NVIDIA TITAN Xp Supercharges the 13-inch MacBook Pro
May 11th, 2018, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
Last month we trumpeted the breakthrough that enables NVIDIA GPUs to run on a 2013 Mac Pro running macOS 10.13.4. This article trumpets how a 2016 MacBook Pro 13-inch Touch Bar laptop can accelerate GPU intensive apps by huge margin.
eGPU TITAN Xp - Sonnet Technologies eGFX Breakaway Box connected to a right-side Thunderbolt 3 port with NVIDIA TITAN Xp (12G) GPU installed and connected to the Dell 5K UP2715K display with dual DP cables
eGPU VegaF - AKiTiO Node Pro PCIe Expansion Box to Thunderbolt 3 port with the AMD Radeon Vega Frontier installed and connected directly to the Dell 5K UP2715K display with dual DP cables.
Internal Iris 550 - Integrated Intel Iris Graphics 550 inside the MacBook Pro feeding the LG UltraFine 5K via Thunderbolt 3 connection.
TEST MULE: MacBook Pro (13-inch,2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports) with 3.3GHz Dual Core-i7 processor running macOS 10.13.4 (build 17E199)
WHY NVIDIA GPUS SHOULD BE A VIABLE OPTION FOR MAC USERS
This is a "CUDA only" app. We used Path Tracing to process the benchmark scene. (LOWER Time in Seconds = FASTER)
Render Benchmark BMW Scene. The TITAN Xp used CUDA and the Vega Frontier used OpenCL. As you can see, the CUDA capable GPU renders the scene must faster than the "OpenCL only" GPU. The Integrated Iris 550 can't render the scene in either mode. User is forced to render using CPU -- which takes at least 20 minutes (or 1200 seconds). (LOWER Time in Seconds = FASTER)
WHY EGPUS ARE A VIABLE OPTION FOR GAMERS
Using a recorded 2 minute flight of the SR-71 Blackbird, we started up benchmarking mode from the Terminal app specifying 2560x1440, full screen, circle view, high quality (fps_test=3). (HIGHER Frames per Second = FASTER)
Rise of Tomb Raider
Built-in Benchmark was run using HIGH preset at 2560x1440 Fullscreen. (HIGHER Frames per Second = FASTER)
INTEL INTEGRATED GRAPHICS ARE NO MATCH FOR DISCRETE HIGH-END GPUS
This two minute OpenCL Benchmark uses the selected GPU to render the LuxBall Scene. (HIGHER KSamples per Second = FASTER)
GeekBench 4 OpenCL
Measures the OpenCL performance of the selected GPU from image processing to computer vision to number crunching, a relevant and complex challenge. (HIGHER Score = FASTER)
GeekBench 4 Metal
Measures the Metal performance of the selected GPU from image processing to computer vision to number crunching, a relevant and complex challenge. (HIGHER Score = FASTER)
WHEN EXTERNAL DISPLAYS CAN BE A HANDICAP
DaVinci Resolve 14.3
Using the Candle project, we measured how fast it could playback the 117 frame video clip while rendering ONE node of noise reduction in real time. The GPU Processing mode was set to OpenCL for the Vega Frontier and CUDA for the TITAN Xp.
Pro apps like Resolve can choose the rendering GPU and the render method -- even when the display connected directly to the GPU is not being used. And as you can see, the playback is faster when the INTERNAL display of the MacBook Pro is primary.
WHAT DID WE LEARN?
When it comes to serious, GPU intensive applications, it is nice to know that MacBook Pro owners can use an eGPU box to attach a serious, high-end GPU, greatly accelerating performance by a large margin.
And it's also nice to know we have the choice of an NVIDA or AMD GPU.
The AMD Vega Frontier is essentially plug and play with the MacBook Pro. The NVIDIA TITAN Xp (and other Pascal series GPUs) are not. Specifically...
1. We employed a TITAN Xp modified by MacVidCards.
2. It required an external display connected directly to it. In the case of the Dell 5K display, the main DP cable had to be connected to the top DP port and the secondary DP cable to the middle DP port of the TITAN Xp.
3. It required us to startup holding down the Option key. Then a four key sequence (Command + Option + Shift + ".") to select the external display connected to the NVIDIA GPU as primary.
Once those steps were taken, we were off and running. The MacBook Pro's built-in display was still functional. Is the pain worth the gain? That's depends on what apps you run and whether the NVIDIA GPU provides the best performance.
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WHERE TO BUY THE AMD GPUS
B&H Photo Video sells various brands of AMD Radeon Vega GPUs. Check also with NewEgg. CryptoCurrency Mining using OpenCL has caused a shortage and price rise. NowInStock.net tracks pricing and availability of the RX Vega 64 and Vega Frontier Edition.
WHERE TO BUY NVIDIA GPUS
Check with MacVidCards if you want an NVIDIA GPU that is modified to provide startup screen, full bandwidth, and eGPU compatibility.
Check also with B&H Photo Video for various models of NVIDIA GPUs.
WHERE TO BUY Thunderbolt 3 GPU expander boxes
Order the eGFX Breakaway Box direct from Sonnet Technologies or from B&H Photo Video.
The AKiTiO Node Pro can be ordered from various vendors including B&H Photo Video.