In a previous video, I showed a 2018 Mac mini gaming setup using an AMD RX Vega 64 eGPU running Windows 10 via Boot Camp. Will a similar setup work for a Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GPU from EVGA?
Synology RT2600ac: AirPort Extreme Replacement.
I declare this post saying that Apple does not support eGPUs in Windows via Boot Camp. While that's definitely the case for Apple's laptops, I've found that the AMD RX Vega 64 GPU works pretty well in Windows running on the 2018 Mac mini. With this in mind, I saw no reason why a modern Nvidia card, such as the RTX 2080, should not work in Windows on Apple's latest Mac mini.
Remember that there are no Nvidia Web drivers for MacOS Mojave 10.14, and as such you cannot run Nvidia-based eGPUs on Macs running Mojave.
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There are five pieces of hardware I used for this setup:  2018 Mac mini (6-core i7 with 32GB RAM) (review)  LG UltraWide 5K2K Display (review)
As You may have concluded, this is pretty expensive setup, but it is more a proof of concept than anything else. Of course, you can use cheaper components if you want to.
I would like to thank the nice folks at EVGA for lending me a GeForce RTX 2080 for use in this test.
Install RTX 2080 GPU inside the Razer Core X
The first step is to install the RTX 2080 GPU inside the graphics chassis. I chose the Razer Core X because it is the only eGPU chassis I own that is wide enough to fit the three-track EVGA RTX 2080.
Neither the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650 nor the Akitio Node Pro allow the RTX 2080 to fit inside. Even the Razer Core X provides a snug and somewhat uncomfortable fit, as it is clearly designed for two cards, but it is forgiving enough to receive EVGA cards.
Install Windows 10 via Boot Camp Assistant
The next step to copying this setup is to install Windows 10. To learn how easy it is to install Windows 10 on Mac mini or other Mac hardware, follow our easy-to-use video throughout
Since macOS Mojave is not compatible with Nvidia GPUs, and no version of macOS works with RTX 2080, you need to bypass the Nvidia eGPU setup when running macOS.
Use Mac mini-HDMI port to bypass eGPU at MacOS startup
This is where Mac Mini's built-in HDMI port comes in handy. If the monitor you are connecting has both HDMI and DisplayPort connections, use only the HDMI connection when you need to boot into macOS and the DisplayPort connection (or the other HDMI connection) when using eGPU.
DisplayPort Connection to the External Display
Connecting the RTX 2080 eGPU
After completing the Windows 10 Boot Camp tutorial above, you can now focus on connecting eGPU to Mac. Connect the Thunderbolt 3 cable from the eGPU to the Mac mini Thunderbolt 3 port and turn on the eGPU.
EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 inside the Razer Core X
Windows should detect eGPU and start installing drivers. Check the Windows Update and Device Manager for the status of the driver installation. Once the installation is complete, you will be prompted to restart the Mac mini. Instead of restarting, turn off your Mac mini.
Windows Update Driver Installation Status
After turning off, disconnect the HDMI cable from the Mac mini and the external monitor, and connect the DisplayPort cable from the eGPU to the external monitor.
Start your Mac mini, and if you see the Windows desktop, you're in business. If you have trouble reaching the desktop, check the monitor's setting setting, the DisplayPort cable, etc. Remember that macOS is not compatible with Nvidia GPUs, so if your computer starts up in macOS, you cannot see your Mac login screen until you can directly connect via HDMI.
Download an installation Nvidia Drivers
Go to the Nvidia website and download the necessary GeForce drivers for the RTX 2080. Navigate the driver software and make sure the drivers are installed
 When the driver installer is finished, you are prompted to restart the computer.
If you want to confirm that everything is properly installed, visit Device Manager and check under Display Adapters. You should see the Nvidia RTX 2080 GPU listed there without an exclamation point or question mark.
GeForce RTX 2080 eGPU Mac mini performance
The installation process is easy enough, but does performance improve enough to move current Mac mini-owners to consider such a setup? The Unigine Heaven and Valley references paint an encouraging image.
Although you ran these references at the Ultra settings of 3440 × 1440, the performance was good. Remember, this is a 2018 Mac mini, which contains a very anemic and underwhelming integrated GPU. The RTX 2080 makes the Mac mini a different class machine with a single Thunderbolt 3 cable.
Rocket League (5120 × 2160)
Although the Rocket League is not known as a title that creates hardware, I was still impressed that I could run it smoothly on the LG UltraWide 5K2K's native 5120 × 2160 resolution by the highest settings. The result was a disappointing widescreen gameplay experience without delay, even with many on-screen actions.
Other games I played contained more demanding titles such as Forza Horizon 4. With that title, I could run it using the Ultra settings at 3440 × 1440 resolution. Average frame speed around a very playable 54 FPS.
Forza Horizon 4 (3440 × 1440)
Project cars 2, a much more demanding title, began to show the limitations of such a set-up when driving at higher resolutions. At 3440 × 1440, I average around 50 fps at high settings. Introduction of weather effects that rain further dampen the experience, so it is likely beneficial to release the resolution to stabilize performance.
Project Cars 2 (3440 × 1440)
It was surprising that I had the most trouble playing Ark. It's playable, but it wasn't a good experience. This has probably had a lot to do with impatience and lack of testing of various quality configurations, although I've heard that Ark may be difficult on dedicated gaming machines.
ARK (3440 × 1440)
If you look at Windows games on the Mac mini, I recommend you invest in an Xbox Wireless Controller. Connection of the controller is an effortless affair, and it is a great way to achieve the console-like experience.
My 2018 Mac mini has a poor amount of built-in storage, so I connected the G-Drive 1TB Thunderbolt 3 SSD to game installations. This gives me external storage that is even faster than the built-in SSD contained in my Macintosh 2018.
If you choose to go this route, you will avoid connecting to the drive of the same Thunderbolt 3 bus occupied by eGPU. The two left ports Thunderbolt 3 are connected to bus 0, while the two right ports connect to bus 1. If the eGPU is connected to bus 0, the external SSD connects to bus 1, or vice versa.
Installing Steam games on an external SSD
Although I certainly would not recommend buying a Mac mini solely as a gaming computer, I think it gives a very skilled machine if you want to go that route. If you already own a Mac mini to run macOS, it's good to know that you have hardware that can do so much more if needed.
You don't have to choose the latest and greatest eGPU setup either. You can go with a cheaper chassis + GPU combination and still create a skilled Windows gaming machine. Or, if MacOS compatibility is a must, you can always go the AMD eGPU route so you can use enhanced graphics on both MacOS and Windows.
Setup like this continues to emphasize how versatile a machine 2018 Mac mini is. The introduction of Thunderbolt 3 I / O alters total makeup and overall capabilities of Apple's smallest and most affordable Mac computer.
What do you think?
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