If you want to supercharge your Mac’s graphic handling capabilities, we’ve looked at the very best eGPUs for Mac of 2021.
Whether you’re looking for the best eGPU for a MacBook Pro, iMac or Mac Mini, all of the eGPUs reviewed are compatible with a wide range of Intel Macs.
To use an eGPU, you must have a Mac with an Intel processor. The latest M1 chip Macs do not support external graphics processors.
- What is an eGPU?
- Is It Worth Getting an eGPU for a Mac?
- Which Macs Support eGPUs?
- Do M1 Macs Support eGPUs?
- eGPUs & Charging Your MacBook
- Longer Thunderbolt Cables For eGPUs
- Best eGPUs For Mac Mini & MacBook Pros
- Best External Graphics Cards For Macs
- Can You Use NVIDIA Cards With eGPUs On Mac?
- Using a VR Headset & an eGPU on a Mac
- 1. Razor Core X
- 2. Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box
- 3. Mantiz MZ-03 Saturn Pro
- 4. Akitio Node
- 5. Blackmagic eGPU Pro
- Best eGPU Enclosures For Mac Compared
What is an eGPU?
An eGPU (External Graphics Processing Unit) is an external graphics card which enhances your Mac’s ability to handle graphics.
An eGPU will enhance the graphics performance of any Thunderbolt 3 Mac running macOS High Sierra 10.14.4 or higher.
With the introduction of super fast Thunderbird 3 ports on Macs and eGPU compatibility in the latest versions of macOS Big Sur and Catalina, you can finally accelerate 3D graphics in Metal and OpenCL using an eGPU.
An eGPU is essential to keep up with the demands of the latest games, graphic intensive applications and meet the demands of Virtual Reality (VR) games or Augmented Reality (AR).
However, although there are many eGPUs on the market, not all are Mac compatible.
Is It Worth Getting an eGPU for a Mac?
Unless you have one of the new Apple silicon M1 Macs or one of the iMac Pros then an eGPU is a good investment to enhance the graphic processing capabilities of your Mac.
An eGPU unit can turn your humble MacBook Pro or MacBook Air into a powerful desktop gaming system or 4K video editing system capable of competing with the very best.
Advanced 3D graphics platforms such as NVIDIA CUDA, which are way beyond the capabilities of current Macs, suddenly become accessible with an eGPU.
It also means that highly demanding games can be played at maximum resolution on Mac – something that current Macs struggle with or can’t handle.
Although there are other innovative gaming solutions like NVIDIA’s GeForce Now, they don’t compare to the advantages of having an eGPU box connected to your Mac.
An eGPU allows you to play graphics intensive games at maximum frame rates just as if you were playing it on a PC – even on older Macs as long as they have a Thunderbolt 3 port.
Just as exciting is the fact that eGPUs open-up the world of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) to Mac users.
Unfortunately, at the moment there’s still a lack of VR games on Mac. In fact, development of VR games has been so slow that the Steam gaming platform recently announced that it is dropping support for VR games on Mac.
This decision will probably be reversed once eGPUs become more widely used and newer Macs become more capable of handling VR out of the box.
It’s also likely that Apple will launch its own VR gaming platform either as part of Apple Arcade or in the Mac App Store.
Finally, apart from gaming, if you use demanding applications such as graphic design software, CAD programs or do lots of 4K video editing on your Mac, an eGPU makes a huge difference especially when it comes to rendering images and video.
In summary, the advantages of an eGPU include:
- It can accelerate apps that use Metal, OpenGL, and OpenCL (although unfortunately Apple has depreciated support for OpenGL in the latest versions of macOS).
- It enables you to connect additional external monitors and displays such as powerful 4K monitors to your Mac
- You can use virtual reality headsets with your Mac that are plugged into the eGPU
- You can charge your MacBook Pro while using the eGPU although you need to make sure that the enclosure you use to house the graphics card is powerful enough to do this. All of the eGPUs featured in this top list can charge your Mac.
- You can use an eGPU with your MacBook Pro even when the built-in display is closed
Which Macs Support eGPUs?
Only Macs with an Intel processor support eGPUs with Thunderbolt 3 ports running macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 or later.
