As we have already covered here in MacMagazine, Apple now supports External GPUs at the macOS High Sierra. The thing, however, was only made official now, with the launch of the macOS 10.13.4. Along with it, Apple published a support document covering all aspects of this novelty.
For some, the resource may sound like something useless or of little importance. But the truth is that this is great news for gamers, professional video editors and virtual reality developers, who can now improve the graphics performance of their computers by using an external graphics card, connecting it to the Mac with a simple cable . It’s good to make it clear that, for optimal performance, eGPUs must be connected directly to your Mac and not be daisy-chained through another device or hub Thunderbolt.
The novelty can also help extend the life of older computers, if you are not willing to invest a lot of money in a new one – even though these eGPUs are costing a lot today due to the cryptocurrency mining market.
Your Mac equipped with Thunderbolt 3 running macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 can have access to additional graphics performance by connecting to an external graphics processor (also known as eGPU).
According to the Apple document, eGPUs are supported on MacBooks Pro 2016 or newer, iMacs 2017 or newer, and iMac Pro. The common thing about these computers is that they all offer at least one Thunderbolt 3 port – not to mention , of course, that they need to be running macOS 10.13.4.
Also according to the company, with an eGPU users can:
- Speed up applications that use Metal, OpenGL and OpenCL
- Connect additional external monitors
- Use headsets of virtual reality connected to the eGPU
- Recharge your MacBook Pro while using the eGPU
- Use eGPU with your MacBook Pro while it is closed
- Connect to eGPU while a user is logged in
- Connect more than one eGPU using the multiple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports on your Mac (if it has one)
- Easily and safely disconnect an eGPU from the menu bar
- View the activity levels of the internal and external GPUs (open the Activity Monitor and choose GPU History window)
In the document, Apple states that it is important to use an eGPU with a recommended graphics card and a Thunderbolt 3 chassis. If you are using a MacBook Pro, the eGPU’s Thunderbolt 3 chassis needs to provide enough power to run the graphics card while charging the computer . So, you need to check with the chassis manufacturer to find out how much power it provides, making sure the power is enough to recharge the connected 61W MacBook Pro for the 13 ″ model (87W for the 15 ″ model).
Apple, of course, has made a list of recommended graphics cards – which include only AMD eGPUs:
- Radeon RX 570
- Radeon RX 580
- Radeon Pro WX 7100
- Radeon RX Vega 56
- Radeon RX Vega 64
- Vega Frontier Edition Air
- Radeon Pro WX 9100
The chassis recommended by the company are:
- OWC Mercury Helios FX (85W, enough to recharge the 15 ″ MBP)
- PowerColor Devil Box
- Sapphire Gear Box
- Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 350W
- Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 550W (85W, enough to recharge the 15 ″ MBP)
- Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650W (85W, enough to recharge the 15 ″ MBP)
Sonnet also offers an eGPU all-in-one (the Sonnet Radeon RX 570 eGFX Breakaway Puck), capable of providing enough power for the 15 ″ MacBook Pro.
It’s not all flowers, of course; macOS High Sierra does not support eGPUs in some cases. They are: on Windows (using Boot Camp), when the Mac is on macOS Recovery or when installing system updates.
A major absence was, as we commented above, NVIDIA. Maybe we’ll see updates from drivers of the company’s boards for macOS in order to make them work on Apple’s new system.
That aside – and even though eGPU support is at a very early stage – the news is very encouraging and very welcome for Mac users around the world.