Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box Review – Little in the Middle

eGPU Reviews 22 Comments

Introduction

Caught in the middle of Apple and Nvidia’s ongoing pissing contest, Gigabyte loaded its latest Gaming Box with an AMD Radeon RX 580, a graphics card that functions natively with macOS High Sierra. This Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box also finds itself in the middle of a hot debate as to why it doesn’t sport the AORUS gaming moniker. All signs suggest Nvidia GeForce Partners Program restricted the gaming branding of add-in card and system partners to GeForce chipsets. Due to mounting pressure, Nvidia pulled the plug on GPP on May 4th, 2018.

2017 13" MacBook Pro - Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box - 2016 15" MacBook Pro

2017 13″ MacBook Pro – Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box – 2016 15″ MacBook Pro

Apple’s exclusive use of AMD discrete graphics in its Mac lineup raises some questions. The most logical reason is the company’s long-term bet on Metal, which AMD has been more willing to accommodate. Another motivation is the desire to combat Nvidia’s vendor lock-in tactic. Apple is the master of lock-in platforms, so there’s no chance they would tolerate proprietary APIs (CUDA in this scenario) that dominate professional software in macOS. Others say there’s bad blood from failed discrete graphics cards in older generation MacBook Pros that Nvidia never owned up to. Whatever the case may be, we’re not here to discuss tech titan politics. Let’s turn our attention to the star of this review, the Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box. Without a doubt it’s the most convenient and portable eGPU for Mac users as of spring 2018.

Hardware Specifics

Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box
Specifications  compare 
Price US$
$600
PSU location-type
internal-fATX
PSU max power450W
GPU max power
225W
Power delivery (PD)
100W
USB-C controller
TI83
TB3 USB-C ports1
Ports max bandwidth5Gbps
USB3.0 ports (+C type)
3+0
Ethernet & SATA port
Other portsQC, 3xDP, HDMI
Size (in/mm, LxWxH)
8..35 x 3.78 x 6.38
212 x 96 x 162
Max GPU len (in/cm)
6.65 / 16.9
Weight (kg/lb)2.35/5.19
Updated firmware27.27 ✔
Vendor page link
Implementations
link

The AMD Radeon RX 580 is this Gaming Box’s X factor. Apple selected the RX 580 for its external GPU development kit, making the macOS drivers and support suitably mature as of 10.13.4. This graphics card is also one of the most popular choices for cryptomining in the past year. Miners wouldn’t have been able to resist buying up this particular RX 580 with its mini-ITX form. To ensure eGPU enthusiasts had the first dibs on these Gaming Boxes, I worked with Brian @ Gigabyte to organize a pre-order. This was a great opportunity Gigabyte provided our community. Forum members who placed their pre-orders were not only able to get the RX 580 Gaming Box prior to launch (April 27th) but also received some nice AORUS swag.

The RX 580 Gaming Box’s side profile is identical to the GTX 1080 Gaming Box. Gigabyte custom built these graphics cards specifically for its own external GPU enclosures. The exposed cooling fins, heatsink, and single 130mm fan give the card a naked appearance. This cooler design looks the part and produces minimal noise. Video outputs are three DisplayPorts and one HDMI port. The GPU power connector is an 8-pin PCIe plug.

Custom mini-ITX RX 580 top view

Custom mini-ITX RX 580 top view

Gigabyte mini-ITX RX 580 and cooling components

Gigabyte mini-ITX RX 580 and cooling components

Sharing the same platform with AORUS’ GTX 1070 and 1080 Gaming Boxes, other components are direct carryovers. The power supply is an Enhance Flex ATX 450W unit that features a single rail 12V. Its wiring harness provides one 24-pin power cable for the Thunderbolt 3 main board and one 6 + 2-pin PCIe power cable for the graphics card. There’s no power switch on the PSU. The RX 580 Gaming Box turns on when there’s communication with a Thunderbolt host computer. Routing hot air out of the enclosure are two 40mm fans. Due to their tiny size, they omit a buzzing noise during use. For additional component details, please read my AORUS GTX 1070 Gaming Box review.

Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box rear I/O

Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box rear I/O

RX 580 8-pin PCIe power plug

RX 580 8-pin PCIe power plug

The main board contains all crucial components of a Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosure as well as rear expansion I/Os. On the top I spotted a TI83 USB-C controller and DSL6450 Intel Thunderbolt 3 controller. The Winbond EEPROM is located on the bottom. The RGB LED strip is on this same board and can only be controlled by AORUS Gaming Engine software in Windows.

