First Look: $599 Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box gives compact eGPU power to MacBook Pro

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited May 8
Long-time video card supplier Gigabyte now has an all-in-one package for Mac users looking to get into Thunderbolt 3 eGPU technology, and AppleInsider is testing the latest version.

Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box

What it is

Instead of a routinely user-serviceable enclosure Gigabyte has gone for the absolutely smallest package they can muster for the RX 580 Gaming Box, without resorting to an external power supply. As a result, the all-in-one package is surprisingly dense.

The enclosure itself houses an AMD 8GB RX 580 video card with one HDMI 2.0 port, and three full-size DisplayPorts. On the rear are a trio of USB 3.0 type A ports, and a single USB charging port, marked in orange.

gigabyte egpu ports

Setup

On macOS High Sierra, plug the enclosure into any available Thunderbolt 3 port, and a display to the eGPU. Simple as that. It can be used on Thunderbolt 2 Macs as well, but that takes a hack. We have not as of yet tested it on Sierra -- but given that with some more hacks the developer's kit worked on the 2016 operating system, we're pretty certain that it will work as well.

As with the rest of the eGPU enclosures we've examined, plan on spending $50 for a full-speed longer Thunderbolt 3 cable. Short, 18-inch ones like the one included with the enclosure don't cut it.

First testing

During the course of our testing, we connected the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 350 to a Acer CB281HK and B286HK 4K displays by DisplayPort downstream of one of several of Thunderbolt 3 docks we have on hand, and assaulted the chain with network, USB, and video work. We didn't see any performance issues or bandwidth limitations with USB calls to the docks, with the Gigabyte kit seeing nearly the same performance that the RX580 from the 2017 Apple eGPU developer's kit.

The performance was steady both after installation, and after putting the enclosure under load, suggesting that thermal considerations have been addressed.

Nicely, the enclosure provides 87W to any connected 15-inch MacBook Pro, more than enough to keep it topped off during heavy use.

But, we're seeing some USB issues with inconsistent transfer speeds with the ports in the enclosure as shipped. It's not a show-stopper for mass storage assuming peak performance isn't your goal, but we don't recommend plugging in input devices through those USB ports at this time.

Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box versus Mantiz MZ-02 eGPU enclosure
Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box versus Mantiz MZ-02 eGPU enclosure


For the full review we'll look into a firmware revision that needs to be applied through Windows that rectifies this, but at the cost of some video card speed.

There is customizable lighting, but at present, you can't configure it within macOS.

We'll look more at all of this in the future -- especially as the macOS High Sierra 10.13.5 update arrives.

Upgradeability?

As with nearly all of our review products, we aren't allowed to disassemble a non-user serviceable piece of gear, and the Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box isn't designed to be upgradeable.

But looking through the ventilation holes, it's apparent that the bridgeboard uses a PCI-e connector. So, in theory, the enclosure is upgradeable with a short video card once the RX580 falls out of favor. However, what we suspect is a limit of 250W power for the card and what appears to be a single 8-pin power connector to supply that power may be an issue for upgraders.

Cost-effectiveness

The Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box retails for $599. In the heyday of the GPU price excursions caused by crytptocurrency mining, this is a decent deal. Now that prices are going down, it's a bit less clear.

iPhone, Gigabyte, Mantiz


A Gigabyte card with the same performance and the same quantity of DisplayPorts -- but minus DVI -- is currently around $350 from Newegg. Other user-upgradeable enclosures range from $249 that supports 300W of video card power and 15W of host power, to $449 for one with 650W of power and full charging power for a connected MacBook Pro. In exchange, you get a much smaller enclosure in return.

So, in this regard, it's a close call. Upgradeability or small size, pick one.

AppleInsider will be continuing its examination of the enclosure in the coming weeks.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    indiekidukindiekiduk Posts: 266member
    Shame thunderbolt v3 still can't do USB properly
  • Reply 2 of 16
    $600 for a $200 graphics card. Super exciting!

    I am lucky I don't need graphics horsepower in my Mac. I got an XBox One X for $440. A crazy bargain compared to this external graphics card solution.
  • Reply 3 of 16
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,719administrator
    Shame thunderbolt v3 still can't do USB properly
    This is a complicated situation. In literally every dock we have tested, it has been perfect. But, if a GPU enclosure doesn't have firmware to prioritize the USB, it can be an issue for timing-sensitive peripherals like mice and sometimes keyboards. It'll be interesting to see if the next TB3/USB-C peripheral chipset more aggressively determines this.
    Sgt Storms(trooper)
  • Reply 4 of 16
    charles1charles1 Posts: 34member
    So this GPU is basically the same as the Radeon Pro 580 8GB in my 2017 27" iMac 5k?
  • Reply 5 of 16
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,719administrator
    charles1 said:
    So this GPU is basically the same as the Radeon Pro 580 8GB in my 2017 27" iMac 5k?
    Similar, bit not identical.
    edited May 8
  • Reply 6 of 16
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 6,036member
    $600 for a $200 graphics card. Super exciting!

