Last June, Apple announced that it would add support for external GPUs to macOS. And now, just under a year later, official support has arrived. With the latest update to macOS High Sierra, you’ll be able to connect a number of different graphics cards to the Mac through a Thunderbolt 3 port and use that additional power to speed up demanding processes, including games and video editing. Apple has specifically highlighted its use for VR.
This probably shouldn’t surprise anyone since it’s Apple we’re talking about here, but there are a number of limitations around what you can do with external GPUs. For one, only select models are officially supported. And, surprise, Apple is only supporting some of AMD’s Radeon cards, which it already includes in select Macs. That doesn’t strictly mean a GeForce card won’t work — people have gotten some to work while the feature was in beta — but it means you’re gambling a bit around whether it’ll continue to work.
You also won’t be able to use external GPUs on Windows through Boot Camp. And just because you have an external GPU plugged into your computer when it’s running macOS doesn’t mean it’s going to be doing anything, either; developers have to enable support for it. Finally, you’ll also need to have a new enough Mac, since external GPUs rely on the super-fast speeds provided by Thunderbolt 3. That includes 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pros, 2017 iMacs, and the iMac Pro.
Still, if you have a newer machine and are using apps that support it, this is a great feature addition and honestly kind of a surprising one from Apple, since external GPUs have really been popularized through the gaming community, which is nonexistent on the Mac. One of the big benefits of including Thunderbolt 3 ports is allowing this kind of powerful flexibility. And now, for those who are willing to spend several hundred extra dollars, they can get an even more capable computer than what they bought; that could be particularly useful for people with MacBook Pros who want a lighter package on the go and more power when they plug in at home or the office.