The main requirement Mac users should be looking for in an eGPU is that it supports Thunderbolt 3 as eGPUs require the high data speeds of up to 40Gps that only Thunderbolt 3 connections can deliver.
So any Intel Mac with a Thunderbolt 3 port running macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 or above can connect to an external graphics processor unit including macOS Mojave, Catalina and Big Sur.
This means you need a MacBook Pro from 2016 onwards or an iMac from 2017 as all Macs built since then have Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Specifically, the following Macs have Thunderbolt 3 ports and are definitely compatible with eGPUs:
- Mac Pro (T2 Chip, Late 2019)
- MacBook Pro (16-inch, T2 Chip, Late 2019)
- MacBook Air (13-inch, T2 Chip, Mid 2019)
- MacBook Pro (15-inch, T2 Chip, Mid 2019)
- MacBook Pro (13-inch, T2 Chip, Mid 2019)
- iMac (5K, 27-inch, Early 2019)
- iMac (4K, 21-inch, Mid 2019)
- MacBook Air (13-inch, T2 Chip, Late 2018)
- Mac mini (T2 Chip, Late 2018)
- MacBook Pro (15-inch, T2 Chip, Mid 2018)
- MacBook Pro (13-inch, T2 Chip, Mid 2018)
- iMac Pro (5K, 27-inch, T2 Chip, Late 2017)
- iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Mid 2017)
- iMac (Retina 4K, 21-inch, Mid 2017)
- iMac (21-inch, Mid 2017)
- MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid 2017)
- MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2017)
- MacBook Pro (15-inch, Late 2016)
- MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016)
There are ways to get eGPU’s working on older Macs via “daisy-chaining” an eGPU to older Macs via Thunderbolt 2 to 3 adapters but unless you’re an experienced user, we generally don’t recommend it.
Connecting an eGPU via a Thunderbolt adapter is definitely not officially supported by Apple in macOS and so our advice is if you haven’t already got one, upgrade to a Mac with a Thunderbolt 3 port.
You can however connect more than one eGPU using the multiple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports on your Mac.
The following Macs only have Thunderbolt 2 ports although those made before 2015 do not have the Intel Core i5 chip which is necessary if you want to use a VR headset with your Mac.
- MacBook Air (13-inch, Early 2015) and later
- iMac (21.5-inch, Late 2015)
- iMac (Retina 4K, 21.5-inch, Late 2015)
- iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2014) through 2015
- Mac mini (Late 2014)
- MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Late 2013) through 2015
- MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Late 2013) through 2015
- Mac Pro (Late 2013)
Note that macOS now supports plug and play with all eGPUs.
You can connect an eGPU while a user is logged in – you don’t have to shut down and restart. Simply use the eGPU menu bar icon to safely disconnect the eGPU such as you would with an external hard drive.
Do M1 Macs Support eGPUs?
If you’ve got one of the latest M1 chip Macs or the iMac Pro you do not need an eGPU. In fact, the new M1 chip Macs do not even support eGPUs.
The fact is the Apple Silicon M1 chip is so powerful that an eGPU wouldn’t make much difference anyway.
Although M1 Macs support Thunderbolt 3 and will recognize an eGPUs in macOS 11, the M1 SOC does not support eGPUs and there are no drivers for ARM chips.
The fact is M1 chip Macs don’t need eGPUs and we don’t expect to see M1 Macs support eGPUs in the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately that also means at the moment you can’t use a VR headset on an M1 Mac although that will surely change as VR headset manufacturers start to support the Apple silicon M1 chip.
eGPUs & Charging Your MacBook
Another thing to bear in mind is that if you’re using a MacBook, you’ll need to make sure that the eGPU unit can provide enough power to power both the graphics card and charge your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air.
The eGPU chassis needs to provide at least 85 watts of charging power to achieve this.
All the eGPU units reviewed in this article all provide enough power to do both but if you choose an eGPU that’s not featured here, double-check this with the manufacturer.
Longer Thunderbolt Cables For eGPUs
One common practical problem we noticed with all the eGPUs reviewed here was the length of the Thunderbolt 3 cable that comes with them.
