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BARE FEATS LAB - real world Mac speed tests

AKiTiO Node Thunderbolt 3 eGPU connected to 'late 2013' Mac Pro

Posted February 7, 2017 by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

On February 2nd, we posted a report on the AKiTiO Node eGFX Box connected to the 'late 2016' MacBook Pro 15-inch. We began to wonder if it would work on the 'late 2013' Mac Pro cylinder. And if so, what effect would it have on performance for GPU intensive applications even if limited by the Thunderbolt 2 bandwidth?

GRAPH LEGEND
nMP > D700s - 'late 2013' Mac Pro 8-core using only internal AMD FirePro D700 GPUs.
nMP > Node > TITAN X - GeForce GTX TITAN X (12GB) GPU installed in the AKiTiO Node Thunderbolt 3 eGFX Box connected to 'late 2013" Mac Pro's Thunderbolt 2 port
nMP > Node > 980 Ti - GeForce GTX 980 Ti (6GB) GPU installed in the AKiTiO Node Thunderbolt 3 eGFX Box connected to 'late 2013" Mac Pro's Thunderbolt 2 port
rMBP > Node > 980 Ti - GeForce GTX 980 Ti (6GB) GPU installed in the AKiTiO Node Thunderbolt 3 eGFX Box connected to the 'late 2016' MacBook Pro's Thunderbolt 3 port

When the Node was active, the DisplayPort of the GPU was connected to the Dell 5K 27" display's DisplayPort to insure that the CUDA capable GPU was always available and 'preferred' by each application.

Blender - Lets you choose either OpenCL, CUDA, or CPU to render a 3D Scene. The dual FirePro D700s in the Mac Pro were both actively rendering the BMW GPU Demo scene using OpenCL. The NVIDIA GPU in the Node eGPU rendered using CUDA.
(LOWER time in seconds = FASTER)

OctaneRender
This is a "GPU only" standalone renderer that can process scenes created in Maya, ArchiCAD, Cinema 4D, etc. -- and does so in a fraction of the time it takes with a CPU based renderer. However, it only runs only on CUDA capable NVIDIA graphics cards. We used the DEMO version with a test scene called octane_benchmark.ocs. For our test we selected RenderTarget PT (Path Tracing).
(LOWER time in seconds = FASTER)

DaVinci Resolve - Candle project playback renders Noise Reduction Node (1NR) on-the-fly. The dual FirePro D700s in the Mac Pro rendered using OpenCL. The NVIDIA GPU in the Node eGPU rendered using CUDA.
(HIGHER frames per second = FASTER

Final Cut Pro X - Render Gaussian Blur on 1080p project. We verified that the correct GPU was in use. GPU core utilization reported 75%.
(LOWER time in seconds = FASTER)

Geekbench 4 GPU Compute Benchmark - The single FirePro D700 in the Mac Pro rendered using OpenCL. The NVIDIA GPU in the Node eGPU rendered using CUDA.
(HIGHER score = FASTER)

LuxMark 3 OpenCL - Both FirePro D700s in the Mac Pro were actively rendering using OpenCL. The single NVIDIA GPU in the Node eGPU rendered using OpenCL as well.
(HIGHER KSamples per Second = FASTER)

Valley Benchmark using Extreme HD Preset. All GPUs rendered using OpenGL. Since Valley does not support multiple GPUs, only one FirePro 700 was active.
(HIGHER frames per second = FASTER)

Tomb Raider Built-in Benchmark using High Preset. All GPUs rendered using OpenGL. Since Tomb Raider does not support multiple GPUs, only one FirePro 700 was active.
(HIGHER frames per second = FASTER)

WHAT DID WE LEARN?
The AKiTiO Node eGFX Box is a useful accessory for 'late 2013' Mac Pro users even though it is 'dumbed' down to Thunderbolt 2.

Of course, not everything ran faster when the NVIDIA GPU in the Node was selected. The factory built-in dual D700s rendered the FCPX blur effects faster than the single 980 Ti and TITAN X. And because both D700s are active, LuxMark OpenCL benchmark ran faster than the Node's single NVIDIA GPUs -- but not by much.

The main value of adding an eGPU to your 'late 2013' Mac Pro cylinder is to run CUDA capable apps like Blender and Octane Render. Also apps like Tomb Raider that do NOT utilize both FirePro D700s will run faster on a single high-end NVIDIA GPU installed in the Node -- even if it is only using a Thunderbolt 2 port.

You can see that in 7 out of 8 cases, the 'late 2016' MacBook Pro connected to the Node was very close to the performance of the 'late 2013' Mac Pro connected to the Node. In other words, CPU muscle and larger memory capacity doesn't always translate to superior performance -- especially if the app you are running is leaning hard on the GPU.

"DO I NEED AN EXTERNAL DISPLAY?"
It depends on the apps you run. DaVinci Resolve, After Effects, Premiere Pro, Blender, Octane Render, and PhotoZoom all detected and allowed us to choose the CUDA capable NVIDIA GPU without an external display connected directly to it. When the NVIDIA GPU in the Node (or any eGPU) is not connected directly to an external display, apps like FCPX, Photoshop, Lightroom, Tomb Raider (and other games) ignore it.

THUNDERBOLT 3 ENABLER
To insure that all external Thunderbolt 3 devices we test are deemed 'supported' by System Profiler, we downloaded and ran the tb3-enabler. In the case of the 'late 2013' Mac Pro, running the eGPU.io automate-eGPU script seemed to help, too.

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WHERE TO BUY A THUNDERBOLT GPU EXPANDER FOR THE MAC

The AKiTiO Node eGFX Box will be shipping in March 2017.

Bizon Tech sells the BizonBOX 2S (works with all Thunderbolt 2 Macs). The BizonBOX 3 (designed for Thunderbolt 3 Macs) is shipping bundled with a GPU. If have your own NVIDIA GPU and want to order the empty box, those are back ordered currently.

Big Mahalo to MacVidCards who loaned us the TITAN and 780 GPUs.

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copyright 2017 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
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