Will An eGPU Work On My Mac?
An external graphics processing unit (eGPU) is a viable solution for rendering and using other GPU-intensive processes on a computer.
Using Mac OS Mojave or later OSs allows eGPU applications. Mac users have been exploring different ways to use eGPUs on Apple devices.
As you explore if an eGPU will prevent updating a primary computer system, remember numerous factors.
Thunderbolt 3 -
Any computer with Thunderbolt 3 (which mimics USB C) can quickly set up an eGPU. Buy an eGPU enclosure (PRO EDU tested on the Razor Core X and an AMD graphics card - it is pretty much plugged and play from there.
PRO EDU tested eGPUs with Thunderbolt 2 adapters (from Apple) on OS Mojave, OS Catalina, and OS Big Sur. The tests were conducted using a 27" iMac 5k Late 2015 and a MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015). In all tests, the systems recognize an eGPU attached to the computer but did not run applications through the eGPU. For example, when unplugging the eGPU, a system alert would come up the way it would for not disconnecting a hard drive properly, but applications would not access the eGPU.
PRO EDU testers loaded custom scripting into the OS following several internet forums' advice. However, they did not find a script that allowed Thunderbolt 2 to work properly.
AMD Graphics Cards -
Apple systems do not function with NVIDIA Graphics Cards. Testers used several custom OS hacking scripts designed to allow the system to access NVIDIA cards without any success. These internet scripts dangerously require altering the code in the operating systems to use NVIDIA Cards. In PRO EDU's testing, OS Mojave, OS Catalina, and OS Big Sur were tested without success. Proceed carefully.
AMD cards are very straight forward to use and again offer plug and play capabilities with Apple systems.
USB C Cables -
While many phones come with USB-C cables for charging, these cables cannot be used when transferring data. When purchasing a USB-C cable, pay attention to the cable's data transfer rates. PRO EDU tested with multiple cables between the eGPU and the OS. Particularly for 3D rendering times, picking the wrong cable can impact eGPU's performance. Ultimately the Apple Thunderbolt 3 Pro-Cable was the best option. It costs $129 for the 2-meter cable, which supports both DisplayPort output and USB 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps data transfer — though data speeds can be up to Thunderbolt 3’s standard 40Gbps between compatible devices. The $79.95 2-meter Belkin Thunderbolt 3 cable that Apple sells does not support DisplayPort or USB 3.1, meaning it is only really suited for use cases where every device in the chain has Thunderbolt 3. A MacBook Pro plugged into a Thunderbolt dock or an external GPU, would have the accessory’s ports limited to 480Mbps USB 2.0 speeds with USB-based peripherals. Do not spend tons of money upgrading a system's graphics card just to be handcuffed by a cable.
When this symbol appears (and stays) in the upper-righthand toolbar, the eGPU is connected to the system and ready to use. Navigate to the systems Activity Monitor>Window>GPU History to bring up a window to ensure both GPUs are functioning and monitor their activities independently.
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