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Hi guys,

Following on from @squinks' work: http://forum.techinferno.com/implementation-guides/6689-%5Bguide%5D-2013-15-macbook-pro-gt750m-gtx780ti%4016gbps-tb2-sonnet-ee-iii-d-win8-1-a.html#post91182

I have finally got my Sonnet Echo Express SE II working with the MSI Nvidia GTX760 and my late-2013 Macbook Pro 15" which I custom ordered to have only the Intel Iris 5200 GPU. It is also a quad-core with 16GB ram and 512GB SSD. I am powering the card using a Corsair RM650 because that is what was easily available, fully modular (so I only need the PCIe power cable) and has a power switch easily accessible. I am running Windows 8.1 which I have installed UEFI using this guide.

Originally when I received the Sonnet I found out that the PCI slots were only 8x length and so you could not insert the graphics card which is 16x length. Because I am a bit of an idiot and couldn't find a google answer easily enough I tried to hack off the end of the slot with a utility knife. Unfortunately it seems that when I did that I put too much pressure on the PCB and broke it. I received the new board yesterday and you can see in the photo below that it looks like in the later revision (right) they changed the left slot from an 8x to a 16x so you don't have to hack up the slot like I (failed) to do. It is a shame that they didn't extend both of the slots as there would be more airflow if the middle slot was 16x too as the edge of the enclosure would be further apart. Also, the power cables only just fit and are under some pressure when the case is on, I haven't been able to find many 90 degree 'low-profile' PCIe power cables but that would solve this problem.

post-14905-14494997755011_thumb.jpg

In terms of operation it is a bit of a pain. If the Sonnet and the graphics card are powered when you turn on the machine then Apple's BIOS disables the Intel GPU. This will work perfectly with an external screen but if you have used one of these MacBooks you will know how incredibly good the MacBook's screen is. To get Optimus (or to install drivers) my turnon sequence is:

1. Turn on machine with only the Sonnet plugged in (PSU off). It annoyingly doesn't have a power switch but will turn on when the Thunderbolt cable is plugged in and MacBook is powered on. Hold down the alt/option key so you can select Windows.

2. As soon as the Apple startup chime is heard turn on the PSU (and therefore the graphics card).

3. Quickly start up Windows. I suspect something is happening with the Sonnet's power settings that if you delay then the GPU is not detected. Weird.

4. You should be able to tell the GPU has started as Windows does some strange stuttering on startup only (e.g. typing in password is strangely laggy) but this is completely gone after logging in.

I haven't got that many benchmarks but you can see it is running correctly over Thunderbolt 2.0:

CUDA-Z

Performance Information

-----------------------

Memory Copy

Host Pinned to Device: 1262.49 MiB/s

Host Pageable to Device: 1128.11 MiB/s

Device to Host Pinned: 1352.1 MiB/s

Device to Host Pageable: 1206.5 MiB/s

Device to Device: 64.3746 GiB/s

If you do the maths then Host to Device (1262)+Device to Host (1352) then we are getting pretty good speeds:

2614 (Megabyte / s) = 20.421875 Gigabit / s

Also, you can see this is much higher than the Thunderbolt 1 Thundertek CUDA-Z score (for Device to Host only) of 790MiB/s vs 1352.1 MiB/s (171%).

Now if only we had some other manufacturers interested they could quickly address these BIOS/EFI level issues and we could have true plug-and-play eGPUS!

post-14905-14494997754762_thumb.jpg

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Well done @Relentless. What crazy timing! I just received my Sonnet SEL and the same MSI GTX 760 today for my wife's setup. Identical bandwidth on all these new Sonnet enclosures. The 760 benchmarks 50-60% of the 780 Ti, so for the price, that's pretty great. The III-D, SE II, and SEL all perform the same regardless of x4, x8, or x16 slots. Probably since they all run over an x4 interface no matter the electrical capacity of the slot. The calculation you made based on your CUDA-Z score is interesting since that's what the III-D gets but @Tech Inferno Fan and I both assumed that meant 16Gbps. Perhaps it really is 20Gbps and we did the data math wrong.

