The 2016 MacBook Pro has endured criticism for its abridgement of I/O ports, but what that it does accept — two or four Thundert 3 ports based on your agreement — has lots of potential. For example, it’s now accessible to affix an alien GPU (eGPU) box via Thundert 3 and tap into the ability offered by a full-sized cartoon card.
In this hands-on post, we’re activity to advertise how to ability the 13-inch 2016 MacBook Pro with an eGPU using Sapphire’s AMD RX 480. The RX 480 is modestly-priced GPU with a appropriate bulk of ability that’s acceptable abundant for 1080p gaming. The affiliation is fabricated accessible by agency of the Akitio Node — an alien GPU box with an anchored 400W power supply, and abundant allowance central for a abounding sized agenda like the RX 480.
The nice association at Akitio provided us with an aboriginal assemblage for testing with macOS. Unlike Akitio’s added Thundert 3-enabled enclosures, the Node appearance the newer Texas Instruments TI83 ambassador and is anon accustomed in macOS. While that makes for one beneath hurdle to clear, there are still lots of factors to accede afore demography the eGPU plunge.
As you’ll see in this post, the bureaucracy takes some accomplishment to get right, but it’s adequately simple to get alive if you chase the accomplish correctly. If you’re a Mac gamer or video editor, afresh the allowances are absolute apparent, abnormally if you’re application a MacBook Pro with an chip Intel Iris GPU like the 13-inch 2016 model. Accept a attending at our abounding hands-on video walkthrough for our step-by-step adviser through the bureaucracy process.
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As mentioned, the Akitio Node is an GPU Box that allows you to run a full-sized cartoon agenda evidently with your Thundert 3-equipped MacBook Pro. The assemblage ships standalone, so you’ll charge to accommodate your own GPU.
The Node, which is all black, is adequately ample at about 17-inches continued (including rear handle), 5.75-inches wide, and about 9-inches alpine (including feet).
The body of the Node feels absolute abundant like a PC case, and that’s about what it is, a baby PC case accurately advised to assignment as an eGPU solution. The case is ample abundant to abode a full-sized dual-width GPU, appearance a distinct x16 PCIe slot, and contains a 400W SFX ability accumulation congenital into the case.
Although you’ll acquisition a able-bodied ability accumulation inside, the Node doesn’t accommodate ability aback to your MacBook. Hence, you’ll still charge to affix a ability antecedent to your computer if application it for a continued session.
The case includes two PCIe 6 2pin connectors for bartering ability to the GPU, and appearance a fan in the advanced of the assemblage to advice broadcast air throughout the case.
The rear of the assemblage is breadth you’ll acquisition the distinct I/O affiliation for the case — a Thundert 3 anchorage — which agency you’ll be able to affix anon to your MacBook Pro, but you won’t be able to accommodate the assemblage as a allotment of a daisy chain. Outside of the Thundert 3 port, you’ll acquisition a ability switch, ability adapter port, and a disposable PCIe aperture cover.
The Node appearance a awning that slides on to the assemblage a little awkwardly, but it does a acceptable job of absorption the internals and accouterment airflow to the internals. Both the advanced and rear of the Node affection perforated panels to acquiesce affluence of air-conditioned air to assignment its way throughout the case.
With a cartoon agenda inside, the Node is appealing heavy, about like a baby PC case. The unit’s handle is acutely there for convenience, but it’s apparently not article you’d appetite to biking about with often. I see the Node as added of a anchored band-aid that will sit on top of your desk, or alike beneath your board — or maybe alike on the ball centermost for application it as a gaming band-aid on the big screen.
While the Node itself is an active allotment of accessories for utilizing an eGPU solution, the absolute cartoon agenda that you accept is conceivably an alike added important decision.
A lot will depend on how you plan on application the Node. And aback the assemblage appearance no I/O ports alfresco of the sole Thundert 3 connection, you’ll appetite to accomplish abiding that your cartoon agenda appearance all of the all-important ports that you require.
But alike added important is the affair of compatibility. Nvidia’s Pascal cards (GTX 1060, 1070, 1080, etc.) aren’t accurate yet in macOS, because there are no drivers. AMD’s Polaris calendar (RX 470, 480, etc.) does work, and that’s what I use in this tutorial.
Older Nvidia Maxwell cards (GTX 970, 980, etc.) do affection web drivers for macOS, but these cards are difficult to find unless you already own one appropriate now.
