The idea of an external graphics card (eGPU) was once a fantasy speech, but it is no longer so. With Thunderbolt 3 and a bandwidth of 40 Gbps, external enclosures can now accommodate high-end graphics cards.
This means you can now download the visual performance of your Mac, even if it’s a laptop. There are some caveats to this, namely the limited number of supported graphics cards and the high cost of getting started.
Then let’s see what you need to add an external GPU to your Mac or MacBook and which ones you should buy.
What do you need
First, you need a Thunderbolt 3-compatible Mac or MacBook model. Thunderbolt 3 uses a USB-C connector and is available on the following models:
- MacBook Pro, late 2016 and later
- MacBook Air, 2018 and later
- iMac, 2017 and later
- iMac Pro, 2017
- Mac Pro, 2019
In addition to owning one of these Apple computers, you will also need macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 or later. Finally, you will need to purchase two additional products, either separately or as part of a package:
- Thunderbolt 3 eGPU case that comes with your video card.
- MacOS compatible video card.
Once all of this is in place, you should be able to put the video card in a case and then plug the case into your Mac to significantly increase graphical loyalty. However, the use of EGPU may be limited.
Limitations of MacOS external GPUs
Not all applications you use can take advantage of eGPU. In many cases, you will need to connect an external monitor directly to the eGPU enclosure to benefit. This is the case in many 3D games and VR applications.
Some pro-level software designed to take advantage of multiple GPUs works exactly as you expected. This includes 3D modeling applications and video editing software, but you should confirm the benefits of your application before purchasing an eGPU.
Some apps and games have been fixed to help speed up the internal display on your iMac or MacBook. However, this is something that developers need to allow in the end, so it’s worth keeping in mind if you’re thinking of using eGPU just to speed up the built-in display.
External video card for Mac
Currently, there are only a small number of compatible graphics cards that you can use as an eGPU on a 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 cases and all-in-one options for the Mac
An excellent first place to look when looking for an external GPU for your Mac is Blackmagic eGPU. This eGPU sports the Radeon Pro 580 graphics processor with 8GB of GDDR5 memory. It also provides several additional ports for use.
With up to 85W of power, you can use one of the two included Thunderbolt 3 ports to power your MacBook Pro without having to worry about extra power. There is also an HDMI 2.0 port and four USB 3.0 ports.
Blackmagic includes a 0.5 meter Thunderbolt 3 cable so you can start using the eGPU right out of the box.
You must provide your own Mac-compatible video card when you use it Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650. The 650 W power supply supports 375 W cards that require up to 100 W of additional power.
With the Thunderbolt 3 port, a 100 W power distribution is also reserved for the power consumption of the laptop. A 0.7 m 40 Gb Thunderbolt 3 cable is included with the case.
If you already have a video card in mind, Razer Core X -chrome is another great case choice. The 700 W power supply supports up to a 500 W graphics card. A 100W power supply is also available through the laptop’s Thunderbolt 3 port. There are four USB ports on the back of the case. 3.1 ports and Gigabit Ethernet connector.
When it’s time to install the card, the case has a quick-release handle that brings out the slider. No tools are required for quick and easy installations. The housing has additional cooling and open air vents on the chassis for the best heat.
Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck Radeon is made for portability. The all-in-one option sports the built-in Radeon RX 560 GPU. Three DisplayPort ports include an HDMI 2.0 port and one Thunderbolt 3 connector.
The Thunderbolt 3 port can provide up to 60 watts of power to your MacBook Pro. The Sonnet includes a 0.5 meter Thunderbolt 3 cable. While the additional VESA mount bracket allows you to place the eGPU on the back of the monitor, to free up desktop space.
PowerColor Mini Pro sport the built-in AMD RX570 graphics card with 8GB of memory, so you need to conveniently install it to connect to your Mac. Thanks to the external power supply, the eGPU is light and compact, making it ideal for a desk. It also reduces heat inside the case.
The front of the EGPU has a Thunderbolt 3 port and two USB 3.0 ports for connecting another device, such as an external hard drive. Behind the box are several display connection options – two DisplayPort connectors, two HDMI ports and one DVI-D port. The box also has a Gigabit Ethernet connection for high-speed Internet access.
Run graphics on the best Mac external GPU
While the MacBook or MacBook Pro is itself a powerhouse, adding an external GPU can take your Mac’s visual performance to new heights. Fortunately, there are other ways to bring more desktop-like experiences to your laptop as well.
Look at these, for example great Thunderbolt 3 docks for your MacBook Pro
Top 8 Thunderbolt 3 Docks for Your MacBook Pro