What is the current state of eGPU support for Cycles on Macs?

Hey everyone, today I plugged a brand new RX580/Razor Core combo into my MacBook Pro (2016 13" nTB).

The eGPU is working fine (Fusion, Lightwave), but I am wondering why the latest 2.8 builds do not recognize it as a cycles compute device. Is this just a beta thing that will be fixed in 2.8 final?

Screenshot%20at%20Jan%2017%2022-10-10

In Mac OS Mojave, I’m told you can select a program and set it to “prefer external graphics”.

That may get it to use the eGPU for the Blender viewport and Eevee if it isn’t already.

However I believe the only AMD GPU compute option for MacOS is OpenCL, and Blender dropped support for OpenCL on MacOS in December based on Apple deprecating it and issues that were making it difficult to support. So you may be prevented from using GPU rendering in 2.80.

Try an old 2.79 build like official 2.79b (not the current experimental 2.79 build which uses the same Cycles version as 2.80) and see if that recognizes the device.

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Unfortunately, support for OpenCL on the Mac was dropped. So, you’ll have to use CUDA, which, unfortunately is not compatible with your card. It’s unfortunate.

I hear you, @cartoon.five. In fact, I was so frustrated by my powerful AMD GPU not being used by Cycles because Apple decided to build an even bigger wall between them and the 3D world by ceasing OpenCL and OpenGL support that I decided to sell my Mac and return to a Windows PC. And I don’t regret that decision at all. I’ve got my good old CUDA back, the ability to customize hardware has returned, Blender’s speed and add-on availability has improved, my expenses have lowered, and Windows 10 is quite OK. I was afraid I’d dearly miss macOS, but that’s not the case.

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I see. I tried to get on overview on the topics “Mac / NVida / OpenGL / eGPU / Blender”. The consensus seems to be that fully supporting the Mac ecosystem the way it is evolving “is probably not worth the development time for the few users.”

I strongly disagree. We need to convince BF to support Metal. I do not care so much about Apple and its policies, but there are a lot of real people and artists using macs for various reasons (including me) and losing them because Apples recent decision are questionable for some would be a pity. After all, creative freedom includes free choice of platform, because creation is not only about one app.

As far as one can tell the BF has never been better. With the new development fund there are even more recourses available. I hope that BF is still commited to all their loyal users, regardless which platform they use.

P.S. As long as I have used Macs, I also have used PCs. Right next to me is a HP behemoth with countless cores and a really nice NVidia card. I tried to like it and the Windows that it is running and do all my work on it. After a year I shifted back to the Macbook as the main device. Why? Because most things in Windows suck a little. Changing system settings, pairing devices, even basic things like BT audio, managing files and so on is always just a little bit more tedious and awkward than with macOS. The whole system is inconsistent in terms of UX and design. I can try to ignore that, but only for so long.

Admitted, Blender and other graphic related apps fly on that beast. But the rest of the time (which is a lot) I use to avoid the obstacles that Windows consists of and bend it to my will with things like Autohotkey or 3rd party file managers. On the Mac I just can focus on my work, which is quite a relief.

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There’s a huge discussion about that here at Blender Artists. The main issue is that Blender is a cross-platform application, and Cycles is a core part of that. OpenCL is cross-platform, so Blender could use that until recently. But to make Cycles Metal-compliant, a separate build would have to be maintained only for macOS. There’s no budget for a separate macOS maintainer. On top of that, when Apple fully drops OpenGL in a few years, Blender would have to change its many internal OpenGL calls as well. A solution would be to make a Metal wrapper for the Vulkan library, but that will take a lot of time, and will mean some overhead.

MacOS is definitely very comfortable. It isn’t my intention to start an OS war, but I’m just happy that Windows didn’t disappoint after 4 years of macOS.

@cartoon.five, you might also like to check out AMD Radeon ProRender. It’s got Metal support and is optimized for AMD GPUs. It’s currently only available for Blender 2.79 though, but a 2.8 version will follow soon.

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I think you need to get ready for the inevitable discontinuation of Mac OS… I think it will be discontinued within 10 years with all resources put into iOS. Their desktop hardware division is less than 1/10 of their revenue at this point, I think.

I think everyone agrees that using Mac OS is a more pleasing experience. I also think that everyone agrees that a Windows/Linux PC is the way to go for 3D in most cases.

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See revenue breakdown here.

At times desktop revenue dips to 7.81%. The writing is on the wall. This of course means less and less support as we go on as well (which we’ve seen).

I think Apple has essentially abandoned vertical markets like professional content creation, not really as an explicit decision I believe, but as a side effect of moving to extreme mass-market products like the iPhone.

When someone comes along and says “hey, it would be really cool if we added feature X to this product”, the management response is probably “ok, but does it have at least a billion potential users?” and if the answer is “no” then Apple just has no interest in expending resources on it, and as a result they not longer have any real motivation to support things like 3D or even pro-level apps like Photoshop. They want to sell photo-editing for the masses, not so much the 1% that makes their living off of it.

So while they still pay some lip service when people accuse them of abandoning the pro market, I agree that the writing is kind of on the wall here.

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Just to be clear I am saying the writing is on the wall that Mac OS will be discontinued outright - not just that they won’t properly support professional content creation (some of which they would be able to support on iOS through ever-growing professionally oriented iPads).

The absolute numbers suggest that macOS’ share has continously grown, and iOS’ share has just grown so much more. A lot of work has been put into both OSes, I don’t think they’ll just abandon the investment into macOS.

