External graphics card support, a feature promised by Apple since the launch of macOS High Sierra back in September 2017, has finally arrived via version update 10.13.4 that is available now.
Apple has detailed how the feature works through a support page (opens in new tab) on its website, noting that this function only works with Macs that support Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. So, that means MacBook Pro models released since 2016, iMac models since 2017 and the brand new iMac Pro.
Of course, you’ll also need this update installed, which is available through the Mac App Store.
Having an external graphics card, or eGPU, connected to your allows for far more functionality than just improved graphics brunt, however. Here are the highlights of what the feature allows for, straight from the horse’s mouth:
- 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
While that’s more than perhaps many were expecting from this change, there is one glaring shortcoming of the feature.
Nvidia is a no-show
Sadly, the list of supported graphics cards is rather small, and even at that the list of graphics card enclosures that support each model is even smaller. Without getting buried in the minutiae, which you can find on Apple’s support page (opens in new tab), here are the supported graphics cards:
- AMD Radeon RX 570
- AMD Radeon RX 580
- AMD Radeon Pro WX 7100
- AMD Radeon RX Vega 56
- AMD Radeon RX Vega 64
- AMD Vega Frontier Edition Air
- AMD Radeon Pro WX 9100
Notice something missing from this list? That’s right, Nvidia’s graphics cards are nowhere to be found. Apple makes no mention of neither Nvidia nor its products within this support page detailing eGPU support.
So, regardless of the wattage of your eGPU enclosure, we certainly wouldn’t recommend trying out Nvidia graphics cards with your Mac computer. (Also, don’t try using eGPUs while running Windows in Boot Camp – Apple notes that this is not supported.)
It’s unclear as to why Apple has omitted Nvidia support entirely from its eGPU feature, but considering that none of its iMac or MacBook Pro models offer the option, it makes a little more sense. This is a massive boon to users wanting to game and get creative on Mac, but here’s to hoping that the list of supported hardware is widened out in the future.
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