(Not sure where to put this, but it's not really related to notebooks and seems to fit graphics better)
Pretty new to the forums here, though I've been lurking around for a while on TH's front page.
I have a MacBook Pro 15" Early 2011, Sandy Bridge-based, the one with the first generation Thunderbolt controller. For a while I've been wanting to get better graphics performance on my Mac. Gaming aside, CUDA programming has also become a daily task for me, which is kind of a pain if you need to rely on x86 emulation.
The article states that, while current PCIe enclosures do not officially support it, graphics over Thunderbolt certainly is possible. The only catch is that it will only work in Windows 7 at this time. That's fine by me - in fact, I would prefer it to be working in Windows. On the OS X end, it would just be nice to have.
I was offered a deal that allowed me to get the hardware with a discount. So I went and bought a Sonnet Echo Express and a shiny new ASUS GeForce GTX 650.
Here's the entire specs list:
MacBook Pro 15" Early 2011 (Ci7 @ 2.2 GHz, AMD HD6750m, Thunderbolt, not sure which controller)
Snow Leopard 10.6.8
Windows 7 Professional x64 with SP1
Sonnet Echo Express Standard (capable of handling 100W cards)
ASUS GeForce GTX 650 (65W, PCIe bus powered)
I have also tested this with:
Mac Mini Late 2012 (Ci7 @ 2.6 GHz, Intel HD4000, Thunderbolt, Cactus Ridge)
Mountain Lion 10.8.2
Windows 7 Professional x64 with SP1
When I connect the Echo Express to either system, it boots into Windows with no trouble. I get a few pop ups saying new hardware was found and it installs a number of PCI bridges.
If I install the graphics card in the box (after shutting down), and power up, I get the gray screen right after hearing the Mac startup sound. Then it disappears, and I get a black screen. From that point on it seemingly doesn't do anything. To make sure it's not just the display signal that is turned off (quite likely if there are no drivers installed yet), I installed a VNC server that automatically launches together with Windows. I cannot login, even after waiting for 10+ minutes. Also, pinging it over a network doesn't return any response, which means it does indeed never boot into Windows.
If I take out the GPU and power up with an empty Echo Express, everything is fine again and it boots into Windows.
Attaching the box while Windows is already booted up doesn't work. According to the article, Windows 7 won't recognize any of the Thunderbolt hardware if it's not connected before booting.
I was worried something was wrong with either the enclosure or the graphics card, so I started fiddling around in OS X. On the MacBook Pro, this was a no go, as I read only Mountain Lion supports Kepler GPUs. So I went and attached it to the Mac Mini.
I tried everything, from inserting PCI IDs in the appropriate kexts, to installing an NVIDIA driver which is supposed to specifically support the GTX 650 (as stated here). Eventually, it worked! It now pops up in the System Profiler. There's no hardware acceleration though - my guess is the driver supports Kepler GPUs but not this particular one, so all I'm getting is a 2D desktop.
- With the Echo Express attached and the GPU installed, both the MacBook Pro and Mac Mini never boot into Windows 7. Right after the gray "EFI screen", everything stays black.
- On the Mac Mini, booting into OS X is no problem. With some fiddling I got OS X to detect and use the GPU, which means both the Echo Express and the GPU work. No hardware acceleration though.
- The article does not mention the use of any specific (EFI) settings or drivers, even though graphics cards have been used that aren't supported by Apple (GTX460, HD6970). In fact, the conclusion says the combination "simply works" with the appropriate Windows 7 drivers. However, because it already hangs before booting into Windows, it looks like there's an issue with the Mac's EFI together with this GPU. Have I missed out on something?
- Booting into Windows 7 with the Thunderbolt hardware attached is a no go, but neither is connecting it after booting. Does Windows 8 have the same limitations as Windows 7 on this end, i.e. that it cannot detect Thunderbolt hardware after it's booted up? I'm not a fan, though if I can workaround the booting issue by using Windows 8 and connecting everything after booting, I'll install it.
I have been searching on Google for days to no avail. There's only little info on the net (if at all). Any help would be greatly appreciated!