Install an inexpensive USB-C PCI-E card in a Mac Pro for full USB 3.1 data transfer speeds...

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2017
An inexpensive card available from Amazon allows users of Apple's Mac Pro tower with PCI-E slots to get some of the benefits of the new USB-C connector -- and faster USB 3.1 speeds. AppleInsider tells you what you need.




For a long time, adventurous Mac Pro users have been fiddling with third-party hardware to extend the life of the systems. For some older gear, the tinkering has mostly come to an end, but properly outfitted, the last two models of the Mac Pro tower can still be competitive with the "6,1" Coke-can 2013 Mac Pro.

The key for some of these adventures sometimes relies on third-party drivers, like for PCI-e graphics cards from Nvidia. However, from time to time, there are solutions that just drop in, and nothing is needed from a software perspective.

Despite not advertising macOS compatibility, Aukey has a macOS 10.11 and 10.12-compatible USB 3.1 Type C card, that AppleInsider has been testing. The Aukey B01AAETL6Y PCI Express card with 2 USB 3.1 Type-C ports does work on the 3,1, 4,1 and 5,1 Mac Pro, and can deliver a full 10 gigabits per second transfer speed from each port.

Considering the USB native to the Mac Pro tower is USB 2.0, the much faster speed is welcome.

The card worked driver-free in the 4,1 and 5,1, but was slightly problematic in the 3,1 under El Capitan with periodic disconnects of input devices -- but no problems with mass storage. But, why would you want to hook up a keyboard or mouse to USB-C anyway with other ports available?

Caveat emptor

The card must be powered to completely meet the USB-C specification, and for most of us, the best way is to use to the power leads in the 5.25-inch optical drive bay. Failure to do so prevents the card from functioning. The power extension is child's play, though, especially if you're used to Mac Pro tinkering.

We haven't delved into the maximum power the card can deliver, but an assortment of USB-C hubs and peripherals needing power from USB worked fine.

The Aukey USB-C card isn't compatible with alternate modes, so if you want to hook up a monitor, just get a PCI-E card to do so. Additionally, Aukey could change the chipset on the card at any time in future manufacturing runs -- so if this is something you need for your Mac Pro, you probably should get it now!

The Aukey B01AAETL6Y PCI Express card with 2 USB 3.1 Type-C ports retails for $30, but can be found on sale for $16 frequently at Amazon.
cornchip
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 71
    g-newsg-news Posts: 1,107member
    Only for the cMP of course, because the nMP is about as expandable as a singularity.
    xzutallest skilentropysdysamoriabriananon
  • Reply 2 of 71
    appexappex Posts: 687member
    That is why expandability and upgradability are important.
    xzudysamoriacornchipbriananon
  • Reply 3 of 71
    Wasn't the USB-C port the thing everybody complained about in the 2016 MacBook Pro? All that whining about dongles? Who'd want to do that to a perfectly dongle-free Mac Pro?  ;)
    StrangeDayspscooter63
  • Reply 4 of 71
    Judging by the Amazon reviews the quality of this thing is atrocious. Shame.

    "does work on the 3,1, 4,1 and 5,1 Mac Pro, and can deliver a full 10 gigabits per second transfer speed from each port."

    Mike Wuerthele, I'd like proof of this. Most of what has been written about the ASM1142 based cards is that they do work in Sierra but only at 5Gbps. You've categorically stated that each port works at 10Gbps but I somewhat doubt that. Please prove me wrong.
    edited January 2017 dysamoriacornchip
  • Reply 5 of 71
    Wasn't the USB-C port the thing everybody complained about in the 2016 MacBook Pro? All that whining about dongles? Who'd want to do that to a perfectly dongle-free Mac Pro?  ;)
    It was the lack of USB-A, HDMI, and SD not the availability of USB-C. With this card you wouldn't need a dongle for a USB-C device 
    baconstangentropys
  • Reply 6 of 71
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,861member
    appex said:
    That is why expandability and upgradability are important.
    Not really...99.9% of people will not do this. So its really not as important as you think it is. Its just the .1% that bitch the loudest so it seems like its more important that it really is.
    edited January 2017 magman1979StrangeDays
  • Reply 7 of 71
    toltol Posts: 8member
    Thanks AI, Having a 3,1 mac pro, i am always happy with ways to extend its usefulness.

    Can you provide simple steps to install beyond stating it needs power from the optical disk power?

    I have use the sierra patch to install OS X 10.12 on my 3,1.  Show the card therefore act like your comments for 4,1 and 5,1?

