Apple passingly acknowledges external GPU technology during future Mac Pro, iMac reveal

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited April 4
Apple with a single sentence in an interview has acknowledged the existence of external graphic processing units -- and continues to not put more than casual blocks in place to prevent them from functioning.




In an interview that revealed Apple's future intent for the Mac Pro, the evolution of the iMac, and the continuation of the Mac mini, Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi responded to a question about external Thunderbolt GPUs. Simply, Federighi said that "I think they have a place" -- and nothing else.

Federighi's remark is carefully crafted, and doesn't explicitly say that Apple is working on the concept, and Apple's actions are only slightly more clear.

Apple's limited eGPU compatibility

During the development of the Thunderbolt 3 protocol, the ability to seamlessly interface with a GPU in an external PCI-E breakout box was added, rather than it just being a hack.
While explicit support would be good for users, what Apple could produce in the field would be far better.
An external GPU in practice releases the user from the shackles of lower-performing GPUs typically found in a laptop, and allows the user to leverage desktop PCI-E cards in an external enclosure, benefitting from both an improvement in thermal conditions, as well as no limitations on consumed energy.

At present, every macOS 10.12 Sierra release breaks compatibility on two fronts, by erasing previous changes, and necessitating a new GPU driver. After a new driver is available, the re-installation procedure is still relatively simple, involving disabling System Integrity Protection, and a third-party script execution to install the compatible driver.

Acknowledgement of the eGPU concept is a great first step

If Apple chose, it could do much more to block external GPU construction. Other than the surmountable road-blocks in place, it has not chosen to do so. Our own work continues, vendors continue to crank out new enclosure designs, and several other groups of enthusiasts are making great progress to a "plug and play" solution -- but it's not there yet.


Example of a Thunderbolt 2 external GPU, photo credit Anandtech


The only way to make eGPU a tool for the masses is for Apple to explicitly support the technology, rather than just not utterly disallowing it. Where eGPU hacks stand now is where Windows installations stood before Apple released Boot Camp -- doable, but only for the dedicated.

Possibly, given Apple's uncharacteristic candor on Tuesday about the rest of the Mac product line, and nearly nothing to say about eGPU technology, there's something in the works. While explicit support would be good for users, what Apple could produce in the field would be far better.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,051member
    If I could plug in something like this to a lower-powered Mac and see a huge boost in performance, it would be awesome! But Apple would not get the benefit of upgrade sales themselves.
  • Reply 2 of 12
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 26,168member
    Those shown in the photos are monstrosities, but in this case, obviously performance outweighs appearances.
    dysamoria
  • Reply 3 of 12
  • Reply 4 of 12
    Maybe an iPhone?

    A monitor with an eGPU, Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. Apple has advertised latter generations of the A# processors as being "Desktop Class" processing...

    Why not put the A11 to work on the desktop!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 12
    irelandireland Posts: 16,530member
    I would appreciate if the editors of AI would make the original source articles more readily accessible. Such as at the bottom of an article:

    Source: link.example.com
    edited April 4 bloggerblogSpamSandwichStrangeDaysTomErevenantadm1Daekwandysamoria
  • Reply 6 of 12
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 26,168member
    ireland said:
    I would appreciate if the editors of AI would make the original source articles more readily accessible. Such as at the bottom of an article:

    Source: link.example.com
    Agreed. The Verge is an awful site, but at least they do have the links visible at the end of the story.
  • Reply 7 of 12
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 29,087member
    Mike, I didn't get that from Craig's statement at all. In fact, I got just the opposite feeling. It seemed to me that he was not enthused at the idea, but that he didn't want to sound like he was dissing it either.

    we do understand that for all the talk, Thunderbolt is an Intel technology, not an Apple technology, and it follows what Intel wants, and not what Apple wants. In fact, shortly after it was fit-rat announced, with the talk of Apple having designed it, Intel stated that it was completely designed by Intel. The thoughts are that Apple might have discussed a faster, level 3 protocol for I/O, and then Intel designed it. There's been no evidence that external GPUs have anything to do with Apple. They're mostly used on pcs, usually gaming units.
    dysamoria
  • Reply 8 of 12
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 29,087member
    If I could plug in something like this to a lower-powered Mac and see a huge boost in performance, it would be awesome! But Apple would not get the benefit of upgrade sales themselves.
    If Apple really wanted to, they could always make these, along with all the other products they refuse to make, such as external drives, etc.
  • Reply 9 of 12
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 11,944member
    melgross said:
    If I could plug in something like this to a lower-powered Mac and see a huge boost in performance, it would be awesome! But Apple would not get the benefit of upgrade sales themselves.
    If Apple really wanted to, they could always make these, along with all the other products they refuse to make, such as external drives, etc.
    Some things Apple does (maybe that should be doesn't do) perplexes me.I was in the Apple Store about 3 weeks ago an done of the clerks was trying to explain to a customer that apple doesn't have external disk but rather sells a selection of third party disks.  I think that individual left confused.

