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Firearm2112

Macbook Pro with a GTX 980 Setup Guide & Benchmarks [eGPU setup, Windows 10]

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Posted · Original PosterOP

post-88470-0-67214400-1430019991.png

 

Introduction:

When I first got my Macbook Pro two years ago, I was amazed by its beautiful build quality and innovative design, but was quickly saddened by its lack to run the most basic games. I tried what I could, upgrading the RAM and what not, but it didnt get me anywhere. I installed Windows through bootcamp onto my MacBook, and it quickly became my daily driver. I tried to play games I truly loved such as battlefield 4, and modded skyrim, but could barely get 20 FPS on low, @720p. I did some research, thinking to myself, there must be something I can do to my Macbook to make it game ready, but also portable! I discovered the world of the eGPU (External Graphics Card). The guys over at the Tech Inferno Forum helped me alot, with their massive eGPU knowledge and great members like Nando4. Huge creds to them for helping me assemble my part list, and answer my questions. I was fascinated by everything I learned, how one could run a desktop GPU with a laptop! At first I was sad, since most standard plug and play eGPU setups were made for Windows machines with express card slots. This did not stop me from looking for a solution. I came across an item known as the Akitio Thunder2, which had a full length x16 slot (PCI 2.0). This adapter would allow me to plug a x16 PCIe device, into my Mac, with the power of thunderbolt! Thunderbolt is a revolutionary I/O technology that supports high-resolution displays and high-performance data devices through a single, compact port. It dramatically redefines the idea of expansion. And it’s standard on every Mac. In addition to carrying data, Thunderbolt is also capable of carrying a PCIe signal. (yea i stole it from the apple website, shhhh) I have a 2012 Macbook Pro, which meant I had Thunderbolt Gen1. Thunderbolt Gen 1 has a max speed of 10gbps. Apple and Intel later introduced Thunderbolt Gen2 which has a max speed of 16gbps. So my limitations were PCIE 2.0, and 10gbps. I didn't care. I needed to do this.

 

The Setup Process & Early Problems:

(All the parts I used in my setup will be linked at the end of this post. Remember to do research, as your millage WILL vary depending on your hardware) To be honest, I was very nervous at first. I dropped almost 500 bucks on parts I had no idea what to do with. I did buy everything on eBay, to save some money. I went with the Akitio Thunder 2, a GTX 760 for testing purposes. I now own a 980. A Corsair CX430 PSU to power just the GPU, and a little PSU jumper. Everything arrived and I was quite happy. I made myself a little test bench on my night stand, so I could easily connect everything to my computer.

 
post-88470-0-16700300-1419564535_thumb.j Sorry for the potato pics. Its from my phone. I will try to explain everything. You put the GPU into the Akitio PCIE slot, then the PSU cables into the PSU, the Akitio power adapter into the wall, Thunderbolt cable from computer to adapter and a connection to an external display, which is optional. From what I read prior to setting up, the boot order varies from system to system, card to card. At first I tried turning on the eGPU, then my Macbook. That failed. After numerous attempts I reached out to the forum to see if anyone knew anything about eGPUs and this issue. User @steffen_anywhere knew quite abit about them, and explained to me the mac simulates a BIOS upon boot, which could mess with the boot. He told me a quick fix was to turn on the eGPU PSU as soon as the Windows logo popped up. I tried that and it worked! I installed the Nvidia drivers and was on my way. Things were great, I was quite happy, until more problems arose. I was getting multiple "Display driver has crashed" errors a day, some leading to a complete hard reset. I was very annoyed. I couldn't think of the issue. I did a fresh install of Windows and everything, nothing worked. Since installing my 980, all those problems are gone. Defective card maybe? I couldn't bare leaving my setup out on my night stand, so I garbed an old plastic box I found, and started dremeling away, making cut outs for the PSU, GPU, and a little intake fan I added to keep the Akitio board cool. Keep in mind the stock Akitio box is not large enough to fit a GPU, so I took it out of the metal box, and... Well you'll see. 

