With the upcoming release of High Sierra 10.13 Apple has taken a turn for the better by including a number of improvements to the graphical side of macOS. At WWDC they announced an update to macOS called Metal 2. Metal 2 is basically an improvement to the existing Metal the underlying graphical structure that all that Metal, OpenCL, and OpenGL apps use to work.
Metal 2 in High Sierra
With Metal 2 will come 10 times higher draw calls and a faster frame rate debugger. These improvements mean Mac applications like Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Suit as well as your favorite games that take advantage of Metal’s API will be able to perform faster with it’s optimization. In addition to the speed improvements Metal 2 will come with official support for native AMD drivers, external GPU’s and VR Dev software, which will further improve things on the performance side.
Supported Graphics Cards
Apple is continuing the AMD as their choice for their GPU’s. They placed placing a Radeon Pro 570/580 and RX Vega in the iMac lineup and will be supporting AMD desktop graphic cards as part of their external GPU enclosure. Now current and future AMD graphic cards will work on macOS that’s for sure, however when it comes to Nvidia offerings with their GTX series cards that’s still a hazy unknown. It took Nvidia 8 whole months after Sierra’s release to bring support for their Pascal graphic cards released an entire year before support came for pascal cards like the GTX 1070 and 1080.
Mac eGPU Enclosures
With official support for external graphic cards by Apple, many improvements will be available to the developers of these enclosures with Metal’s API. A number of bugs that currently exist with third party eGPU solutions will go away.
The eGPU enclosures will work with existing and future AMD graphic cards you can actually get one right now with a RX 580 for $599, which is a really good price considering you get a a graphics card, a eGPU enclosure and a USB hub. The external graphics enclosure offered by Apple is currently available for those participating in their Paid Developer Program. Existing Nvidia graphic card should also work in High Sierra as long as Nvidia releases Web Drivers for High Sierra, something that’s no gauranteed given their previous track record of delaying support for Sierra 10.12.
These graphics card will run over Thunderbolt 3. which will be slower than the native a PCI-e slot performance on a desktop. Thunderbolt 3 will be the only bottleneck and downside to an eGPU setup and you can expect a 15% to 30% performance drop driving a graphics card through a thunderbolt 3 cable compared to a PCI-e slot.
However, these eGPU enclosures will still be a great solution for those stuck with an unupgradable computer they purchased from Apple who still want to recieve speed improvements without having to shell out thousands more for an entire new system. They can simply upgrade the graphics card while reusing the eGPU enclosure and iMac or MacBook. The graphic chip is primary where the speed improvements come from since processor improvements from Intel have been negligible the past couple years. You can see that can seen when comparing the 2017 Mac’s to the 2016 with the tiny speed difference between the 2016’s Skylake and the 2017 Kabylake CPU.
Virtual Reality software and games will begin coming with the release of macOS High Sierra. That’s actually already happening with some developers. Valve, the company behind the Steam gaming platform, have announced that they are working on SteamVR for macOS that will be available for High Sierra. More developers are likely to join in with time as Apple is keen to push VR to macOS by offering an external GPU kit to their developers for such a competitive price at $599.
Gaming on a Mac
With Apple no longer having their backs turned against the graphical side of computers by finally caving towards those who want more than just a expensive showpiece of hardware, you can expect a big boost in gaming performance when combining High Sierra’s performance improvements with an AMD Radeon graphics card as AMD cards will have an overall better performance compared to Nvidia GTX cards because most Mac apps/games use OpenCL. AMD is good at OpenCL and Nvidia isn’t. Nvidia is much more suited that take advantage of CUDA something you’ll see much less of on macOS compared to windows.
Since the Apple PC lineup will be using better graphic chips along with the expandable capabilities brought by about Metal 2 with it’s eGPU and VR support, you can expect it to draw more developers who may reconsider porting over their games to macOS and developing new ones if High Sierra is a huge success.