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Phantron

2014 13" MBP + GTX970@16Gbps-TB2 (AKiTiO Thunder2+HANDLE!) + Win8.1 [Phantron

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Hello!

Just wanted to share my eGPU project. The goal of this build was to be a small, portable, yet powerful desktop gaming machine.

A requirement was to have the smallest possible case with handle for easy transport. My plan was to use the existing AKiTiO Thunder2

case and 'make it work' overcoming any issues that came up.

Build list:

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2014 13" Macbook Pro Retina, 2.6GHz dualcore i5, 8GB ram, 256GB storage, Intel Iris Graphics

AKiTiO Thunder2 PCIe Box

EVGA SuperNOVA 750W fully modular power supply

GALAX GTX 970 OC 4GB (179mm length)

18cm x 20cm black plexiglas

Once getting all the components, I hooked it all up making sure everything works before going ahead with the build process.

I tried without power riser and used a barrel plug while modifying the peripheral 6pin power cable from the PSU.

post-30725-14494999305842_thumb.jpg

Everything worked! Great! Now onto the case build. (Note: I didn't take pictures of absolutely everything, but I will upon request)

First big problem is the 2x PCIe 6PIN power connectors. They are too tall to allow the shroud of the case to close properly. I searched around for right angle low profile connectors, but could only find some on eBay which were at a ridiculous price and still looked a bit tall.

I decided to try my hand at making my own using the cables I got from the PSU. I removed the pins from the connector and cut it in half with a dremel. Popped a pin back in, but it was still a bit too tall... At this point its either give up and do something drastic like cutting a slot in the shroud to allow the top of the GPU to be exposed or try fiddling around with what I got. I found that giving the pins a slight bend would end up working for me. However because of how the pin is, they can only be bent in one direction (towards the clip of the connector). Bending in any other direction results it becoming too brittle and possibly snapping.

Now I got 6 pins with a slight bend but a bunch of exposed leads (3/4 of the pin sticks out of the connector to allow the bend). Fixed that with some hot glue which also doubles as way of holding the bent pins in place. The inside of the black shroud also has some unnecessary material that is obstructing the path of my pcie cables by a few millimeters, dremeled that down smooth and put down some electrical tape in case of any contact or rubbing.

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That done and working, I found a ventilation hole pattern on google, printed it off, and marked the holes on the side of the AKiTiO shroud and drilled them out.

Next is to attach the PSU to the AKiTiO box to have the ultimate compact device. I wanted to also have a sheet of plexiglas between the two with a hole cut into it to act as a handle. But how? There is just not enough clearance between the inner housing and shroud of the AKiTiO box to allow any fasteners. Some ideas were to use three sheets of plexiglas and sandwich the AKiTiO box and PSU together using threaded rod, or use some gluing/epoxy method to have one sheet of plexiglas between them. I realized that I could get the fasteners to work by cutting away some material of the inner housing. Between the shroud and the circuit board, since it is elevated by spacers, there would be plenty of room.

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I took apart the PSU to make sure everything was good to put screws through from the inside of that end, through the plexiglas, and into the AiKiTO. Next I got some 1/4" thick plexiglas (black) from a local supplier, cut the corners off of one side for a better look, made my handle hole, and drilled 4 holes in the middle, as well as through the PSU and AKiTiO shroud.Then it was just a matter of finding some proper length screws and nuts.

***WARNING: Please research the dangers of disassembling a power supply, how to discharge capacitors, and when/what is safe to touch***

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While everything was taken apart, I hardwired the 12V connection to the circuit board to get rid of that ugly barrel connector at the front. I ran the cable through the inside and out the back along with the PCIe cables.

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Reassembling everything, I flipped the AKiTiO fan around to become an exhaust fan. Next I needed to shorten the PCIe cables, which required me buying a crimper ($35) and extra pins (can be bought at any cable modding sleeving online shop).

And lastly was the motherboard 24pin cable, which was 24pin at one end and two connectors at the PSU end. I buzzed out the two needed pins and then harvested some unneeded connectors from extra cables that came with the powersupply. Connected them together and hot glued the connectors on. In the end, I still have the the 24pin motherboard cable and another pair of 6+2 PCIe cables if I ever want to re purpose the power supply.

