The Mantiz Venus is an upcoming external graphics card enclosure for Thunderbolt 3 ultrabooks. It aims to provide high compatibility, a nice array of expansion ports and a sleek enclosure all while coming in at an affordable price point. See it’s features and price compared to other Thunderbolt 3 enclosures.
In addition to the Thunderbolt 3 port that connects to the host computer, the Mantiz Venus also features six expansion inputs – three rear USB 3.0 ports, two front USB 3.0 ports and one Gigabit Ethernet port.
The Mantiz Venus enclosure contains a notable internal SATA III connector for a 2.5″ hard drive or SSD. This provides an affordable way to expand storage capacity for ultrabooks that mostly come with storage space of 256GB SSD or less. Having a hard drive inside the Thunderbolt enclosure allows you to install games and software that can be exclusively used when the laptop is connected to this eGPU docking station. It’s a simple and effective way to preserve your laptop’s internal drive storage space.
The eGPU.io team received a few Thunderbolt 3 mainboards and I/O expansion daughterboards from Mantiz for testing. These components will also be the core of their next eGPU enclosure, the Mantiz Saturn.
The Thunderbolt 3 board uses the USB-C controller TI83. This is good news for Mac users as the TI83 has native support in macOS. The early builds of this Thunderbolt 3 board have behaved the same way as other TI83 eGPU enclosures we’ve tested so far; they only worked with eGPU certified hosts. A firmware update is needed for compatibility with hosts that are not eGPU certified.
Fortunately, as of March 2017, Mantiz has had the latest Thunderbolt firmware approved for increased compatibility with a wide range of Thunderbolt 3 hosts. Both the Venus and Saturn eGPU enclosures will be shipping with the new Thunderbolt firmware.
A closer look at the Thunderbolt mainboard and expansion daughterboard reveals the Ethernet port is provided by an ASIX AX88179 USB 3.0 to Gigabit Ethernet Adaptor, and the SATA port is provided by an ASMedia AS2115 USB3.0 to SATA III chip.
The PSU is an
SFX 450W 80 Plus Bronze unit. It’s able to provide up to 60W charging capability to Thunderbolt 3 laptops.
Update 8-April-2017: a upgraded 550W-Gold SFX PSU will be supplied with customer units. It’s able to provide up to 87W charging capability to Thunderbolt 3 laptops. 375W is the maximum power deliverable to the graphics card.
though that drops down to 300W if the five USB 3.0 ports are in use. The rest of the power is supplied to other components.
Unlike the AKiTiO Node’s SFX PSU with custom power cables (one 6-pin and two 6+2-pin PCIe), the Mantiz Venus’ PSU is fairly universal. It has one 24-pin motherboard cable, two SATA power cables, one 8-pin EPS power cable, and two 6+2 PCIe plugs to the graphics card. This arrangement makes for an easy swap should you decide the stock PSU is inadequate for your needs. We found it to be sufficient for a number of GPUs and laptops we tested. Another benefit is the lack of noise from the PSU’s internal fan.
Testing the Mantiz Venus
Our testing shows very promising results. The Thunderbolt 3 connection provides 60W of charging power, which is sufficient for most 13″ TB3 ultrabooks on the market. We’ve conducted tests by pairing the Mantiz Venus with the following laptops: Apple Late 2016 MacBook Pro, Apple Early 2015 MacBook Air, Dell XPS 13 9360, HP Spectre X360, and Toshiba Portege X20W. In terms of Operating System compatibility, we’ve tested Windows 10, macOS Sierra 10.12.2, and Linux Ubuntu 16.04.
Using a Dell XPS 13 (9360) and a GeForce 780, the process of setting up the Mantiz Venus was plug and play. All that was required to get the Mantiz working was to download and install the latest Nvidia drivers. Once the drivers were installed and the laptop restarted, all appeared to work perfectly under Windows 10.
Here are our observations of the Mantiz Venus’ features:
- All of the USB ports on the Mantiz work with all devices tried: keyboard and mouse, speakers, bus-powered hard disk drives.
- The Ethernet port connects at gigabit speeds and appears to be stable.
- Graphics functionality on both internal and external displays works. It’s interesting to note the 780 is below the minimum supported GPU for external Nvidia cards. However there seem to be no issues caused by this.
- The laptop charges quickly and does not experience any loss-of-power crashes under heavy gaming load like it appears to do when using the Acer Graphics Dock. This is a significant feature for laptops with only one Thunderbolt 3 port which serves as both an expansion and charging connection (Razer Blade Stealth, XPS 9365, and Toshiba Portege X20W).
- Under Windows, the dock can be hot plugged and reconnected multiple times.
The SATA port was connected to a Samsung 850 SSD and data copied back and forth without issues.
The other Thunderbolt 3 laptops (Apple 2016 13″ MacBook Pro, HP 13″ Spectre X360, and Toshiba 12.5″ Portege X20W) we tested in Windows 10 shared the same experience. It’s as close to plug and play as we have hoped for. Both Nvidia and AMD cards work well under Optimus and XConnect to drive the internal display. This is wonderful news for casual PC gamers who are looking to consolidate to one computer.
macOS Sierra 10.12.2
This was perhaps the most anticipated test. We wanted to see how well this Mantiz external graphics card enclosure and its expansion I/Os worked with macOS in general and with the Late 2016 MacBook Pro in particular.