Anyway, congrats on a great setup. I'm even considering replacing my III-D with an SEL for my setup and putting my wife's 760 in a SE II as well since you've proven it's concealed. My 780 Ti would be hanging out of a smaller chassis no matter what so the SEL would suffice I suppose. It's all under the desk anyway. The III-D's internal PSU makes a whining noise that I think is messing with my ears! lol

Well good job man. Nice simple solution that will likely be a common choice for many others. Just a side note, you will experience 10-20% greater performance on an external display. Optimus is awesome though, nothing beats gaming on your internal display, not to mention a Retina display.

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Hi @squinks

My math is by typing:

2614MB/s in Gbit/s into Google as it can be used as a calculator.

It is a very tight fit with the power cable and I am a bit worried about putting force on the card. Too bad Corsair don't sell these cables separately and one with a 'low profile' 90degree bend would be very nice.

With regard to turning it on for Optimus, I believe the sequence actually might be:

1. Turn on laptop with Sonnet ON and PSU OFF.

2. Hold ALT from Laptop poweron until Windows selection screen.

3. Unplug Sonnet.

4. Power on PSU.

5. Plug in Sonnet.

6. Start Windows.

Process to be confirmed once I get a repeatable process. I think it's the Sonnet that is doing a second layer of funky process (after the MacBook BIOS) as the graphics card fan does not always start at the same frequency suggesting another variable there.

Cheers

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Hi @squinks

My math is by typing:

2614MB/s in Gbit/s into Google as it can be used as a calculator.

It is a very tight fit with the power cable and I am a bit worried about putting force on the card. Too bad Corsair don't sell these cables separately and one with a 'low profile' 90degree bend would be very nice.

With regard to turning it on for Optimus, I believe the sequence actually might be:

1. Turn on laptop with Sonnet ON and PSU OFF.

2. Hold ALT from Laptop poweron until Windows selection screen.

3. Unplug Sonnet.

4. Power on PSU.

5. Plug in Sonnet.

6. Start Windows.

Process to be confirmed once I get a repeatable process. I think it's the Sonnet that is doing a second layer of funky process (after the MacBook BIOS) as the graphics card fan does not always start at the same frequency suggesting another variable there.

Cheers

I wonder if that process would consistenly enable Optimus on my setup. The only thing that has worked so far is hot plugging the card at the moment the Windows logo appears.

As far as the math goes. I see what you did. Adding the bandwidth both directions. That really puts it into an alternate perspective since you can't interpret it as a hard drive, usually only doing one thing at a time, read or write. If CUDA-Z was only doing host to device or vice versa, perhaps the bandwidth would be around 20Gbps in one direction. @Tech Inferno Fan, can you weigh in on this. Perhaps Sonnet isn't doing false advertising after all?

I'm testing some Optimus stuff on my wife's 13" rMBP w/SEL and GTX 760. I'm testing your version and hot-plugging as well. There has to be an easier way and I won't resort to cutting wires.

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Great work there @Relentless. Thank you for also taking photos of the new rev 16x board. Indeed, would have been useful to have the inner slot of the three as being 16x.

I wonder if that process would enable Optimus on my setup. The only thing that has worked so far is hot plugging the card at the moment the Windows logo appears.

As far as the math goes. I see what you did. Adding the bandwidth both directions. That really puts it into an alternate perspective since you can't interpret it as a hard drive, usually only doing one thing at a time, read or write. If CUDA-Z was only doing host to device or vice versa, perhaps the bandwidth would be around 20Gbps in one direction. @Tech Inferno Fan, can you weigh in on this. Perhaps Sonnet isn't doing false advertising after all?

I'm testing some Optimus stuff on my wife's 13" rMBP w/SEL and GTX 760. I'm testing your version and hot-plugging as well. There has to be an easier way and I won't resort to cutting wires.

Absolutely 100% sure it's a x4 2.0 link across the TB bridge. On your particularly system the bridging is as shown below. On this representation, at the top is the notebook Intel Northbridge and on the bottom is your GTX780Ti. Between them are numerous bridges. In fact, we see that the PLX pcie-to-TB bridge connects at x8 to your eGPU. What happens is there is a TB bridge across which the data is transfered. That connects at x4 2.0. Maybe they have that PLX bridge as some traffic can run at x8 2.0 without it coming back to the host across the TB bridge???

