Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosures are available now, and are fully supported by Intel and windows. They started at $500 with the Razer Core, but new models like the AkiTiO Node and Powercolor Devil Box are coming in at $299, shipping Q1 2017. More will likely be announced at CES this week.
These TB3 enclosures have 400w+ power supplies, better cooling, and are large enough to fit large enthusiast GPUs like the Nvidia GTX 1080. You can plug a TB3 device into a TB2 laptop with a simple adapter. Apple sells theirs for $29; Chinese versions will be cheaper.
Depending on what features the manufacturer decides to add to their device, TB3 eGPU enclosures can also charge your laptop, offer USB3 ports, gigabit ethernet, audio jacks, etc. The $299 models tend to be very bare-bones but there's no doubt that competition will lead to cheaper prices and more features over time. Again, watch for more at CES this week.
Current list of TB3 eGPU enclosures:
AKiTiO Node ($300)
Asus ROG XG Station 2 (price unknown)
BizonBOX 3 ($650, probably because it says it works with Macs)
Powercolor Devil Box ($300. Ugly, though.)
Razer Core ($500)
I returned the whole thing and bought a beefy gaming PC, which now has an absurd amount of power in it (a 1080 + 2x970... I had forgotten how much fun it is to continually upgrade a machine). For power on the go, I have a Razer Blade with a 1060 in it. It's a shame, because I prefer to develop on a Mac, but I need modern hardware ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
I was considering getting the new MBP, but instead bought a used workstation. It has a Xeon E5-2670 (8 core/16 thread) and 32GB RAM, I stuck in an RX480 and now have a pretty good working and gaming machine for ~€800. Some games are still poorly optimised for multiple cores though (e.g. Arma 3), so single core performance is still the king for gaming.
There are now alternatives for those that need power on the go. Well, for number crunching power on the go, anyway. Won't help for gaming and 3D modeling.
So, entirely irrelevant to the situation described by the parent poster?
Also, I was optimizing in part for cheapness. Truly great gaming cards cost $300 and up, and $400 total was about as much as I was willing to pay for an upgrade.
Waiting a year is way too much caution for me. I wouldn't pre-order anything, but once other people post it works I'd feel safe to proceed.
Intel initially announced that TB3 devices would be compatible with TB2 hosts, but it looks like they quietly dropped this feature. It's _really_ hard to find a reference on this though.
Some of us have already waited a year, nothing changed. It's been Akitio + PSU or nothing for quite a while now.
Made the jump to PC myself instead of hanging on in hope that something will come out with blessed support for Macs.
BootCamp is fine. Watch this review by Linus for more details: https://youtu.be/JirCwapScUs?t=5m54s
Apple's adapter has turned out not to work on Linux. It might not work with BootCamp either. Seems to require a special driver:
If the Apple adapter doesn't work, there are a bunch of others on Amazon, although they are a bit more expensive today. Prices will come down. But if you have a TB2 plug on your laptop, you probably have a Mac anyway.
Huh? The article is about a setup built using an AKiTiO PCIe box. You even mentioned that manufacturer as an alternative. I guess it's not officially "for eGPU use", but that's just a question of power, and a small SMPS brick is fine for that.
1 - https://youtu.be/vvAB3U5umug?t=187
$300 is affordable, and prices will come down further.
If you want MacOS support, only that BizonBOX /says/ it will work. But I betcha they all will. I certainly wouldn't be the guinea pig, though-- wait for other people to try it out and post their experiences.
The "much more powerful PSU" you speak of appears to be a Dell DA-2 laptop power supply, which isn't that powerful compared to say an 800w ATX PSU.
Tell me that this isn't an Akitio TB2 with holes drilled in the side: https://bizon-tech.com/us/bizonbox2-egpu.html
I've built a couple of these from Akitio and Sonnet enclosures (first one took ages to get working, otherwise it saved me from the huge disappointment of the most recent MBPr).
The BizonBox 3 does indeed come with a 200w laptop PSU. But that is plenty for a GTX1080 with a 180w TDP.
I don't know of any such adapter. Do they exist? The Apple one allows you to use TB2 devices with your new TB3 laptop, not the other way.
As a bidirectional adapter, it can also connect new
Thunderbolt 3 devices to a Mac with a Thunderbolt or
Thunderbolt 2 port and macOS Sierra.
Also, all the features you mentioned are already available in form of docks, which one might already have.
It wouldn't be that much more expensive to just build a cheap Windows desktop with the same video card - especially when simplicity and low fuss are stated goals.
("Gaming computers" can be incredibly cheap. http://www.logicalincrements.com/ starts at $169, and the tier with a GTX 1050 Ti is $528. Also, given the 20% performance penalty from TB2, you could probably drop down a tier or two and still get the same result.)
Nice write-up either way.
But in a year, when you can buy a commodity Chinese-made TB3 enclosure for $200 that-- with a SINGLE CABLE-- powers your laptop, offers a bunch of extra USB3 ports, ethernet, audio jacks, and can also take a high-end GPU for gaming, well, that's a much more attractive proposition.
"the kind of CPU I could buy for cheap would be comically underpowered compared to the i7 4850HQ I already had in front of me"
Specifically: will the high-end i7 in a MBP run at Full Turbo indefinitely, or does it throttle down hard after a couple of minutes at full load to avoid overheating, like the one in my Dell Precision does?
I'm suspecting the latter, due to the basic physics of heat dissipation from a high-TDP chip. In this case, a sub-$200 Haswell i5 will run circles around it.
