At the moment, eGPUs do not support the latest Apple Silicon M1 chip Macs. For this reason, many current Intel Mac users that rely on External Graphics Processing Units to run powerful software like Final Cut Pro and play high end games, say they will not be upgrading to an M1 Mac anytime soon.
The main problem for eGPU manufacturers is that Apple Silicon is a very closed ecosystem.
When Apple decided to drop Intel chips in favor of manufacturing its own ARM M1 chips, it took even greater control of what Macs are and are not compatible with.
By doing this, Apple argues that it can make Macs which are prepared for the demands of VR on Mac, Artificial Intelligence software and other next generation technologies.
Here we look at whether there’s any chance eGPUs will support M1 Macs in 2021 and if an eGPU is even necessary for Apple Silicon M1 chip Macs.
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Why eGPUs Don’t Support M1 Macs
In theory, there’s no reason why eGPUs can’t support M1 chips. M1 Macs have Thunderbolt 3 connections which can be connected to an eGPU PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) that are used on all the best eGPUs including the Blackmagic eGPU.
In fact, if you connect an eGPU to an M1 Mac Mini, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, it will recognize that it’s connected in macOS 11.
However, even if your M1 Mac recognizes the eGPU, it won’t work with it.
The problem is that the drivers to make eGPUs work with the Apple Silicon ARM M1 chip do not exist.
While eGPUs do work with widely used Intel chips in Mac built before mid 2021, the M1 chip is an entirely different architecture and there are no drivers which work with them.
There’s absolutely no motivation for Apple to developer eGPU drivers for M1 Macs since it would argue, the M1 chip delivers better performance than any eGPU out there.
Do You Even Need an eGPU With an M1 Mac?
This is probably the most important question of all.
In theory, the vastly superior performance enhancements made by the M1 chip should mean that you don’t even need an eGPU to super charge your Mac’s graphics handling capabilities.
If you run high end applications like Final Cut Pro or 3D modelling software on an M1 Mac, it will handle it no problem without the need for an eGPU.
In fact, adding an eGPU would probably only breakdown the performance capabilities of an M1 Mac by placing a non-integrated graphics card into your setup.
The more external hardware you add into any setup, the more unstable it can become and prone to crashing as nothing beats a completely unified hardware setup.
So if you’re delaying upgrading to an M1 Mac because of performance concerns, you shouldn’t be worried.
However, a more legitimate concern is M1 chip software compatibility.
Many big software packages (such as AutoCAD and many Adobe products) are still not compatible with the M1 chip.
In addition, gamers often prefer Boot Camp to play Windows games on a Mac but Boot Camp does not work on M1 Macs. Parallels now runs Windows on M1 Macs but it’s not always powerful enough for some games.
So our advice is, don’t delay upgrading to an M1 Mac if you’re only worried about performance issues.
But do wait if the software you rely on is not compatible with M1 chips yet or you need Boot Camp to play Windows only games on your Mac.
What’s The Future For eGPUs?
Since M1 Macs can already out-perform many eGPUs, and as Windows gaming machines become more powerful, it’s quite possible that eGPUs won’t even be needed for much longer.
If you’re interested in learning more about whether M1 Macs really need eGPUs, check out the video below for an explanation of why from a performance perspective, they really don’t and why the days may be numbered for eGPUs.