Mantiz Venus Review: All-in-one Thunderbolt 3 eGPU Docking Station

Mantiz Venus Thunderbolt 3 eGPU + Nvidia GTX 980 Ti

 

Introduction

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.

Mantiz Venus eGPU enclosure components
Mantiz Venus components: enclosure with TB3 + I/O expansion board, right-side cover with vents, left-side cover with 2.5″ drive bracket, rear I/O plate, 8cm fan, SFX 450W 550W-Gold PSU.

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.

Inside view of Mantiz Venus eGPU Enclosure with all components attached & 2.5" SSD mounted
Inside view of Mantiz Venus eGPU Enclosure with all components attached & 2.5″ SSD mounted.

 

Hardware Specifics

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.

Matiz Venus eGPU Thunderbolt 3 main board and I/O board
Matiz Venus eGPU Thunderbolt 3 main board and I/O expansion board

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.

HP 13" Spectre X360 ext SSD + Radeon RX 470 + ATX 850W PSU + Mantiz eGPU boards
HP 13″ Spectre X360 shown running Unigine Valley off the external SSD when paired with a Radeon RX 470 + ATX 850W PSU + Mantiz eGPU boards.

 

Windows 10

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.

Device manger screeshot showing GTX 780
The GTX 780 is shown in Device Manager without issue.

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.

Mantiz Venus + GTX 980 Ti + 2.5" SSD eGPU enclosure tested with 2016 13" MacBook Pro.
Mantiz Venus + GTX 980 Ti + 2.5″ SSD eGPU enclosure tested with 2016 13″ MacBook Pro.

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.

 

Ubuntu 16.04

Under Linux (Ubuntu) things work reasonably well, but there are a few glitches.

GTX 780 under Linux on Mantiz
GTX 780 under Linux on Mantiz

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.

 

Benchmarks

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.

System GPU
int/external LCD
Benchmark score% of Desktop score
SkydiverFirestrikeTimespyHeaven
 Skydiver Firestrike Timespy Heaven
Desktop 78019127784423842122100%100%100%100%
960M Internal69313529124480336.24%44.76%52.18%37.84%
960M External10618364378685255.51%46.21%32.97%40.15%
780 Internal1318760782274155768.94%77.09%95.39%73.37%
780 External1557666462308183981.43%84.30%96.81%86.66%

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.

 

Conclusion

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.

all-in-one egpu enclosure mantiz venus

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. 

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38 Comments on "Mantiz Venus Review: All-in-one Thunderbolt 3 eGPU Docking Station"

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ikir
Member

Mantiz Venus win the crown for best eGPU solution imho 😀

theitsage
Admin

I agree. It’s a full featured eGPU and Thunderbolt 3 docking station.

Phillip
Guest

Do we simply pre-order to contribute to the 50-unit commitment?

theitsage
Admin

Hi Phillip,

You can post your name in our forum topic on this group buy. Once we get to 50 committed buyers, Mantiz will send the coupon code to you so that you can place the order for the Venus enclosure at $300. Shipping + VAT varies based on your location.

CaolanR
Guest

Is it pretty safe bet, that if this was tested on an XPS 13 9350, that it will act fairly similarly on the XPS 15 9550?

I heard that they use the same TB controller?

theitsage
Admin

I would say so.

CaolanR
Member
polo
Member

there is a fixation for front panel USB cables?

nando4
Admin

This enclosure has three rear USB ports and two front ones. Can choose whichever location suits your requirements.

polo
Member

Sry i mean usb-cable inside enclosure between PCB and front connectors. It looks heavy, i worry about damage to PCB during transport.

DyWaN
Member

I am looking for a Spectre 13″ (black/gold model) through eBay but I am unable to see any USB-C TB3 ports on it. Anybody could give me a hint which model of the Spectre do have a TB3 port to work with Venus? Also will this Spectre works full in TB3 speed?

theitsage
Admin

We tested the HP Spectre 13 with the AKiTiO Node + R9 Fury Nitro. It has two Thunderbolt 3 ports in the back hinge.

polo
Member

Spectre 13 Skylake/Kaby has 2 TB3, Spectre 13 x360 only Kaby Lake has TB3.

chart54
Member

Can it be charged Razor Blade Stealth ?

theitsage
Admin

Yes. The Mantiz Venus enclosure provides 60W of charging. The Razer Blade Stealth needs about 45W.

Dsntrgr8
Member

Have you tested it with the Razer Blade Stealth?

theitsage
Admin

Mantiz tested the Razer Blade Stealth and ran benchmarks with this Venus enclosure. It works great.

chart54
Member

Is the Venus compatible with Razer Blade Stealth 12.5” (2016) – Intel 6500U ?

theitsage
Admin

Most definitely. The Razer Blade Stealth is eGPU certified and works with all eGPU enclosures on the market.

Dsntrgr8
Member

Will there be any performance impact if we run games off a hard drive that we put in the egpu enclosure?

Dsntrgr8
Member

And is it plug and play straight out of the box or will I need to download thunderbolt software updates?

Sandy Lee
Guest

It’s nice. But too much empty space even for full sized GPU card.

Rensuya
Member

will the Venus work with the XPS 13 9350 and Charge it as well?

Richard
Editor

Given it works and charges on a XPS 13 9360 I would be very surprised indeed if it did not work.

Erick
Guest

Can it also charge the razer blade stealth (2016 Kaby Lake) while using the GPU?

theitsage
Admin

Yes it can charge the Razer Blade Stealth. In fact, the production version of the Mantiz Venus provides 87W of charge. This is sufficient for most Thunderbolt 3 laptops including the Late 2016 15″ MacBook Pro.

Dsntrgr8
Member

are there any other differences between the production version and the pre-production version?

Tim
Guest

Works this Mantiz eGPU also well with a Nvidia GTX 1080 desktop graphics card?

Is a external screen needed or is the notebook screen alone fine for using the eGPU power?

theitsage
Admin

It would work well with a GTX 1080 GPU. We just tested this Mantiz Venus enclosure with a GTX 1080 Ti. You can use the eGPU to accelerate the internal screen. Read our eGPU setup guide for full instructions.

YXebsQme
Member

I really hope they bring back another group buy – So so so badly want to get one of these and that $300 price was killer~~

keplerk
Guest

Would it works with a Lenovo Thinkpad P50 ?

nando4
Admin

A Razer Core was successfully attached to a Lenovo P50 at the following link as a precedent for eGPU compatibility. It stands to reason then that a Mantiz Venus would also work on a P50. See https://www.reddit.com/r/thinkpad/comments/5wy3gn/some_pics_of_my_thinkpad_p50_with_egpu_gtx1080/

David
Guest
“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… Read more »
theitsage
Admin

These issues are in Linux which has no official support. Unlike macOS, there are very little third party development/workaround for Linux atm.

Bandi
Member

When is the official sale?

theitsage
Admin

June 8th-12th is when Mantiz plans to ship the first 100 units.

Rohan Chadha
Guest

Hey! has the 100-unit commitment been met? Would love 1! How does this compare to the Saturn?

Thanks.

theitsage
Admin

Hi Rohan,

The 100 unit group buy ended shortly after this review.

I have yet to review the Saturn enclosure to provide any insights.

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