0:1.1 - Intel Northbridge (x4) 
6:0.0 - Intel TB (x4)
7:3.0 - Intel TB (x4)
9:0.0 - Intel TB (x4)
A:3.0 - Intel TB (x4)
B:0.0 - PLX (x4)
C:5:0 - PLX (x8)
F:0.0 - GTX780Ti (x8)

Are Sonnet being misleading in their 20Gbps advertising? No. The TB link has capacity for 20Gbps multiplexed pcie + DP traffic. However the max pcie traffic that can be carried is x4 2.0 (16Gbps).

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According to the Sonnet website the Echo Express SE II has two PCIe x8 slots. I understand that you received a newer board with a PCIe x16 and x8 slot. But how is it possible that I can see three PCIe slots on both boards?

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I think he completely dis-assembled the Sonnet, and removed the Thunderbolt card as well, which is also plugged in as a PCI-e card. So there are 3 PCI-e slots, but only two are available for your own devices.

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I guess the GPU wouldn't fit anymore inside the Sonnet case with a PCI Express x8 to x16 Extender?

[ATTACH=CONFIG]11797[/ATTACH]

You definitely wont be able to fit a decent graphics card in the case with that riser unless you can find an extremely low profile card. It is already very tight.

According to the Sonnet website the Echo Express SE II has two PCIe x8 slots. I understand that you received a newer board with a PCIe x16 and x8 slot. But how is it possible that I can see three PCIe slots on both boards?
I think he completely dis-assembled the Sonnet, and removed the Thunderbolt card as well, which is also plugged in as a PCI-e card. So there are 3 PCI-e slots, but only two are available for your own devices.

This is a photo of the 'motherboard' of the Sonnet Echo Express SE II. The rightmost slot of both of them is used for the Thunderbolt PCI card. It is done this way so they could provide upgradability (like when they went from Thunderbolt 1 to Thunderbolt 2). FYI in the Sonnet Echo III-D the Thunderbolt PCI card input is located on the bottom of the PCB and it has three slots on top.

- - - Updated - - -

I wonder if that process would enable Optimus on my setup. The only thing that has worked so far is hot plugging the card at the moment the Windows logo appears.

As far as the math goes. I see what you did. Adding the bandwidth both directions. That really puts it into an alternate perspective since you can't interpret it as a hard drive, usually only doing one thing at a time, read or write. If CUDA-Z was only doing host to device or vice versa, perhaps the bandwidth would be around 20Gbps in one direction. @Tech Inferno Fan, can you weigh in on this. Perhaps Sonnet isn't doing false advertising after all?

I'm testing some Optimus stuff on my wife's 13" rMBP w/SEL and GTX 760. I'm testing your version and hot-plugging as well. There has to be an easier way and I won't resort to cutting wires.

Hi,

more info on the 'hotplugging':

I did the initial process yesterday and it worked first time. I have a feeling there is something holding connection state on the Sonnet board which holds the state of the GPU connection for some time after power off (seconds?). My reasoning is that each time you have the Sonnet on and then turn on the graphics card via PSU the fan speed of the graphics card is inconsistent (sometimes runs full, sometimes low). This suggests to me that there is a state being stored in the Sonnet which makes it hard to determine a repeatable process. I think you want to disconnect the Sonnet's power supply for a few seconds between restarts to clear that state before trying to work out a pattern that works for you.

Also, once the connection is there the GPU has been completely stable and can be left on for hours without any adverse effects. The Corsair PSU that I am using (RM650) is so overkill that the fan doesn't even have to turn on and it stays very cool.

I really need to try some more taxing games.

Does anyone know if you can get portable versions of these 3DMark packages? (I hate installing software if I can avoid it).

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@Relentless Yes, the RM450 never turns on either. Pretty awesome. Only a motherboard and desktop components would draw enough power to require the fan. I have not been able to get a reliable boot process for Optimus. I kind of don't care due to the significant reduction in performance but if you could give me steps that work "every" time. I'd like to know it. I can get both Iris and eGPU detected at times but Optimus hasn't been activating lately, just Iris running if I launch a game. It's so inconsistent I've kinda given up.

