Apple's macOS Catalina causing problems with select eGPU setups

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2020
Despite overall feature and performance improvements for external GPUs, the new macOS Catalina is now failing to work correctly with certain combinations of Mac and GPU card.

A Sonnet eGPU with the Sapphire 580 in Apple's own developers' kit
A Sonnet eGPU with the Sapphire 580 in Apple's own developers' kit


Apple has been steadily improving how its Macs work with external graphics processing units, eGPUs, and in general macOS Catalina continues that effort. But, with the release of Catalina, some users are finding that their Macs may now no longer drive their eGPUs as expected.

The issue is to do with specific combinations of Mac and eGPUs. From AppleInsider research, it appears that Radeon 570 and 580-based eGPUs are having problems with the Mac mini most commonly affected.

Typical problems reported by many users include an inability to boot up the Mac with a display connected to the eGPU. If the Mac will start with the monitor attached, it immediately restarts. Others report their Macs freezing.

Our own direct testing can confirm that the problems are happening on a Sonnet eGPU with the Sapphire 570 card that was in Apple's own developer's kit from two years ago.

Through both our own testing and the reports of users, AppleInsider can report that Vega 56, Vega 64, and Vega VII cards in any eGPU enclosure of suitable power aren't impacted by the problem. Additionally, an eGPU installed and connected to a Mac, with the display connected directly to the Mac and not through the GPU will still accelerate workflows like video processing with no issue.

Apple has been clear that not all eGPU cards and enclosures will work with all Macs -- the most notable omission being anything made by Nvidia. However, Apple also publishes a list of compatible systems and that includes some of the devices currently experiencing problems.

One combination of MacBook Pro and eGPU that Apple itself sells
One combination of MacBook Pro and eGPU that Apple itself sells


One significant factor in that compatibility list is to do with the power requirements of the eGPUs. However, power does not appear to be an issue here as the same problems with the Polaris-based Radeon 570 and Radeon 580 are reproducible in the Sonnet's 350W and 650W variants.

Currently, it seems most likely that the issue is tied to drivers for Polaris AMD cards, but as yet Apple has not commented.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 48
    The missing support for NVidia / CUDA is driving me nuts. All I'm asking is an eGPU solution to be able to combine both worlds. Portability and OS from my MBP and fast rendering via GPU. Hell, I'm willing to pay significant money which would probably buy me a PC laptop with a decent CUDA graphics solution or a small desktop with an even better one. If Apple won't move, I just have to get a windows machine not to have to render slowly via CPU. 
    ElCapitan
  • Reply 2 of 48
    The entry system with eGPU is a bastardized system that have all kinds of issues both now and in the future.

    It is time Timmy & Co get off their high horses and make an affordable Mac that will accept standard cards and standard storage, including user upgradable memory. 
    It would also really help if the started talking with Nvidia again. 
  • Reply 3 of 48
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
    I’ve been wondering about the added complexity of putting the GPU externally to the machine, and wondering if an eGPU could be the workaround for the pathetic thermals of these tiny Apple computers and the desire to do gaming on them (obviously with Windows)...

    ... and indeed, it all seems like a PITA. It seems that these little boxes are still not the right choice for heavy GPU usage. If you want a full-size computer from Apple, you now get to fork over twice the cost of the already too expensive 2013 Mac Pro. What’s that? If we can’t afford a workhorse Apple computer, that computer isn’t for us? Fine. Show me another Mac that is appropriate. Needs an eGPU... which is currently hackish and unreliable, because Apple seem not to be testing OS features before releasing their latest OS to the public... again.

    This is progress at Apple? If they’re going to go this route (using an eGPU add-on as a justification for their anorexic machines being the only semi-affordable offerings), they really must get this eGPU stuff to be simple and reliable. It needs to just work.

    Apple has had a glaring disinterest in gaming, and now they want people to pay for a game subscription service. Wait. What? Is there anything in that subscription that even remotely compares to PC gaming? I assume not (?), but I haven’t looked (I have ZERO interest in subscription services). Heavy GPU gaming demands more than what Apple’s anorexic machines can offer, and these eGPUs don’t seem to be a simple solution. I can only assume the games on offer will never be up to par with the offerings on PC. Is that a sustainable model for a gaming subscription? 
    ElCapitanmike54
  • Reply 4 of 48
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,428member
    Third-party eGPUs scare me to death.  This is exactly why I am getting a new Mac Pro as soon as it ships!  Not sure what configuration yet but whatever it is I know it will 'just work'.  I already have a PC gaming machine so I'll have all my bases covered for quite a few years to come.
    edited October 2019
  • Reply 5 of 48
    Steve J would be furious about this mess, and heads would roll.
    ElCapitan
  • Reply 6 of 48
    adamcadamc Posts: 582member
    dysamoria said:
    I’ve been wondering about the added complexity of putting the GPU externally to the machine, and wondering if an eGPU could be the workaround for the pathetic thermals of these tiny Apple computers and the desire to do gaming on them (obviously with Windows)...

