of the enclosure TB3s to link to the Mac, run two DP cables from the Vega into the GC-TITAN-RIDGE, run one TB3 cable to the current UltraFine 4k, and in future either daisy-chain the second monitor off of the first, or run it off of the second GC-TITAN-RIDGE TB3 out port. Total cost about £300 for a very tidy solution.
As far as I can tell, this solution is no different to using a Blackmagic Pro eGPU with two UltraFine 4k monitors daisy chained off of it (same GPU, same monitors, same TITAN-RIDGE card), except that I've broken the components out across two devices, used twice as many TB3 ports on the Mac, saved a little money but made my upgrade path much, much better.
I have no idea whether this will actually work. I know that it wouldn't work if I were running 2x UltraFine 5k monitors, but I'm not, and won't in the foreseeable future. Therefore, can anyone answer the following:
- Has anyone successfully run two UltraFine 4k monitors off of a single GC-TITAN-RIDGE?
- Can I get away with a single TITAN-RIDGE card to drive 2x 4k displays?
- Do I retain use of the USB-C ports on the back of the UltraFine?
- Does this still cause issues when booting the Mac via the eGPU?
Alternatively I could just sell the lot and buy a Blackmagic Pro, which would be much more compact and Mac-like, but locks me into the Vega forever.
The software to enable the GC-TITAN RIDGE in a Thunderbolt 3 PCIe enclosure doesn't exist (yet) so you won't get the USB features of the LG UltraFine 4K displays (such as brightness control, etc.). The Belkin or Huawei VR 2 cables might be the cheapest option currently.
Maybe install the Big Sur beta to an external USB drive. It has a firmware update that allows eGPU boot screen for Mac mini 2018 (I think it's working). Then continue to use Catalina.
Thanks very much for the reply, I'd seen neither of those links. The first in particular is exceptionally helpful. I'll wait for the public release of Ben Sur for the firmware update, this is my main computer and I don't want the hassle of beta updates. Just knowing that a fix is on the way is enough for me.
It sounds like there isn't a clearly superior solution than what I'm already running. Without data via the GC-TITAN-RIDGE, there's not a lot of benefits over my existing DP to USB-C cable. I'll probably keep an eye out for BizLink VirtualLink Interface Adapter, if it ever materialises, or wait for the next generation of USB4 devices which are probably 6 months away. Maybe Blackmagic will replace the Vega 56 with a W5700, now that the Vega is discontinued. Hopefully someone releases a Blackmagic-like produce with the a Titan Ridge controller hooked up internally, but a full length x16 slot for people to plug into, and sockets on the board for DP -> something connectors.