    As for why we need USB-C, for old macs, it will be the way that more and more devices come standard, having a card that only costs $16 is a good way to prepare.

    cornchip
  • Reply 8 of 71
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,574administrator
    squuiid said:
    Judging by the Amazon reviews the quality of this thing is atrocious. Shame.

    "does work on the 3,1, 4,1 and 5,1 Mac Pro, and can deliver a full 10 gigabits per second transfer speed from each port."

    Mike Wuerthele, I'd like proof of this. Most of what has been written about the ASM1142 based cards is that they do work in Sierra but only at 5Gbps. You've categorically stated that each port works at 10Gbps but I somewhat doubt that. Please prove me wrong.
    Re; the quality reports, if you read a few more reviews, you'll see that most of the 1-star reviews have been replaced by a higher rating. It looks like there was a batch in October or so with some QC issues. Based on our conversations with Newegg (not linked) and the manufacturer, the problems have been resolved. 

    If I didn't like the product, I wouldn't have written about it, but obviously, I don't have 40 cards to test.

    I'm not at home, but going from my notes, transferring to an internal PCI-E SSD with peak speeds exceeding that of the USB-C bus, and from an external SSD USB-3.1 type C RAID enclosure, we were seeing about 8.4 gbit/sec read from the SSD RAID through USB-C which is very, very close to the max speed of the RAID. Clearly not 5 gbit.
    edited January 2017 squuiidmagman1979dysamoriajkichline
  • Reply 9 of 71
    appex said:
    That is why expandability and upgradability are important.
    Apple deems expandability and upgradability as worthless for Mac users. Apple's strategy lies in replacing old computers with new ones. I'm not sure why Apple has decided this path but I'm guessing it's to make money by forcing sales of new Macs upon users. It's a very poor strategy for users like myself who can't afford a new Mac at this point. I know I'm not Apple's target customer, so there's no point in stressing over it. It's somewhat sad thinking how all future Macs will be totally closed boxes but maybe that's the best way to maintain a trouble-free platform. It's great for customer service trouble-shooting.
    dysamoria
  • Reply 10 of 71
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,574administrator

    tol said:
    Thanks AI, Having a 3,1 mac pro, i am always happy with ways to extend its usefulness.

    Can you provide simple steps to install beyond stating it needs power from the optical disk power?

    I have use the sierra patch to install OS X 10.12 on my 3,1.  Show the card therefore act like your comments for 4,1 and 5,1?

    As for why we need USB-C, for old macs, it will be the way that more and more devices come standard, having a card that only costs $16 is a good way to prepare.

    "Simple install steps" - not sure what you're looking for, here. You need to run a power extension cable from the optical bay to the card's power lead. If you're looking for more info, let me know.

    We tested the 3,1 on El Capitan. There are hardware differences between the 3,1 and the 4,1/5,1 and I'm not going to update my 3,1 to Sierra. I presume that the card will act the same on a 3,1 running Sierra with the patch as it did on the El Capitan here, including the input device periodic dropouts. 
  • Reply 11 of 71
    squuiid said:
    Judging by the Amazon reviews the quality of this thing is atrocious. Shame.

    "does work on the 3,1, 4,1 and 5,1 Mac Pro, and can deliver a full 10 gigabits per second transfer speed from each port."

    Mike Wuerthele, I'd like proof of this. Most of what has been written about the ASM1142 based cards is that they do work in Sierra but only at 5Gbps. You've categorically stated that each port works at 10Gbps but I somewhat doubt that. Please prove me wrong.
    Re; the quality reports, if you read a few more reviews, you'll see that most of the 1-star reviews have been replaced by a higher rating. It looks like there was a batch in October or so with some QC issues. Based on our conversations with Newegg (not linked) and the manufacturer, the problems have been resolved. 

    If I didn't like the product, I wouldn't have written about it, but obviously, I don't have 40 cards to test.

    I'm not at home, but going from my notes, transferring to an internal PCI-E SSD with peak speeds exceeding that of the USB-C bus, and from an external SSD USB-3.1 type C RAID enclosure, we were seeing about 8.4 gbit/sec read from the SSD RAID through USB-C which is very, very close to the max speed of the RAID. Clearly not 5 gbit.
    Thanks for the update, much appreciated.
    I'm going to give it a shot!
  • Reply 12 of 71
    A number of us have 2009 and newer MacPros.

    The spare optical bay connector is SATA.  

    What extension cable did you use for that power connection with the male Molex connector on the card?

    Can you tell us where you purchased it and at what length?

    From what I've seen the connection is male SATA to Molex female.

    There's a lot of interest over at the Mac Pro upgrade group on Facebook.

