First look at Apple's external GPU developer's kit for the macOS High Sierra beta

Posted:
in macOS edited June 2017
Apple's external GPU developer's kit is shipping, and AppleInsider takes an examination of the contents, and delves a bit into compatibility.




The packaging is plain. Sonnet has gone towards the unadorned cardboard approach for the enclosure.




The RX 580 card included in the developer's kit is as expected, a reference-design card from Sapphire. Roughly speaking, it is a 6 tflop card, where there the Radeon Pro 460 and 560 built in to the 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pros respectively are right around 1.9 tflop.



The enclosure is an unmodified Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 350, which isn't shipping outside of this developer's kit until late June. A version will be available for cards that need more power in July. Once again, the included cable is about 18 inches long, and near useless.



The USB-C to USB-A hub is... extraneous. There's no real compelling reason for it to be included, but there it is anyway. Also included with purchase is a $100 AppleID-linked discount towards the purchase of the HTC Vive. Whether or not this is of any actual value is an exercise for the reader, and highly dependent on use case.

The Sonnet kit is very quiet. Previous enclosures have demanded enormous tidal volumes of air, with one we tested able to push a box of tissue across the desk when under load. In the interest of performance, up to now we've borne that burden -- but no longer.



AppleInsider has been in possession of the kit for all of two hours at this point, but we can confirm that not only does the kit work on a 2016 MacBook Pro on Thunderbolt 3, but also on a 2015 MacBook Pro through Apple's Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter.

Connecting to an older Mac, the adapter plugs into the enclosure itself, and the Thunderbolt 2 cable plugs into the adapter's female receptacle. This could lead to a interesting use case, as Thunderbolt 2 cables can be 12 feet long with "regular" cables, and nearly 200 feet long long with fiberoptic ones. Active, full-speed Thunderbolt 3 cables at present are about six feet long on the outside.

Further testing and benchmarking will take place as we examine the kit and its implications for the future of macOS hardware in the coming days.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 25
    doesn't even answer the question everyone is asking: "does it run nvidia pascal cards"?
  • Reply 2 of 25
    Where did you found the $100 coupon? I looked everywhere and it doesn't seem to be included in my dev kit...


  • Reply 3 of 25
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,887administrator
    doesn't even answer the question everyone is asking: "does it run nvidia pascal cards"?
    There's no reason it shouldn't. My PowerColor Devil Box, a Bizon box, the Razer Core, and a box from Mantiz all run Nvidia and AMD cards. The Sonnet box isn't modified, and supports both AMD and Nvidia.

    See also: "AppleInsider has been in possession of the kit for all of two hours at this point" :D

    We'll test it over the weekend.
  • Reply 4 of 25
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,887administrator

    jim in mn said:
    Where did you found the $100 coupon? I looked everywhere and it doesn't seem to be included in my dev kit...


    I should clarify. The $100 discount is account-linked on the Apple store. There was a little note in the box talking about it.
  • Reply 5 of 25
    DonvermoDonvermo Posts: 61member
    It is very interesting indeed that it also works with older MacBooks who still use Thunderbolt2 using mini DisplayPort, I'm interested to see some benchmarks when using the card this way. Could Apple Insider be persuaded to run a few with that setup? Having stable extra GPU power available on my Macbook would be very welcome indeed. 
  • Reply 6 of 25
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,887administrator
    Donvermo said:
    It is very interesting indeed that it also works with older MacBooks who still use Thunderbolt2 using mini DisplayPort, I'm interested to see some benchmarks when using the card this way. Could Apple Insider be persuaded to run a few with that setup? Having stable extra GPU power available on my Macbook would be very welcome indeed. 
    The rest of our eGPU work before official support examined it on TB2 hardware. This will be no exception.
  • Reply 7 of 25
    nhtnht Posts: 4,175member
    It's a shame that we don't quite yet have an option of a quiet DevilBox with decent power supply, sata, ports, and 85W power for a full docking solution.

    I guess you can take the devil box apart and replace the fans but it's still limited to 60W over USB-C.
  • Reply 8 of 25
    I'm very interested in the eGPU concept and wonder if I would be able to soup up my mac book air. It's got an i7 cpu and is from 2014 (MacBookAir6,2). Anyone know?
  • Reply 9 of 25
    nhtnht Posts: 4,175member
    I'm very interested in the eGPU concept and wonder if I would be able to soup up my mac book air. It's got an i7 cpu and is from 2014 (MacBookAir6,2). Anyone know?
    You have a TB1 machine that will still see a lot of improvement but it does take a minor hit.



    https://egpu.io/forums/mac-setup/pcie-slot-dgpu-vs-thunderbolt-3-egpu-internal-display-test/




  • Reply 10 of 25
    pkisselpkissel Posts: 21member
    Now that Apple is formally recognizing eGPUs, I wondering what, if any, product Apple might release themselves.  Before the MBP2016 release there were rumors of a new Apple Thunderbolt Display with integrated GPU.  Could this be coming now later in year?
  • Reply 11 of 25
    ShrapnlShrapnl Posts: 2member
    "The USB-C to USB-A hub is... extraneous."

