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This is a review about eGPU with Macbook Pro retina (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) & Macbook pro (2016, 2018) & razer core X (USB 3.1). I found this topic is a bit challenging than I thought before. But it is quite useful for 3D graphics, video rendering & gaming. This topic tests about Razer Core X (it is a box with voltage transformers only) with Radeon™ RX Vega 64 – AMD.

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Here is the agenda:

  • Why people need this
  • Cons
  • Who should use it
  • Budget
  • System Requirements
  • How we test the performance
  • Results & Performance
  • How to install (example setup)
  • Challenge & How to Fix

Why?

1.Saving your time and money & keep upgraded devices. eGPU is a way to upgrade your laptop.

As you noticed that most of the corporate technology giants like Apple, Microsoft have their planned obsolescence / built-in obsolescence strategy. Your devices might no longer functional after a certain period of time. Not because technology is growing fast or your devices are broken/ IT giants aren’t able to support your old devices. It’s because they want their consumers to purchase again (That’s why adapter becomes fast growing products). Sometimes you already spend lots of time & money on your equipments (Or you just keep buying stuff all the time). Getting a new eGPU only spends US$730 (Razer Core X + vega 64). But if I buy a new laptop Macbook pro with 32GB, i9 it will cost like ~US$3.8k. eGPU with my 6 year-old mbpr is still more powerful than the new MBP(*score on geekbench). And, I can still keep upgrade the components one by one.

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2.Boost up laptop performance (Faster Rendering ~+2X), Geekbench4 ~+3X)

You can use eGPU on Video Rendering (davinci resolve, Adobe Premiere Final Cut Pro, ), 3D graphics VFX rendering (Cinema 4D, Maya, Zbrush, After Effect, Blender etc), Graphic Design (PS, AI, ) in Adobe, Sketchapp for Website&app design, Game Design (Unity, Unreal Engine). It saves you half of the time!! Even for gaming (non-professional, I think).

Running Vega 64 is faster 2 times than internal graphics card (mbpr2012:Intel HD Graphics 4000 & Nvidia GeForce GT 650), 3 times higher scores than MacBook pro 2018.

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Cons

1.You need a cable for it and you cannot move around like before (believe me, it’s not cheap if you need an adapter. If you are using Thunderbolt 2 (macbook retina, #mbpr) or you a Hub-Guy (you need like 6-in-1 hub on your desk, you will get troubles), you need to go through the Challenge & how to fix before you buy a USB type-c eGPU like razer core x when you still using macbook pro before 2016 version. The customer services cannot help you.

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2.eGPU is not perfect. If you already have a fine desktop with highend graphic card (like us$1k), you might not need it. eGPU market 2019 works it’s because of laptop components limitations & fast growing graphics card industry. Once those technology giants get rid of GPUs manufacturers Nvidia/AMD or laptop’s GPUs is powerful enough, eGPU might not exist. It just like sony walkman replaced by iPod & iPhone. However, Nvidia/AMD are still powerful in this decade. (Nvidia R&D already in artificial intelligence for graphics, it might be a game changer in visual design as well, not just about FLOPS (floating point operations per second ))

3. There are several companies providing cloud gaming services like Nvidia’s GeForce Now, PlayStation Now, LiquidSky, Vortex, and Google Stadia is coming! You might not need eGPU in future. Google just announced March 29, 2019 that google has partnered with AMD to create a specially designed GPUs for the platform that’s more powerful than the PS4 Pro & Xbox One X combined. Gamers can play games through google chrome (even on Youtube) without processing graphics on user’s computer like the old days that means eGPU gaming becomes less important in the future. You don’t need to worry about if the game supports Windows or MacOS because it is cross-platform services. Google will process the graphics on their cloud services for gamers, and google’s processors are more powerful than PS4 & Xbox combined. (It seems Sony is hopeless frighting with Google Cloud service even Microsoft Azure.)

4. eGPU can be experience too. Blackmagic eGPU cost US$699 (US$827 in Hong Kong) , Blackmagic eGPU pro US $1,199 (US1,337 in Hong Kong). My equipment is US$730 (Razer Core X + vega 64). My setup is bit more expensive than lower version of Blackmagic eGPU in U.S. but Vega 64 works faster than the Blackmagic eGPU Pro (with 60% budget only) . And it’s difficult to upgrade the Blackmagic eGPU. Moreover, eGPU is super power consuming. Some graphics cards are loud and noisy.

5. Supporting issue. Most of the graphics works with limited manufacturer. Let say Adobe work with Nvidia and using it’s CUDA graphic standard. There are high changes that it does not support with AMD’s product. And some protocols are overwhelming. Apple Inc developed a graphics standard (technically it’s an API) called Metal since 2014, but there is a standard called OpenGL(Open Graphics Library) as well long supported by the others. If you do not turn on the settings, you might still using your CPU instead of GPU. Like Adobe Encoder if you haven’t turn on your GPU in settings, (e.g. old version Final Cut Pro does not support eGPU exporting video) you pay eGPU & electricity for nothing. (User should install benchmark just in case.) You might realize that GPUs still look like a un developed product in the market in 2010s.

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Who should use it

  • Mid-level Gamer
  • Graphic Design, 3D Designer, VFX specialist, Interior designer
  • Game designer, Game developer (Unreal engine)
  • Architect (SketchUp)

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System Requirements

  • Windows® 10 64bit RS1 or above with Thunderbolt™ 3 port
  • Macs running macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 or later.
  • Thunderbolt 2, Thunderbolt 3, Usb 3.1, 3.0 (USB Type C might be Thunderbolt 3, USB3.0 or USB3.1, there are huge differences on speed, the protocol of data transfer)
  • GPUs voltage transformers (watts power)
  • Software supports (e.g. for MacOs user, Razer Core X said it’s only supports serval AMD’s cards officially. You have to unlock by typing code in the terminal if you want to use Nvidia’s product)

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How we test the performance

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How to install

Go to: https://egpu.io

search your setup, here is my set up reference:

System

• MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015) (MacBookPro11,5)
• CPU: Intel i7-4870HQ (8) @ 2.50GHz, quad-core
• GPU: AMD Radeon R9 M370X, Intel Iris Pro
• Mac OS 10.14 Mojave

eGPU + Enclosure

• Razer Core X 
• Apple Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter
• Apple Thunderbolt 2 cable (2m)
• SAPPHIRE Radeon RX Vega 64 DirectX 12 21275-03-20G 8GB 2048-Bit HBM2 PCI Express 3.0 CrossFireX Support Video Card  

Mac Installation (Mac OS 10.14 Mojave)

1) Install Purge-wrangler, go through the enable AMD flow. This will enable Thunderbolt 2 bus to be used for eGPU. It will ask if you want to enable legacy AMD cards. Say no. It will then ask if you want to enable Ti82 enclosures. Say no. 
2) Stick the thunderbolt cable in. It just works.

Windows Installation (Windows 10)

1) Reboot system while the Thunderbolt 2 is plugged in.
2) It just works! No error 12, no finagling needed, nothing. I just booted into my boot camp installation and it worked.

I already had the AMD drivers for my own internal dGPU, so maybe that helped? The AMD taskbar utility just started to show the Vega 64 as the GPU, and that was it.

Results & Performance

To be continued…

#eGPU #externalgraphicscard #GPUs #AMD #NVIDIA #VEGA64 #1080

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