Ars Technica said:Are external GPUs for Macs viable in macOS 10.13.4? We tested to find out
Performance doesn’t disappoint, but lack of strong software support does.
When Apple released macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 on March 29, fully supported external graphics-card functionality was one of the flagship features.
Most Macs ship with discrete or integrated GPUs—power-saving cousins to the graphics cards found in desktop PCs—that emphasize efficient power and heat management as much as they do performance. External graphics cards (eGPUs) allow users to connect those powerful desktop graphics cards to their computers via the Thunderbolt
That could solve many of the frustrations some users have with the Mac platform, like the lack of an upgrade path for professional-use machines that depend on graphics power and lackluster gaming performance in the latest games.
At Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) last year (and when the company unveiled the iMac Pro in December), it claimed that eGPUs would be a good way to add multiple GPUs for demanding work for which just one is not sufficient or to upgrade performance as the iMac Pro's included GPU ages.
When we talked with Survios, a studio that has developed VR software for the Mac platform, we learned that slow progress in the MacBook Pro and standard iMac integrated and discrete GPUs is holding back most Macs from supporting VR. Survios only supports the iMac Pro's built-in GPU.
Mac gamers have long dealt with GPUs that don't keep the pace with demands from the latest PC games, so eGPU enthusiast communities have popped up around the Web in places like the MacRumors forums and eGPU.io. There's pent-up demand for better graphics performance on Macs, and eGPUs offer some hope.
And Apple and Intel's Thunderbolt 3 interface (found in the highest-end Macs from 2016 and 2017, so far) offers theoretical speeds of up to 40Gbps. That's a big improvement over the previous interface, and it's arguably finally fast enough to finally make eGPUs viable without dramatic performance disadvantages compared to traditional PCI-e interfaces.
All that is to say that the time is ripe for eGPUs to come to the Mac. With the new official support in macOS 10.13.4, Apple is finally helping consumers try eGPUs out.
We tested an eGPU enclosure with a Thunderbolt 3-equipped MacBook Pro, and found that, in most applications, performance didn't disappoint. Unfortunately, we also found limitations and software support inconsistencies that prevent the Mac eGPU dream from being fully realized at this time.