External GPU box for virtual reality for portable Macs

By | 09/06/2017

VR HeadsetApple recently updated its high-end iMacs’ hardware to be ready for virtual reality. Some older high-end computers from Apple, like iMac Retina 5K Late 2015 with R9 M395X graphics are capable to run less resource demanding virtual reality too, but one of the most known virtual reality manufacturers, Oculus, said they won’t support VR on Macs till Apple creates a powerful computer. Even Mac Pro with dual AMD FirePro D700 does not meet recommended specs for virtual reality. Apple also announced iMac Pro, a powerful machine to support creating of virtual reality content, but it will come in December 2017 and the most cheaper iMac Pro starts at 4999 USD, so this probably won’t persuade Oculus to consider VR for Mac.

Most of PC laptops are not capable to develop virtual reality, except huge, heavy gaming laptops which cost thousands of USD. So if even most of Apple’s desktop Macs does not match recommended specs for VR, what about Mac laptops? How long will we wait to VR support for laptop Macs? Answer is simple: is it in the works. With partnership with Steam, Apple announced official GPU box with support for next generation of Metal, Metal 2. You will need a Mac with Thunderbolt 3 support. Thanks to Metal 2 and AMD Radeon RX 580 8 GB VRAM in this e-GPU kit, you will get GPU powerful enough for creating VR content and to play resource-intensive games with VR headset.

External Graphics Development Kit – official name of this kit – contains mentioned AMD Radeon RX 580 GPU and 350 W power supply packed in box with Thunderbolt 3 port and, as “bonus”, USB-C hub with 4x USB ports. For limited amount of customers is available 100 USD price cut for HTC Vive VR headset.

As I said, you need Mac with Thunderbolt 3 or alternatively, USB-C with Thunderbolt 3 compatibility, so new MacBooks Pro with Touch Bar are supported, but 12-inch Retina MacBook not.

Unfortunately, this kit is only available to registered developers. But what happens, when registered developer sells his External Graphics Development Kit to someone, who is not registered? It is locked down on Apple ID or how? Currently, we don’t know answer, time will shows, but some 3rd party HW manufacturers announced that its’ e-GPUs are in work.

And price?

599 USD without taxes in USA. Apple did not announced price outside of USA. As we expect, in European Union it should be more expensive, but with taxes. And we must count, that price may vary by country in European Union. External Graphics Development Kit will be available since Spring 2018.

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