External Graphics For Mac

  • Western Digital My Passport 4TB. The overall best external hard drive for Mac or PC.
  • Razer Core X Chroma. An eGPU Enclosure Dedicated to a Great Gaming Experience.
  1. Mac External Video Card
  2. External Graphics Card For Desktop

Asus ROG XG Station 2. Big size, big price tag. The only thing bigger than the Asus ROG XG Station.

An eGPU can give your Mac additional graphics performance for professional apps, 3D gaming, VR content creation, and more.

eGPUs are supported by any Thunderbolt 3-equipped Mac1 running macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 or later. Learn how to update the software on your Mac.

An eGPU lets you do all this on your Mac:

  • Accelerate apps 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 in
  • Connect more than one eGPU using the multiple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports on your Mac2
  • 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.)

eGPU support in apps

eGPU support in macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 and later is designed to accelerate Metal, OpenGL, and OpenCL apps that benefit from a powerful eGPU. Not all apps support eGPU acceleration; check with the app's developer to learn more.3

In general, an eGPU can accelerate performance in these types of apps:

  • Pro apps designed to utilize multiple GPUs
  • 3D games, when an external monitor is attached directly to the eGPU
  • VR apps, when the VR headset is attached directly to the eGPU
  • Pro apps and 3D games that accelerate the built-in display of iMac, iMac Pro, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro (This capability must be enabled by the app's developer.)

You can configure applications to use an eGPU with one of the following methods.

Use the Prefer External GPU option

Starting with macOS Mojave 10.14, you can turn on Prefer External GPU in a specific app's Get Info panel in the Finder. This option lets the eGPU accelerate apps on any display connected to the Mac—including displays built in to iMac, iMac Pro, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro:

  1. Quit the app if it's open.
  2. Select the app in the Finder. Most apps are in your Applications folder. If you open the app from an alias or launcher, Control-click the app's icon and choose Show Original from the pop-up menu. Then select the original app.
  3. Press Command-I to show the app's info window.
  4. Select the checkbox next to Prefer External GPU.
  5. Open the app to use it with the eGPU.

You won't see this option if an eGPU isn't connected, if your Mac isn't running macOS Mojave or later, or if the app self-manages its GPU selection. Some apps, such as Final Cut Pro, directly choose which graphics processors are used and will ignore the Prefer External GPU checkbox.

Set an external eGPU-connected display as the primary display

If you have an external display connected to your eGPU, you can choose it as the primary display for all apps. Since apps default to the GPU associated with the primary display, this option works with a variety of apps:

  1. Quit any open apps that you want the eGPU to accelerate on the primary display.
  2. Choose Apple menu  > System Preferences. Select Displays, then select the Arrangement tab.
  3. Drag the white menu bar to the box that represents the display that's attached to the eGPU.
  4. Open the apps that you want to use with the eGPU.

If you disconnect the eGPU, your Mac defaults back to the internal graphics processors that drives the built-in display. When the eGPU is re-attached, it automatically sets the external display as the primary display.

About macOS GPU drivers

Mac hardware and GPU software drivers have always been deeply integrated into the system. This design fuels the visually rich and graphical macOS experience as well as many deeper platform compute and graphics features. These include accelerating the user interface, providing support for advanced display features, rendering 3D graphics for pro software and games, processing photos and videos, driving powerful GPU compute features, and accelerating machine learning tasks. This deep integration also enables optimal battery life while providing for greater system performance and stability.

Abp for mac. Apple develops, integrates, and supports macOS GPU drivers to ensure there are consistent GPU capabilities across all Mac products, including rich APIs like Metal, Core Animation, Core Image, and Core ML. In order to deliver the best possible customer experience, GPU drivers need to be engineered, integrated, tested, and delivered with each version of macOS. Aftermarket GPU drivers delivered by third parties are not compatible with macOS.

The GPU drivers delivered with macOS are also designed to enable a high quality, high performance experience when using an eGPU, as described in the list of recommended eGPU chassis and graphics card configurations below. Because of this deep system integration, only graphics cards that use the same GPU architecture as those built into Mac products are supported in macOS.

Supported eGPU configurations

It's important to use an eGPU with a recommended graphics card and Thunderbolt 3 chassis. If you use an eGPU to also charge your MacBook Pro, the eGPU's chassis needs to provide enough power to run the graphics card and charge the computer. Check with the manufacturer of the chassis to find out if it provides enough power for your MacBook Pro.

Recommended graphics cards, along with chassis that can power them sufficiently, are listed below.

Thunderbolt 3 all-in-one eGPU products

These products contain a powerful built-in GPU and supply sufficient power to charge your MacBook Pro.