A question regarding your replacement PCIe board. Do all SE II's ship with two x8's? How come your replacement had an x16 in it. Did they accidentally ship you a III-D board or something? I'm probably going to go with the SE II now but would like to have an x16 as well.

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@Relentless Hey, your thoughts on the Sonnet and PSU power state helped me solve my Optimus issues! If you shutdown the MacBook (Iris only) instead of restarting, then plug/re-plug TB cable, then power on, Optimus works every time! Heck yeah :D

*Update: EVGA cards work. MSI cards require more steps. Sonnet III-D does not work, only Sonnet SEL and possibly Sonnet SE II allow for easy Optimus activation. Full guide here:

http://forum.techinferno.com/diy-e-gpu-projects/6918-updated-2013-13-15-macbook-pro-thunderbolt-2-egpu-plug-play-optimus.html

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Relentless, do happen to have some more picture of the circuitboards? I'm wondering whether the board could be hooked up to another PSU.

Thanks. :)

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@Relentless

@squinks

Good news because the sales people of Sonnet just confirmed to me via email: "Yes, all our Echo Express SE II are now shipping with one x8 and one x16 slot.".

So everybody should be able to order the new version with PCIe x16. You just need to be sure they send the new version and not an old version from their stock.

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So if I want to build an eGPU for my 13" Retina MacBook Pro (Late 2013) I would need:

1) Sonnet Echo Express SE II with a PCIe 16x slot

2) MSI GTX 760 Gaming ITX (N760 2GD5/OC ITX) or ASUS GTX 760 Mini (GTX760-DCMOC-2GD5)

3) Dell 220W DA-2 PSU or something similar. I'm looking for an aesthetic solution so no desktop PSU.

4) Something to connect the PSU to the aux input of the GPU?

4) Apple Thunderbolt cable

5) Windows 8 with EFI

Did I miss something? So no special drivers are required anymore?

Thanks!

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So if I want to build an eGPU for my 13" Retina MacBook Pro (Late 2013) I would need:

1) Sonnet Echo Express SE II with a PCIe 16x slot

2) MSI GTX 760 Gaming ITX (N760 2GD5/OC ITX) or ASUS GTX 760 Mini (GTX760-DCMOC-2GD5)

3) Dell 220W DA-2 PSU or something similar. I'm looking for an aesthetic solution so no desktop PSU.

4) Something to connect the PSU to the aux input of the GPU?

4) Apple Thunderbolt cable

5) Windows 8 with EFI

Did I miss something? So no special drivers are required anymore?

Thanks!

First off, that DELL PSU will not work for GPU 8-pin auxiliary power. The pin sockets are the wrong pattern. True GPU 8-pin on the top side goes round, round, square, square. That DELL 220 goes square, round, round, square. Other than that, your listed setup will work. If you want a full-size GPU though, you might as well save $100, get the SEL and use a riser.

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If you want a full-size GPU though, you might as well save $100, get the SEL and use a riser.

Thanks for your input. If I use the SEL than I would also need some kind of a case for the GPU. An Echo SE II already has a small case that would fit some short versions of the GTX 760.

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Thanks for your input. If I use the SEL than I would also need some kind of a case for the GPU. An Echo SE II already has a small case that would fit some short versions of the GTX 760.

Yes, I also own MSI's ITX 760 that fits in the SE II (barely). That's the only higher-end ITX GTX card you can get. Thing is, what about when 8 Series come out this year and there aren't any newer GPUs released that fit in the SE II. Then you wouldn't be able to upgrade and keep it enclosed. Having said that, I totally understand the goal to have an enclosed GPU setup. I own the III-D with a 780 Ti. I get it. I was going to do the SE II and ITX 760 for my wife but decided to return everything for two 780 Ti's. Each with an SEL. I've made it look pretty good without it being enclosed. For those who absolutely want an enclosed eGPU, I don't blame you. That was my original approach too.

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@squinks @Nando

So I have worked out a repeatable process for getting my Optimus setup to work:

1. Turn off Macbook.

2. Power off Sonnet (I actually pull the power out of the unit). This seems to reset the state of the Sonnet to clean.

3. Turn off power supply to GPU.

4. Power on Sonnet and plug in Thunderbolt cable.

5. Turn on laptop holding ALT/Option to allow OS selection.

6. When MacBook startup chime happens (a couple of seconds after power on) turn on GPU power supply.

7. Choose Windows from the OS selection menu.

This works 3/3 times. I think the key learning is to make sure you turn off/unplug the Sonnet so any memory/state is lost from their board.

