(Having trouble uploading images here, I'll try again later)
I'm green as here, but been closely following peoples implementations for eGPU and MBP. After finding some inspiration from P-Mac here, I decided to build one. I knocked this all out for around $600 AUD. Being from Australia, it was hard to come by a Thunder2 box. So I bit the bullet and bought one from the US as cheap as I could find it. Picked up a second hand MSI Gaming GTX960, the twin frozr fan edition, also overclocked edition, cost me $200. Grabbed a Corsair VS550 PSU too for $80. I'm pretty handy with electronics and good with a soldering iron so I thought, no worries mate. Anyway, after waiting 3 weeks for the Akitio to arrive, it finally showed up and I knocked this all out in about 1.5 hours.
Opening up the Akitio
I unboxed the package, and opened it up. These things are TINY, I thought. I knew I'd have to open the case up to make the GPU fit, but jesus, the GPU dwarfs this thing. I removed the fan from the Akitio and set it aside, probably never to be used again. A lot of people have just bent the back plate of the Akitio away, then gaff taped it up, etc. I didn't like that idea, so I took to it with a dremel and cutting wheel with the box facing DOWN, as grinding sparks and PCB's tend to disagree with each other. I cut a decent line into the steel, then bent it away with some pliers, then fatigue snapped the cut line.
Inserting the GPU
Pretty straightforward. Removed the 2 retainer screws for the PCI cards, pushed the card firmly into place. I re-inserted the two screws and nipped them up with a screwdriver.
Wiring up the CPU PSU
Now, I've seen all sorts of dodgy behaviour like jumping PSU's on with paperclips. That's live power, flapping around sensitive electronic components. I didn't like that idea. I also didn't like the idea of chopping up the PSU cables in case I ever want to re-purpose the PSU. So, I bought a molex to something connector (I can't remember the name) and chopped the red and black wires off at the molex plug end, chopped the yellow and black at the something end. Got some automotive twin core 3mm wire and a barrel plug I bought from JayCar and soldered the red to the centre post and the black to the outer post. Heat shrink over the exposed solder connections and electrical tape inside the barrel plug to ensure that it didn't short out, BAM, one 12V barrel plug to power the Akitio. Plugged the PCI-E connector into the GPU, simple. To "hot-wire" the PSU, I used a jumper wire and two electrical bulkhead crimp terminals. They're a little big to fit in the ATX connector of the PSU, but I squished them up with pliers and they fit in there snug, no exposed metal to short out on the case, or anywhere else, with the added bonus of the entire setup being plug and play.
Plugging in and recognising
I used the instructions here (see below) to get OSX to recognise and install the drivers. Followed the instructions, no problems. Had to go and disable system protection out of the recovery partition, but that's no biggie. I re-started, flicked the switch on the PSU with the eGPU plugged in, took a little while to get through the load screen, but away it went. I ran a benchmark on Cinebench, got 77fps which was an improvement over the 59fps I would get out of the GT750m.
Being new as hell to all of this, I'm still working out how to tweak settings etc. I opened up WoW, being an avid player, and expected to be dazzled. I copped a heaping load of disappointment when my recommended settings went to 1 from 4, and the game ran like a wet turd. However, after some playing around, trying a different monitor, enabling automation of the eGPU in the script, I'm getting a solid 40-60fps at high, not ultra, settings at 1080p.
I'm having often problems booting out of sleep, the computer crashes and won't turn back on without a hard reset, no boot chime or anything. Sometimes switching off the PSU to kill the eGPU is needed to get into the OSX loading screen, then flicking it on once it's loading is needed. Sometimes it works fine. This seems to be common but I'll keep looking for fixes for waking up from sleep. Even with NoSleep enabled and not closing the lid, eventually it'll go dark and won't wake up. However sustained use and gaming doesn't kill the computer, so I don't think it's an overheating issue. Also keeping a close eye on temps everywhere and setting the fans to max when gaming, as I always do as these things overheat like crazy during gaming.
To be done
At the moment the Akitio is sitting open on the desk and the PSU next to it with wires fucking everywhere. It's messy and cluttered and I hate it. I've got access to tools and equipment some probably don't, so I'm going to build a custom case for both the PSU and the Akitio, and put some nice big fans on it to keep it all nice and cool under high load, hopefully preventing the GPU from needing to use it's active cooling at all, thus letting it work without strain.
Any tips or advice would be great!
Managed to pick up a GTX 970 locally for the same price as I paid for the 960. Same card build, MSI Twin Frozr fans etc, slotted right in with no changes needed. Getting 57 fps on furmark within OSX, 82 fps out of cinebench, which is a slight improvement over the 960. I've upped the settings in WoW and it's running between 50-60 fps no worries.
I also installed windows to try and get some benchmarks done, however furmarking is crashing the whole show and requiring a hard reset. I can get furmark to run in OSX though through some command lines found from the guys at geek3d.com. Windows has way more trouble posting the eGPU from startup, and has A LOT of trouble rebooting/shutting down. Really re-enforcing my love for OSX but I would like to play some higher end titles that simply aren't available on OSX in the future. Got Unigine to finally install (had a lot of issues downloading the entire file for some reason) and ran that on the 970. Didn't get to test it on the 960.