Better late than never, Apple will now officially add Mac eGPU drivers for Thunderbolt 3 equipped Macs in MacOS 10.13.4. This is welcome news to many iMac and Mac Pro users desperate to put more GPU power behind various power hungry applications such as DaVinci Resolve.
What is an eGPU?
Answering this question first requires answering an underlying question of what is Thunderbolt.
Thunderbolt was developed to simultaneously support the fastest data and most video bandwidth available on a single cable, using both PCI Express and DisplayPort protocols. With Thunderbolt 2, this was 20Gbps, while with Thunderbolt 3 the speed was doubled to 40Gbps.
- 40 Gbps Thunderbolt™ 3 – double the speed of Thunderbolt 2
- Bi-directional, dual-protocol (PCI Express and DisplayPort)
- 4 lanes of PCI Express Gen 3
- 8 lanes of DisplayPort 1.2 (HBR2 and MST)
Thunderbolt 3 allows you to utilise 4 lanes of PCI Express with a total bandwidth of 2750MB/sec outside of your host system.
A Thunderbolt to PCIe enclosure, such as the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box provides power and high bandwidth PCIe for compatible desktop cards, not only GPU’s but even video I/O cards and non-GPU cards such as the RED ROCKET-X.
Mac eGPU support in OSX 10.13.4
I witnessed a Sonnet eGPU Breakaway Box unofficially running a Radeon GPU on a MacBook Pro twelve months ago at NAB 2017 but it required some back-end tweaking and was very “unofficial”.
Now the wait is over, and Apple have released the requirements in a new document, which you should definitely familiarise yourself with if you’re planning to take the plunge.
With eGPU support in macOS 10.13.4, you can:
- Accelerate applications that use Metal, OpenGL, and OpenCL
- Connect additional external monitors and displays
- Use virtual reality headsets plugged into the eGPU
- Charge your MacBook Pro while using the eGPU
- Use an eGPU with your MacBook Pro while its built-in display is closed
- Connect an eGPU while a user is logged inConnect more than one eGPU using the multiple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports on your Mac
- Use the menu bar item to safely disconnect the eGPU
- View the activity levels of built-in and external GPUs. Open Activity Monitor, then choose Window > GPU History.
Recommended Mac eGPU cards
Apple have so far listed only the Radeon GPU’s below:
- AMD Radeon RX 570
- AMD Radeon RX 580
- Radeon Pro WX 7100
- AMD Radeon RX Vega 56
- AMD Radeon RX Vega 64
- Vega Frontier Edition Air
- Radeon Pro WX 9100
Recommended Mac eGPU Enclosures
Be sure to check the full requirements explained in the Apple configuration document to make sure you match up the right eGPU enclosure for the GPU you want to use.
- OWC Mercury Helios FX
- PowerColor Devil Box
- Sapphire Gear Box
- Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 350W
- Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 550W
- Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650W
eGPU Power on the Go
For mobile post production users that carry a Macbook Pro with them on set, or for editing and grading on the road, the new Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck could be just what you’ve been waiting for.
With an integrated Radeon RX570, the Mac compatible Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck Radeon RX 570 provides 4GB of GDDR 5 GPU memory in a compact form factor that you can throw in your gear bag or backpack and hit the road. It will need mains power, so it’s not an unplugged solution.
Thunderbolt 3 Only
I am sure many of you with older Thunderbolt 2 equipped Macs will be asking if you will be able to use an eGPU too. Unfortunately the answer is no.
If you’re on the fence thinking about replacing an older Mac, this news may be enough to push you into a decision on a new Macbook Pro or iMac.
This is long awaited news for many, and promises to supercharge post production users on the go.
Are you going to add a eGPU to your Mac? Let us know what you think in the comments.