Boosting GPU performance of Apple’s new MacBook Pro using a GPU expander

“All the latest Macs have AMD GPUs. That’s fine — until you need to run CUDA accelerated software — which requires an NVIDIA GPU,” rob-ART morgan reports for Bare Feats. “And what if you would just like to add a second discrete GPU for whatever?”

“We are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to test the BizonBOX 3 (Thunderbolt 3) GPU Expander, but meanwhile we decided to see how the BizonBOX 2 (Thunderbolt 2) would perform connected to the ‘late 2016’ MacBook Pro,” morgan reports. “Even installed in a bandwidth challenged Thunderbolt 2 based GPU Expander, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti was able to boost GPU performance far beyond that of the factory discrete AMD Radeon Pro 460 GPU in the newest, most powerful ‘late 2016’ MacBook Pro.”

“To some it may seem odd that the internal GPU with 10GB/s Device-to-Host bandwidth would not compete better against the external GPU limited by 1.3GB/s Device-to-Host bandwidth (reported by CUDA-Z),” morgan reports. “But unless there is constant chatter between the CPU and GPU, bandwidth is not a major factor in performance.”

Much more, including benchmarks, in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The BizonBOX 3 results should be rather impressive.


  1. I find it pretty ridiculous to buy a $2400 “pro” laptop and have to play simple games like Heroes of the Storm with the graphics set to medium. My girlfriend’s MSI laptop which cost half the price has a GTX 1060. Don’t get me wrong, I love this new MBP, but the graphics performance leaves a lot to be desired.

    1. Yeah, but how much of that is OS X? Have you tried boot camp? I run boot camp and steam on my nMP and it was pretty good. THEN I found out about “hacked drivers” (basically drivers that are up to date from ATI, not 2 years old like the boot camp drivers) and my machine is running things like No Man’s Sky and Battlefield 1 at 60-90 fps.

      1. The 460 Pro is not a powerful GPU but an efficient 30 watts entry-mid level mobile part. Windows over Bootcamp and better drivers help but up to a point. But Bootcamp requires a disk partition and full support for Windows, this is frustrating just to run some games.

        These new MBP have a notable GPU performance improvement over the last generation (2X) but still MBPs are lacking with underperforming hardware.

        Graphic performance has been a long general weakness on Macs for many years and basically we Mac users have to asume the Mac has to do everything on graphics with short hands. Soldering GPUs on Pro desktop is even more problematic.

        When Apple introduced the new MBP it demonstrated how capable they were to drive not one but 2 5K signals with the top 460 Pro GPU. So how come these machines can’t run a not so demanding game at half 5K resolution (1440p)?. Well they can’t because the AMD 460 Pro is an efficient mobile GPU but too far from a high performance hardware, even on a mobile machine. The 460 Pro is capable to run a game or move a complex 3D scene fluently at 1080p (2K), very far from 5K.

        One thing is to present video at 5K or support a 5K desktop and other thing is being able to move a top 3D scene at the same 5K resolution. Apple presents the side they want you to see but they say nothing about their greatest shortcomings. So we have to understand what is available and what is it we need.

  2. Well since only 1 game in existence uses Metal on OSX (world of warcraft) and Open GL is still an ancient super old version… it wouldn’t matter if you have a 1060 in your MBP…

    Nvidia doesn’t even have OSX drivers for Pascal yet…
    They’ve stopped at the 900 series..

    1. Honestly, that’s a pretty poor excuse for a machine that’s supposed to last years into the future. Metal is being incorporated into all Blizzard games, and will be . Also, there’s running games under Windows, which would benefit greatly from a decent graphics chipset. Even for OpenGL it would make a big difference.

      1. apple don’t care about your games.
        they have token entertainment via the app store..
        or crippled versions of PC games. (wrapped in Wine, or using Crossover)

        So why would they put a new nvidia GPU in a laptop, when they can use the bottom of the barrel cheapest amd and call it a day..

        pro users be damned…

        now that nvidia has released AWS based streaming, there is even LESS reason for apple to pursue GPU based anything other then Final Crud.. and even that is super lite on processing compared to anything 3D.

  3. MacBook Pro
    15″ Retina Display 1920×1200
    2.9 quad-core Intel core i7 boost 3.8
    16GB 2133mhz RAM
    1TB PCIe-based SSD
    Radeon Pro 460 4GB RAM
    4 Thunderbolt 3 ports
    $ 3500 before State Theft

    (MacOS free, worth $1000 IMHO)

    Razer Blade Pro
    Intel Core i7 2.6GHz boost 3.5GHz
    32GB DDR4 2133MHz RAM
    ThunderBolt 3 (USB-C), USB 3.0 x 3, HDMI 2.0

    $3999 Before State Theft

    1. And the gameplay in the video is simulated. Typical Windows ploy. Plus, how long does the freaking battery last and how loud are the fans when you go beyond processor idle? These comparisons are ridiculous.

    2. By the way, the only reason that you have decent alternatives – Windows or Android – is because f Apple’s leadership and innovation. You can weasel around all you want, but even diehard Windows and Android fanatics owe their systems to Apple. I find that hilarious.

      And just wait until Apple breaks away from Intel with Mac on ARM with the A11X. It will be glorious!

  4. So much for the portability of a MacBook Pro! But I suppose one could save the NVIDIA GPU monster power for desktop purposes and take the MBP out on the road for mere AMD GPU purposes. Meanwhile, I can’t help thinking theres a better ROI (Return On Investment) out there.

    Anyway, here’s an article from July, 2016 written from a film maker’s point of view (POV ‘Dick’) that describes current external GPUs available:

    What’s the Deal with GPU Expansion, Anyway?

    The article covers the Sonnet EchoExpress, Magma ExpressBox, BizonBOX 2, OWC Helios, Akitio, Highpoint Rocketstor and mLogic RedRocket.

  5. Yea, the Blade Pro looks great on paper. . but you won’t be playing Heroes Of The Storm on it: Because it randomly shuts off due to an incompatibility between the Razer nvidia drivers, Gsync, and the hoTS client. I went through THREE machines [the last one having a warped chassis to boot] before giving up and returning it, speccing out a 15″ MacBook Pro, and calling it a day.

    At least there’s one thing the new MacBook can do that the Blade Pro can’t: use the Razer Core [Windows, obviously]

    Since I already HAVE a Razer core, and I have a GTX 1080 I can throw in it. . . . That’s Pro enough for me o7

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