Gaming Box TI83 USB-C Controller

Gaming Box TI83 USB-C Controller

Gaming Box Thunderbolt 3 Controller

Gaming Box Thunderbolt 3 Controller

Gaming Box Winbond EEPROM

Gaming Box Winbond EEPROM

Ever since the Gaming Box first came out last fall with its mini-ITX GTX 1070, our community has expressed strong interest in an AMD version for macOS external GPU native support. I previously sourced a few AMD graphics cards that fit inside the AORUS GTX 1070 Gaming Box. First was a Sapphire reference cooler RX 470, and then an HP-OEM mini-ITX RX 480. I didn’t have much luck with these attempts though. The only AMD card I managed to power on with this enclosure was an older R9 285 Compact that doesn’t have macOS eGPU support. Thanks to cryptocurrency, miners bought the Gaming Boxes in bulk for their GPUs then flooded eBay with empty enclosures, often for less than $200. Yukikaze is compiling a list of graphics cards that may work with this chassis.

Testings & Benchmarks

With Power Delivery and additional USB ports, the Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box provides plenty of useful features for Thunderbolt 3 MacBook Pros. There are four standard USB ports in the rear, one of which is orange and serves as a charging port for mobile phones. It has Quick Charge support (QC 3.0) but does not transmit data. The other three USB 3.0 ports can be used with peripheral devices. Power Delivery is as promised at 100W when connecting with the supplied half-meter long Thunderbolt 3 cable. Thunderbolt firmware is 27.27 as shown in macOS System Information.

The #1 selling feature of this eGFX is macOS High Sierra plug-and-play. “It just works” as long as you have a Thunderbolt 3 Mac. With the launch of external GPU capability in 10.13.4, Apple officially blocks older Thunderbolt Mac computers from using external graphics cards. Our community strongly opposed this imposition and decided to do something about it. Mac_editor wrote a script to unblock Thunderbolt 1 and Thunderbolt 2 Macs for eGPU access. Goalque updated his automate-eGPU.kext to add external GPU compatibility for two dozen AMD graphics cards. Fr34k has been spending countless hours in the past month to enable Nvidia eGPU support in 10.13.4

To truly put the “gaming” in this RX 580 Gaming Box, you still need Windows 10. The roadblock is Apple’s lack of external GPU support in Bootcamp. It’s a tremendous effort to resolve error 12 with AMD eGPUs. Once you manage to get this RX 580 Gaming Box working in Windows, it will reward your perseverance handsomely. Part of the Bootcamp eGPU setup process calls for rEFInd boot manager. One of our devoted members, Eightarmedpet, created an Apple-esque rEFInd theme to make the aesthetics gods happy.

rEFInd custom theme closeup

rEFInd custom eGPU.io theme

Internal display eGPU acceleration in Boot camp

Internal display eGPU acceleration in Boot camp

There are a few hiccups with the RX 580 Gaming Box. First are the RGB lighting effects. You can only adjust or turn RGB off through AORUS Gaming Engine in Windows. In the most recent versions, this utility software has some glaring flaws. When you start up the software, Windows throws an error message “GvLedService.exe: Open driver handle failure!! in MapMem_Phys_To_Linear”. This is due to the AORUS Gaming Engine drivers are not fully signed by Microsoft. There are workarounds to bypass the error, but Gigabyte needs to fix this soon.

Change LED modes in AORUS Gaming Engine

Change LED modes in AORUS Gaming Engine

Select Performing modes in AORUS Gaming Engine

Select Performing modes in AORUS Gaming Engine

The second usability shortcoming lies with Intel rather than their Thunderbolt partners. Most first-generation eGPU enclosures with expansion I/O suffer USB lag issues. The Gigabyte/AORUS Gaming Boxes are no exception. Due to the single Thunderbolt 3 controller prioritized to handle eGPU traffic, peripherals such as mouse and keyboard experience intermittent freezing. Intel’s solution is to tune the Thunderbolt firmware to have a lower Host-to-Device throughput. Second-generation eGPU enclosures like the Razer Core V2 use an additional Thunderbolt 3 controller to stabilize expansion I/O traffic. As tested, the RX 580 Gaming Box came with Thunderbolt firmware that halves H2D speed.

Fortunately Gigabyte is one of the few eGFX manufacturers that provides two firmware builds for its Gaming Boxes. You can either maximize eGPU performance at the expense of USB peripherals or run the more balanced default firmware that accommodates the use of both eGPU and mouse/keyboard. Flashing the eGPU enclosure firmware is quite a task using a Thunderbolt 3 Mac. I went through the confusing ordeal and documented the procedure in this thread.

