eGPU with Thunderbolt: macOS 12.1 supports more graphics cards

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Apple has expanded support for so-called eGPUs in macOS 12.1, the latest version of the current Mac operating system Monterey. In the future, AMD’s desktop graphics card Radeon RX 6600 XT can be used with MacBooks if you put them in an eGPU housing and connect them via Thunderbolt. A support document updated this week shows that suitable drivers are part of the update.

As Apple writes, from macOS 12.1 “Additional AMD-RDNA2 products” supported within the RX-6600-XT series. As a specific recommendation, the group currently only mentions Sapphire’s Nitro Radeon RX 6600 XT manufacturer card. Apple also specifies matching eGPU housings: The Thunderbolt 3 chassis from Sonnet (eGFX Breakaway Box 550W) and Razer (Core X) are recommended.

Users of earlier operating system versions cannot use the Radeon RX 6600 XT because the necessary drivers are missing there. That was already the case before: eGPU support began with macOS High Sierra (10.13.4), but other cards were added later in macOS Catalina (10.15.1) and macOS Big Sur (11.4). Not all cards are fully supported. In AMD’s reference models, the Radeon RX 6800, RX 6800 XT, and RX 6900 XT, the USB-C port on the cards, for example, does not work correctly; instead, Apple recommends using DisplayPort and HDMI connections to avoid problems when the screen wakes up.

Basically, eGPUs are only supported on the (meanwhile outdated) Intel Macs via Thunderbolt 3 anyway. So far, there has been no support on Apple Silicon machines, be it machines from 2020 (MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Mac mini with M1 chip) or the current MacBook Pro versions from 2021 with M1 Max and M1 Pro. Whether there will be support for eGPUs in Apple’s new ARM world in the future is not yet known. Apple has not yet commented on the subject – not even in the third year with Apple Silicon.

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