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MBP Retina external graphics card support via thunderbolt?

18719 Views 19 Replies Latest reply: Aug 13, 2013 6:40 AM by dmdimon RSS
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jchema Calculating status...
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Nov 18, 2012 11:23 PM

Does anyone know if using an external graphics card via a thunderbolt PCI chassis is supported yet? I know Sonnet and some other manufactures have began selling Thunderbolt to PCI chassis, but was not sure if external cards are supported by Mac OS X yet. Seems like it would be a powerful tool if one wanted to upgrade, say their 13" MBP from the standard intel GPU.

MacBook Pro with Retina display, OS X Mountain Lion (10.8.2)
  • gbrenik Level 3 Level 3 (535 points)

    Mac OS X does not natively support this type of GPU configuration. However, many times the suppliers of these types of GPUs have a driver that allows Mac OS X to use them. So if the GPU provider does not supply this driver, and some random person on the internet hasn't made their own driver for it, then the card will not function with your Mac.

  • dmdimon Level 3 Level 3 (840 points)

    1) it will work glitch-free with cards that have Mac drivers.

     

    2) it will work also with ATI cards produced with accordance with base ATI design, also there should be Mac counterpart (I'm using PC ati 5770 for example.) but there are some limitations- no boot screen for example.

     

    there are also far more exotic cases and ways to get to work almost any PC videocard but I think its out of interest for you.

     

    And yes, I'm talking about GPU in Sonnet enclosure.

     

    BUT that enclosure costs like 700 USD not including GPU cost so probably it is more effective to get a win desktop for games or win/lin desktop for distributed GPU offload.

  • dmdimon Level 3 Level 3 (840 points)

    Mac OS X does not natively support this type of GPU configuration

    Incorrect. Sonnet case (as other Thunderbolt devices) just adds card to PCIe, so there are nothing special in that config. If system have drivers - it will work.

  • 0Bahamut Calculating status...

    But do you really prove it o your just assuming that the card will work?

  • dmdimon Level 3 Level 3 (840 points)

    Go Sonnet site, take a look at dedicated external cards support list and try to find just one Sonnet support driver. Or just one mention about additional support drivers from manufacturer or Apple.

  • FuzzySS Level 1 Level 1 (25 points)

    You mean the list at http://www.sonnettech.com/support/charts/thunderbolt/index.html which doesn't contain a single graphics card?

  • dmdimon Level 3 Level 3 (840 points)

    well, so graphics cards are somehow so spesial that they will need things no other card type need?

    and btw try to use Google from now on. Take special attention to page 4,

    The Beauty Of Standards: Just Plug It In

  • 0Bahamut Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    I think, that the card will work with the case if a more powerfull energy source is used, sincera the case energy power is about 150w and a standard graphics card uses around 500w.

  • FuzzySS Level 1 Level 1 (25 points)

    There was not a single person in that thread that had OS X recognize their card, they were all running Windows. Please read the links you provide before using them in an argument Actually, it is specifically said near the end of the thread that nobody got it working in OS X: http://forum.notebookreview.com/e-gpu-external-graphics-discussion/688931-thunde rbolt-e-gpu-setup-sonnet-echo-express-pro-review-tomshardware-11.html#post889038 2

     

    You are actually on to something when you ask if graphics card are special, because they are. Graphic card drivers in general are not written to be hot-swappable since they normally run on a bus that isn't hotswappable. The problem comes when you put an PCI-E bus on the end of a Thunderbolt chain, which IS hotswappable.

     

    This causes the videocard to be brought up much later in the boot process, which will cause all sort of initialization problems unless the driver actually supports this. Storage and capturing cards generally handle this much better because they are often run on hotswappable buses.

     

    Believe it or not, I have actually done hardware-level development myself and know what I'm talking about.

  • NiqueXyZ Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Even if the PCIe GPU manufacturer supports OS X (ie. a Mac Pro), it will NOT *automagically* work in a thunderbolt PCIe chassis.  In order for the card to be detected at all, the drivers for the PCIe GPU need to be what's called "thunderbolt aware" (able to operate in thunderbolt topologies).  This requires a driver update from the manufacturer (AMD, Nvidia, etc.).  As far as I know, neither AMD or Nvidia has any PCIe GPUs that have thunderbolt aware drivers at this exact point in time.

     

    There's no "beauty of standards" here (just a giant fustercluck IMHO, since this amazing magic thunderbolt technology has been around for 2 years now and the adoption rate  and device support have been slower / worse than every other major IO technology released in the past 10 years including USB 3.0) -- thunderbolt, on it's own, does NOT provide any sort of automatic translation from PCIe devices.  The PCIe devices STILL need to have updated drivers to work properly in thunderbolt mode.