    I am lucky I don't need graphics horsepower in my Mac. I got an XBox One X for $440. A crazy bargain compared to this external graphics card solution.
    First-person-shooters on a controller suck compared to mouse+keyboard. This is why PC gaming is better for certain types of games than consoles.
    aaron sorenson
  • Reply 7 of 16
    Semper Fi? Or is that someone else's stack on your desk?
  • Reply 8 of 16
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,719administrator
    Semper Fi? Or is that someone else's stack on your desk?
    Mine. Navy, with a LOT of forward-deployed time.
    edited May 8 Sgt Storms(trooper)
  • Reply 9 of 16

    Semper Fi? Or is that someone else's stack on your desk?
    Mine. Navy, with a LOT of forward-deployed time.
    Nice. I never realized that there would be a ton of them you'd have to go out and prove you had earned. I want to have the correct stack but it always makes me feel like a medal-chaser anytime I look them up.
  • Reply 10 of 16
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,719administrator

    Semper Fi? Or is that someone else's stack on your desk?
    Mine. Navy, with a LOT of forward-deployed time.
    Nice. I never realized that there would be a ton of them you'd have to go out and prove you had earned. I want to have the correct stack but it always makes me feel like a medal-chaser anytime I look them up.

    I think I have three more from declassification -- but this is the last stack I wore, so it stays as-is.
  • Reply 11 of 16
    As you test the eGPU in the coming weeks, please throw a couple of Blender benchmarks at it.
  • Reply 12 of 16
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,719administrator
    As you test the eGPU in the coming weeks, please throw a couple of Blender benchmarks at it.
    About an hour ago, the Blender BMW benchmark was complete in 391 seconds. That's what I've got at the moment, and very similar to the ones that Max did in his video about the GPU Dev kit last year.
  • Reply 13 of 16
    " So this GPU is basically the same as the Radeon Pro 580 8GB in my 2017 27" iMac 5k? " Ummm, If you believe your iMac has room inside for a similar " FULLSIZE" PCI card, then I guess so, but I highly doubt it! " Mobility H/W" versus " Fullsize" H/W is NO comparison. Fullsize always wins performance-wise IMO and what I've witnessed over the decades.
    aaron sorenson
  • Reply 14 of 16
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,719administrator
    " So this GPU is basically the same as the Radeon Pro 580 8GB in my 2017 27" iMac 5k? " Ummm, If you believe your iMac has room inside for a similar " FULLSIZE" PCI card, then I guess so, but I highly doubt it! " Mobility H/W" versus " Fullsize" H/W is NO comparison. Fullsize always wins performance-wise IMO and what I've witnessed over the decades.
    There's a bit more to it than that. PCI-e over TB3 is essentially x4, where the bus to the one inside the iMac is x16. There are high-data situations where the iMac one will perform better, and others where the eGPU will.
    edited May 8
  • Reply 15 of 16
    Something tells me that eGPU enclosures housing desktop cards isn't going to survive being the most common deployment. It feels like a science project. I admire the form factor of the Lenovo dock, especially because it could probably travel together with a computer in a laptop bag. I'd like to see more solutions like that. Mike, you gave me a good idea with the rack. I should have one up my office too! Why have I not thought of that before?
  • Reply 16 of 16
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,719administrator
    Something tells me that eGPU enclosures housing desktop cards isn't going to survive being the most common deployment. It feels like a science project. I admire the form factor of the Lenovo dock, especially because it could probably travel together with a computer in a laptop bag. I'd like to see more solutions like that. Mike, you gave me a good idea with the rack. I should have one up my office too! Why have I not thought of that before?
    Even though this one is smaller than the Mantiz enclosure, it's still not what you'd call easily portable in a laptop bag. The Sonnet one is way more portable, given that the power supply and casing are discrete.

    As far as the rack goes, it's nice to have around. I have my sub warfare pin that a crusty old Senior Chief gave me when I qualified elsewhere in my bunker. Reminders of where you came from are nice. 
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