Since most manufacturers only provide a 0.5m cable, it means you must have the large units close to your Mac which isn’t always convenient if you haven’t got much space or want to connect to a Mac-mini.
However, for an extra 50 bucks you can get 2 meter (6 feet) Thunderbolt 3 cables which are definitely worth the investment so that you can store the units on the floor or away from your Mac.
Best eGPUs For Mac Mini & MacBook Pros
Any of the eGPUs reviewed here work perfectly with any year of Mac Mini or MacBook Pro that has a Thunderbolt 3 port running macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 or higher.
There’s no such thing as the best eGPU for a base model MacBook Pro 16 or Mac Mini from 2020.
There are no special requirements for connecting a Mac Mini or MacBook Pros to an eGPU so you can be assured that all the graphics enclosures and graphics cards reviewed here work perfectly well with them.
Best External Graphics Cards For Macs
Apart from the eGPU itself, the other major thing you’ll need is a graphics card to put inside it.
The only all-in-one solution which included both the eGPU enclosure and a graphics card used to be the portable Sonnet Puck but it’s no longer available.
You have to be very careful with this because not all external graphics cards are supported by macOS yet.
At the moment, AMD Radeon graphics cards based on Polaris are the safest bet for Mac users which includes the Sapphire Pulse and RX range.
AMD Radeon cards work seamlessly with Macs and you can easily connect and disconnect them in your Mac’s menu bar.
There is no official list of graphics cards that are officially supported on Mac but the following definitely work with macOS and simply plug-and-play with no extra drivers required.
Can You Use NVIDIA Cards With eGPUs On Mac?
Unfortunately, NVIDIA graphics cards still aren’t supported in macOS and our advice is to stick to AMD cards for now.
The only NVIDIA graphics card that officially supports Macs is the NVIDIA Titan Xp which is incredibly powerful although it doesn’t come cheap at over $1000.
NVIDIA no longer makes drivers for its graphics cards for the latest versions of macOS.
This is simply because NVIDIA and Apple are competing when it comes to gaming on Mac.
NVIDIA is trying to get a foot hold in the Mac gaming market with its own gaming platform GeForce Now For Mac.
GeForce Now delivers games from NVIDIA’s gaming servers in the Cloud so you don’t need an eGPU to play them. However, it costs $4.99 per month and the selection of games available is still quite limited.
At the moment, possibly because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, subscriptions for GeForce Now For Mac are currently sold out as more people stay at home to play games although NVIDIA claims more capacity will be added soon.
For the time being, we strongly recommend sticking with AMD cards because until NVIDIA and Apple sort out their differences, the stand-off could go on for quite some time
Using a VR Headset & an eGPU on a Mac
To use a VR helmet with an eGPU on a Mac, you’ll also need a Mac with an Intel Core i5 chip or higher.
This is because the only VR headset for Mac that officially supports macOS is the HTC Vive which requires an Intel Core i5 or higher present in 2015 Macs or later.
However, considering the lack of VR games currently available for Mac and the lack of Mac compatible VR headsets, getting an eGPU just to use VR on a Mac probably isn’t worth it at this time.
Note also that the Oculus Rift and Oculus Quest do not work on Mac even with an eGPU connected to your Mac.
With all this in mind, here then are the best eGPUs for Mac of 2021 in order of ranking.
1. Razor Core X
The Razor Core X was voted our favorite eGPUs for Mac thanks to a combination of incredible performance, value for money at just $399 and ultra sleek styling.
The Razor Core X Thunderbolt 3 external graphics card enclosure is actually optimized for Razor laptops but it works seamlessly with Macs.
What we really like about the Razor Core X is the performance, the styling and ease of installing a graphics card.
The sleek exterior looks like something that could have even been designed by Apple and there are no tools required to slot in a graphics card.
All you need is a single thumbscrew.
The Razor Core X isn’t exactly portable but it’s reasonably compact measuring about a foot long, half a foot tall and a few inches wide.
It does however accept bigger 3-slot wide cards and includes an internal 650W power supply which explains why it’s a bit beefy.
