The new MacBook Pros may feature feature a slim new design and fancy Touch Bar, but the specs aren’t exactly anything to write home about – especially if you’re a gamer. last year’s CPU tech aside, integrated and middling dedicated GPU options don’t bode well for decent framerates.
Of course, if you’re a hardcore gamer, you’re probably not using a Mac. But what if you wanted to?
“It's both terrifyingly interesting and interestingly terrifying”
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Turns out there may be a solution in the form of an external graphics card. Many Windows laptops released in 2016 come with a Thunderbolt 3 port that natively supports external graphics options; that’s the entire premise behind the Razer Blade Stealth.
That same port works on the new MacBook Pro. The caveat is that – for now – you may have to install Windows. Redditor fakebanana was able to get his new 13-inch MacBook Pro to run an Nvidia card using the Razer Core external GPU dock, but only after installing Windows via BootCamp (as far as we can tell, they didn’t try to use a virtual machine like Parallels).
Booting into Windows every time you want to game is obviously an inconvenience, but it’s nice to know that if you wanted to do some serious gaming, or want to use the extra processing power provided by a CUDA or OpenCL compatible app for longer rendering processes, you could.
Moreover, the latest macOS Beta (10.12.2 Beta 2) appears to have improved support for external GPUs, according to some users over at the MacRumors forums.
I know all the counter-arguments to external GPUs. You could just build your own gaming rig for cheaper, but some of us don’t have the space or time. There’s a performance drop-off and bottleneck with Thunderbolt 3, but for some of us the vast overall improvement is more worth it.
Point is, if I want to slap a GTX 1080 onto a MacBook Pro, it’s nice to know that I can. There’s a certain convenience to having one device being able to handle all your needs from portability to high-performance gaming and applications.
Now here’s to hoping Apple implements proper support for external GPUs via Thunderbolt 3 natively. If only that Cinema Display with an external GPU ended up being real…