Recommended Thunderbolt 3 all-in-one eGPUs:

  • Blackmagic eGPU and Blackmagic eGPU Pro4
  • Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box4
  • Sonnet Radeon RX 570 eGFX Breakaway Puck
  • Sonnet Radeon RX 560 eGFX Breakaway Puck5

AMD Radeon RX 470, RX 480, RX 570, RX 580, and Radeon Pro WX 7100

These graphics cards are based on the AMD Polaris architecture. Recommended graphics cards include the Sapphire Pulse series and the AMD WX series.

Recommended Thunderbolt 3 chassis for these graphics cards:

  • OWC Mercury Helios FX4
  • PowerColor Devil Box
  • Sapphire Gear Box
  • Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 350W
  • Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 550W4
  • Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650W4
  • Razer Core X4
  • PowerColor Game Station4
  • HP Omen4
  • Akitio Node6

AMD Radeon RX Vega 56

These graphics cards are based on the AMD Vega 56 architecture. Recommended graphics cards include the Sapphire Vega 56.

Recommended Thunderbolt 3 chassis for these graphics cards:

  • OWC Mercury Helios FX4
  • PowerColor Devil Box
  • Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 550W4
  • Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650W4
  • Razer Core X4
  • PowerColor Game Station4

AMD Radeon RX Vega 64, Vega Frontier Edition Air, and Radeon Pro WX 9100

These graphics cards are based on the AMD Vega 64 architecture. Recommended graphics cards include the Sapphire Vega 64, AMD Frontier Edition air-cooled, and AMD Radeon Pro WX 9100.

Recommended Thunderbolt 3 chassis for these graphics cards:

  • Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650W4
  • Razer Core X4

AMD Radeon RX 5700, 5700 XT, and 5700 XT 50th Anniversary

If you've installed macOS Catalina 10.15.1 or later, you can use these graphics cards that are based on the AMD Navi RDNA architecture. Recommended graphics cards include the AMD Radeon RX 5700, AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT, and AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT 50th Anniversary.

Recommended Thunderbolt 3 chassis for these graphics cards:

  • Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650W4
  • Razer Core X4

Learn more

  • Learn how to choose your GPU in Final Cut Pro X 10.4.7 or later.
  • To ensure the best eGPU performance, use the Thunderbolt 3 cable that came with your eGPU or an Apple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) cable. Also make sure that the cable is connected directly to a Thunderbolt 3 port on your Mac, not daisy-chained through another Thunderbolt device or hub.
  • If you have questions about Thunderbolt 3 chassis or graphics cards, or about third-party app support and compatibility, contact the hardware or software provider.
  • Software developers can learn more about programming their apps to take advantage of macOS eGPU support.

1. If you have a Mac mini (2018) with FileVault turned on, make sure to connect your primary display directly to Mac mini during startup. After you log in and see the macOS Desktop, you can unplug the display from Mac mini and connect it to your eGPU.

2. If you're using a 13-inch MacBook Pro from 2016 or 2017, always plug eGPUs and other high-performance devices into the left-hand ports for maximum data throughput.

3. macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 and later don't support eGPUs in Windows using Boot Camp or when your Mac is in macOS Recovery or installing system updates.

4. These chassis provide at least 85 watts of charging power, making them ideal for use with 15-inch MacBook Pro models.

5. Playback of HDCP-protected content from iTunes and some streaming services is not supported on displays attached to Radeon 560-based eGPUs. You can play this content on the built-in display on MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and iMac.

6. If you use Akitio Node with a Mac notebook, you might need to connect your Mac to its power adapter to ensure proper charging.

The idea of an external graphics card (eGPU) was once the talk of fantasy, but that’s no longer the case. Thanks to Thunderbolt 3 and its high-bandwidth 40Gbps transfer rate, external enclosures can now accommodate high-end graphics cards.

That means you can now supercharge the visual performance of your Mac computer, even if it’s a laptop. There are some caveats to doing this, namely a limited number of supported graphics cards and the high price of getting started.

That said, let’s take a look at what you need to add an external GPU to your Mac or MacBook and which ones you should buy.

What You’ll Need

First, you’ll need a Thunderbolt 3-capable Mac or MacBook model. Thunderbolt 3 uses the USB-C connector, and appears on the following models:

  • MacBook Pro, late 2016 and newer
  • MacBook Air, 2018 and newer
  • iMac, 2017 and newer
  • iMac Pro, 2017
  • Mac Pro, 2019

In addition to owning one of these Apple computers, you’ll also need macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 or later. Finally, you’ll need to purchase two additional items, either separately or as part of a bundle:

  1. A Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosure, into which your graphics card will slot.
  2. A macOS-compatible graphics card.