    ... and indeed, it all seems like a PITA. It seems that these little boxes are still not the right choice for heavy GPU usage. If you want a full-size computer from Apple, you now get to fork over twice the cost of the already too expensive 2013 Mac Pro. What’s that? If we can’t afford a workhorse Apple computer, that computer isn’t for us? Fine. Show me another Mac that is appropriate. Needs an eGPU... which is currently hackish and unreliable, because Apple seem not to be testing OS features before releasing their latest OS to the public... again.

    This is progress at Apple? If they’re going to go this route (using an eGPU add-on as a justification for their anorexic machines being the only semi-affordable offerings), they really must get this eGPU stuff to be simple and reliable. It needs to just work.

    Apple has had a glaring disinterest in gaming, and now they want people to pay for a game subscription service. Wait. What? Is there anything in that subscription that even remotely compares to PC gaming? I assume not (?), but I haven’t looked (I have ZERO interest in subscription services). Heavy GPU gaming demands more than what Apple’s anorexic machines can offer, and these eGPUs don’t seem to be a simple solution. I can only assume the games on offer will never be up to par with the offerings on PC. Is that a sustainable model for a gaming subscription? 
    I think they are pushing iOS rather than MacOS for games.

    ElCapitancy_starkmanchiacaladaniandysamoria
  • Reply 7 of 48
    For a company that prides itself on elegant designs, an "eGPU" is the least elegant design in the entire computer industry. Of course it is going to break if the system software is updated or the wind changes direction. I would feel ashamed to own one when seeing thin and light Windows laptops with built in RTX 2080 GPUs (for a lot less money).
    razorpitdysamoria
  • Reply 8 of 48
    madanmadan Posts: 103member
    Egpus are actually a great solution for the average user, if albeit an expensive one. You get the perfect portability of a slim laptop or small desktop, coupled with the grunt/horsepower of a desktop computer. The fact that Apple's run into an egpu upgrade snag isn't a big deal. Windows updates have broken egpus, both of the Bootcamp/Mac variety and of the Windows-Razr variety. They've broken egpus through updates 1903.1862.300, 329, 356, 387/8/9 & 418. They've broken egpus for TWO MONTHS. As for nVidia gpus...there is no problem with avoiding nVidia gpus as there's really nothing you're missing out on with nVidia support other than CUDA and it is: A. A software issue. There's no reason why other applications can't adopt OpenCL, Vulkan or, yes, Metal 2 support for advanced computing API capabilities. The reason people are pushing CUDA so hard is that nVidia paid a bunch of people off to adopt it in the first place. nVidia, for many that don't know are pretty sleazy. Metal 2 competes favorably with DX 12 in graphics API performance and isn't far behind CUDA in compute performance. The reason Metal 2 isn't more prevalent in applications is that Apple hasn't paid everyone under the table and nVidia is as dirty as it gets. B. CUDA is dead in the water. Even with CUDA and dedicated hardware, AMD cards, including Vega, Vega 2 and Arcturus are far, far better at FP and compute. How much better? I use my Radeon VII egpu setup for several math/science test suites and I get benched performance in line with a 100% more expensive 2080 Ti. nVidia is really a gaming gpu and not much more. If you stripped CUDA support off some apps (specifically some video apps), you'd quickly see that in brute computing performance through OpenCL or Metal 2, AMD would bury nVidia pretty much everywhere except gaming where it has parity/slight disadvantage. Oh and AMD cards are not only more well-rounded, they're cheaper to boot. While a Radeon VII is about the same as a 2080 and only about 5% behind a 2080 Super in games, it's up to 50% faster *on average* in compute, FP, and mining. You know, work/money stuff. All for less than a 2080. This isn't Apple's fault. nVidia refused to allow Apple to use egpus without pushing its CUDA platform and Apple told them to get drenched. This happened AFTER that fiasco where nVidia shipped hundreds of THOUSANDS of defective 8600 GT mobility chipsets to Apple that were failing and cost Apple millions in replacement costs. If anyone's to blame over nVidia not appearing in a Mac, look to nVidia and stop blaming Apple.
    edited October 2019 cy_starkmanchiaemoellerGG1macpluspluscaladanianfastasleepmuthuk_vanalingambeeble42
  • Reply 9 of 48
    madanmadan Posts: 103member
    For a company that prides itself on elegant designs, an "eGPU" is the least elegant design in the entire computer industry. Of course it is going to break if the system software is updated or the wind changes direction. I would feel ashamed to own one when seeing thin and light Windows laptops with built in RTX 2080 GPUs (for a lot less money).
    I would like to know which Windows desktops come with: 1. LG 5K pro-class screens. 2. Quality parts (psus/motherboards), rather than the Chinex-Walmart trash that everyone else gets. 3. Have Thunderbolt 3 in multiple, on MORE THAN ONE BUS so you can use TB3 devices at full speed. 4. Come with quality cpus. Not the gimped trash that so many companies ship. As for laptops, I'd love to see you spec a laptop that has the portability of a MacBook Pro with that 2080 and that has the: 1. Same quality screen. 2. Same quality case/externals. 3. Has Thunderbolt 3. 4. Same cpu. All that the same price-to-weight ratio. Oh and while the 2080 (downclocked or mobility) are decent compute performers, the MacBook pro's Vega gpu is actually almost matching it in FP/compute workloads. It only gets wrecked in gaming, where it produces RX 565-570 level performance. But if you want a gaming laptop...BUY A GAMING LAPTOP. It's still an inferior option however. Because now you're carrying a heavy, massive brick around, in a flexing magnesium/plastic case. Sure you have better gaming performance by a lot, but in terms of WORK performance, you've only got a small boost. And when you get home, since your laptop doesn't have TB 3, you're stuck at that performance. Meanwhile, the MBP user can use an egpu setup in a Core X setup to upgrade the gpu and keep performance at contemporary levels. Within 5 years that 2080 will be as effective as a 780 Ti is today...which is to say...not very much.
    GG1fastasleep
  • Reply 10 of 48
    So Catalina is a dumpster fire afterall
    edited October 2019 mike54
  • Reply 11 of 48
    @Maden is the only comment worth reading as the rest are uninformed.