    Apple really doesn't seem to get it, smoothie your external "drive" is a security blanket, much like my 64 GB SD card plugged into my MBP right now.   Currently using an app called ATTIC to back up the important stuff frequently.   Having learned the hard way I'm trying to be much more proactive with respect to backups and data security.   

    I forgot to mention, this is something else that perplexes me about Apple, that is the deletion of SD card ports.   There just isn't a viable explanation in my mind.   Especially with a transitional machine where USB-C port support is so thin right now.
    edited April 4 applecored
  • Reply 10 of 12
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 1,684member
    wizard69 said:
    melgross said:
    If I could plug in something like this to a lower-powered Mac and see a huge boost in performance, it would be awesome! But Apple would not get the benefit of upgrade sales themselves.
    If Apple really wanted to, they could always make these, along with all the other products they refuse to make, such as external drives, etc.
    Some things Apple does (maybe that should be doesn't do) perplexes me.I was in the Apple Store about 3 weeks ago an done of the clerks was trying to explain to a customer that apple doesn't have external disk but rather sells a selection of third party disks.  I think that individual left confused.

    Apple really doesn't seem to get it, smoothie your external "drive" is a security blanket, much like my 64 GB SD card plugged into my MBP right now.   Currently using an app called ATTIC to back up the important stuff frequently.   Having learned the hard way I'm trying to be much more proactive with respect to backups and data security.   

    I forgot to mention, this is something else that perplexes me about Apple, that is the deletion of SD card ports.   There just isn't a viable explanation in my mind.   Especially with a transitional machine where USB-C port support is so thin right now.
    Even ignoring the adapters, there are already quite a few usb-c memory sticks on the market. Sandisk and Kingston even make them with clever dual connectors for old USB and USB-C.  My camera has an SD card, and I used to use a plugin reader; now I just leave the card where it is and transfer wirelessly. 

    Apple does get it, and don't call me smoothie. 
  • Reply 11 of 12
    Judging from what Apple said yesterday it seems more that the system will be flexible enough to switch out cards and accomodate their heat - rather than rely on external devices. (Which is the restriction of the current design.)
  • Reply 12 of 12
    wizard69 said:
    melgross said:
    If I could plug in something like this to a lower-powered Mac and see a huge boost in performance, it would be awesome! But Apple would not get the benefit of upgrade sales themselves.
    If Apple really wanted to, they could always make these, along with all the other products they refuse to make, such as external drives, etc.
    Some things Apple does (maybe that should be doesn't do) perplexes me.I was in the Apple Store about 3 weeks ago an done of the clerks was trying to explain to a customer that apple doesn't have external disk but rather sells a selection of third party disks.  I think that individual left confused.

    Apple really doesn't seem to get it, smoothie your external "drive" is a security blanket, much like my 64 GB SD card plugged into my MBP right now.   Currently using an app called ATTIC to back up the important stuff frequently.   Having learned the hard way I'm trying to be much more proactive with respect to backups and data security.   

    I forgot to mention, this is something else that perplexes me about Apple, that is the deletion of SD card ports.   There just isn't a viable explanation in my mind.   Especially with a transitional machine where USB-C port support is so thin right now.
    I do think it slowly begins to question peoples loyalty to Apple and their product universe. Many useful hardware (and software) products have been discontinued, or changed to such an extent that their original useful purpose has been lost - Airport Express and its brilliant plug in the wall design. Other products just have not been updated for years. All the while the cash-cow iPhone has an annual update cycle. Laptop utility is sacrificed for thinness that no one asked for! An Apple NAS drive for iTunes would be a fantastic idea and ensure Apple at the center of your multimedia universe, it's not rocket science for them to build... but they don't. Mac Mini... lumbers on, MacPro just got a tiny minor update after 3 years. Aperture launched with great fanfare, killed off for a dumbed down iPhoto. iMovie a shadow of iMovie 6! The list can go on... If you can't truly innovate anymore, at least make the products you do sell the best they can be and up to date, not shadows of their former glory and even outclassed by their predecessors! The Pro user has probably long left for more stable safer ground. My desk/office room/home is littered with Apple products from the last 20 years, so a bit of personal experience is involved in the above comment. As an Apple fan even I am beginning to wonder and question Apples direction and decisions.
Sign In or Register to comment.