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Hands-On: Mantiz MZ-02 EGPU

The external GPU market is growing, and more companies are offering their own graphics card enclosures. Newcomer Mantiz Innovations has released their entry into the increasingly crowded market; the MZ-02 “Venus” EGPU. Like the majority of EGPUs out there, the MZ-02 leverages the power and transfer speeds of Intel’s Thunderbolt 3.

That’s because Thunderbolt 3 is the fastest wired inter-device connection around, capable of sending and receiving data at 40Gbps. It also combines Displayport 1.2, USB 3.1 and PCIe transfer protocols all into one cable, and can additionally supply enough electrical current to power a laptop to boot.

EGPUs tend to come in two flavors: fully assembled systems that come with a graphics card already installed, and empty enclosures that leave it up to the buyer which components to install. The MZ-02 is the latter, but fortunately we have GPUs aplenty around here.

The “Space Box”

The most immediately striking thing about the MZ-02 is its dedication to minimalism. The whole enclosure is a brushed metal rectangle with flat faces on the sides, and curves around some edges. The shape is only broken up where it has to be by necessity of being a function item, pesky things like ports, connections, and cooling vents mar the otherwise sleek design.

It might not be an accident that the whole kit looks a bit like a Steve Jobs dream. It’s worth noting that macOS 10.13 “High Sierra” will have support for EGPUs through use of Apple’s Metal 2 video rendering API. Maybe Mantiz is trying to get ahead of the curve here to be one of the first to market with an EGPU that any Macbook Pro owner would find appealing. Since Macbook Pros pretty much only have TB3 ports, they could benefit greatly from some of the extra connectivity offered by the MZ-02 enclosure.

Speaking of connectivity options, the Mantiz MZ-02 also has decent functionality as a laptop dock. The rear of the box has an ethernet jack, as well as 3 USB-A ports. It’s also got the two ports that need to be plugged in for the system to work, the single TB3 port and the power cord.

The front of the MZ-02 has two USB 3.0 ports. That’s it. No LEDs, no vents. Clean and simple.

Mantiz sells two versions of the MZ-02, which are identical save for the color. The one featured here in our photos is “Space Grey,” while the other version is silver.

What's inside

Since the Mantiz MZ-02 is a EGPU enclosure that isn’t sold with an actual GPU, we decided to focus on the process of installing a graphics card rather than what we installed. For this reason, you won't see any benchmarks in this article. You’d be far better served by looking up your favorite graphics card's benchmarks.

The MZ-02 offers an array of connectivity options, and has the space to house some real horsepower.

Keep in mind that due to the nature of Thunderbolt 3, you will lose out on some of the performance of any GPU. TB3 is only capable of transmitting at PCIe x2 or x4 speeds, while graphics cards typically operate at PCIe x16 speeds.

All that said, installing a GPU into the MZ-02 is amazingly straightforward. Remove the side panel (the one with ventilation holes) by grabbing where the panel curves inward and pulling. It’s held in place by 4 friction pins, and will simply pop out. After that, remove the the PCI slot protectors and insert your GPU into the PCie bus as you would on a desktop motherboard. Replace all the screws, pop the side panel back into place, and you’re ready for action.

Put Your Cards On The Table

The first time around we installed an Nvidia GTX 1060, but I felt there was plenty of space left over. I wagered the MZ-02 could fit a larger card. It turns out you can, but it’s not exactly easy. We tried one of the largest cards on the market, the EVGA GTX 1080 Ti. We were able to get the card to fit, but it took a lot of finessing to get it into place and screwed down properly. The lesson here is that you can fit some enormous GPUs into the MZ-02, but be prepared to pass your dexterity check.

Performance was largely what I expected from a 1080 Ti: Outstanding overall, with a couple of frames per second lost to PCIe x4 speeds.

Another thing to note is the MX-02’s power supply. It’s 550W Gold rated, and is much smaller than a typical ATX supply. Still, it gets the job done, and it provides enough power to satiate the thirstiest GPUs. Cable options include the ATX12V cable, two 8-pin PCI connections, one MOLEX, and one SATA power.

The SATA power cable caught me off guard. After all, the main board doesn’t have any SATA ports. It’s a little hard to find, but there actually is a SATA connection port tucked away on the back side of the secondary vertical card. The case itself has a little mounting bracket for a 2.5” SSD in the far front corner. Between the PCIe bus, the ability to mount some extra storage and five USB ports, the Mantiz offers some room to grow.

The Prettiest EGPU

Out of all the EGPU’s we’ve reviewed so far, the Mantiz MZ-02 is definitely the most stylish, and will probably be very appealing to those who appreciate the Apple approach to cosmetic design.

Still, even for something so sleek, the MZ-02 offers an array of connectivity options, and has the space to house some real horsepower. Better yet, the guts offer a few options for internal upgrades.

If you’re looking for an EGPU and you want your desk to look like a MOMA exhibit, the Mantiz MZ-02 could be perfect.