    Razr makes great eGPU enclosures AND laptops known for crazy fast desktop like internals. This is not anorexic macs, it is laptops in general.

    I am excited about getting a TB3 equipped apple laptop, possibly even a 13” pro or low end 15” pro, instead of my usual cranked top end 15”. A Razr enclosure and a thumping Sapphire card will demolish the Vega20 for the same price as buying the 15” with Vega 20. Rivalling the new MacPro non dual chip GPU options for $$$$ of dollars cheaper.

    The most exciting part is i can buy a new graphics card in 2-3yrs, or heck whenever the next big jump drops for 20% or less of the price of a new laptop. Let’s be clear, this will mean stomping the GPU of other’s MacPro setups for 5-10% of the cost.

    This means a much faster return on investment for video editors, animators, graphics designers etc. paid for in one small job. Final Cut Pro just got Metal support and will use the eGPU.

    As for NVidia, they knowingly screwed Apple with bad chips. I had one of the Macbook Pros with said GPU. Apple will not be going back and they do not have to, their own GPU is making waves now and AMD is coming into their own finally.

    Apple Arcade - I am running it on my 4k Apple TV with A10x (at 1080p) and you know what, the games look and move great. My PS4 has better games no doubt, FFXV and HZD are visually way better than Oceanhorn 2 but that is more to do with style and studio budget i suspect. Apple drops an A14x in next year at the 1yr update to Apple Arcade... its going to be edgy stuff. TBH the best part of Apple Arcade is that i can use my PS4 controller, that more than any amount of GPU is the game changer, that has changed the game.
    madanfastasleep
  • Reply 12 of 48
    madanmadan Posts: 103member
    My regret is that instead of sinking so much money into their obviously failed Apple TV initiative, they didn't sink cash into buying a couple of high-end aggressive iOS developers that can also be leveraged on Apple TV and Mac through Catalyst.

    Bit Monster. 11 Bit.  They could pick the carcass of Chair.  Camoflauge. Beam Dog. Red Hook, Rayark. There are a dozen other small devs that if funded properly and framed with good producers could pump out a library of fantastic cross-platform iOS/macOS/tvOS titles that could make the Apple TV and Apple gaming in general a *great* option.