    The main push Apple was showing during their Keynote was VR development and being able to use an eGPU as one example.  Specifically showing an HTC Vive.  If someone has a MacBook Pro and is ordering this eGPU kit for VR development they are likely to need more USB-A ports as the HTC Vive requires multiple USB-A connections for communication and controller charging.
    edited June 2017
  • Reply 12 of 25
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,887administrator

    Shrapnl said:
    "The USB-C to USB-A hub is... extraneous."

    The main push Apple was showing during their Keynote was VR development and being able to use an eGPU as one example.  Specifically showing an HTC Vive.  If someone has a MacBook Pro and is ordering this eGPU kit for VR development they are likely to need more USB-A ports as the HTC Vive requires multiple USB-A connections for communication and controller charging.
    I have a solution for that, and had it on day one. I'm also willing to bet that the target audience, the developers, have as well.
  • Reply 13 of 25
    ShrapnlShrapnl Posts: 2member

    Shrapnl said:
    "The USB-C to USB-A hub is... extraneous."

    The main push Apple was showing during their Keynote was VR development and being able to use an eGPU as one example.  Specifically showing an HTC Vive.  If someone has a MacBook Pro and is ordering this eGPU kit for VR development they are likely to need more USB-A ports as the HTC Vive requires multiple USB-A connections for communication and controller charging.
    I have a solution for that, and had it on day one. I'm also willing to bet that the target audience, the developers, have as well.
    I understand as well.  I think Apple was trying to offer a kit of sorts, perhaps they would have been better served to offer a full solution including the Vive for example.  But yes, people that are really into this probably already have some form of adapter/hub solution.  They could also have had an enclosure and GPU already as well.  Was trying to put some context for those that may not be aware as to why Apple may have chosen to include since this article did not cover that.
  • Reply 14 of 25
    doesn't even answer the question everyone is asking: "does it run nvidia pascal cards"?
    There's no reason it shouldn't. My PowerColor Devil Box, a Bizon box, the Razer Core, and a box from Mantiz all run Nvidia and AMD cards. The Sonnet box isn't modified, and supports both AMD and Nvidia.

    See also: "AppleInsider has been in possession of the kit for all of two hours at this point" :D

    We'll test it over the weekend.
    There's no reason it shouldn't in Sierra, however there's a very big reason it shouldn't in High Sierra: Nvidia first needs to get Apple to whitelist their GPUs as removable devices in Metal 2, then secondly they need to update their drivers to rely on that approval, in addition to updating the drivers to support other general Metal 2 features. (This is my understanding based on responses I got from goalque, who created the automate-eGPU script).
    edited June 2017
  • Reply 15 of 25
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,731member
    Shrapnl said:
    "The USB-C to USB-A hub is... extraneous."

    The main push Apple was showing during their Keynote was VR development and being able to use an eGPU as one example.  Specifically showing an HTC Vive. 
    ...and that's pretty surprising since Tim Cook just weeks ago seemed to be dismissing VR and embracing AR. Something apparently changed 'twixt February and now.
  • Reply 16 of 25
    nathanynathany Posts: 7member
    doesn't even answer the question everyone is asking: "does it run nvidia pascal cards"?
    Bare Feats did a review of the Sonnet back in April, and it does indeed support NVIDIA Pascal cards. Whether or not High Sierra supports NVIDIA out-of-the-box is perhaps another question. It's noteworthy that when exporting from Final Cut Pro X, 9to5mac reports better performance with a Radeon RX 480 compared to a GTX 1080 Ti. It depends on what you're doing.
    pkissel said:
    Now that Apple is formally recognizing eGPUs, I wondering what, if any, product Apple might release themselves.
    I too am wondering if Apple is planning to make an eGPU enclosure of some sort. The consumer release is Spring 2018, not this fall when High Sierra is generally available. Why in the Spring?
  • Reply 17 of 25
    curtis hannahcurtis hannah Posts: 1,624member
    pkissel said:
    Now that Apple is formally recognizing eGPUs, I wondering what, if any, product Apple might release themselves.  Before the MBP2016 release there were rumors of a new Apple Thunderbolt Display with integrated GPU.  Could this be coming now later in year?
    If I recall it was mentioned that there would be a new Apple display with the note there is an higher end imac(IMAC pro), and a refreshed mac pro coming.
    If this can be used to boost graphics(make any mac 5k capable) to any mac including the Mac pro, I could see it.
  • Reply 18 of 25
    You wouldn't have a late 2012 iMac laying around you could test this with, would you please? I was entertaining the idea of buying a pre-built £5000 gaming pc, but I'm now thinking I'd rather wait for the iMac pro. But this would be a nice bridge.
  • Reply 19 of 25
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,887administrator
    You wouldn't have a late 2012 iMac laying around you could test this with, would you please? I was entertaining the idea of buying a pre-built £5000 gaming pc, but I'm now thinking I'd rather wait for the iMac pro. But this would be a nice bridge.
    I do not, but I do have a 2012 Mac mini, and can get my hands on a 2012 RMBP.

    But, realize that the iMac Pro will ship before official eGPU support for High Sierra does.
    edited June 2017
  • Reply 20 of 25
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,887administrator

    doesn't even answer the question everyone is asking: "does it run nvidia pascal cards"?
    Teaser for the full review: it runs Nvidia Pascal in Sierra. 

    There is no official driver support for Nvidia at all in High Sierra at the moment.
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