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I’m a starter in Blender and I’m planning to buy a graphic card and external GPU as I already have a 2017 Macbook pro. With Blender I intend to draw interior designs ,some furniture designs and render them.
Is it okay to use blender on Mac with EGPU with a Nvidia card.?
For me, macbook + egpu is perfect hardware set because I often need to carry around my laptop and my drawings…

Hello All,
I don’t know if this is a dead thread at this point but I am in between Pyae_Sone_Htun and cartoon.five. I have used macs for pro image development since 94 with years and years of photoshop and premiere work. Also significant but lesser experience on 3d. Since my workflow is more architecture than animation or other purposes I have used primarily sketchup. That software has gotten seriously locked down since sale to trimble and I’ve long wanted to learn Rhino or Maya or more pro level 3d software. With the advent of blender 2.8, it seems that blender is positioned to win as open source. So I’m learning, but I am super suprised at how slow my imac that is only a few years old is on cycles. It’s ridiculous and yes, I too can run on a windows machine and might just do that for final renders. But I am still of the opinion that for creative development the UI in MacOs allows for more fluent and dynamic focus on design issues over WinOs.
I had thought of getting one of these external GPU things, but absolutely wont if this won’t help with Blender. BTW, there is no way I am going to pay for the ridiculous price of top end macs at this point, $3k + for what it is is just egregious - I’d buy a packaged gaming windows machine and add 2nd graphics card. But as I say, I’d much rather use the external GPU boost for a mac. Can anyone else add to this discussion - it is significant to me. Despite those projections, 7 or 10% of that kinda $$ is still huge.

I think a couple of things need to be considered here.

1st is how much You prefer working on macOS. Meaning: if Your workflows are built around macOS and You have a substantial advantage in using that, don’t throw that away.

2nd is how much time of Your work is spent on rendering alone. If interactive work is speedy enough (with or without eGPU needs some testing to know for sure) and the time You need to devote to rendering isn’t too substantial, then You probably can get away with a machine where everything except rendering is fluid and fast. This seems to be a tradeoff that some video editors are making for the sake of a portable machine. This is very personal and of course You’ll have to be fine with the fact that Your Windows and Linux friends enjoy a feature that You can’t use at the moment: Cycles GPU rendering.

3rd is having a future proof system, and that one can’t be answered for sure. I hear that molten VK is a thing and that blender could profit from that a lot. I have no idea what the status of development in that direction is, maybe someone with more recent insights can bring us up to speed?

What I know is that a baseline 13 inch MBP 2019 is right now working just fine for scenes that don’t go beyond a mill polys or so. But of course it also depends on shading, lights and so on. Viewport interaction is faster with an eGPU - I have the Razer Core X with an RX580. Especially if VRAM is an issue, which it will be with heavier scenes, the eGPU will give You a lot more headroom.

TL;DR if You can, try and find out if a certain machine is supporting Your workflow. Everthing else is hot air, including this post :wink:

In theory? Sure, I guess. In practice however I’m not sure where you will get your drivers from and how you would go about installing them. Does Nvidia still supply mac drivers?

More importantly are there any mac builds of blender with CUDA support built in. And is CUDA toolkit even available for the mac?

I suspect in practice this will not work out for you.

Recent versions of macOS do NOT support Nvidia graphic cards. The last version with nVidia support is High Sierra. Starting with Mojave, no more drivers are available.
It’s a pity, but the reality.
However, eGPUs with AMD cards work just fine with the most recent versions.

So, does this mean that eGPUs with AMD cards make will accelerate the render process or just the viewport navigation - in Blender particularly. I’m referring to your comment above here. Also, I am aware of the denoising that is now a part of blender for use in cycles. Would this work with the AMD external gpu? That seems like a significant boon.

I appreciate your breakdown of the options as you see them. First, I would say that I am surprised at this turn of events. Not that Apple would de-emphasize pro software as such, really - that seemed a while back when Final Cut was let dwindle. But that the baked in graphics options are now being literally limited by Metal. I admit I don’t really know what this is beyond a marketing term though.

My guess is that I will either start by trying render farms or yes buy a Windows machine that I just send renders to. But I know that ultimately I will end up primarily using one machine and maybe this will progress to be a big break. It’s not a loaded discussion for me the way people go to war about platforms. I just find the ergonomics of the mind present in navigation on Mac OS to be more conducive to design, whereas Windows is a bit more like a developer platform that everyone just learns to work around. Always reminds me of the days with greenscreens and DOS a bit. I can do that too but it lacks some of the fluency for me that I think contributes to the clarity of my work. Anyway, thanks for your view on this. BTW - I am still on High Sierra since I have older software that I can’t let go yet either…

Here’s the table GitHub(Microsoft) uses to estimate price difference among different hardware solutions for their platform CI.

https://help.github.com/en/github/setting-up-and-managing-billing-and-payments-on-github/about-billing-for-github-actions

This accounts for different rates for: base(linux), license price(windows), license price and hardware cost(Mac Os).

In short this is the ratio about development costs among Oses.

So you can see, without many talkings and personal inclinations, what the problem is. Developing for Apple is ten times the cost.

It looks like Apple users comfortability and happiness comes at a sheer price for others…

Sent from my Mac

Yep, I’m getting the extent of the problem here and it surely does seem to lie at Apple’s doorstep. I mean maybe I will just get a windows machine and try to figure out the best setup for rendering cheapest that way. I’m curious about people’s advice hardware wise but can surely look on the Benchmarking section too. I’m not jumping to buy. Oh, I should say that while I don’t do super complicated projects, I do aim to make large prints from them - 10k or even bigger. Wonder if that changes the formula beyond the multiplier relative to pixels.
IT does seem like given those figures above, some folks (me and maybe cartoon.five) might be interested in donating to Mac dev of this aspect of Blender specifically. But not sure that targeted donation are ever a possibility. And maybe it wouldn’t be more than a drop in the bucket … though from that other 700+ response posting … maybe it would add up.