The Greatest Exterior GPU for a MacBook Professional

The idea of ​​an external graphics card (eGPU) was once talked of imagination, but that's no longer the case. Thanks to Thunderbolt 3 and its transfer rate of 40 Gbit / s with high bandwidth, external enclosures can now accommodate high-end graphics cards.

That means you can now improve the visual performance of your Mac computer, even if it's a laptop. This has some limitations, namely a limited number of supported graphics cards and the high entry price.

However, let's take a look at what you need to add an external GPU to your Mac or MacBook and which ones you should buy.

What you will need

First, you need a Thunderbolt 3-enabled Mac or a MacBook model. Thunderbolt 3 uses the USB-C port and is shown on the following models:

  • MacBook Pro, late 2016 and newer
  • MacBook Air, 2018 and newer
  • iMac, 2017 and newer
  • iMac Pro, 2017
  • Mac Pro, 2019

In addition to owning one of these Apple computers, you also need macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 or higher. Finally, you need to purchase two additional items either separately or as part of a bundle:

  1. A Thunderbolt 3 eGPU case in which your graphics card can be inserted.
  2. A macOS compatible graphics card.

With all of this in place, you should be able to insert the graphics card into the chassis and then connect the chassis to your Mac to significantly improve graphics fidelity. However, you may still be restricted in the use of your eGPU.

The limitations of external GPUs under macOS

Not every application you run can use your eGPU. In many cases, you need to connect an external monitor directly to the eGPU housing to recognize the benefits. This is the case with many 3D games and VR applications.

Some pro-level software that uses multiple GPUs works exactly as you expect. This includes 3D modeling apps and video editors. However, it is worth confirming that your application has an advantage before you buy an eGPU.

Some applications and games have received patches to speed up the built-in display on your iMac or MacBook. However, this is something that developers must activate at their end. So keep this in mind if you only want to use an eGPU to accelerate your built-in display.

External graphics card for Mac

There are currently only a few compatible graphics cards that you can use as eGPU on your 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 Mac

1. Blackmagic eGPU

A good first place to look for an external GPU for your Mac is the Blackmagic eGPU. This eGPU has a Radeon Pro 580 graphics processor with 8 GB of GDDR5 memory. It also offers several additional ports for use.

Thanks to a power supply function of up to 85 W, you can use one of the two included Thunderbolt 3 ports to power your MacBook Pro without having to worry about an additional power supply module. There is also an HDMI 2.0 port and four USB 3.0 ports.

Blackmagic includes a 0.5m Thunderbolt 3 cable, so you can start using the eGPU straight away.

2. Sonett eGFX Breakaway Box 650

Sonett eGFX Breakaway Box 650

Sonett eGFX Breakaway Box 650
Buy now from Amazon

If you are using the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650, you will need to provide your own Mac compatible graphics card. The 650 W power supply supports 375 W cards that require up to 100 W peak power.

A 100 W power supply is also reserved for the power supply of a laptop with a Thunderbolt 3 port. The case comes with a 0.7 m long Thunderbolt 3 cable (40 GB).

3. Razer Core X Chroma

Razer Core X Chroma

Razer Core X Chroma
Buy now from Amazon $ 399.99

If you already have a graphics card in mind, the Razer Core X Chroma is another great choice for the case. The 700 W power supply supports a graphics card with up to 500 W. 100 W are available for powering a laptop via the Thunderbolt 3 port. There are four USB sticks on the back of the housing. 3.1 ports and a Gigabit Ethernet connector.

If the card needs to be installed, there is a quick-release fastener on the housing with which the slider can be pulled out. No tools are required for quick and easy installation. The case has additional cooling and open vents in the case for the best heat output.

4. Sonett eGFX Breakaway Puck

Sonett eGFX Breakaway Puck

The Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck Radeon is designed for portability. The all-in-one option has an integrated Radeon RX 560 GPU. In addition to three DisplayPort connectors, there is an HDMI 2.0 connector and a single Thunderbolt 3 connector.

The Thunderbolt 3 port can supply your MacBook Pro with up to 60 W. The sonnet contains a 0.5 m long Thunderbolt 3 cable. With the additional VESA mount, you can place the eGPU on the back of a monitor to free up space on the desk.

5. PowerColor Mini Pro

PowerColor Mini Pro

PowerColor Mini Pro
Buy now from Amazon $ 477.41

The PowerColor Mini Pro has an integrated AMD RX570 graphics card with 8 GB of memory, so you can easily connect it to your Mac. Thanks to an external power supply, the eGPU is light and compact and is perfect for a desk. It also reduces the heat in the case.

On the front of the eGPU are the Thunderbolt 3 port and two USB 3.0 ports for connecting another device, such as an external hard drive. On the back of the box there are several options for the display connection: two DisplayPort plugs, two HDMI connections and a single DVI-D connection. On the side of the box there is also a Gigabit Ethernet connector for a fast internet connection.

Enhance graphics with the best external Mac GPU

Although a MacBook or MacBook Pro is a powerhouse in itself, adding an external GPU can take your Mac's visual performance to a new level. Fortunately, there are other ways to give your laptop a desktop-like experience.

For example, check out these great Thunderbolt 3 docks for your MacBook Pro

The 8 best Thunderbolt 3 docks for your MacBook Pro
Do you need a MacBook Pro docking station? These Thunderbolt 3 docks turn your laptop into a productivity powerhouse.
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