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Conclusion:

Firstly, I would have never imagined myself buying a Macbook before finding this forum. Always thought of them as too expensive considering their underpowered gaming ability. But a Macbook is perfect for this project considering what else is available, it has excellent build quality and great battery life for when not gaming. The great battery life comes in part of not having dedicated graphics built in, unlike other Thunderbolt 2 equipped laptops (that also happen to be heavier and run hotter). This build really is the best of both worlds of light use on-the-go notebook and powerful gaming eGPU machine when at home or when LANing.

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http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/5732847

Warning: You may void your warranty doing this mod :)

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Great setup, it looks very tidy! I myself ended up cutting a hole over the pic-e connectors in the akitio box and keeping the two units (egpu & psu) separate.

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Wow great project! I'm Windows user and couldn't image that I will buy a MacBook Pro, too before I was finding this forum.

I'm planning to do (exactly) the same, because of the good possibility to be portable and have a good eGPU solution.

I need the eGPU the most of the time only on two places. Another solution (for me) would be to buy two PSUs and to connect the Akitio at the place, so I must carry only the Akitio to another place.

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While everything was taken apart, I hardwired the 12V connection to the circuit board to get rid of that ugly barrel connector at the front. I ran the cable through the inside and out the back along with the PCIe cables.

[ATTACH=CONFIG]13883[/ATTACH]

Phantron, could you tell me which one of these cables must be connected to a yellow molex cable? I think I confused them, now my Akitio is burned and damaged :P

However, I still want it this way.

Thanks

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How are the temperatures of the GPU?

During 3Dmark it reached a full load temp of 80°C, but while playing Diablo3 at 1080p it was only 60°C.

As for the barrel connector pin out, referencing that picture the lower solder point that is alone by itself is the 12V positive. You can buzz it out to be sure with the middle pin inside the barrel connector.

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Hello Phantron,

Your setup looks very promising in terms of mobility. Looking forward to extend my mid 2014 rMBP 15" Iris Pro only with e-GPU based on your guide since portable and durable system is my priority.

Can you please confirm if you had any problems running it using Internal Display only?

Thanks!

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Hello Phantron,

Your setup looks very promising in terms of mobility. Looking forward to extend my mid 2014 rMBP 15" Iris Pro only with e-GPU based on your guide since portable and durable system is my priority.

Can you please confirm if you had any problems running it using Internal Display only?

Thanks!

Hello!

I followed EVO*'s guide for enabling optimus for internal displays found here: http://forum.techinferno.com/implementation-guides/8558-%5Bguide%5D-macbook-enabling-optimus-internal-lcd-mode.html

It seems to work perfectly when I get into windows, however that happens about 75% of the time. My issue is the other 25% of the time when I power on the macbook the screen is black. Peripherals seem to be activated (mouse glows) but nothing on display. I just hold down the power button to shutoff and try again and it works. I think there might be some trick with turning on PSU (for egpu) and when you turn on macbook, maybe a time delay or something. I'll do some testing tonight and report back.

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Hi Phantron,

That's sounds like something is not starting in correct sequence?... Your finding will be much appreciated. Still waiting for parts in order to begin assembling my AKiTiO based system, so cannot share any experience with you for the moment.

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I did some troubleshooting and it turns out that my optimus wasn't working correctly. I went back to Evo*'s guide and went through it again. It seems to work more reliably now, but the odd time i'll get the black screen and have to shutdown and try again. Seems more testing is needed.

Edit: Holding 'Option' while booting up and selecting EFI windows boot seems to reliably work with eGPU so far.

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I did some troubleshooting and it turns out that my optimus wasn't working correctly. I went back to Evo*'s guide and went through it again. It seems to work more reliably now, but the odd time i'll get the black screen and have to shutdown and try again. Seems more testing is needed.

Edit: Holding 'Option' while booting up and selecting EFI windows boot seems to reliably work with eGPU so far.

Hi Phantron,

As far as I understand Windows is not your primary OS? In Evo*'s guide there is step which will set Windows 8.1 to boot automatically during start up. Does it mean that it is possible to skip this step and keep OS X as a main OS and initiate Windows only for lets say for gaming?

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Correct, you can set either OSX or Windows to be primary. Upon boot you can select whichever you like as well. EVO's guide was to enable optimus for Windows to allow the internal display to work.

