macOS to Natively Support e-GPUs from High Sierra


Since time immemorial, Macs have been accused of lacking in graphics performance. Game developers have shunned the Mac in favor of Windows. This time, e-GPUs promise to bring back games and heavy-duty processing to macOS!

Enter, Sonnet.

Not only will the next update of macOS, High Sierra, support e-GPUs like Sonnet’s Breakaway Box, Apple actually sells one of these to developers, preloaded with an AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB graphics card.

Apple also includes a Belkin USB-C to 4 USB-A hub in the developer package, aptly named the Metal 2 External Graphics Development Kit, along with a USD $100 promo code for an HTC Vive VR headset. This way, Apple encourages developers to focus on bringing games, VR and other computing-heavy content to the Mac ecosystem.

This is the first time Apple chooses to promote the use of GPUs other than the usually limited, in-built options. Right now, the kit only comes with the aforementioned AMD Radeon 6.17 teraflops graphics card. However, Nvidia’s Pascal architecture now supports macOS X in beta; so, an Nvidia GTX 1080 with 11.3 teraflops would be possible, at least in theory.

Sonnet’s e-GPU, the Breakaway Box, connects via Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) at 2750 MB/s of dedicated PCIe bandwidth. Inside, a full length, single or double width card fits nicely, with room to spare. The 350 model that Apple ships provides support for cards requiring up to 300W of power (~600W recommended system power equivalent), however will not reportedly be able to charge a MacBook Pro simultaneously. For serious use, you might want to invest in the Breakaway Box 550 which supports cards requiring 375W of power (~750W recommended system power equivalent) and provides 87W of upstream power, more than enough to charge your laptop.

In terms of cooling, the Breakaway Boxes are incredibly quiet, despite being under heavy load. This is thanks to large fan diameters and smart geometries of the cabinets. But if that isn’t enough, you can even retrofit the e-GPU with a water-cooling system, thereby allowing you to overclock the graphic cards with ease.

The Metal 2 External Graphics Development Kit sold by Apple is unfortunately only available to registered developers. However, you can get hold of Sonnet’s Breakaway Box, starting from USD $299 for the 350 model. (Graphics card is not included though).

What do you guys think? Are you ready to empower your New 2017 MacBook Pro or any Thunderbolt 3-compatible computer for that matter? Is ultra-slim portable computers with the raw-power left at-home the future, or? Let us know in the comments below!