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External GPU Support Coming To Macs With 'High Sierra' Update

Apple's bringing external GPU support to the Mac. The company announced during its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) that the next version of macOS' graphics API, Metal 2, will allow iMacs and MacBooks to move beyond the integrated graphics that power most of those lineups.

Details about the external GPU support were scarce. Craig Federighi, the company's senior vice president of software engineering, offered the example of using AMD's Radeon RX 580 in a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure with a MacBook. It's not clear if the support will be limited to AMD graphics cards or if Nvidia will also be able to get in on the action, nor if Apple's preparing for the Vega GPU architecture's public debut later this month.

Metal is Apple's successor to OpenGL. Here's what the company said about the API on its developer website:

Metal provides the lowest-overhead access to the GPU, enabling you to maximize the graphics and compute potential of your apps on iOS, macOS, and tvOS. With a streamlined API, precompiled shaders, and support for efficient multi-threading, Metal can take your game or app to the next level of performance and capability.

Support for external GPUs will arrive with Metal 2, which promises up to 10x better draw call throughput over the previous version. The API will debut with macOS High Sierra (yes, that's what they called the next version of macOS) later this year. Developers will be able to install a beta version of the operating system today, and a public beta is expected to launch in late June, so Mac users will be able to use external GPUs soon.