It’s also surprisingly quiet for such a powerful unit. You can just about hear the cooling fan but it’s barely audible and not bothersome with 4 cooling vents to let heat escape.
You’ll definitely notice that the Razor Core X takes the heavy load from your Mac and performance is generally very impressive whether it’s gaming, video editing, rendering or running 4K monitors.
There’s also the more powerful Razor Core X Chroma which is around $100 ($499) more with RGB which supports 16.8 million colors. It also has a USB hub and built-in ethernet.
The Razor Core X Chrome will render quicker in Final Cut Pro X although and if you need RGB support, it’s definitely worth getting over the Razor Core X.
Note that if you find availability of the Razor Core X limited on Amazon due to high demand, you can also buy directly from Razor.
- Looks like an Apple product
- No tools required to slot in graphics card
- Runs multiple 4K displays with ease
- Includes built in 650W power supply
- Fast, quiet performance
- Takes up quite a bit of space
- Not as powerful as the Razor Core X Chroma
2. Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box
The Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box is one of our top eGPUs for Mac of 2021 due to a combination of rock solid performance, seamless compatibility with macOS and Apple endorsement.
The Sonnet 650 was in fact the first eGPU to be officially endorsed by Apple back in 2017 when it used it to showcase the possibilities of using an eGPU with a Mac at the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC).
What we like about the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box is that despite being incredibly powerful it’s extremely quiet. In fact even under extensive use and heavy load we’re yet to hear the fans whir.
The demands of 4K video editing for example are immense and the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box is definitely our choice as the best eGPU for video editing on Mac because it provides a huge performance boost when using Final Cut.
It comes with its own 350W power supply and the neat thing is that once connected to your Mac via Thunderbolt 3, it actually provides power to your Mac too – useful if you don’t have access to a power supply.
However, the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box is available in a 550 and 650 version and the 650 version delivers full 100W charging power for MacBooks which is important to provide fast charging to the 16 inch MacBook Pro.
Like most eGPUs, it’s extremely easy to slot in a graphics card and your Mac will automatically detect it when you connect the Thunderbolt cable.
On the downside, it does feel like a big unit especially if you don’t have much space on your desk. It dwarfs most external drives and it needs to be fairly close to your Mac due to the rather short 0.5m Thunderbolt 3 cable.
Sonnet used to make a compact eGPU and graphics card all-in-one setup known as the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck but it’s now discontinued.
Note that the Sonnet also does not support running Windows through Boot Camp.
We don’t recommend this anyway now that macOS supports eGPU units natively but if you are thinking of running Windows on your Mac bear this issue in mind.
The difference between them is the power they can provide.
The more powerful the model, the bigger and more powerful graphics card they can support and the more charging power they provide your MacBook.
The more powerful 650W version supports 375W graphics cards that require up to an additional 100W of peak power (8-pin + 8-pin power connectors).
It also provides up to 87W of power delivery to charge a laptop.
For a more in-depth look, you can check out our full Sonnet Breakaway Box review.
- Extremely quiet
- Supports Thunderbolt 3
- Easy to plug and play graphics card
- Perfect for 4K video editing on Mac using Final Cut
- Provides plenty of battery charge for MacBook Pros (both 550W and 650W Models)
- Size – extremely big if you’ve got a small desk
- Thunderbolt cable length (0.5m)
- Some bugs with High Sierra but improved in Mojave and Catalina
- Does not support Boot Camp
- Poor availability from Sonnet
3. Mantiz MZ-03 Saturn Pro
The main attraction of the Mantiz MZ-03 Saturn Pro is that it has FOUR Thunderbolt 3 ports which allows you to easily add another monitor to your display setup.
3 of the ports are on the front with one on the back although this does pose a problem with cables coming out of the front of the unit instead of the back if you connect all 3 of them.
There’s also an Ethernet connection so you don’t have to rely on WiFi and even an SATA port.
It’s also one of the sleekest eGPU units we’ve seen with a nice machined aluminum finish and it’s very easy to insert graphics cards thanks to a side panel which pops off without the need for any tools.
The Manitiz MZ-03 Saturn Pro is particularly suitable for video editing on a Mac because of the added Thunderbolt ports for multiple 4K monitor support.
- Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
- Nice metallic finish
- SATA and Ethernet ports
- No tools needed to insert graphic cards
- Thunderbolt cable length (0.5m)
4. Akitio Node
Akitio is based in California and specializes in doing everything in-house designing and creating new Thunderbolt peripherals such as external hard drives for Macs and now eGPUs.
Akitio products are extremely reliable, functional and are quickly gathering a dedicated following.
Like the Sonnet eGPU, the Akitio Node is very easy to set up and use with plug and play support for graphics cards. The Akitio Node has a PCIe (x16) slot that will take full-sized and also double-width cards.
The Node also has a built-in power supply which can help if not enough power is getting to your graphics card.
The Akitio Node is pretty quiet although the extra power supply makes it slightly noisier than other eGPUs. It’s also a very big unit and takes up a lot of space on your desk.
It’s also quite soft at the front of the unit so be careful when moving it around not to dent it. It does however have a useful carry handle on the back which makes it a bit easier to transport and move around than the Sonnet.
If you’re planning on buying an eGPU for gaming, we’d say the Akitio Node is arguably the best eGPU for the Mac Mini as its got punch for high end games but is still technically portable due to the carry handle.
It’s also possible to play Windows only games with the Akitio Node as it supports running Windows in Boot Camp on your Mac.
There’s also the more stylish and slightly more powerful Akitio Node Pro which you may want to check out.
You can check out our full review of the Akitio Node for a more in depth look.
- Easy to set up and use
- Accepts all sizes of graphics card
- Includes extra power supply
- Supports running through Boot Camp for Windows only games
- Power supply makes more noise than Sonnet
- Thunderbolt cable length (0.5m)
- Limited availability
5. Blackmagic eGPU Pro
The Blackmagic eGPU is a graphics enclosure and graphics card in one that is officially endorsed by Apple.
In fact it’s the only eGPU you can buy from the Apple website as Blackmagic products are limited to certain resellers and you can’t buy it from sites like Amazon for example.
The Blackmagic eGPU Pro was actually discontinued in 2020 because AMD stopped making the Radeon RX Vega 56 graphics chip that powered it and it subsequently disappeared from Apple’s website in April 2020.
Back then, we didn’t recommend it because with a price tag of an eye popping $1,199 there were too many better, cheaper alternative eGPUs on the market.
Now the Blackmagic eGPU Pro costs $699 which is by far the most expensive eGPU reviewed here but is far more reasonable than it was a year ago.
The revised Blackmagic eGPU Pro comes with the new Radeon Pro 580 graphics processor with 8GB of GDDR5 memory.
The Blackmagic eGPU Pro has two Thunderbolt 3 ports, four USB 3 ports, one HDMI 2.0 port and delivers 85W of power to charge your MacBook Pro.
The original Blackmagic eGPU Pro also had many issues tending to freeze a lot and required unplugging and reconnecting again even when watching something as simple as a YouTube video.
The revised Blackmagic eGPU pro now lives up to the claim of “super smooth gaming” allowing you to play games like Fortnite at its maximum frame rate.
With video editing apps like Final Cut Pro, the Blackmagic Pro blazes through rendering, even with 4K video. It can also be paired with the LG UltraFine 5K Display for increduibly high definition video playback.
It’s also a very quiet eGPU and really fits the Apple aesthetic when it comes to looks.
Although it’s convenient to get an enclosure and graphics card in one that’s ready to go out of the box, annoyingly you can’t upgrade the new Radeon Pro 580 graphics card in the Blackmagic eGPU Pro.
All the external graphics enclosures reviewed here are cheaper, upgradeable and better alternatives to the Blackmagic Pro eGPU which offer more bang for your buck.
You can find out more about Blackmagic eGPU availability and pricing here.
- eGPU enclosure and graphics card in one
- Officially endorsed by Apple
- 3 Thunderbolt ports
- Ready to use out of the box
- Can’t upgrade or change graphics card
Best eGPU Enclosures For Mac Compared
Here’s a helpful side-by-side comparison of our top 5 Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosures for macOS.