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The basic eGPU hardware guide (for Macs)

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The basic eGPU hardware guide (for Macs)

(this guide will be continuously updated and improved to add and correct informations)

(Please feel free to comment and help gathering informations regarding the hardware topic)

Because of a lot of basic questions regarding possible eGPU hardware I will try to answer most of the questions in this thread.

The AKiTiO Thunder2 is currently the mostly used enclosure to run an eGPU on the Mac and because of that a lot of informations will be based and for the Thunder2.

 

This guide is a extension of Tech Inferno Fan general guides:

http://forum.techinferno.com/diy-e-gpu-projects/7969-pre-purchase-faq.html

http://forum.techinferno.com/diy-e-gpu-projects/2129-diy-egpu-troubleshooting-faq.html

 

List of current builds and benchmark results:

http://forum.techinferno.com/diy-e-gpu-projects/6578-implementations-hub-tb-ec-mpcie.html

 

GPU power basics:

The power consumption of current graphic cards can vary between 60-350W.

Because the PCIe slot can only offer max. 75W, the additional power can be gained from:

- 6-Pin PCIe plugs = max 75W

- 8-Pin PCIe plugs = max 150W

The 75W for the PCIe slot are only provided for PCIe slot, which are designed to host graphics cards. The normal standard for PCIe slots sets the limit to only 25W. That is also the reason why some enclosures only have low power power supplies, because they are designed to only host „non graphic cards“.

 

The possible enclosures:

- AKiTiO Thunder2

- Sonnet III-D

- OWC Mercury Helios (basically the same as the Thunder2, but with a better PSU. Unfortunately more expensive!

- Netstor NA211TB

 

Links:

Sonnet III-D

Sonnet - Echo Express III-D Thunderbolt 2-to-PCIe Card Expansion System

2014 15" Macbook Pro Iris + GTX980@16Gbps-TB2 (Sonnet III-D) + Win8.1 [MrHaPPyPiLLs]

http://forum.techinferno.com/implementation-guides-apple/6689-2013-15-macbook-pro-gt750m-gtx780ti%4016gbps-tb2-sonnet-iii-d-win8-1-%5Bsquinks%5D.html

http://forum.techinferno.com/implementation-guides-apple/8059-2013-15-macbook-pro-gt750m-gtx780ti%4016gbps-tb2-sonnet-iii-d-osx10-10-%5Bmark%5D.html

 

AKiTiO Thunder2:

AKiTiO Thunder2 PCIe Box | PCI Express Expansion Box with Thunderbolt 2 Interface | AKiTiO

http://forum.techinferno.com/enclosures-adapters/7205-us%24189-akitio-thunder2-pcie-box-16gbps-tb2.html

http://forum.techinferno.com/implementation-guides-apple/8581-2013-macpro-nmp-gtx680%4016gbps-tb2-akitio-thunder2-osx10-10-%5Bsedor%5D.html

http://forum.techinferno.com/implementation-guides-apple/9821-2014-15-macbook-pro-iris-gtx970%4016gbps-tb2-akitio-thunder2-win8-1-%5Bdschijn-2%5D.html

http://forum.techinferno.com/implementation-guides-apple/8106-2013-15-macbook-pro-iris-gtx970%4016gbps-tb2-akitio-thunder2-win8-1-osx10-%5Bevo*%5D.html

http://forum.techinferno.com/implementation-guides-apple/7580-2014-15-macbook-pro-iris-gtx780%4016gbps-tb2-akitio-thunder2-win8-1-%5Bgoalque%5D.html

 

The AKiTiO Thunder2 is currently the cheapest way to make an eGPU setup (link zu 1.Seite Thread) and can be ordered directly from the manufacture for 189$+shipping. The AKiTiO offers a physical x16 PCIe slot, which can host any graphics card. The Thunder2 itself is shipped with a 60W power supply and not enough to power any current graphics card.

 

The Sonnet III-D is the easiest way to set up a eGPU, but also the most expensive one. It’s case can host long GPUs and with it’s 300W power supply it can also power the cards directly. In the original configuration the III-D has an additional 6-Pin PCIe connector to power mid range graphic cards. To get more PCIe connectors, the III-D has to be opened and additional cables have to be connected to the III-Ds PSU.

 

The choice of the graphics cards:

The Sonnet III-D can host long graphic cards, but is limited in the height and width of the cards. The graphic cards shouldn’t be higher than 2 slots and not wider than the reference cards of e.g. Nvidia.

 

The AKiTiO Thunder2 can host any graphic card, if the case is left open and modified by bending the front section.

