Everyone is over the moon with the announcement yesterday at WWDC. Apple finally gave its blessings. Official macOS eGPU support is here. The general public won’t have access to this new feature until next spring. But if you’re the type who lives on the edge, here’s how you can get in on the action.
1. Be an Apple developer and buy its Metal 2 external GPU Development Kit ($599 in the US).
2. Be an eGPU enthusiast and buy the components we have sourced together in this guide.
Overall pricing for either option isn’t much different. You’ll end up $600 poorer and spend many hours toying with this thing like it was your first computer.
The major change this eGPU support announcement from Apple is that software side of things in macOS is now no longer a hack of system files. The eGPU community has been enjoying external graphics cards for years thanks to the selfless work from Nando, Goalque, and Rastafabi. Dare I say what our eGPU community accomplished through countless eGPU implementations on macOS has prompted Apple to finally take action. It comes in the form of macOS 10.13 High Sierra.
Hardware wise, Apple didn’t do much for its Metal 2 external GPU Development Kit. It simply outsourced the Thunderbolt 3 enclosure to Sonnet, then paired that with an AMD Radeon RX 580 graphics card. The addition of a Belkin USB-C to standard USB hub is to allow Thunderbolt 3 Macs to use HTC Vive.
What do we know about these hardware choice? Fortunately, we tested and reviewed this exact eGPU pairing not too long ago. We concluded the Sonnet Breakaway Box 350 is a great enclosure for professionals. It runs cool and quiet. Pricing at under $300 is a reasonable value.
The other crucial component is AMD Radeon RX 580 graphics card. It has a $229 MSRP however due to high demand for their use in crypto currrency mining there’s currently a shortage of these Polaris 10 GPUs. What is available sells for well above MSRP.
Some of you may like other enclosures better. The good news is, as long as the eGPU box has TI83 USB-C controller, it will work with native external GPU support in macOS 10.13 High Sierra. For example, an additional US$30 for the Sonnet Breakaway 550 over the 350 model will see charging capacity boosted from 15W to 87W. That is enough to power even a 15″ Macbook Pro via a single attached Thunderbolt 3 cable and so is money well spent. Do you require additional ports on your enclosure so it is an all-in-one docking solution? Consider the Mantiz Venus from the Buyer’s Guide.
Besides the Radeon RX 580 GPU, there are a handful of other AMD graphics cards which share the same PCI ID. We prepared this table to show you the alternative components you can use to build your own Metal 2 external GPU Development Kit.
|TB3 Enclosure||AMD Radeon|
|US$299 Sonnet Breakaway 350
US$329 Sonnet Breakaway 550
|US$299 AKiTiO Node||RX 570|
|~US$399-delivered Mantiz Venus||RX 480|
|~US$490 Asus XG Station 2||RX 470|
While Apple only mentioned Thunderbolt 3 Macs being supported in its release note, we have found the majority of Macs with Thunderbolt ports to be eGPU compatible. Take a look at our eGPU implementation list for successful Mac setup to get an idea whether your Mac would work. For quick reference, the table below details all Mac computers with Thunderbolt connectivity. Mac models with an asterisk (*) denote they have discrete graphics as a standard feature. If all goes well, you’ll see macOS detection of External Graphics as soon as you plug the enclosure into your Mac. Simply log out then back in to begin using the eGPU.
This was my attempt to connect all three TI83 enclosures I have to a late-2016 15″ MacBook Pro. macOS High Sierra detected all three without issues. The limitation I found is due to the MacBook Pro having only two Thunderbolt buses, the system may only use upto two eGPUs at once. Seeing the huge OpenCL performance boost, there’s little to no reason to complain about this limit. 😀
Join our forum to inquire or share your eGPU development kit build.