 

The Box:

After a day of cutting with my dremel I put everything in the box I made. Its under my night stand next to my desk, so I dont see it at all. Its also far enough away from me I can't really hear the fans. First, the verbal explanation. The GTX 980 sits in the Akitio Thunder 2 x16 slot, which is attached to a Thunderbolt controller. I then use a thunderbolt cable, to connect the board with my Macbook. The PSU is also supplying power to the GPU. But what about that 75W that the PCIe slot is supposed to provide? The Akitio's included power adapter has you covered. You can use this setup, just as I described with something called Nvidia Optimus. But you see, gaming on a 13" screen really isnt my thing. I attached an HDMI cable from the GPU to my monitor, and configured it in windows to display on my montior. It works flawlessly. Quick recommendation, there is a cable that lays flush against the back of the GPU. It is recommended you buy a GPU with a backplate to prevent this cable from melting. Now for the pictures! If you have any questions, please do ask.

 

That sexy GTX 980. Its the reference, so it has a backplate.

post-88470-0-19353300-1419565823_thumb.j

 

A top view. Here you can see the GPU power connections

post-88470-0-83324000-1419565826_thumb.j

 

The Akitio board attached to the Thunderbolt controller. The x16 slot is below that, but currently its being used by the GTX 980

post-88470-0-50574800-1419565829_thumb.j

 

A top view. Here you can see everything

post-88470-0-24471200-1419565833_thumb.j

 

The GPU outputting to my external display, and me writing this post!

post-88470-0-80422900-1419565836_thumb.j

 

At the end of the day, this box is ment to hold everything, not to make it look pretty. Options are avalible such as using a PCI riser, and putting this say in a mini ITX case.

 

Benchmarks & What to Consider:

Before I show you the benchmarks, there are a few things you must take into account. The card is running at PCI 2.0 speeds, and is limited by my processor, the i5 3210M, which maxes on the turbo at 2.85GHZ. I am running 16GB of ram, if you wanted to know that. All "game" benchmarks, not synthetic, were obtained by just playing the game for 30 minutes, and reporting the average framerate observed. All games were played at 1080p on max settings. Here is a HWMonitor screenshot of everything

post-88470-0-11951900-1419566202_thumb.p
 

 

Modded Skryim. This is the only game benchmark I will discuss a bit. I am running on max settings with the Seasons of Skyrim ENB, max preset with DOF. I also have the Skyrim 2K textures, and SMIM, as well as climates of tamriel and realistic lighting overhaul, as well as grass mods and town/city overhauls. I get 35-40 FPS in say, whiterun, which is the most demanding part of my game. Outside in an open field, frame rates are anywhere from 45-50. These numbers were obtained by playing for around 30 minutes and recording my numbers in thoes areas. 

 

Battlefield 4:

 

Ultra Preset @ 1080p multiplayer server: 65 FPS

 

Ultra Preset @ 1080p test range: 79 FPS

 

 

Metro Last Light Redux:

 

Very High+4x SSAO+16x AA+Tessellation Normal+PhysX: 40FPS avg

 

The benchmark didn't work for me, so we will skip it for now.

 

 

Just Cause 2 Multiplayer

 

Max Settings+PhysX: 54FPS avg

 

 

Bioshock Infinite

 

Max settings+PhysX @ 1080p: 113FPS avg

 

 

Borderlands 2

 

Max settings+PhysX @ 1080p: 124FPS avg

 

 

The synthetic benchmarks:

 

Unigine Valley: Not done yet, check back later

 

Unigine Heaven: Custom max settings @ 1080p:

post-88470-0-39966300-1419567509.png

 

 

 

Conclusion:

