Use an external graphics processor with your Mac

Your Thunderbolt 3-equipped Mac running macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 or later can access additional graphics performance by connecting to an external graphics processor (also known as an eGPU).

An eGPU can give your Mac additional graphics performance for professional apps, 3D gaming, VR content creation, and more.

eGPUs are supported by any Thunderbolt 3-equipped Mac1 running macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 or later. Learn how to update the software on your Mac.

Using menu bar item to disconnect eGPU

An eGPU lets you do all this on your Mac:

  • Accelerate apps that use Metal, OpenGL, and OpenCL
  • Connect additional external monitors and displays
  • Use virtual reality headsets plugged into the eGPU
  • Charge your MacBook Pro while using the eGPU
  • Use an eGPU with your MacBook Pro while its built-in display is closed 
  • Connect an eGPU while a user is logged in
  • Connect more than one eGPU using the multiple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports on your Mac2
  • Use the menu bar item eGPU menu bar icon to safely disconnect the eGPU
  • View the activity levels of built-in and external GPUs (Open Activity Monitor, then choose Window > GPU History.)

eGPU support in apps

eGPU support in macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 and later is designed to accelerate Metal, OpenGL, and OpenCL apps that benefit from a powerful eGPU. Not all apps support eGPU acceleration; check with the app's developer to learn more.3

In general, an eGPU can accelerate performance in these types of apps:

  • Pro apps designed to utilize multiple GPUs
  • 3D games, when an external monitor is attached directly to the eGPU
  • VR apps, when the VR headset is attached directly to the eGPU
  • Pro apps and 3D games that accelerate the built-in display of iMac, iMac Pro, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro (This capability must be enabled by the app's developer.)

You can configure applications to use an eGPU with one of the following methods.

Use the Prefer External GPU option

Starting with macOS Mojave 10.14, you can turn on Prefer External GPU in a specific app's Get Info panel in the Finder. This option lets the eGPU accelerate apps on any display connected to the Mac — including displays built in to iMac, iMac Pro, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro:

  1. Quit the app if it's open.
  2. Select the app in the Finder. Most apps are in your Applications folder. If you open the app from an alias or launcher, Control-click the app's icon and choose Show Original from the pop-up menu. Then select the original app.
  3. Press Command-I to show the app's info window.
  4. Select the checkbox next to Prefer External GPU.
  5. Open the app to use it with the eGPU.

You won't see this option if an eGPU isn't connected, if your Mac isn't running macOS Mojave, or if the app self-manages its GPU selection. Some apps directly choose which graphics processors are used and will ignore the Prefer External GPU checkbox.

Set an external eGPU-connected display as the primary display

If you have an external display connected to your eGPU, you can choose it as the primary display for all apps. Since apps default to the GPU associated with the primary display, this option works with a variety of apps:

  1. Quit any open apps that you want the eGPU to accelerate on the primary display.
  2. Choose Apple () menu > System Preferences. Select Displays, then select the Arrangement tab.
  3. Drag the white menu bar to the box that represents the display that's attached to the eGPU. 
  4. Open the apps that you want to use with the eGPU.

If you disconnect the eGPU, your Mac defaults back to the internal graphics processors that drives the built-in display. When the eGPU is re-attached, it automatically sets the external display as the primary display.

Supported eGPU configurations

It's important to use an eGPU with a recommended graphics card and Thunderbolt 3 chassis. And if you're using a MacBook Pro, the eGPU's Thunderbolt 3 chassis needs to provide sufficient power to run the graphics card while charging the computer. Check with the maker of the chassis to find out how much power it provides, and make sure that it's enough to charge your connected Mac notebook.

Recommended graphics cards, along with chassis that can power them sufficiently, are listed below.

Thunderbolt 3 all-in-one eGPU products

These products contain a powerful built-in GPU and supply sufficient power to charge your MacBook Pro.

Recommended Thunderbolt 3 all-in-one eGPUs:

AMD Radeon RX 470, RX 480, RX 570, RX 580, and Radeon Pro WX 7100

These graphics cards are based on the AMD Polaris architecture. Recommended graphics cards include the Sapphire Pulse series and the AMD WX series.

Recommended Thunderbolt 3 chassis for these graphics cards:

  • OWC Mercury Helios FX4
  • PowerColor Devil Box
  • Sapphire Gear Box
  • Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 350W
  • Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 550W4
  • Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650W4

AMD Radeon RX Vega 56

These graphics cards are based on the AMD Vega 56 architecture. Recommended graphics cards include the Sapphire Vega 56 and XFX Vega 56.

Recommended Thunderbolt 3 chassis for these graphics cards:

  • OWC Mercury Helios FX4
  • PowerColor Devil Box
  • Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 550W4
  • Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650W4

AMD Radeon RX Vega 64, Vega Frontier Edition Air, and Radeon Pro WX 9100

These graphics cards are based on the AMD Vega 64 architecture. Recommended graphics cards include the Sapphire Vega 64, XFX Vega 64, AMD Frontier Edition air-cooled, and AMD Radeon Pro WX 9100.

Recommended Thunderbolt 3 chassis for these graphics cards:

  •  Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650W4

Learn more

  • To ensure the best eGPU performance, use the Thunderbolt 3 cable that came with your eGPU or an Apple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) cable. Also make sure that the cable is connected directly to a Thunderbolt 3 port on your Mac, not daisy-chained through another Thunderbolt device or hub.
  • If you have questions about Thunderbolt 3 chassis or graphics cards, or about third-party app support and compatibility, contact the hardware or software provider.
  • Software developers can learn more about programming their apps to take advantage of macOS eGPU support.

 

1. If you have a Mac mini (2018) with FileVault turned on, make sure to connect your primary display directly to Mac mini during startup. After you log in and see the macOS Desktop, you can unplug the display from Mac mini and connect it to your eGPU.

2. If you're using a 13-inch MacBook Pro from 2016 or 2017, always plug eGPUs and other high-performance devices into the left-hand ports for maximum data throughput.

3. macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 and later don't support eGPUs in Windows using Boot Camp or when your Mac is in macOS Recovery or installing system updates.

4. These chassis provide at least 85 watts of charging power, making them ideal for use with 15-inch MacBook Pro models.

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