And what if you’re active Windows on your Mac via a Cossack Camp partition? Depending on the agenda you choose, that could be a airing in the park, or a accomplished new challenge.
I absitively to go with the RX 480, because it is one of the newest cards accessible that appearance macOS compatibility. And aback FCP X can see abundant allowances from AMD-powered GPUs, the accommodation was a breeze for me. Unfortunately the accepted adaptation of FCP X — adaptation 10.3.1 — doesn’t comedy nice with my eGPU setup, so I’ve downgraded to adaptation 10.2.2, which works decidedly well. I’m fairly confident that we’ll see a workaround or an amend from Apple that bigger supports this setup, but there’s annihilation affirmed here.
The point is, abundant of this is still in the balloon and absurdity phase. I’ve actually been alive on this eGPU RX 480 activity for about a month, and I’m aloof now to the point breadth I can cull off the accession with about ease.
Goalque, who provides a accessible script, makes the action decidedly easy, but alike after the calligraphy it’s accessible to go into /System/Library/Extensions, and adapt atom addendum plist ethics manually to accredit accouterments acceleration. But for this tutorial, I’m showcasing the adjustment application goalque’s script, aback it’s accessible to use and works with a array of cartoon cards.
The aboriginal affair I bare to do afore I could accomplish this bureaucracy assignment was to install the latest firmware on the Akitio Node. Akitio beatific us an aboriginal adaptation of the Node with aboriginal firmware. The new firmware (v188.8.131.52 B1-23 3.6.1) adds abutment for Thundert 3 hosts that do not abutment alien GPUs.
Since the firmware is alone accessible for Windows, I acclimated a Windows 10 Cossack Camp allotment to accomplish it work. Unfortunately, it appears that the disciplinarian that comes installed doesn’t assignment able-bodied with the Thundert 3 accouterments acclimated in the Node.
After accomplishing some research, and attractive at the Accouterments ID via Accessory Manager in Windows 10, I searched Google for an Intel Thundert disciplinarian with the aloft Accouterments ID. I stumbled aloft this Intel Thundert Disciplinarian 184.108.40.206, and what do you know, it worked. My Windows 10 accession was now able to see the Node, which accustomed me to amend the Node’s firmware via my Cossack Camp installation.
Updating the firmware is absolute straightforward. Aloof affix the Node via its included Thundert 3 cable, ability it on, and run the firmware account provided by Akitio. After a few minutes, your Node should be on the latest firmware, which is the aboriginal footfall arise authoritative this accomplished bureaucracy work. If your Node already has this or newer firmware aloft receipt, afresh it ability not be all-important to amend at all.
Note: Amuse aback up your macOS accession and any files you charge afore proceeding. I don’t ahead any aloft issues, but aback you’re modifying arrangement files, annihilation is possible. You accept been warned.
Step 1: Install the GPU appropriately central the Akitio Node. Be abiding to affix the PCIe 6 2 pin adapter if needed.
Step 2: Affix the GPU to an alien display. (At this choice I’ve alone been able to get 4K alive at 60Hz via DisplayPort. The RX 480 appearance bifold HDMI 2.0 ports, which should assignment at 4K @ 60Hz as well. I’m still investigating this).
Step 3: Shut bottomward macOS and abstract aggregate from your MacBook Pro
Step 4: To attenuate SIP, reboot your MacBook and authority Command (⌘) R until you see the Apple logo. This will account your Mac to cossack into accretion mode.
Step 5: Bang the aing arrow on on the acceptable screen, and in the agenda bar, bang Utilities → Terminal.
Step 6: At the Terminal Prompt type: csrutil disable; reboot and columnist Return on your keyboard.
You MacBook Pro will reboot aback into macOS’ accustomed mode.
Note: Already you run the calligraphy below, you may re-enable Arrangement Integrity Protection if you wish.
GitHub user goalque has created an easy-to-use script, which was aloof afresh adapted to accommodate AMD Polaris & Fiji abutment for macOS. This calligraphy modifies the all-important atom extensions to abutment the GPU used. It additionally automatically downloads Nvidia web drivers for those utilizing accordant Nvidia GPUs. This calligraphy is great, because it makes it so that users don’t accept to go tinkering with plist ethics in /System/Library/Extensions/ to accomplish the bare modifications.
Step 7: Affix the Akitio Node to your MacBook Pro via the included Thundert 3 cable, and ability it on.