Some people might think this is a huge waste of money, while others may think its pure genius. To me, I really love having the portability of a laptop with a high end gaming setup waiting for me at home. Sure, the boot process is a bit strange. The GTX 980 eGPU boot process is different from the 760s. I have to turn on my mac then quickly turn on the power strip powering my eGPU and the Akitio PCIE slot. If you plan to do this, i strongly recommend getting a Mac Mini with an i7. an i7 will give you the best scores, and get frame rates closer to desktop performance. Is this for everyone? No. Some may argue there are cheaper options, but I disagree. Your paying for quality. A setup that you know isn't going to fry your GPU, or your Mac. As I mentioned before, parts and availability will be listed below this. In total, not including the Mac, or peripherals, the "eGPU" setup alone costed close to 800 dollars. An eGPU setup not including a 980, would run you about 250 bucks. I have no idea if AMD cards will work with something like this. It is recommended you go Nvidia, reference or EVGA, due to power distribution, or something like that. I am using Windows 8.1 right now. Others and I have had alot of problems getting eGPUs to work under Windows 7. Some people have gotten their eGPUs to work on OSX, but that is a story for another day. I am not an expert, but will certainly try my best to answer any questions you may have. I will also try to post more benchmarks when I can. Thank you so much for reading.

 

Parts and Availability:

 

Akitio Thunder2: http://www.amazon.com/Akitio-Thunder2-PCIe-Box/dp/B00LTAUTHE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1419567963&sr=8-2&keywords=Akitio+thunder+2

 

Corsair CX 430WM PSU: http://www.amazon.com/Corsair-Series-Modular-Bronze-ATX12V/dp/B00ALYORA4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1419567991&sr=8-2&keywords=corsair+cx430

 

PSU jumper (I recommend investing in one of these over the "paper clip" method): http://www.amazon.com/AntMiner-Supply-Jumper-Switch-Bitcoin/dp/B00OJNBWKG/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1419568040&sr=8-4&keywords=psu+jumper

 

And your choice of a GPU. 

 

Thanks again for reading. Please do post you thoughts, ideas and questions. 

 

I organized my setup a bit. Heres some new eyecandy!

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Update as of 8/14/15

 

It is not a few months shy of a year using my eGPU setup. The journey has been amazing, but did come with its fair share of complications and annoyances. As of now, I can say my system is finally stable. BSoD's and driver crashes rarely happen now. I fixed that by doing some registry tweaks as well as switching my GPU over to the 12v rail on my PSU. New games such as GTA V run amazing on this setup, and I couldn't be more happy. One thing that keeps plaguing me to this day is how much the CPU in the Macbook throttles. I have considered ordering some new thermal paste, but I fear the process of thermal paste replacement on a Mac, could become quite overwhelming. 

 

I can share that another update is coming. I'm working on a new enclosure for my eGPU. I know how much you guys loved the red box of sexiness, but its time for change. I don't want to give away too much, but I will tell you the enclosure will be made entirely out of metal.

 

I am still very active on this thread, and will continue to answer any questions anyone may have regarding an eGPU.

 

Happy eGPUing! 

post-88470-0-11890800-1419563574_thumb.p


 eGPU Setup: Macbook Pro 13" 16GB DDR3 RAM, 512GB SSD, i5 3210M, GTX 980 eGPU

New PC: i7-4790k, Corsair H100iGTX, ASrock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, 24GB Ram, 850 EVO 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD, GTX 1080 Fractal Design R4, EVGA Supernova G2 650W

 

 

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I like that! eGPU should be a more used consept for gaming notebooks. Something like a docking station where you slide your slime notebook in as soon as you'r home which connects to a monitor, bam, your gaming pc is set to go.


I just learned a little english, so please spare me!   :unsure: 

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Posted · Original PosterOP

Ok the thing that is housing the GTX 980 looks like dog ****.  Seriously if you were going to do this why not put more effort into making the housing look better?

It does sit under my night stand. Yea I know it looks bad, but its whats on the inside that counts!

