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More power: MacOS now supports external graphics cards

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

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
2 min read

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.