Having a TI83 controller is a blessing because macOS recognizes the Mantiz Venus enclosure immediately upon plugging in the Thunderbolt 3 cable. The native Thunderbolt 3 connection between the Mantiz Venus and the Late 2016 MacBook Pro allows USB 3.0 ports and the SATA III port within the enclosure to function properly. USB and SATA volumes show up during the Boot Selection screen, but we have not been able to make these bootable. The Ethernet port requires installation of AX88179 driver which is available here.
To enable the external graphics card, we simply ran Goalque’s automate-eGPU script. Nvidia cards such as the GTX 980 Ti used in one of our tests have much higher success rates in eGPU builds. A simple restart following the automate-eGPU script installation, and the Mantiz Venus eGPU docking station was ready to go. This is the ultimate Thunderbolt 3 docking station that provides the Late 2016 MacBook Pro with more standard ports and a significant graphics performance boost.
For Macs with Thunderbolt 2 or older, eGPU functionality works in a similar manner as in the Thunderbolt 3 Late 2016 MacBook Pro. We used the Apple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt adapter to connect this Mantiz Venus enclosure to an Early 2015 11″ MacBook Air to test. The expansion ports are only accessible in macOS. There’s no detection of the expansion ports in Windows via the Apple TB3 <–> TB adapter.
Under Linux (Ubuntu) things work reasonably well, but there are a few glitches.
The good parts:
- USB ports work perfectly as on Windows
- Ethernet works perfectly
- The laptop charges
- The SATA port works well
- The GPU is picked up and works
The not-so-good parts:
- No hotplug on the graphics. When unplugging the board after the system has been booted, the system crashes. When plugging the board in after startup, everything works as above, but the GPU is not detected.
- The internal display cannot be used at the same time as the external. Artefacts often display on the external displays, and windows cannot be dragged to the internal. However, using single or multiple external displays, or just the internal display alone works perfectly.
- The first time an external display was used the Wireless card of the laptop refused to see or connect to any network. On restart this fixed the problem, and it did not appear again.
Please note that the benchmarks in the table below were taken on a Dell XPS 13, which has the issue of a 2x PCIe TB3 Link, making eGPU scores lower than a properly configured 4xPCIe 3.0 TB3 laptop. This therefore represents the worst-case scenario, a constrained TB3 link with a GPU from mid 2013, with a dual-core processor.
The Desktop PC used for testing features an i5-3740 CPU. The 960M scores are from the Acer Graphics Dock on the Dell XPS 13.
|Benchmark score||% of Desktop score|
The synthetic benchmark results show that in almost all cases, even on the XPS’s internal 1920×1080 display with its crippled 2x PCIe TB3 link and two fewer cores, an eGPU in the Mantiz is able to provide around 3/4 of desktop performance. The team at Mantiz have also been testing this Venus eGPU enclosure with a number of graphics cards (RX 480, GTX 1060, and GTX 1070) and Thunderbolt 3 computers (Asus Z170-A, Intel NUC Skull Canyon, Lenovo 2017 X1 Carbon, and Razer Blade Stealth). These are the benchmark results Mantiz provided to us.
The Mantiz Venus is a well-rounded Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosure that does everything it’s supposed to do and does it well. This external graphics card enclosure works even on systems that are not designed to support it, and performance is as expected. Of course macOS provides an ever-changing target with each Apple update, but the Venus provides a plug-and-play experience on most Thunderbolt 3 equipped Windows 10 systems.
On top of this, the Mantiz reliably provides 60W power delivery via Thunderbolt 3/USB-C cable, in addition to five USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit network connection, and a SATA port to the host computer.
The Mantiz Venus is the perfect enclosure for an all-in-one eGPU docking station for thin and light ultrabooks. A single cable can provide a brilliant eGPU experience, charge your notebook, get you online and connect to your standard USB peripherals. It’s a very strong contender for the ideal external GPU enclosure. Priced at $389, it’s also a good value compared to direct competitors like the PowerColor Devil Box ($450) and Razer Core ($499).
Group Buy Offer
As a courtesy to eGPU.io, Mantiz has extended a group buy offer to our forum members and /eGPU subreddit subscribers. Mantiz will be able to sell the Venus enclosure for $300 with a 50-unit commitment. This is by far the best value for an all-in-one and ready-to-go external graphics card enclosure.
Update: due to much higher demand than anticipated, Mantiz is extending this offer to 100 units.
Shipping + VAT varies based on your location. Once there are 50 committed buyers, Mantiz will send out the coupon code to each buyer to place an order on the Mantiz Venus product page. Delivery will begin 60 days from when the group buy concludes.
Also as a token of appreciation to our members, the eGPU.io team will give away an Nvidia GTX 980 Reference graphics card to one random participant in this Mantiz Venus 50-unit group buy. As soon as there are 50 committed buyers, we will do a drawing and announce the winner. Please post in this forum topic if you’d like to participate in the Mantiz Venus group buy.