 

If I can find some plexi glass for cheap, and a glass cutter, I can make a sexy housing for it, with LED lights and what not


 eGPU Setup: Macbook Pro 13" 16GB DDR3 RAM, 512GB SSD, i5 3210M, GTX 980 eGPU

New PC: i7-4790k, Corsair H100iGTX, ASrock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, 24GB Ram, 850 EVO 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD, GTX 1080 Fractal Design R4, EVGA Supernova G2 650W

 

 

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Posted · Original PosterOP

Can you do a Ultra HD benchmark? (Not custom) 

Sure thing. I'll run it right now. What settings would you like me to choose?


 eGPU Setup: Macbook Pro 13" 16GB DDR3 RAM, 512GB SSD, i5 3210M, GTX 980 eGPU

New PC: i7-4790k, Corsair H100iGTX, ASrock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, 24GB Ram, 850 EVO 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD, GTX 1080 Fractal Design R4, EVGA Supernova G2 650W

 

 

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It does sit under my night stand. Yea I know it looks bad, but its whats on the inside that counts!

 

If I can find some plexi glass for cheap, and a glass cutter, I can make a sexy housing for it, with LED lights and what not

thanks bro, this is awesome

 

can't wait for an osx guide :)


Want a good game to play?  Check out Shadowrun: http://store.steampowered.com/app/300550/ (runs on literally any hardware)

 

another 12 core / 24 thread senpai...     (/. _ .)/     \(. _ .\)

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Posted · Original PosterOP

thanks bro, this is awesome

 

can't wait for an osx guide :)

OSX requires the modification of a shit ton of files. Its possible, and im still looking into it. It just might take a while. Hopefully this was everything you expected! 


 eGPU Setup: Macbook Pro 13" 16GB DDR3 RAM, 512GB SSD, i5 3210M, GTX 980 eGPU

New PC: i7-4790k, Corsair H100iGTX, ASrock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, 24GB Ram, 850 EVO 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD, GTX 1080 Fractal Design R4, EVGA Supernova G2 650W

 

 

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OSX requires the modification of a shit ton of files. Its possible, and im still looking into it. It just might take a while. Hopefully this was everything you expected! 

 

Keep us posted on that. I personally would love to use an eGPU on my Macbook Pro


~Judah

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OSX requires the modification of a shit ton of files. Its possible, and im still looking into it. It just might take a while. Hopefully this was everything you expected! 

hype :)

 

 

now to get a copy of windows 8.....


Want a good game to play?  Check out Shadowrun: http://store.steampowered.com/app/300550/ (runs on literally any hardware)

 

another 12 core / 24 thread senpai...     (/. _ .)/     \(. _ .\)

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OSX requires the modification of a shit ton of files. Its possible, and im still looking into it. It just might take a while. Hopefully this was everything you expected! 

BTW I'll fill in for @Jerakl here since apparently he isn't feeling too great:

 

V Top Kek


Want a good game to play?  Check out Shadowrun: http://store.steampowered.com/app/300550/ (runs on literally any hardware)

 

another 12 core / 24 thread senpai...     (/. _ .)/     \(. _ .\)

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Did you play on an external monitor? The macbook pro 13 inch has a resolution of 1280 x 800 so 1080p benchmarks wouldn't work I guess.


CPU: Intel Xeon E3-1240 v3 Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z87-HD3 RAM: 16 GB GeIL Dragon 1600mhz GPU: Gigabyte Windforce 770OC 2GB Case: Corsair Obsidian 450D Storage: 1TB WD, Blue, 120GB, munch ssd PSU: 600w Corsair 

Display: aoc tn something, Dell ips U24..  Keyboard: CM storm quickfire xt Brown switches Mouse: Logitech G502, Pricing: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/8CBWjX

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Posted · Original PosterOP

Did you play on an external monitor? The macbook pro 13 inch has a resolution of 1280 x 800 so 1080p benchmarks wouldn't work I guess.