But there is also a variety of small graphic cards that can fit into AKiTiO and enables to close the case. Still the selection of possible small GPUs is limited to max. a Nvidia GTX 970.

 

Possible cards are listed here: http://forum.techinferno.com/enclosures-adapters/7205-us%24189-akitio-thunder2-pcie-box-16gbps-tb2.html

Cards that enable to close the AKiTiO can’t be too wide and by that the choices are limited:

- EVGA GTX 960 (the one fan version)

- Galaxy / KFA2 GTX 970 Gamer OC

- Inno3D GeForce GTX 970 ot 960 Combat / HerculeZ X1 (the one fan version)

- Zotac GeForce GTX 970 without the fan shroud

 

 

AKiTiO can be closed:

post-26280-14495000123413_thumb.jpg

AKiTiO can NOT be closed

post-26280-14495000123723_thumb.jpg

 

 

The choice of the correct power supply:

In theory any power supply that can provide 12V can power the GPU. Currently there a two recommended kinds of power supplies:

- PC PSU (like for regular desktop computers)

- Dell DA-2 (an external power supply with 220W)

 

Most graphic cards don’t need more than 300W and by that any stronger power supply should work. That is wrong! Especially when it comes to desktop PC power supplies. The power supplies need to provide that specific amount of power on the 12V rail, that will power the GPU. It also needs to provide the correct plugs to power the GPU, which are 6-Pin and/or 8-Pin PCIe plugs. Because of that it is crucial to know which PCIe plugs the GPU you want to use needs.

E.g. GTX 970 cards need 2x6-Pin PCIe plugs which is only provided by PC PSUs with at least 450W.

 

Modern cards like the GTX 900 series can change the current state of power consumption multiple times per second and even exceed the normal consumption.

The Dell DA-2 is an exception, because it can provide 12V and 18A = 216W in total. This 216W can be totally used for the GPU and can even power an AKiTiO Thunder2.

 

It is important to keep in mind that you HAVE TO use only ONE PSU for the whole system. Please don’t mix two PSUs in this setup, because that can cause ground loops and damage hardware.

 

Using the Dell DA-2:

The Dell DA-2 provides a 8-Pin plug, which has the same size as a 8-Pin PCIe plug. It is important to know that the layout of the pins and the pinout is different, so adjustments have to be made.

 

An easy approach is to use 6-Pin PCIe y-cable, because they can easily be connected to the DA-2 with a bit of pressure. To make the DA-2 a connection or switch has to be installed between the remote Pin and any Ground pin.

 

If soldering is an option you can connect all 12V pins to one bigger cable and all ground pins to one cable. If you are doing that, please use proper wires that are thick enough to carry such high loads!

 

The Dell DA-2 discussion can be found here: http://forum.techinferno.com/enclosures-adapters/9426-220w-dell-da-2-ac-adapter-discussion.html

A ready to go cable can be found on eBay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Akitio-eGPU-8-PIN-TO-2-x-PCI-E-6-PIN-super-low-profile-no-latch-1-x-BARREL-/261932428549?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3cfc63ad05

 

 

post-26280-14495000125193_thumb.png

 

 

Using a desktop PC PSU:

To use a desktop PC PSU you need to apply the „paper clip trick“ to make the PSU start. Simply connecting all plugs and switching it on doesn’t work!

PC PSUs are designed to start, when the User is pressing the start button on it’s computer. Because we are not going to use the PSU inside a computer, there is no switch and motherboard connected to it, to signal it to start.

 

The paperclip trick is creating a short circuit between the remote pin and a ground pin on the 20/24-Pin ATX plug that would normally be connected directly to the mainboard.

 

Alternative ways to power on the PSU are the use of:

- a SWEX (ATX Power Supply Power-On Switch)

- a Bitspower 20 PIN ATX

Keep in mind that with the paper clip trick, the PSU will always be turned „on“ and needs to be switched on/off by using the switch on the back of the PSU or using a power socket with a switch.

 

 

post-26280-14495000123017_thumb.jpg

post-26280-14495000123158_thumb.jpg

post-26280-14495000123255_thumb.jpg

 

 

Powering the AKiTiO Thunder2 with an alternative power supply:

The Thunder2 only needs 12V to make it work. So a desktop PS PSU or even the Dell DA-2 can be used to power the Thunder2. To provide power to the Thunder2 12V and ground can be directly soldered to the Thunder2s PCB.

Another option is the use of a barrel plug to connect to the original socket on the back of the Thunder2. The barrel plug has to be connected to 12V and Ground of the used power supply.