However, I hope that I won't have to do that again in the future. I'd rather have just one computer for the sake of simplicity. Hopefully external GPUs will become mainstream in a few years.
Right now, I am working with large volumetric datasets (think 100+GB) and even then I am only seeing ~200MB/s peak transfers, which are well within the capabilities of TB2. In my experience, large datasets are bottlenecked by the hard drive, which is not a problem for modern rMBPs.
Edit: I am using a 2.5GB/s NVMe SSD, so the 200MB/s is the raw bandwidth used when mass-evaluating batches on the GPU. For training, I am seeing around 70-80MB/s sustained.
What limits you is the power input and cooling capabilities of your TB2 box. A 1080 has a 180W TDP (before O/C), so you need to feed it up to 180We and dissipate that much heat, a Titan X increases that to 250W. TFA went with a 1050 because it only has a 75W TDP, and that could be achieved with their enclosure (by swapping out the power brick, the "out of the box" version only handles 30W TDP).
After that, it's mostly a matter of feeding the GPU enough stuff to do, giving it a small number of expensive tasks will utilise the limited bandwidth better than the reverse, which is why the efficiency of eGPU (TB2, but also TB3) increases as you increase rendering quality and the like (compared to internal) e.g. you might get 70% of internal at low settings and 90% at high.
Using the eGPU to drive the internal panel means copying the frame buffer back to the internal GPU which is where the latency and performance penalty come from; I'm not sure how it is implemented, it might actually be copying twice (once to system RAM, then again to the discrete GPU RAM). Having more lanes over the TB connection would probably help here, though it might not eliminate the latency.
It'll depend on your workload, but generally, it is going to be visibly slower than the "baseline" performance for any high-utilization workload.
Mine is on the way, so for now I cannot comment on the stability of the system, but I expect it to be better and easier to setup than Thunderbolt, because PCI-E is longer on the market. Sure the Thunderbolt solution is a closed one-cable thing which looks way cleaner, but I read reviews from e.g. Asus ROG EGPU users, with unstable systems. I absolutely don't want to bad mouth the Thunderbolt solution, I would love to use it, by my system does not have a port. Also, the TB dock is super expensive.
I don't know if this is even possible, but if so, it would be a fantastic solution. Keep a monster desktop PC for gaming, then shut it down and connect your MacBook and get a powerful computer for work.
TB3 is much more prevalent on PC laptops, but still nowhere near common.
Not that I'm a stranger to hacking a PSU, but my MacBook is not a RepRap.
I really wish we had an Apple "firing on all cylinders" that released commercial products like this.
As a business I'm sure the current product line generates the right numbers in someone's spreadsheet but to me it's just so ...dull.
For the first time since 2006 I haven't updated to the latest macOS and have no plans to. I've seen nothing compelling in it compared to El Capitan.
I wish Apple had better OpenGL or Vulcan (for cross platform games) or eGPU support for internal laptop displays. Instead we have Metal. So far I've not seen an example of a AAA macOS game that actually supports it.
Then again I wish Apple would add an undo feature for the auto"correct" in iOS but obviously they've got their own agenda. :)
Hopefully the other TB3 enclosures will come along at a reasonable price.
And my current MacBook has a retina screen, compared to the 1440x900 screen on my desktop. I'd LOVE to use my desktop's power on my Macbook's screen.
The extra traffic on the wire does incur a small performance penalty over an external monitor though.
That's the same bandwidth as TB2, which will add another 10% performance penalty versus a native 16-lane PCIe gen3 slot, for a total of 20% performance lost. Still completely workable.
You've got to have a decently made chassis to accommodate and cool a full-sized card and a meaty power supply for the latest and greatest GPUs. And that's before you add any docking functionality for extra ports.
The cheapest thing I've seen to date is the Alienware Amp which sells for around $150 but uses Alienware's proprietary port, which IIRC, is a bit slower than TB3.
As for the lower-end pricing, it's very feasible to fit a laptop-oriented MXM GPU moodule in a lower power envelope. The GTX 1060 mobile variant only draws 80 watts, and the GTX 1050 mobile sips power at 50 watts. They do obviously need active cooling, but not a LOT of active cooling.
Note that the 10-series of GPUs are not cut-down versions like previous generations. The 1050ti mobile is just as fast as the 1050ti desktop card at same clocks, they bin the chips so it can work with less power.
It's very reasonable to imagine a sealed laptop dock (as opposed to a full enclosure) with a 50 watt 1050ti inside selling for $300. Comin' soon!
The price is a bit steep for the hardware it offers, but it looks super portable and just powerful enough for my use cases.
Too bad it's apparently become vaporware.
(Unless you mean you can't do it while also using it as a GPU in the desktop, which is true.)
Both of these options are certainly smaller than a macbook plus an enclosure though.
Zotac just announced a mini GTX1080 so you could get some amazing performance density in the S4.
However, having 1 computer that does everything still has a lot of value for me over having to context switch between a desktop and laptop and constantly worry about keeping everything in sync like I do right now. So my next machine is still going to have to be a laptop + eGPU combo.
I hopes apple would offer an external gpu to use with their low powered laptop gpus
Anyone knows if this works?
Having a TB3 core with graphic power at home that I could just plug in if I need the power, and otherwise carry a small lightweld MacBook with me sounds too good to be true. If it's daisy-chainable I could imagine quite a nice dock-setup with external display that could turn a small MBP into a work-horse whenever needed. I'm intrigued.
An eGPU would help solve this issue completely, and I could even go for dual 4K monitors (or more).