Apple’s Thunderbolt 3-equipped MacBook Pro can use external GPUs

“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,” Mike Wuerthele reports for AppleInsider. “In theory, an external GPU releases the user from the shackles of lower-performing GPUs typically found in a laptop, and allows the user to leverage desktop units in an external enclosure, benefitting from both an improvement in thermal conditions, as well as no limitations on consumed energy.”

“The vaguely Mac Pro styled Razer Core used in this particular project works without flaw, and needs very little configuration in a Mac running Windows under Boot Camp,” Wuerthele reports. “However, the entire external GPU assembly doesn’t work at all in macOS unless you start modifying the operating system itself. Also, the macOS implementation doesn’t feed the video back to the MacBook Pro’s screen, so an external monitor is mandatory.”

Razer Core
Razer Core

“With almost no fiddling or configuration, AppleInsider testing on a Razer Core and Nvidia GTX 980 in macOS managed 4.5 teraflops, with the two-year old Nvidia 770 pulling down 3.1 teraflops,” Wuerthele reports. “The new Nvidia 1080 in Windows 10 delivers around 9 teraflops, with the GTX 1070 pushing 6.5 teraflops. For comparison, the Radeon Pro 460 in the high-end build-to-order 15-inch MacBook Pro manages 1.6 teraflops, and the custom-build Mac Pro with dual AMD FirePro D700 delivers 3.5 teraflops, per GPU.”

Much more in the full article – recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Note: The Razer Core is compatible with several AMD and Nvidia graphics cards.

Razer Core can accommodate graphics cards that draw a maximum of 375 watts and are no larger than 12.20 by 5.98 by 1.73 inches. AMD graphics cards that the Core supports at launch are: AMD Radeon R9 Fury, Nano, 300 Series, 290X, 290, and 280. On the Nvidia side, GeForce GTX Titan X, 980 Ti, 980, 970, 960, 950, 750 Ti, and 750 are supported.


  1. Love the hack instructions.
    just build a hackintosh and put the GPU inside of it.

    You are basically hackintoshing your mac to make this work at this point…

    love that it works perfectly in windows though.. why? they’ve had TB3 implemented for almost a whole year already. Apple’s playing catch up now.

    1. I love this from the original article…
      “The Razer Core with GPU stressed during benchmarking is very loud, hitting 71dB at 3 feet from the case —about the same relative volume as a car moving at 65 miles per hour, from 10 feet away. Idle, the card and case is about 49dB.

      A MacBook Pro under load is about 36dB and about 31dB idle or under light load.

      Heat is also an issue. Intake air of 67F was heated to 114F by the case and card. It’s not known what tidal volume of air the case needs for adequate cooling, but the output managed to blow a full box of kleenex about three feet across a desk when the fan switched to high speed.”
      That’s an at-work environmental hazard.
      Just get a 5K iMac

    2. That’s not why… it’s because razer is a windows licensee, builds windows machines, and optimizes their drivers to work with their products. Apple not having an appropriate driver for their product without a partnership isn’t their fault… would you expect a Mac only peripheral to work in windows? No, you wouldn’t.

    3. Also, apple created thunderbolt with intel so playing catchup they are not. And by going full force with thunderbolt 3, they are now leading and everyone is bitching and moaning…It’s simply a driver issue, That’s all this hack is accomplishing to begin with.

  2. Kludge, from our friends at Wikipedia.

    A kludge (or kluge) (/klʌdʒ/, /kluːʒ/, /kluːdʒ/) is a workaround or quick-and-dirty solution that is clumsy, inelegant, inefficient, difficult to extend and hard to maintain. This term is used in diverse fields such as computer science, aerospace engineering, internet slang, evolutionary neuroscience, and government.

    How about a read Mac Workstation that has Xeon CPUs, takes standard graphics cards and has lots of INTERNAL STORAGE, so we don’t have cables and Wall Warts all over the damn place.

    Something like this;

  3. Hm. I’m looking forward to Zen. If priced well, and fast, I think I may buy a pc box. Windows, it’s not great, but once inside the programs I use, I may not notice the OS. It’s been a very long time since I used windows. Prices at Apple are are just ridiculous. Might give Linus a look, too.

  4. Reading the MDN summary, my immediate question was:
    Where’s the bottleneck?

    Be sure to read the source article for the answer(s). The MacBook Pro cannot put all those teraflops to work. 🙁 But if you’re willing to pay a whole lot of $$$ for the box and GPU card, and deal with the noise and power requirements of the Razor Core, you get a decent speed boost, depending upon the work or play you want accomplish.

    The Razer Core, which we’ve done all of our testing on, retails for $500. Expect to spend at least $250 for a decent graphics card

    IOW: Kind of an expensive hack that might well be accomplished by cheaper and more efficient means without a MacBook Pro.

  5. For Apple it will be awesome to provide a solution like this, creating a powerful graphic performing MBP or Mac when connected.

    It will also be a must to make this technology work with the internal display on a Mac, not having to depend exclusively on an external monitor in case of desktop Macs.

    But it is highly possible users will slow down replacing their Macs because of this, so no no!…

  6. I suppose it’s just me, but I’d buy a new well-specked, upgrade-able, black Mac Pro shaped like that box in a heartbeat, regardless of price. Probably 2, even.

    I can’t stop looking at it.

  7. I’m a little surprised this has not been more talked about, a company called Bizon Tech has a box coming out or is out for the new Macbook Pro’s TB3/USB c that can run external graphics cards, which if your looking for portability, in my opinion these new Macbook Pro laptops really can add a lot of professional power because of the 4 USB c ports. There is another company offering a small portable raid box that will do about 2100MBs/write and 2800/MBs read. Here is a link for the Bizon box –

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