 

The barrel has to have this dimensions:

inside 2.5mm (12V)

outside 5.5mm (ground)

 

A plug that doesn’t need to be soldered is a barrel plug with screw terminals. Here you just need to stick in the wires (without isolation) to make an electric connection.

 

The barrel plug discussion can be found here: http://forum.techinferno.com/enclosures-adapters/8317-%5Bguide%5D-making-molex-barrel-adapter.html

 

 

post-26280-1449500012249_thumb.jpg

post-26280-14495000122653_thumb.jpg

post-26280-14495000122756_thumb.jpg

 

 

Using an enclosure/case to host big cards and desktop PC PSUs:

There is a way to store all your used hardware in common PC cases. I created a thread with ITX cases that will allow you to store all the devices inside a case: http://forum.techinferno.com/diy-e-gpu-projects/8675-egpu-cases.html

 

Please keep in mind that you will have to make modifications to the case in order to place in the AKiTiO Thunder2 PCB and the GPU together inside the case.

There is a way to relocate the PCB away from the GPU: a flexible riser.

 

Riser can be used to extend the PCIe port and connect the GPU in more ways.

 

BUT

Riser may cause problems:

- degeneration of the signal

- stability issues

- no working setup

 

This is because there are a lot of very cheap riser cables on the market with very poor quality.

Powered riser have been a recommended in the beginning of the eGPU discussion, but are currently focused on causing stability problems.

This is because of poor quality and cheap material used to moddify risers. These riser are able to power the AKiTiO through the slot and also the GPU.

We strongly advice you to not use a riser, unless you really have to!

 

We strongly advice you to power the AKiTiO Thunder2 with the barrel plug mod, earlier discussed!

 

The checklist:

- which GPU are you using?

- has the GPU the correct size to be placed inside the AKiTiO or do adjustments to the case have to be made?

- how many PCIe power plugs does the GPU have (6-pin or 8-pin PCIe plugs)

- does your PSU of choice have all the required PCIe power plugs?

- are you using just ONE PSU to power the enclosure and the GPU?

- is the paper clip trick used to "power on" the PSU?

- is the AKiTiO Thunder2 powered?

 

FAQ:

Q: What is a barrel plug?

A: A barrel plug is a barrel shaped plug to power low voltage electronics. There are different plugs in size and the used voltage (12V or 19,5V).

The AKiTiO needs a 5.5 and 2.5mm barrel plug.

 

 

post-26280-14495000122653_thumb.jpg

 

 

Q: What is a PCIe power plug?

A: Because graphic cards need a lot of power, the additional power is provided by PCIe power plugs. The common plugs are 6-Pin (75W) PCIe and 8-Pin (150W) PCIe plugs and are mostly found on desktop PC PSUs.

 

 

6-Pin:

post-26280-14495000123962_thumb.jpg

8-Pin:

post-26280-14495000124119_thumb.jpg

 

 

Q: What is a Molex plug?

A: The most common Molex plug is the 4-Pin Molex, that was used in the past for HDD and optical drives. That plug can be found on Desktop PSUs.

The Pinout of the 4-Pin Molex is 1x yellow = 12V ; 2x black = ground ; 1x red = 5V.

 

 

post-26280-14495000124332_thumb.jpg

 

Q: What is the paper clip trick?

A: The paper clip trick a way to trick a PC PSU to start without using a computer or motherboard. Please keep in mind that using the paper clip trick requires a power consuming device to be connected to the PSU if it is turned on. DO NOT start the PSU without any device attached after applying the paper clip trick.

Q: What is PCIe?

A: PCIe is PCI Express („Peripheral Component Interconnect Express“) connection slot to electronically connect computer cards.

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Thanks. I'm a total beginner here so I have a few questions if you don't mind:

- I want to use a EVGA Titan X SO. I assume that it can fit in an opened Akitio as it's a full-length, full-height, double-width?

- Since you're in the Europe, are you aware of any ready-to-use molex-to-barrel adapter on sale? I'm not very good with soldering...

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Thanks. I'm a total beginner here so I have a few questions if you don't mind:

- I want to use a EVGA Titan X SO. I assume that it can fit in an opened Akitio as it's a full-length, full-height, double-width?

- Since you're in the Europe, are you aware of any ready-to-use molex-to-barrel adapter on sale? I'm not very good with soldering...

A Titan fits into an opened AKiTiO Thunder2: http://forum.techinferno.com/implementation-guides-apple/8469-2014-15-mbp-gt750m-titan_z%4016gbps-tb2-akitio-thunder2-osx10-10-%5Bgarytyler%5D.html#post115647 . You can see that the 2.5-slot width card required an extra plate to be bent where the slot faceplate is to allow the extra width.