Of course, if you want to use an external screen then just turn off the MacBook and make sure the Sonnet and the GPU are powered and it will just work.

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@squinks @Nando

So I have worked out a repeatable process for getting my Optimus setup to work:

1. Turn off Macbook.

2. Power off Sonnet (I actually pull the power out of the unit). This seems to reset the state of the Sonnet to clean.

3. Turn off power supply to GPU.

4. Power on Sonnet and plug in Thunderbolt cable.

5. Turn on laptop holding ALT/Option to allow OS selection.

6. When MacBook startup chime happens (a couple of seconds after power on) turn on GPU power supply.

7. Choose Windows from the OS selection menu.

This works 3/3 times. I think the key learning is to make sure you turn off/unplug the Sonnet so any memory/state is lost from their board.

Of course, if you want to use an external screen then just turn off the MacBook and make sure the Sonnet and the GPU are powered and it will just work.

Good to know. I've included this information in my newly updated 2013 MacBook Pro Plug and Play - Optimus guide:

http://forum.techinferno.com/diy-e-gpu-projects/6918-updated-2013-13-15-macbook-pro-thunderbolt-2-egpu-plug-play-optimus.html#post94929

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Looking good. Regarding the PSU, a DC-ATX Converter might be interessting. With that you will "just" have another external PSU:

HDPLEX-250W-Hi-Fi-DC-ATX-Converter (16V-24V Wide Range Voltage Input)

&

Amazon.com: Dell AC Power Adapter Charger For Dell J938H Laptop Notebook Computers (Flextronics Flat Version): Computers & Accessories

That Converter should fit into the enclosure. Will give you a nice clean look.

What kind of fan is in the front? 80mm? Maybe you can use a pice of cardboard to guide all the air to the GPU.

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@Dschijn That's the first compact solution I've seen. Very interesting. However, that would only be considered more clean if you can fit everything in the chassis which only this ITX 760 + SE II configuration could accomplish. Otherwise, having more circuit boards, adapters and/or cables lying around vs. a small PSU isn't exactly more clean. Having said that, the idea is good and I'll register that in my list of future options. Thanks!

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@Dschijn That's the first compact solution I've seen. Very interesting. However, that would only be considered more clean if you can fit everything in the chassis which only this ITX 760 + SE II configuration could accomplish. Otherwise, having more circuit boards, adapters and/or cables lying around vs. a small PSU isn't exactly more clean. Having said that, the idea is good and I'll register that in my list of future options. Thanks!

Yes if everything fits this would be great! Can somebody confirm this? If this works I might buy the updated version of the Sonnet Echo Express SEII with a PCIe x16 slot :-)

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Yes if everything fits this would be great! Can somebody confirm this? If this works I might buy the updated version of the Sonnet Echo Express SEII with a PCIe x16 slot :-)

I would go SEL. I have proven that SEL has Optimus out of the box on Iris-only MBPs. The SE II and III-D have a PLX chip (PCIe switching for circuit boards with more than one slot) that restricts the ability to use your internal display without hassle.

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I would go SEL. I have proven that SEL has Optimus out of the box on Iris-only MBPs. The SE II and III-D have a PLX chip (PCIe switching for circuit boards with more than one slot) that restricts the ability to use your internal display without hassle.

You are right. It is better to use the SEL. The SE II is already too expensive (> $ 700 in Europe) and it becomes worse if you count the external PSU and internal DC converter. But it would be nice if we could find a small (Min-ITX) case to mount all the components. I want a clutter free solution so I can use it in my living room.

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You are right. It is better to use the SEL. The SE II is already too expensive (> $ 700 in Europe) and it becomes worse if you count the external PSU and internal DC converter. But it would be nice if we could find a small (Min-ITX) case to mount all the components. I want a clutter free solution so I can use it in my living room.

You could absolutely use an ITX case to fit everything in. I thought of doing something like that myself.

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