     

    So, if you actually buy this thing, put a GPU inside of it; it will power on, but the Mac won't detect the GPU.  It will most likely detect the TB Chassis -- but it will think that there's nothing inside of it -- and the GPU won't work at all.

     

    The only thing that remotely resembles video cards that will work in these thunderbolt chassis are video capture PCIe cards from AJA / Matrox / etc. -- sonnet has some listed on their page.  I don't think that's what a majority of customers want; I think we're looking for 3d acceleration GPUs (ie. NVidia GTX / AMD Radeon).

  • dmdimon Level 3 Level 3 (840 points)

    NiqueXyZ, do you have Thunderbolt external cards (as I have) and have you seen at least once how they are exposed to MacOs? To Windows? Thunderbolt external cards are EXACTLY exposed to system as PCI-e devices.

    I ACTUALLY HAVE external thunderbolt devices and DO KNOW IN PRACTICE how they behave.

  • dmdimon Level 3 Level 3 (840 points)

    FuzzySS, cheap trick

    Question was - some additional drivers are needed or not? So what the answer is?

    You are actually on to something when you ask if graphics card are special, because they are. Graphic card drivers in general are not written to be hot-swappable since they normally run on a bus that isn't hotswappable. The problem comes when you put an PCI-E bus on the end of a Thunderbolt chain, which IS hotswappable.

    Bullsh*t. RAID card I personally have at end of TB chain is NOT hotswappable as well. How many hotswappable cards are in Sonnet list? Who are talking about GPU hotswap? Power it on - then power on MBP.

    BTW, what about gpu-over-USB, GPU-over-ExpressCard - how that (crap) can work at all in your world?

    This causes the videocard to be brought up much later in the boot process, which will cause all sort of initialization problems unless the driver actually supports this. Storage and capturing cards generally handle this much better because they are often run on hotswappable buses.

    twice bullsh*t. You can unload and reload GPU kexts anytime as you want - you as hardware bound developer should know it. And PCI-e based, designed for INTERNAL expansion cards of any type are on same bus and are not hotswappable by design.

    Believe it or not, I have actually done hardware-level development myself and know what I'm talking about.

    Beleive it or not, I did the same. Successfully.

     

     

    To be clean - I have no personal experience with said expander. And will not - as it is not cost-effective solution for gaming which is primary target for external GPU on mac. I think it is just useless for said target. BUT. In case you want - you'll play under Win anyway. So for games system will work.

    Mentioned problems with cards detection under MacOS, if you'll read thread carefully, easily can be bound to using PC-oriented nVidia GPU, which is just don't supported and will NOT work even on internal PCIe slot without special effort.

  • FuzzySS Level 1 Level 1 (25 points)

    dmdimon wrote:

     

    FuzzySS, cheap trick

    Question was - some additional drivers are needed or not? So what the answer is?

    I was correcting your completely wrong statements (which has been dismissed by both the forum thread YOU linked to and Sonnet Tech's own FAQ. Please read that link, as it contradicts everything you have said.

     

    dmdimon wrote:

     

     

    Bullsh*t. RAID card I personally have at end of TB chain is NOT hotswappable as well. How many hotswappable cards are in Sonnet list? Who are talking about GPU hotswap? Power it on - then power on MBP.

    BTW, what about gpu-over-USB, GPU-over-ExpressCard - how that (crap) can work at all in your world?

     

    I did not say the cards were hot-swappable, please argue against my arguments, not the ones you imagine I say. I said the technologies were often run on hot-swappable buses (and connects hot-swappable devices themselves), and that is why some of the drivers work over TB. If all cards worked without alteration, there would be no need for a compatibility list as short as that, would it?

     

    Nice of you to mention GPU over USB and ExpressCard, because it proves my point perfectly. Can you mention how many of those that work in OS X without a driver specifically written for the configuration? Because last I checked, they all required drivers with hot-swap support.

     

    dmdimon wrote:

    This causes the videocard to be brought up much later in the boot process, which will cause all sort of initialization problems unless the driver actually supports this. Storage and capturing cards generally handle this much better because they are often run on hotswappable buses.

     

    twice bullsh*t. You can unload and reload GPU kexts anytime as you want - you as hardware bound developer should know it. And PCI-e based, designed for INTERNAL expansion cards of any type are on same bus and are not hotswappable by design.

    I never said you couldn't. What I did say was that the GPU kexts will crash or misbehave if you bring them up later in the boot process than they were intended to. This is PRECISELY because PCI-e is not hot-swappable. And it doesn't matter if PCI-e is made for permanent connection as long as it is proxied over Thunderbolt which IS hot-swappable. That means the Thunderbolt connection can be disconnected at any time, and that the underlying TB subsystems is initialized at a completely different stage in boot.

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