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During 3Dmark it reached a full load temp of 80°C, but while playing Diablo3 at 1080p it was only 60°C.

As for the barrel connector pin out, referencing that picture the lower solder point that is alone by itself is the 12V positive. You can buzz it out to be sure with the middle pin inside the barrel connector.

Could you redo the 3Dmark13 FS-test while using the manual fan profile in MSI Afterburner? I'd really love to see what temps you get, It'd be saintly appreciated!

As for the modding: Wow, outstanding job buddy! You've done all mods that havn't dared to do yet.

/jacobsson

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Could you redo the 3Dmark13 FS-test while using the manual fan profile in MSI Afterburner? I'd really love to see what temps you get, It'd be saintly appreciated!

As for the modding: Wow, outstanding job buddy! You've done all mods that havn't dared to do yet.

/jacobsson

Using msi afterburner and setting the fan speed to max, the temps were much lower peaking at 68 degC.

Also resulted in a higher score:

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 video card benchmark result - Intel Core i7-4710HQ,Apple Inc. Mac-189A3D4F975D5FFC

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Using msi afterburner and setting the fan speed to max, the temps were much lower peaking at 68 degC.

Also resulted in a higher score:

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 video card benchmark result - Intel Core i7-4710HQ,Apple Inc. Mac-189A3D4F975D5FFC

I was more thinking the suggested manual linear fan curve e.g: at 30c = 30% fanspeed, 40c = 40% fanspeed and so on.

The reason I ask is because I would like to see what if this linear fan speed curve could be enough to keep the GPU below 75c, which would also give a OK noise level (at least for me).

Is that score done on an external display or internal?

Thanks for your response to my prior post!

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Previous 3d mark score was using external display

I did run a couple more tests though

Full fan speed using internal display:

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 video card benchmark result - Intel Core i7-4710HQ,Apple Inc. Mac-189A3D4F975D5FFC

Average temp 77°C

Auto fan speed using internal display:

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 video card benchmark result - Intel Core i7-4710HQ,Apple Inc. Mac-189A3D4F975D5FFC

Temp max set at 75°C, fans got to 3000rpm (77%) and didn't get too loud

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@Phantron: I am planing to make a new build with the Galax card as well. Could you do me two favours and measure two things:

1. distance between GPUs 6-Pins and case (how tall can the PCIe plugs be)?

2. distance between GPU heatsink (not fans) and the case / how thick can new fans be, if I want to replace the Galax fans? Will 25mm thick fans fit?

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@Phantron: I am planing to make a new build with the Galax card as well. Could you do me two favours and measure two things:

1. distance between GPUs 6-Pins and case (how tall can the PCIe plugs be)?

2. distance between GPU heatsink (not fans) and the case / how thick can new fans be, if I want to replace the Galax fans? Will 25mm thick fans fit?

I took a couple measurements.

From the top of the PCI connector to the underside of the case (with it dremel'd flat) is about 10mm.

From the face of the Galax 970 heat sink (not the GPU shroud) to the inside of the case is around 20mm. So unfortunately a 25mm fan would not fit :(

Here is a picture of the height of my pci connector for reference. The lip of the connector (which is flush with the top of the female end) to the where the wires bend (which touches the underside of the case) is about 9-10mm.

http://i.imgur.com/TuZjL4b.jpg

Hope this helps

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That is correct

You can buzz it out with a multimeter too if you like. The center pin in the barrel connector should be connected to the solder point you marked as 12V, while all others will all be ground

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Great, thanks! And you are very confident that it can handle 75W of load? It kind of should, as you are using it, right?!

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@Phantron: One more question…

What kind of solder did you use? The used solder on the AKiTiO should be "lead free", I guess. Did you used solder with lead? Did it mix/attach good to the original soldering spot? I read that this two different solder might not mix.

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I think the 75W draw problem comes into play when using a beefy graphics card without a powered riser

This Galax gtx 970 is a small itx form factor card and I assume has less power draw than let's say a Titan

It is working for me fine so far!

As for the solder, I just used what I had laying around, didn't actually put that much thought into it...

I guess if the molten solder doesn't combine, you could just remove the old solder and put a glob of your new stuff?

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