How to use NVidia cards when you are a Mac user | eGPU – Part 1


For several years now, Apple doesn’t allow Nvidia cards inside its computers. So, if you want to stay on a Mac, and don’t want to switch for a PC, how can you use those fancy cards inside your Macbook, and play with the last rendering engines?

In my opinion, your best and economical option would be to use an e-GPU with a strong graphic card. I’m explaining to you why in this article.

Three options for a Mac user: stay, leave, cry (anyhow)

If you’re a 3D artist and a Mac user, I bet you feel like me: trapped!

Nowadays, any great rendering engine uses NVidia cards only with CUDA for GPU rendering, to boost speed and real-time preview.

And that’s a wise decision: you can put many graphics cards into a single computer, and there’s a huge gap between CPU and GPU rendering in term of speed.

As we all know, speed is a key factor in 3D. That’s why many 3D artists are leaving Mac for good (last one – and a hugh one – is Nick Campbell from GreyscaleGorilla) and I understand their choice.

 

I’m a Mac user… sadly

I’m a huge Mac user. I bought many things from them, like: 2 MacBook Pro (last one has less than 2 years), 1 iPod, 1 iPod Shuffle, 1 iPad, 2 iPhones.

Seriously, this brand is doing amazing products, and for many years, working with an iMac of a MacBook Pro for design and illustrations was a good move.

But I don’t feel like they care about us anymore. And that’s a shame.

 

Why would I buy a $5000 Mac pro?

if I can buy a PC with the graphics cards and the components I can choose and replace, for half the price?

Actually, I bought an expensive Mac Book Pro less than 2 years ago, and that’s the only reason why I can’t afford the cost of a PC:

  • I want to use it as much as I can
  • I want to keep making new illustrations
  • and as a Cinema 4D user, I want to be able to use Redshift, Octane and Vray RT, all those shiny rendering engines.

So few months back, my haunting question was: Ok, is there by any chance a way to use NVidia cards? Or am I f…d?

And then, you know what? I found the light!

 

e-GPU for External Graphic Cards

Before everything, you need first an external enclosure. This box will be connected to your computer through a thunderbolt connection. That’s your e-GPU. Inside, you’ll put your NVidia card. It needs sufficient power supply for it, so be careful to buy a good one.

Currently, you have different solutions available, like:

 

My choice: Razer Core X

Personally, I chose the Razer Core X for several reasons:

  • that’s the cheapest one
  • you have sufficient power supply (xxx W)
  • I trust this brand
  • many users were happy about this one in forums, and some tech guys were saying that this was the smartest choice to do.

So that was enough for me!

 

Buy a good/expensive graphic card

The most important part is now: which graphic card should I buy?

Actually, I got lost very quickly on Amazon, looking for the best one with a *reasonable* (urghhh) price. You have tons of cards for sale, with incomprehensible acronyms (GTX RX657 UI 43Y… almost!), so be strong!  And if you want to have a decent card, you must put at least $800 on the table. That’s the part where I’m thinking to myself that I could maybe stop 3D for good 😀

You will find GTX and RTX graphic cards for the most part (don’t buy Quadro, it’s not even better for rendering and 10x times more expensive).

It seems like the RTX aren’t compatible yet, so don’t buy them also. Fun fact: the RTX 2700 was my initial choice until some dude told me not to buy it for that reason. -_-*

Finally, after consulting some benchmarks, I chose the GTX 1080 Ti, which seemed to be the smartest and safest choice. And more precisely, the ASUS ROG STRIX GTX1080Ti 11G (bless you!)

 

Hack you Mac :D!

Now, the fun begins!

First of all, your journey starts with this website: https://egpu.io/

It’s a gold mine, You’ll find many guys explaining how they succeeded their e-GPU installation. You can start to look for machines matching your setup, your e-GPU and your NVidia card.

Also, I found this Youtube video very comprehensive, which explains all the steps required: How to Use NVIDIA Cards with your Mac eGPU (Easiest Method)

 

In part 2, I’ll explain how I made my installation. See you in the next episode 🙂

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