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Laptops

More power: MacOS now supports external graphics cards

Your late-model Mac could get way more powerful soon -- just plug in an eGPU.

razer-core-9564

The Razer Core, an external graphics box for Windows laptops. Neither it nor this Nvidia GPU officially work with Apple computers... yet.

Josh Miller/CNET

Apple promised it would let you tap into the power of an external graphics card with your late-model MacBook Pro, iMac Pro and 2017 iMac. That day has arrived: MacOS High Sierra 10.13.4 now officially supports eGPUs, letting you plug a box containing a desktop graphics card into a laptop or all-in-one PC to drastically up its graphics performance and hook up additional monitors.

Technically, the feature had been kinda-sorta enabled in MacOS since High Sierra first launched, but this latest update brings official compatibility for a host of external GPU enclosures and AMD graphics cards, plus the abilities to hot-swap and/or safely disconnect an eGPU by tapping a button in the operating system.

Just know there are still a few catches right now:

  • Nvidia support is nonexistent. Apple only supports AMD graphics cards right now.
  • You'll need to plug in an external monitor to see the benefit. 
  • According to the eGPU experts at egpu.io, performance on MacOS is far, far worse than with the same eGPU running on Windows. (Search that page for "The Ugly" to see a chart depicting just how much worse.)

After playing with the Razer Core eGPU and a pair of thin Windows laptops, I'm personally super excited about a future where eGPUs could make traditional desktops obsolete. Official Apple support is a major milestone toward that goal. But there's clearly a lot of work ahead. 

Check out Apple's official eGPU support page for a list of the computers, graphics cards and eGPU enclosures that currently work.