Yes I did play on an external monitor. What I did was used the output on the GPU and hooked that up to a monitor. And well, it just works. And I have my mac closed lid while everything exports to my external monitor, @ 1080p


 eGPU Setup: Macbook Pro 13" 16GB DDR3 RAM, 512GB SSD, i5 3210M, GTX 980 eGPU

New PC: i7-4790k, Corsair H100iGTX, ASrock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, 24GB Ram, 850 EVO 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD, GTX 1080 Fractal Design R4, EVGA Supernova G2 650W

 

 

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Posted · Original PosterOP

What is the 1080p monitor?

That is the question.

Also, put a goddamn power rangers sticker on that red box, I mean it.

A dell s2409w

 

i got it for 10 bucks on ebay. its pretty great


 eGPU Setup: Macbook Pro 13" 16GB DDR3 RAM, 512GB SSD, i5 3210M, GTX 980 eGPU

New PC: i7-4790k, Corsair H100iGTX, ASrock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, 24GB Ram, 850 EVO 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD, GTX 1080 Fractal Design R4, EVGA Supernova G2 650W

 

 

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Posted · Original PosterOP

10 friggin bucks

damnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

it was in wonderful condition when i got it to. i think its from one of thoes dell computer combos you can buy


 eGPU Setup: Macbook Pro 13" 16GB DDR3 RAM, 512GB SSD, i5 3210M, GTX 980 eGPU

New PC: i7-4790k, Corsair H100iGTX, ASrock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, 24GB Ram, 850 EVO 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD, GTX 1080 Fractal Design R4, EVGA Supernova G2 650W

 

 

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Posted · Original PosterOP

Sir I salute you.

Thanks!


 eGPU Setup: Macbook Pro 13" 16GB DDR3 RAM, 512GB SSD, i5 3210M, GTX 980 eGPU

New PC: i7-4790k, Corsair H100iGTX, ASrock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, 24GB Ram, 850 EVO 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD, GTX 1080 Fractal Design R4, EVGA Supernova G2 650W

 

 

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This is really cool! I wanted to do an eGPU setup with my Macbook, but instead just purchased a budget gaming PC. I couldn't justify the markup on the PCIe to thunderbolt. Glad you got this to work!

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Posted · Original PosterOP

This is really cool! I wanted to do an eGPU setup with my Macbook, but instead just purchased a budget gaming PC. I couldn't justify the markup on the PCIe to thunderbolt. Glad you got this to work!

At first even I thought it was crazy. But building a full blown gaming PC just didnt make sense for me, since I am always on the go with my Macbook. The Akitio adapter would be alot less expensive if Intel didnt make companies pay mountains of money for using the word "Thunderbolt"


 eGPU Setup: Macbook Pro 13" 16GB DDR3 RAM, 512GB SSD, i5 3210M, GTX 980 eGPU

New PC: i7-4790k, Corsair H100iGTX, ASrock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, 24GB Ram, 850 EVO 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD, GTX 1080 Fractal Design R4, EVGA Supernova G2 650W

 

 

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At first even I thought it was crazy. But building a full blown gaming PC just didnt make sense for me, since I am always on the go with my Macbook. The Akitio adapter would be alot less expensive if Intel didnt make companies pay mountains of money for using the word "Thunderbolt"

 

Makes sense, but I was the opposite. For me, playing on a small form factor gaming rig would work just as well as an eGPU. Just wished the MacBooks carried more powerful GPUs.

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Thanks!

 

Would've been much easier and cheaper to just build a computer or buy a gaming laptop but if there wasn't people like you, we wouldn't know this could be possible! 

 

There is this cheaper alternative though...

 

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Posted · Original PosterOP

That's not for macs. To get the full speed on a Mac you need the Akitio. That solution works great for windows pcs.

Thanks a lot man. I always love to try something different, and hopefully one day companies will sell full enclousure like this for anyone to use.


 eGPU Setup: Macbook Pro 13" 16GB DDR3 RAM, 512GB SSD, i5 3210M, GTX 980 eGPU

New PC: i7-4790k, Corsair H100iGTX, ASrock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, 24GB Ram, 850 EVO 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD, GTX 1080 Fractal Design R4, EVGA Supernova G2 650W

 

 

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