RX 580 Gaming Box AIDA

RX 580 Gaming Box AIDA

GTX 1070 Gaming Box AIDA

GTX 1070 Gaming Box AIDA

GTX 1080 Gaming Box AIDA

GTX 1080 Gaming Box AIDA

A huge benefit of using external GPU in Windows is AMD XConnect. The continuous work by XConnect team over the past two years has made the Radeon RX 580 the best value graphics card for external use. As seen in the benchmark results below, the performance loss between internal display acceleration vs. external monitor acceleration by the Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box is minimal. I’ve observed very similar results with even more powerful Radeon graphics cards such as the R9 Fury and RX Vega. I sincerely hope Apple’s external graphics team will work closely with AMD’s XConnect team to optimize external GPU performance in macOS.

To evaluate the performance of this Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box, I paired it with a 2016 15″ MacBook Pro. In macOS, internal display acceleration relies on app developers. At the moment I’m not aware of any third-party applications that make use of eGPU with the internal display. Therefore I ran synthetic gaming benchmarks with an external monitor. In Windows 10, AMD XConnect handles the graphics switching depending on whether I have an external monitor attached to the eGPU. I ran gaming benchmarks in both internal display and external monitor modes.

RX 580 Gaming BoxmacOS External MonitorWindows Internal DisplayWindows External Monitor
Unigine Valley37.7 FPS49.6 FPS49.9 FPS
Unigine Heaven30.5 FPS48.2 FPS49.2 FPS
Tomb Raider 201354.0 FPS81.5 FPS87.8 FPS
Shadow of Mordor27.9 FPS66.5 FPS72.9 FPS
Hitman26.9 FPS65.7 FPS67.0 FPS
Dirt Rally40.1 FPS57.1 FPS61.0 FPS

Conclusion

Priced at $600, the Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box is not as good a value compared to its AORUS GTX 1070 sibling. Middle-of-the-pack performance is just not as thrilling. The ultimate triumph is for Thunderbolt 3 Mac users. We finally have an all-in-one, plug-and-play solution. External graphics is all about finding the best compromise for your host computer. The RX580 Gaming Box provides Mac users a good balance of performance, portability and convenience.

If you plan to pick up a Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box, please consider supporting eGPU.io through our Amazon affiliate link.

 

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22 Comments on "Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box Review – Little in the Middle"

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ikir
Member

I link this product a lot!

@theitsage
you should test newer Rise of the Tomb Raider, which is optimized (Metal 2)
Can you update the article with it? I hope to make a review myself for eGPU.it

Wesley
Member
Thanks for working out the early access. I was one of the ones that preordered this 🙂 The PSU fan doesn’t turn off when the computer is sleeping or shut off. I got confirmation that it doesn’t from another owner. Can you confirm as well? Also I never hear the fans spin up whenever I benchmark or play games. Is there only one fan speed or is this Mac limitation? Not sure if the two small exhaust fans are changeable. I would want to because of the fan buzz. Don’t know if there’s warranty on this thing that I would… Read more »
Ben Lai
Member
Eightarmedpet
Member

One day I’ll have a working AMD card in both macOS and W10, one day…

Yukikaze
Member

@itsage – Have you had a chance to try a different card in the RX580 box? Say the RX570 Pulse? It is interesting to see if it works better with other cards than the 1070/1080 shells. I am sure we’ll see empty RX580 shells on ebay as well, sooner than later.

Wesley
Member

Posted by: Ben Lai
Just find a new firmware to solve the fan issue
https://www.gigabyte.com/Graphics-Card/GV-RX580IXEB-8GD#support-dl-driver

Is this only for Windows?

lexine
Member

I guess the firmware should be the same as well in all of the gaming box, I just wonder whether this firmware would work for Aorus Gaming Box 1070, as this noise after shutdown is annoying ….
Edit: I opened the ticket for Gigabyte, to confirm whether the enclosure firmware is compatible.

Yukikaze
Member

You cannot program the FW from one Gaming Box on another. You can’t even program the 1070 version to the 1080 one (I tried), and these boxes are about as identical as it gets.

Alexosaurus
Member

Hey guys, if I get an empty Aaorus gaming box cheaply, could I get an rx 580 separately and put it in? Would it work and would any rx580 fit in or only specific models? Thanks!

ondert
Member

Still looking for a reseller in EU. I have seen only Cyberport from Germany. They actually dropped the price to 599€. I would like to buy on Amazon though.

Locky28
Member

No availability in Australia yet :/

ICULikeMac
Member

Posted by: Locky28
No availability in Australia yet :/

x2 On that! I wish!

Angrypeanut
Member

Just order it from Amazon US. Free shipping and mine is already onboard its plane to our sunny shores!!!

Locky28
Member

Posted by: Angrypeanut
Just order it from Amazon US. Free shipping and mine is already onboard its plane to our sunny shores!!!

How much did you end up paying in dollarydoos to do that?

Eightarmedpet
Member

It’s £90 import charges when ordered from the UK which is a bit of a black eye…