eGPU w/MacBook Pro Mid 2012 13" & OS X El Capitan 10.11.6
I'm looking for advice. I recently acquired an older 30-inch apple Cinema Display. (30-Inch Cinema Display) and I would like to use it as a 3rd monitor with my 13-inch Mid-2012 MBP running El Capitan 10.11.6. Currently, I have a 27-inch Thunderbolt display connected to my MacBook via a Thunderbolt port and it works great. However, I find my self needing more visual real-estate when using ProTools (AVID PT2018) (For those unfamiliar, ProTools it's a Digital Audio Workstation for home studio/professional recording. I use it in a home studio environment.) At any rate, I'm stuck in El Capitan due to licensing restrictions so I'm un-able to update to a newer OS. (If I update my OS, I loose too many licenses previous installed) In addition, I don't need an eGPU for gaming. I simply want to use 2 large monitors for ProTools. One monitor for the mix window and the other monitor for the edit window. And, the laptop screen to view pop-up plug-in windows. I'm thinking that I might be able to connect the 30-inch Cinema Display to an eGPU card housed in an external box of some kind like an Akito Node or Bizon Box of some sort that would connect to the back of the 27-inch Thunderbolt display that I'm currently running, via a Thunderbolt port. Or, as a 2nd option, perhaps I could run both my monitors off the eGPU. I can only imagine that graphic demands of ProTools is a mere fraction of what Gamers command of their systems. So, I don't believe I would need a high end graphics card. I only need something that would support the 30-inch Cinema Display or both the Thunderbolt display and the Cinema Display. However, after searching this site and web, I have not been able to definitely conclude if my older MBP would be capable of hosting an eGPU at all. Is my system too old & lame for an eGPU? Does anyone have any knowledge to share or guidance to point me toward? If so, I would be much appreciated. Thanks.
I'm pretty sure this is possible, but I don't have experience in macOS <10.13.4. I'd start by looking at the automate-eGPU.sh thread under software in the top bar.
@nu_ninja Thanks for the link, I will check it out.
If any one else comes across this thread, feel free to add. I'm like the vagrant on the corner with the sign that reads, "Anything helps."
Stating the obvious... that machine can upgrade to Mojave and can definitely work with an eGPU. If you can upgrade, or at least go to High Sierra > 10.13.4 you will have a ton of options. It would probably be easier to see if the licenses can be maintained through an upgrade than mess around with eGPUs on older OS versions.
@clarketus I see your point. I'll have to explore that option.
I've been reading and researching. I've estimated that the cost it would take to implement a eGPU with my current system just to get the 30-inch ACD working would be at least the same cost if not more than it would to buy a 2nd 27-inch Thunderbolt monitor. On a more positive note, if I upgrade the OS, I now see that it has more advantages or conviences to say the least. To take it a step further, upgrading the hardware/computer would be more cost effective solution (not considering the licenses-but that's a different situation all together). I just thought that when I scored a 30-inch monitor for next to nothing, I would be able to use it in the same vain. So, I suppose an eGPU & a 3rd monitor for this particular application/situation is not the best option. I guess I'll have to figure out in a different thread how to find a work-around for the software license issues when I upgrade (Some ideas come to mind already).
Thanks for the insight/guidance.
@e_s There are multiple constraints in your proposed setup that make it not cost effective after all said and done. Let's start with the iGPU of the mid 2012 13" MacBook Pro. It can support the internal display and up to 2560 x 1600 pixels on an external display. Therefore you can't daisy-chain another Thunderbolt Display to the existing one to have a dual external display setup running off the Intel HD Graphics 4000 iGPU.
The second limitation is Thunderbolt 1 on this system. It's best to have the eGPU at the front of the chain rather than behind the Thunderbolt display. You'd need an enclosure like the AKiTiO Thunder2 so that you can connect the Thunderbolt Display to the enclosure second Thunderbolt port. This would allow DisplayPort passthrough from the laptop iGPU to the Thunderbolt Display and the eGPU can power the 30" Cinema Display through Dual-Link DVI. If you can locate a GT 120 this setup may be right around $250. I would have recommended RX 460 but the first macOS version to support these Polaris GPUs is 10.12 Sierra.
@itsage Thanks for chiming in, very helpful advice.
That set up you recommended would be right in line with what I could utilize. I just need screen real-estate. (not looking to game)
Would you happen to know if that particular set up would be plug and play or is it safe to assume I will have to run some scripts or code in terminal to get it to work?
It's not plug-and-play because Apple has only supported Thunderbolt 3 eGPU since 10.13.4. Fortunately @goalque's automate-eGPU.sh should work. The GT 120 can pull enough power from the PCIe slot inside AKiTiO Thunder2.
@e_s IMO the most frictionless setup for the 13" MBP you have would be on the latest macOS versions with a 460 and @itsage's suggested wiring up of things plus purge-wrangler.sh. The same is true with El Capitan (with automate-eGPU.sh instead), except the lack of modern cheap GPU selections and no hot-unplug/plug.