Please see the Don't want to solder? section of http://forum.techinferno.com/enclosures-adapters/8317-%5Bguide%5D-making-molex-barrel-adapter.html#post113069 that has been linked from Dschjin's guide above.

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- I want to use a EVGA Titan X SO. I assume that it can fit in an opened Akitio as it's a full-length, full-height, double-width?

- Since you're in the Europe, are you aware of any ready-to-use molex-to-barrel adapter on sale? I'm not very good with soldering...

1. You can fit any card, if you bend open the AKiTiOs inner cage. Of course you will not be able to use the outer case! Looks a bit "ghetto", but totally works.

2. Please get a 2xMolex -> 1x6-Pin PCIe cable adapter. You can cut off the 6-Pin PCIe, remove 1cm of the isolation on the black and yellow wires and stick them into a barrel plug with screw terminal. The only tool you need for that is a scissor.

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If there is anyone in LA area who wants to have this crafted AND ALREADY HAS THE PARTS, I could be persuaded to solder and heat-shrink a few of these.

The easiest way to source the right plug...is to use the one that came with Akitio. Literally clip it off and solder wires together with a PCIE female input. That is what I dod for one of mine. No doubts about getting right size & shape that way. I even put a PCIE male on the Akitio wires to make it possible to use normally if I desire.

A six pack of IPA should be enough persuasion, and like I mentioned you would need to bring me the parts, I would just solder and then cover the connections in heat shrink insulation. I will take no responsibility for what you do or how you do it, I will just put the parts together so that you may contribute to this effort.

Thanks to discijn for putting this thread together. I hope that someone else will take the initiative and either post a dropbox for modded files, or better still, take the little script that has been posted under their wing, test, fix, and move it forward.

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A Titan fits into an opened AKiTiO Thunder2: http://forum.techinferno.com/implementation-guides-apple/8469-2014-15-mbp-gt750m-titan_z%4016gbps-tb2-akitio-thunder2-osx10-10-%5Bgarytyler%5D.html#post115647 . You can see that the 2.5-slot width card required an extra plate to be bent where the slot faceplate is to allow the extra width.

Please see the Don't want to solder? section of http://forum.techinferno.com/enclosures-adapters/8317-%5Bguide%5D-making-molex-barrel-adapter.html#post113069 that has been linked from Dschjin's guide above.

1. You can fit any card, if you bend open the AKiTiOs inner cage. Of course you will not be able to use the outer case! Looks a bit "ghetto", but totally works.

2. Please get a 2xMolex -> 1x6-Pin PCIe cable adapter. You can cut off the 6-Pin PCIe, remove 1cm of the isolation on the black and yellow wires and stick them into a barrel plug with screw terminal. The only tool you need for that is a scissor.

Thanks guys!! I think the Titan X is a double-slot only so I wouldn't need to bend the inside too much. Now just waiting for all the parts to come!!!

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Hi there

If anyone from Germany is unsure to cope the Cable.

I'm able to solder and to crimping wires, jacks and plugs for you. Feel free to PM me and we'll look what we can do.

Greetings

seefew

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hi all, just thought i'd mention this:

i've got myself KFA/GALAX card but my friend from gpu business seriously suggested to stay away from that brand. he works for Inno3D so there is obvious conflict of interests there, but his suggestion was to use Zotac if it fits inside Akitio.

so this is the question - does Zotac card fit? unfortunately zotac doesn't specify the dimentions on it's spec page: GeForce 900 Series: ZOTAC - It's time to play!

cc/ @Dschijn @goalque @seefew @Tech Inferno Fan

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i just know the ZOTAC GTX660Ti Amp!. Not 7xx nor 9xx.

The 660 have a short PCB.. But the metal cage around the fans exceed the size. As i removed this cage it fits into the Akitio

Greets

Mobil mit Tapatalk

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Something happend to the Galax/KFA2 card since it is not as good available in most contries since some time.

Still, I don't see a major problem with buying the card if it is available (e.g. some german stores still have it).

The Zotac will fit with the fan shroud removed!

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yeah, i ordered GALAX card via Amazon(it clearly had GALAX label on fans) but got KFA. Thinking of just sending it back and getting Zotac.

