New Mac Mini plus Nvidia eGPU viable Workstation?


#1

Hello,
I am as many in the dilemma having a MacPro 2013 with no options to use a Nvidia GPU. As I dont do Rendering primarily I was fine for the most part with my setup. But these Days I would really like to jump on Redshift and or Octane for Rendering. Also I do some Realtime Developement with Unrealengine.
Also I want to mention that I really want to stick with OSX…so no WIN/OSX disscusion here please.
Another Important Factor to me is Portability as I carry my Computer between Office and home a lot. That was the first reason for me to buy the NewMacPro 2013. But as it turns out Apple does not support eGPUs for Thunderbolt 2 machienes anymore. Which makes me really angry because that was the promise of the Dustbin Mac back than.
The new MacMini to me looks like a real Alternative in combination with an eGPU. I first ruled it out because NVIDIA Cards are not officially supported. But than I came across this Video which shows that with a little hack it is actually possible to use a NVIDA Cards with eGPU enclosures.

Now I really consider this to be my new Setup for rendering with Redshift and Octance on a MacMini.

Do you have any thoughts, doubts etc this will work?
Maybe I just order and try it.


#2

Another Question related to Octane/Redshift. What do you think is the Bottleneck using these Renderengines. CPU or GPU? I wonder how much cores is the best compromise. The new Mac Mini comes with 4-Cores @3,6GHz or 6 Cores@3,0GHz. I would tend to the faster 4-Cores as most what I do is single threaded. But for Rendering with GPU Renderengines do you think a higher Core count is a big factor?


#3

Even if not officially supported eGPU works also on TB2 so your 2013 MP should do the job, just browse on specialized forum like tech inferno or eGPU to find what you need to get it to work and don’t be afraid of bandwidth difference between TB2 and 3, it won’t matter for rendering. The new mac mini should work too, just look for CPU benchmark on website like CPU monkey to see what’s the Cinebench score for single threaded tasks(multithreaded score should be less interesting for you since you will use GPU for rendering), I was looking at the top 6core i7 option and its quite fast for both multithreaded and single threaded operations(1450/205 CB points respectively), anyway wait for official benchmark. You won’t need much RAM since you are going to render within GPU VRAM, anyway upgrade the SODIMM by yourself and you should save money.


#4

Thanks for the very valuable answer Sirio.


#5

Just stay away from 10.14. That’s the trick here because any new Mac mini will ship with 10.14 and there are no drivers from NVIDIA (unofficial or otherwise) for 10.14, with no evidence they’ll be here soon.

If you revert the new mini back to 10.13.6 (in theory you should be able to), you can use the egpu.io site (look for the v1.0.5+ NVIDIA “EFI” solution) which allows you to keep unaltered system files, while loading special EFI files at boot time from a USB thumb drive (and luckily the mini still has USB ports so that should work). Part of the solution will also help you download the latest 10.13.x “web drivers”.

How stable it is depends on the host computer and the GPU. Works great for some, not others.


#6

Oh that’s a bummer. Not being able to use the current os is not an option when I buy a new computer. I guess I need to buy a PC for rendering than.
I will still use my Macpro primarily and the a PC secondary I guess.


#7

Actually it has been confirmed in the Nvidia forums that Mojave drivers are on their way. No date yet though.


#8

Ok Thanks for the Info. Still have hope than.


#9

Holger - I haven’t seen detailed tests of the minis yet, but I believe the 6 cores available in the mini turbo above 4 Ghz for single threaded tasks. IIRC, the core i3 chips don’t turbo. So the 6 core might be faster in both single threaded tasks and multi-threaded tasks.

Don’t quote me on it, but wait another week for a detailed review.


#10

I’m looking forward to seeing what these are like in real world usage. The 6- core specs are in line with the PC workstation I was looking at building for C4D, in CPU single core performance anyway. Coupled with an eGPU, it’s looking quite attractive, albeit still quite a bit more expensive than the PC option.


#11

In fact, having costed it out, being sensible and adding RAM via a third party, its not that different in price!


