Even with today’s technology, thanks to the technological limitations set by products like Apple, the external GPU market is really one big mess, full of hacks, incompatibilities, half-adhered-to standards, and artificial limitations. It’s a good thing that the researchers over at eGPU.io are putting in some solid work to make sense of all these unnecessary incompatibilities and they have just had a surprisingly great result with the latest Nvidia drivers, a GTX 1080 Ti, and a 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro.
This is, of course, with plenty of thanks and courtesy of the new Mac drivers that Nvidia just released, which bring the Pascal 10XX series of cards to macOS for the first time. Of course, you can’t actually put a 1080 Ti inside a modern Mac, so an external GPU enclosure is your best chance of accessing this power from within the macOS.
In tests, running inside an AkiTiO Node or Mantiz Venus enclosure, eGPU.io found the 1080 Ti put in benchmark scores ranging from double to four times the speed of a MacBook Pro relying on stock internal Radeon Pro 460 graphics. Speeds were boosted further when the external GPU was used with an external display, instead of routing the video signal back into the MacBook.
Video Courtesy of Youtube:
Apple’s recent 15-inch MacBook Pro has an advantage over many laptops even in the same Apple line with its Thunderbolt 3, because the connector is basically hooked up directly to the CPU, instead of being routed through the PCH that handles a bunch of other I/O like networking, storage, and other USB ports that are compatible only to other Apple products but not to Android driven devices. But truly, the new Nvidia driver support inside the new MacBooks is just gravy on top, because the 1080 Ti didn’t outstrip the last-generation 980 Ti by much in tests, and this might point to remaining bottlenecks in the present setup.
An external GPU is still an expensive way to improve your workflow. Consider that a quality enclosure is around $500, and then a card like the 1080 Ti goes for around $700. Also, macOS support for external GPUs is improving, but it’s still not plug-and-play. You might be better off doing your work on a Windows desktop, or trying your luck with assembling your own Apple hacked “hackintosh.” But if a souped-up MacBook Pro is truly what you need, it does seem like the age of the eGPU has arrived and so you’re just better off doing your work on a top of the line MacBook or a top of the line Android driven desktop or laptop with good power.