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possibly another gpu to add to the list: Inno3D

it's 172x111, dual-slot width, Maximum Graphics Card Power -145W

it has slower base clock than KFA/GALAX card though

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Yeah true, the Inno should fit in as well!

i see you've updated first post but you've linked a larger card, this is what i found:

Inno3D GTX970 HerculeZ X1 - length 172

Inno3D GTX970 HerculeZ X2 - length 215

not sure if 215 will fit

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i see you've updated first post but you've linked a larger card, this is what i found:

Inno3D GTX970 HerculeZ X1 - length 172

Inno3D GTX970 HerculeZ X2 - length 215

not sure if 215 will fit

I can't see any link? ^^

I can find the short Inno 970 as a "Combat" not HerculeZ X1, but I guess it is the same: Inno3D GeForce GTX 970 Combat, 4GB GDDR5, 2x DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort (N97V-1SDN-M5DS) Preisvergleich | Geizhals Deutschland

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I can't see any link? ^^

I can find the short Inno 970 as a "Combat" not HerculeZ X1, but I guess it is the same: Inno3D GeForce GTX 970 Combat, 4GB GDDR5, 2x DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort (N97V-1SDN-M5DS) Preisvergleich | Geizhals Deutschland

hmm this is confusing, links are: http://www.inno3d.com/products_detail.php?refid=184 and http://www.inno3d.com/products_detail.php?refid=122, hope forum won't hide them now

and this is what i got when googling "Inno3D GeForce GTX 970 Combat": http://api.monosnap.com/rpc/file/download?id=1LJUse7jOnZDBtDvDlpBo8obvxRaJv

EDIT: links

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Ok I updated the first post to make sure it is the HerculeZ X1 (one fan version) ;)

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Hey guys! You got me so enthusiastic that I just ordered the whole set! Great job :)

Basically I followed all of your suggestions:

1. Akitio Thunder2

2. Inno3D GTX 970 (short version)

3. Dell DA-2 power supply

4. Funky power cable from ebay

Now reading some more I am a little confused and was hoping you might have some answers for me (and possibly updated your guide).

- What does a riser do? Make sure that the Aikitio can deliver more than 25W?

- Will I still need a riser if I use the ebay cable?

- Should I use an original Apple Thunderbolt cable?

- Does the DA-2 need the hair pin trick?

- Is there anything else I will need to get started?

Thanks!

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- What does a riser do? Make sure that the Aikitio can deliver more than 25W?

We didn't know the Akitio delivers 75W on the slot. That's the only reason the risers were in use. They're obsolete, not recommended and not necessary.

- Will I still need a riser if I use the ebay cable?

No.

- Should I use an original Apple Thunderbolt cable?

Doesn't matter. The one that comes with the Akitio is fine.

- Does the DA-2 need the hair pin trick?

Yes. But as far as I can see it's implemented in the cable you bought so you don't need to do it. It's the small black cable from the middle part to the outer part that you can see.

- Is there anything else I will need to get started?

Nope. Buy some games and have fun ;)

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Thanks!!! Currently I am doing a slideshow of Witcher 3. Although I was surprised it is almost playable, I can't wait until my eGPU parts arrive!!!

May I ask some more details?

Yes. But as far as I can see it's implemented in the cable you bought so you don't need to do it. It's the small black cable from the middle part to the outer part that you can see.

- Does that mean I will need to remove / cut the cable during installation of Thunderbolt drivers in Windows?

- Is there a specific reason most people use Win8.1? I use Win7 64bit. Will that work?

- Also some people use EFI-boot. Why?

I hope I am not totally in the wrong thread here...

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- Does that mean I will need to remove / cut the cable during installation of Thunderbolt drivers in Windows?

- Is there a specific reason most people use Win8.1? I use Win7 64bit. Will that work?

- Also some people use EFI-boot. Why?

I hope I am not totally in the wrong thread here...

- Please don't mod the cable. The eBay is ready to go and doesn't need any mods!

- Windows 8.1 is very comfortable regarding eGPUs. Windows 7 might need nandos eGPU tool

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Hi, I have the following setup:

- 2012 MBP with Windows 8.1 UEFI

- Sonnet Echo Express

- Asus GTX 770

- Corsair VS Series 650

The card is detected correctly as a GTX 770, however I am getting an error 43. Fans of the PSU and card are spinning, but the external display stays black. Any suggestions what I've done wrong?

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How is everything connected? Did you manage to install the latest Nvidia Driver?

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Sonnet power cable is plugged in and thunderbolt cable is connected to MBP.

The GTX 770 is in the PCIe slot of the Sonnet and one 8-pin and one 6-pin connector from the PSU are plugged into it, too.

I used the paperclip trick to turn on the PSU and finally the display is connected via a VGA to DVI adapter to the graphics card.

I installed the latest drivers and the setup at least said that they were successfully installed.

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