    Instead they make six TV shows, half of them cringey and end up giving it all away because no one is going to rent that platform when the Disney+ TV service already obviously won.  

    The irony is they would have had the truly "play anywhere" goal of the Switch covered.  
    edited October 2019 mike54
  • Reply 13 of 48
    Only stupid people wonder what a guy who's been dead for 8 years would do or how he would act. The notion is tired and lame.
    BayHorse said:
    Steve J would be furious about this mess, and heads would roll.
    cy_starkmanfastasleep
  • Reply 14 of 48
    grayskyz said:
    Only stupid people wonder what a guy who's been dead for 8 years would do or how he would act. The notion is tired and lame.
    BayHorse said:
    Steve J would be furious about this mess, and heads would roll.
    Yes, this exactly.
  • Reply 15 of 48
    crowleycrowley Posts: 9,125member
    Glad my eGPU is a Vega 56.  Not that I've upgraded to Catalina yet, but it's nice to have it verified that it won't bork.
  • Reply 16 of 48
    kevin keekevin kee Posts: 1,291member
    eGPU is only 'supported' not 'recommended', as such you bound to find issues especially after new OS upgrade. I don't see why this should be a long term concern.
  • Reply 17 of 48
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 2,056member
    For a company that prides itself on elegant designs, an "eGPU" is the least elegant design in the entire computer industry. Of course it is going to break if the system software is updated or the wind changes direction. I would feel ashamed to own one when seeing thin and light Windows laptops with built in RTX 2080 GPUs (for a lot less money).
    Which laptop is that?    Microsoft just released/announced their Surface Laptop 3 and it doesn't come with Thunderbolt 3 just USB Type C.   Neither the Surface X or Surface Pro 7 will come with Thunderbolt 3.
    MacProdysamoria
  • Reply 18 of 48
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,330member
    BayHorse said:
    Steve J would be furious about this mess, and heads would roll.
    There were much, much larger messes under SJ. Stop dragging him out of the grave in order to attack Apple and pretend everything was rosy under his watch. It's a tired, dishonest, and frankly, despicable tactic. This lame-ass trolling should be insta-banned. 

    The percentage of Mac users that use eGPUs is no doubt TINY. If I was relying on one, I'd sure as hell wait a while before upgrading my OS knowing I'm in a minority, at least until I'm 100% sure everything is compatible. Anything else would be irresponsible, and my OWN fault. 
    edited October 2019
  • Reply 19 of 48
    crowleycrowley Posts: 9,125member
    kevin kee said:
    eGPU is only 'supported' not 'recommended', as such you bound to find issues especially after new OS upgrade. I don't see why this should be a long term concern.
    Supported means there should be no issues.
    dysamoria
  • Reply 20 of 48
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 5,843member
    dysamoria said:
    I’ve been wondering about the added complexity of putting the GPU externally to the machine, and wondering if an eGPU could be the workaround for the pathetic thermals of these tiny Apple computers and the desire to do gaming on them (obviously with Windows)...

    ... and indeed, it all seems like a PITA. It seems that these little boxes are still not the right choice for heavy GPU usage. If you want a full-size computer from Apple, you now get to fork over twice the cost of the already too expensive 2013 Mac Pro. What’s that? If we can’t afford a workhorse Apple computer, that computer isn’t for us? Fine. Show me another Mac that is appropriate. Needs an eGPU... which is currently hackish and unreliable, because Apple seem not to be testing OS features before releasing their latest OS to the public... again.

    This is progress at Apple? If they’re going to go this route (using an eGPU add-on as a justification for their anorexic machines being the only semi-affordable offerings), they really must get this eGPU stuff to be simple and reliable. It needs to just work.

    Apple has had a glaring disinterest in gaming, and now they want people to pay for a game subscription service. Wait. What? Is there anything in that subscription that even remotely compares to PC gaming? I assume not (?), but I haven’t looked (I have ZERO interest in subscription services). Heavy GPU gaming demands more than what Apple’s anorexic machines can offer, and these eGPUs don’t seem to be a simple solution. I can only assume the games on offer will never be up to par with the offerings on PC. Is that a sustainable model for a gaming subscription? 
    Boot Camp doesn't even support eGPUs in Windows natively, you have to do a bunch of stuff to get that working. Not that it matters, because you weren't really considering buying a new Mac anyway.

    Just because there are some bugs going on with Catalina and certain hardware doesn't mean this is an overall problem with eGPUs on the Mac in general.
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