    Thank you.
    edited January 2017
  • Reply 13 of 71
    Apparently the card does NOT come with the SATA power lead/cable as mentioned in the article (as "supplied in the box"). This can be misleading to readers. 
    dysamoria
  • Reply 14 of 71
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,574administrator
    Apparently the card does NOT come with the SATA power lead/cable as mentioned in the article (as "supplied in the box"). This can be misleading to readers. 
    I see what you're saying. When I'm able, I'll clean up the language a bit. There's no cable in the box, just a SATA power connector.
    dysamoria
  • Reply 15 of 71
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,574administrator

    daskim said:
    A number of us have 2009 and newer MacPros.

    The spare optical bay connector is SATA.  

    What extension cable did you use for that power connection with the male Molex connector on the card?

    Can you tell us where you purchased it and at what length?

    From what I've seen the connection is male SATA to Molex female.

    There's a lot of interest over at the Mac Pro upgrade group on Facebook.

    Thank you.
    The issue isn't so much the card end, as it is the power end. Since the optical drive bay on the 4,1 and 5,1 is a SATA backplane-type connection, I used a SATA power spitter I had on hand compatible with the backplane connector, and a regular SATA power extension cable from it.

    I'm not at my desk at the moment, but IIRC this is the exact splitter I used for the lower half of the optical bay, which should also work on a 3.5-inch bay on the pro if you have any free.

    https://eshop.macsales.com/item/Other World Computing/CBLSATAPWRY/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=shoppingengine&utm_campaign=googlebase&gclid=CjwKEAiAtefDBRDTnbDnvM735xISJABlvGOv6eg-1Ol1reHPRIdJaxknI3ZDtAUl7jhAHpzmwIuI1BoCPJfw_wcB

    The sizing is a little fussy, but not terribly so.

    And any old 10-inch or so SATA power connector extender should do after the splitter, depending on how you want to route the cable.

    Also, while fiddling I discovered that if your motherboard 6-pin PCI-E power plug is open, then you can use the adapters that convert from that to SATA power. They're about $2 at Newegg. Most of us are using an upgraded video card, and the slot is likely full, though.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA6J32TK8411&ignorebbr=1&nm_mc=KNC-GoogleMKP-PC&cm_mmc=KNC-GoogleMKP-PC-_-pla-_-Cables+-+Internal+Power+Cables-_-9SIA6J32TK8411&gclid=CjwKEAiAtefDBRDTnbDnvM735xISJABlvGOvjvK5nlEQxeUPPl9UeTdIqq1v2mcRlcnqk1QBSvyasxoCGpHw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

    This is one of the reasons I didn't detail this -- there's about a thousand ways to get from A to B with power, here, and if you're upgrading a 3,1 to 5,1, then you by definition have to be a little crazy/creative.


    dysamoriapscooter63
  • Reply 16 of 71
    I read the reviews of that card on Friday and decided to buy this one instead. I should have it Monday. Will check if I get maximum speed tests from the multiple SSD's I need to check and recondition based on S.M.A.R.T status results.  Will also check for 10Gbps.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B010PNUALA/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    Since I will use it with these Plugable docks I don't care about the USB Type-A connecters as the dock comes with both cables.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01E80N2E8/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

     
  • Reply 17 of 71
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,574administrator
    tzmmtz said:
    I read the reviews of that card on Friday and decided to buy this one instead. I should have it Monday. Will check if I get maximum speed tests from the multiple SSD's I need to check and recondition based on S.M.A.R.T status results.  Will also check for 10Gbps.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B010PNUALA/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    Since I will use it with these Plugable docks I don't care about the USB Type-A connecters as the dock comes with both cables.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01E80N2E8/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

     
    Let us know! The more options, the better.
    dysamoria
  • Reply 18 of 71
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,312member
    tol said:
    Thanks AI, Having a 3,1 mac pro, i am always happy with ways to extend its usefulness.

    Can you provide simple steps to install beyond stating it needs power from the optical disk power?

    I have use the sierra patch to install OS X 10.12 on my 3,1.  Show the card therefore act like your comments for 4,1 and 5,1?

    As for why we need USB-C, for old macs, it will be the way that more and more devices come standard, having a card that only costs $16 is a good way to prepare.

    What is this patch you speak of?
  • Reply 19 of 71
    It would be interesting to see if the USB-C to Thunderbolt2 dongle works with this card‽ 
  • Reply 20 of 71
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,574administrator
    blahfish said:
    It would be interesting to see if the USB-C to Thunderbolt2 dongle works with this card‽ 
    It does not. The card is a USB 3.1 card, not a Thunderbolt one. 

    Same physical connector, different communications protocols.

    USB 3.1 is contained within Thunderbolt 3, but Thunderbolt 3 is not contained within USB 3.1.
    blahfish
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