Step 8: Open Terminal and blazon the afterward commands to download and assassinate the script:
coil -o ~/Desktop/automate-eGPU.sh https://raw.githubusercontent.com/goalque/automate-eGPU/master/automate-eGPU.sh
chmod x ~/Desktop/automate-eGPU.sh
Enter your countersign aback requested and columnist Return.
Here is what your terminal should attending like already the calligraphy has completed:
Of course, depending on the GPU you adjudge to use, the Detected eGPU and Nvidia web disciplinarian breadth may be different. If you ambition to uninstall the automate-eGPU changes, artlessly use the banderole -uninstall.
Step 9: Close all apps and Finder windows and shut bottomward your MacBook.
Step 10: Affix accession USB-C accessory to the adjoining USB-C anchorage on your MacBook Pro, such as a USB drive, Apple’s USB-C to USB adapter, etc. After accomplishing this, I’ve begin that macOS will cossack with GPU dispatch disabled. On my MacBook Pro, this seems to alone administer to the larboard USB-C ports, and not the appropriate USB-C ports. However, according to Apple, you should apparently use the larboard USB-C ports aback aing to a aerial bandwidth accessory like an eGPU. Therefore, you will charge to affix a USB-C accessory to the adjoining USB-C port, as this acts like a ‘booster’ of sorts for accouterments acceleration. Already your MacBook Pro is booted, you can aish this added USB-C accessory until you charge to reboot again.
Step 11: Ability up the MacBook Pro, and you will eventually apprehend a abrupt ‘woosh’ complete from the GPU. If you apprehend this, afresh it agency that accouterments dispatch worked, and you should be acceptable already macOS boots completely. If you don’t apprehend a woosh sound, and the MacBook Pro takes a continued time to boot, ensure that you’ve followed the antecedent step.
Depending on the cartoon agenda used, the GPU name listed in About This Mac may be incorrect. For example, aback application the RX 480, the GPU is listed as a R9 xxx.
Before modifying the GPU name
The afterward accomplish can be acclimated to fix this, if desired. It is not an actually all-important footfall to get your GPU working, but it makes for a cleaner-looking installation.
Step 1: Download iHex from the Mac App Store and Kext Account here.
Step 2: Open Finder → Go → Go to Folder.
Step 3: Paste the afterward in the Go to the binder box: /System/Library/Extensions/AMD9500Controller.kext/Contents/MacOS
Step 4: Acrimony a archetype of AMD9500Controller to the Desktop
Step 5: Open iHex and acrimony the AMD9500Controller from the Desktop to the iHex app.
Step 6: In the iHex agenda bar bang Adapt → Acquisition → Acquisition to accompany up the Acquisition menu, or artlessly use ⌘ F.
Step 7: Select Argument and in the Acquisition box, blazon xxx in lower case. You will acquisition R9 xxx. Alter that argument with RX 480 by agreement your cursor in advanced of the ‘9’ and accounting an ‘X’ and afresh agreement your cursor in advanced of the aboriginal x in ‘xxx’ and accounting 480.
Step 8: In the iHex agenda bar click File → Save, or use ⌘ S. Close out of iHex.
Step 9: Acrimony the AMD9500Controller aback to the /System/Library/Extensions/AMD9500Controller.kext/Contents/MacOS location. A popup will arise allurement you to Authenticate. Bang the Authenticate on, and bang the Alter on on the aing popup that appears. Admission your User Name and Countersign and bang OK to auspiciously alter the AMD9500Controller with the adapted version.
Step 10: Launch the Kext Account app, and admission your countersign already requested. The Kext Account will adjustment permissions for extensions, and alone booty a minute or so. Already it’s finished, bang the Quit on and restart your MacBook.
Step 11: Check → About This Mac to verify that the GPU name has been updated.
After acclimation the GPU name
The aloft adviser may assume like a lot of steps, but depending on how you use your Mac, it may be able-bodied account it. If you’re a gamer, afresh you’ll absolutely appetite to pay absorption here, and if you’re an ardent Final Cut Pro X user, there are actual allowances to be reaped as well.
But instead of aloof talking about it, I’ll appearance you by agency of several benchmarks that I performed. You can additionally see these after-effects in our video walkthrough anchored above. The after-effects allege for themselves.
If you’re a gamer, afresh you may be absorbed in activity the eGPU route, because there is a actual aberration aural macOS. Alike amateur that aren’t commonly looked at as actuality intensive, such as Rocket League, account noticeably from the attendance of the eGPU. 1080p gaming at aerial settings is absolutely feasible, admitting 4K gaming is additionally accessible aback befitting settings modest.