#12

You’re gonna pay a bit of a premium for eGPUs if you need the enclosures.

I’m eagerly awaiting benchmarks on the mini. A tiny, quiet, low maintenance render slave sounds great to me. We’ll see how the new cooling solution performs under heavy, sustained load.


#13

What is the optimal configuration of the mini for a render node. Best bang for the buck. When I first saw the top configuration at $4,200 I dismissed the whole idea, but how does a lesser configured model stack up to a PC build?


#14

For a render node setup just use top of the line CPU and a sufficient amount of RAM(upgrade it by your self). Consider that software like Vray standalone for example uses barely half of the RAM compared to your main workstation so even with 16GB you can do quite a bit, on my PC nodes I’ve 32GB and I work with huge project(really huge), also MacOS is far more efficient than Windows when swapping to disk if you fill up the RAM.
In the end it will cost you 1000$ plus RAM(if you buy from Apple 200$ for 16GB, 600$ for 32GG, less if you buy from third parties).
That being said if having a MacOS system is not essential, for a slave I suggest you to look for a Windows/AMD machine, for the same price you can get almost twice the performance, going Windows/Intel you will save very little so I’m not sure if thats convenient.


#15

I agree with Sirio, I’m not sure this is worthy as a render node, but as a replacement front end workstation (depending what you are coming from of course!) - its single core CPU speed (205CB) is almost double that of my Mac Pro 2010 (not a surprise there), and up near the fastest available on the market. Multicore puts it a bit slower than my upgraded MP, at about 1450CB, but thats a decent spec for such a small footprint desktop that runs Mac OS at this price point.


#16

as long as you stay on sierra or high sierra you can run an egpu on your vader bin. i use a 1080ti in an akitio node enclosure with a 2016 top of the line mbp, but i’ve also used it with the 2013 mp, and while i didn’t do any 1 to 1 comparisons i’d say render speed is about the same. i use redshift, and like i said i use it mainly with the mbp. it’s stable and fast, can’t imagine there’s a huge difference in speed compared to a built in gpu. the only thing that bothers me is that i have to shut the mbp down each time i want to plug or unplug the egpu. luckily the mbp shuts down and starts in under a minute, but still slightly annoying. why is it so important to you to be on the latest os? because of your work regarding your scripts? just curious, since i tend to always be at least a year behind the current os, and that did work out for me quite well over the last 20 years…


#17

+1
This work also for every software, unless there’s something very specific that I really need immediately usually I tend to upgrade a few months after the initial release.


#18

I am the Kind of person who updates quickly. Mostly because of under the Hood improvements. In case of Mojave I must confess the main reason was Darkmode. And I must say that it is a “Never-can-go-back-feature” to me. Staring at two 4k Displays the whole day makes my eyes tired. And Darkmode is a really big improvement for me. It is VERY pleasant to work with. I know its not such a big deal when you have C4D open most of the time. But I work mostly in other apps. Also doing a looot of Filemanagement etc.
I must also say that I never had big issues with any OSX upgrade. Only very minor issues.
Also it is not a good feeling to purchase expensive Hardware knowing I can not use the latest OS. I have now ordered a 1080Ti and a Sonnet Breakaway box. I plan to run it with Windows Bootcamp on my MP 2013. If I cant make it to work I will return it. For me its just a little deal as I dont do rendering mainly. I would certainly decide differently when I would plan to do Renderings for a living.


#19

The Mac mini reviews are coming out. I’ve seen some reviewers encode long videos that hammer the CPU, but nothing as long and demanding as a C4d render. I’ll cautiously say it may be decent for a tiny, quiet, low power draw team render slave.

I chatted with a macrumors forum member who said they used to have 10 Mac minis in a rack with the rear vents pointed up to help with heat dissipation. Neat stuff.


#20

Viable for CPU rendering if you must stay in the Mac universe. But for GPU rendering, the mac mini just isn’t going to cut it. You really need multiple GPUs to really see the benefits.