With all this in place, you should be able to put the graphics card into the enclosure, then plug the enclosure into your Mac for a significant boost in graphical fidelity. However, you may still be limited in how you can use your eGPU.

The Limitations of External GPUs on macOS

Not every application you run can take advantage of your eGPU. In many cases, you’ll need to plug an external monitor directly into the eGPU enclosure to see the benefit. This is the case with many 3D games and VR applications.

Some pro-level software designed to take advantage of multiple GPUs will just work as you’d expect. This includes 3D modeling apps and video editors, but it’s worth confirming your application will see a benefit before you buy an eGPU.

Some applications and games have received patches allowing you to accelerate the built-in display on your iMac or MacBook. However, this is something that developers must enable on their end, so it’s worth keeping in mind if you’re thinking of using an eGPU purely to accelerate your in-built display.

External Graphics Card for Mac

At present, there are only a small number of compatible graphics cards you can use as an eGPU on your Mac. They are all AMD cards.

According to Apple, these are:

  • AMD Polaris cards: Radeon RX 470, RX 480, RX 570, RX 580, and Radeon Pro WX 7100
  • AMD Vega 64 cards: Radeon RX Vega 64, Vega Frontier Edition Air, and Radeon Pro WX 9100
  • AMD Radeon RX Vega 56

The Best eGPU Enclosures and All-in-One Options for Mac

External Graphics For Mac

1. Blackmagic eGPU

A great first place to look when searching for an external GPU for your Mac is with the Blackmagic eGPU. This eGPU sports a Radeon Pro 580 graphics processor with 8GB of GDDR5 memory. It also offers several additional ports to use.

Thanks to up to an 85W power delivery feature, you can use one of the two included Thunderbolt 3 ports to power your MacBook Pro without needing to worry about an additional power brick. There is also an HDMI 2.0 port and four USB 3.0 ports.

Mac External Video Card

Blackmagic includes a 0.5m Thunderbolt 3 cable so you can get started with the eGPU right out of the box.

2. Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650

External Graphics Card For Desktop

Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650 Buy Now On Amazon

You’ll need to provide your own Mac-compatible graphics card when using the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650. The 650W power supply supports 375W cards that require up to an additional 100W of peak power.

There is also 100W of power delivery reserved to power a laptop with the one Thunderbolt 3 port. A 0.7m 40Gb Thunderbolt 3 cable is included with the enclosure.

3. Razer Core X Chroma

Razer Core X ChromaRazer Core X Chroma Buy Now On Amazon $399.99

If you already have a graphics card in mind, the Razer Core X Chroma is another great enclosure choice. The 700W power supply can support a graphics card up to 500W. There is also 100W available for powering a laptop via the Thunderbolt 3 port. On the rear of the enclosure, you’ll find four USB. 3.1 ports and a Gigabit Ethernet plug.

When it’s time to install the card, there is a quick-release handle on the enclosure to bring out the slider tray. No tools are needed for a quick and easy installation. The enclosure sports additional cooling and open vents in the body for the best thermal performance.

4. Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck

The Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck Radeon is made for portability. The all-in-one option sports a built-in Radeon RX 560 GPU. Along with three DisplayPort ports, there is an HDMI 2.0 port and a single Thunderbolt 3 plug.

The Thunderbolt 3 port can provide up to 60W of power to your MacBook Pro. Sonnet includes a 0.5m Thunderbolt 3 cable. While the additional VESA mounting bracket allows you to place the eGPU on the back of a monitor to free up desk space.

5. PowerColor Mini Pro

PowerColor Mini ProPowerColor Mini Pro Buy Now On Amazon $477.41

The PowerColor Mini Pro sports a built-in AMD RX570 graphics card with 8GB of memory, so you’ll be comfortably set up to attach it to your Mac. Thanks to an external power adapter, the eGPU is lightweight and compact, making it perfect for a desk. It also cuts down on heat inside the enclosure.

On the front of the eGPU is the Thunderbolt 3 port and two USB 3.0 ports to connect another device like an external hard drive. The rear of the box sports several display connection options—two DisplayPort plugs, two HDMI ports, and a single DVI-D port. There is also a Gigabit Ethernet plug on the side of the box for a fast Internet connection.

Turn Up the Graphics With the Best Mac External GPU

Even though a MacBook or MacBook Pro is a powerhouse by itself, adding an external GPU can bring the visual performance of your Mac to new heights. Fortunately, there are other ways to bring more of a desktop-like experience to your laptop, too.

For instance, take a look at these great Thunderbolt 3 docks for Your MacBook Pro.

Read the full article: The Best External GPU for a MacBook Pro

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