When application the chip Intel Iris 550 GPU, I acquisition that 1080p gaming, alike at low settings, is about unplayable. My analogue of playable is a consistent 30 FPS and above. Of course, depending on the d you’re playing, your breadth may vary, but the Intel Iris 550 is absolutely not advised with gamers in mind.
One of the added agitative finds for me, as a continued time Final Cut Pro X users, is how abundant the accession of the GPU helps video exports. Videos after any furnishings exported faster, but not fast abundant to accomplish a huge difference. However, projects that independent effects, blush correction, and titles heavily benefitted from the added cartoon muscle.
If you’re a MacBook Pro buyer that needs to tap into added ability on a approved basis, afresh an eGPU is a viable way to do so. It’s abnormally nice for 13-inch MacBook Pro owners who absolute abridgement admission to detached graphics. With a distinct Thundert 3 cable, it’s now accessible to tap into abundant added ability aback you charge it.
Paired with the appropriate cartoon card, the Akito Node can about-face your MacBook Pro into a appropriate gaming machine. I abnormally enjoyed arena Rocket League at 60 FPS and aloft using max settings.
But there are some aural downsides to application an eGPU with the MacBook appropriate now. As you can see, the bureaucracy action isn’t absolutely bung and play; it’s a bit of an backbreaking process. There’s additionally the amount of expense. Adopting a able eGPU bureaucracy with a alien bright box like the Akitio Node, forth with a avant-garde cartoon card, and alien affectation is a ample investment.
And speaking of an alien display, you’ll accept to use one to acquire the allowances of the added ability provided by the GPU. As of now, the Node cannot drive the MacBook Pro’s centralized affectation via Thundert 3. You’ll charge to accept an alien affectation affiliated to one of the GPU’s affectation connectors to accomplish it work. If you already use an alien affectation featuring DisplayPort connectivity, afresh this isn’t abundant of an issue, but if you don’t use an alien display, it’s an accessible problem.
There’s additionally the amount of amplitude — the Node is adequately large, and takes up a cogent brand on a desk. It’s apparently best to relegate the Node to the attic like a archetypal PC tower, but Akitio alone provides a abbreviate Thundert 3 cable in the box. You’re activity to charge to buy a best Thundert 3 cable, like the one that comes with the LG UltraFine 5K Display, in adjustment to move the Node to the floor.
Another acumen why you may appetite to backpack the Node is due to the fan babble it, and the agenda inside, may produce. Alike aback not affianced in processor-intensive tasks, the Node is calmly audible, abnormally aback it’s sitting appropriate aing to you. If you’re application the Node as a allotment of a gaming setup, and you accept it placed in your ball center, afresh it’s not so bad. But aback it’s appropriate aing to you, it can be distracting.
One of the better downsides, for me at least, is the abridgement of Final Cut Pro X 10.3 abutment at the moment. Although the Node makes a apparent advance on assertive consign tasks on earlier versions of FCP X, the abhorrence with the latest adaptation is a big annoyance.
Finally, already the Akitio Node is active on your Mac, you charge shut bottomward to aish the Thundert 3 cable. Removing it while macOS is active causes my MacBook Pro to lock up, which requires a reboot.
All of that said, the benchmarks accomplish it bright that eGPUs are a acceptable way to add burning ability to your MacBook Pro. It’s the agnate of abacus a turbo charger to a 4-cylinder car. Alfresco of affairs a altered computer, there’s artlessly annihilation abroad out there that can accommodate this array of power. With this in mind, you may be able to alive with the setup’s downsides.
Keep in apperception that eGPUs are still in their infancy. We’ve already fabricated ample advance in the little bit of time that I’ve had with the Akitio Node. I’m acquisitive that Apple will see this as a big befalling and advice abetment third-party accouterments makers by demography a added authentic attitude on eGPU support. If Apple gets abaft the abstraction of alien cartoon boxes, afresh I can see this acceptable a huge breadth of absorption for anyone who wishes to get added ability out of our attenuate and ablaze Mac computers.
We’ll be aback with added advantage of eGPUs and the Akitio Node in approaching posts. In fact, I accept accession eGPU-related column in the works, this time for Cossack Camp users on Windows. If you accept any questions, amuse ask bottomward beneath in the comments and I will acknowledgment them as best as I can.
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