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Apple's macOS 10.13.4 is here with full external GPU support

Enlarge / If an eGPU is connected and functioning, it will be displayed in "About This Mac".

Samuel Axon

Apple released the 10.13.4 update for macOS. This update complements the latest graphics card with support for external graphics cards (eGPU), implements Apple's new privacy approach, which we've already seen in iOS 1

1.3, and adds business chat in the US.

Business Chat allows users to search for customer support and conduct transactions with participating companies using the News app. You can chat live with an agent, book appointments directly in messages, and pay for products and services using Apple Pay during your conversation. The feature was also started on iOS.

Apart from eGPU support, the only other key feature is Apple's new approach to data protection issues. As in iOS 11.3, Apple has added a special image that appears every time its software or services access what Apple considers personal information. This image is accompanied by a brief summary of the information Apple uses and you can click on a link for a more detailed explanation.

Apple executives have used the recent controversy on Facebook and Google by conducting press presentations for weeks on end, positioning Apple as the technology giant that respects your privacy and data. This update does not change the way Apple handles your data, even if it happens in the future, but it makes the difference to Apple clear to users.

Other changes in 10.13.4 are three new Safari features – the ability to jump directly to the far right tab by pressing Command and 9, new bookmark collation options, and a warning in the Safari Smart Search box You enter certain personal information on websites are unencrypted.

The update fixes several bugs, including one for graphics corruption, which affects "certain apps on iMac Pro." An iTunes update was launched at the same time as macOS 10.13.4 to add the music videos search feature added to the Apple Music app on iOS. A handful of company updates have also been included – see these in the full update notes at the end of this article.

Let's talk about eGPUs.

Preliminary eGPU Performance Tests

Apple has announced the official eGPU support for macOS High Sierra at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) last year. eGPUs have been positioned as an upgrade path for professionals using the iMac Pro. For many users, the longevity of the machine depends on it. But eGPUs can also solve a crucial, long-lasting disadvantage to Apple's entire Mac model range: not a single Mac has an upgradeable GPU.

GPU upgrades likely to be possible in the promised but not yet discovered Mac Pro rework For the rest of the lineup, this is the only way forward. Apple's work on its Metal 2 graphics API to improve performance on the Mac does not mean much if users do not have access to more powerful GPUs for tasks like games, 3D modeling, and video editing. Theoretically, eGPU support could make a 13-inch MacBook Pro with just one Intel-integrated GPU, which can play VR games, for example.

This dream has been around for decades, but Apple hopes that the future is approaching 3 with Thunderbolt, which has a theoretical transfer rate of 40 Gbps. Of course it will not match the speeds of a PCI-e card, but it might be sufficient for most applications. macOS 10.13.4 adds support for eGPUs on "MacBook Pro laptops released in 2016 and later 1 iMac 2017 and iMac Pro."

Apple has a support page for eGPUs and lists the enclosures and graphics cards that are currently supported. Currently only AMD graphics cards are supported – you are prepared for a rough ride if you want to connect an NVIDIA GPU. There are unofficial drivers out there, but it probably will not be an optimal experience. eGPUs are also not supported in Windows through Boot Camp.

It has been a while since we started working with eGPU and this is the perfect time to do it. We will do more robust benchmarks and analysis of eGPU performance in 10.13.4 and publish our results in the near future, but in the meantime we have some initial test results to share. We performed four tests today:

  • GFXBench Metal
  • GFXBench OpenGL
  • World of Warcraft (Metal)
  • Civilization VI (OpenGL)

Us have tested on a 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, connected to a Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box enclosure and an external LG 27UK850-W 4K monitor.

OS macOS High Sierra 10.13.4
CPU Intel Core i7-6820HQ at 2.7GHz
RAM 16GB 2133Mhz LPDDR3
Internal GPU AMD Radeon Pro 460 4GB GDDR5
External GPU AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB GDDR5

Here's What We Found:

This looks promising for most use cases, especially for games (as long as Metal is involved), but Apple warns that it will not work in all applications. Additional tests – including stability – are required for a judgment.

Apple Full Update Notes

These are the update notes Apple provided for 10.13.4:

  • Adds support for business chat conversations in messages in the US
  • Adds support for external GPUs (eGPUs) added.
  • Fixes graphics corruption issues that affect certain apps on the iMac Pro.
  • Lets jump to the right-most open tab with Command-9 in Safari.
  • Lets you sort Safari bookmarks by name or URL by holding down the Ctrl key and choosing Sort By
  • Fixes an issue where previewing web links may no longer appear in messages.
  • Helps protect privacy by automatically populating usernames and passwords after selecting them on a web Form field in Safari
  • Displays warnings in the Safari Smart Search field when interacting with password or credit card forms on unencrypted Web pages.
  • Displays privacy icons and links to explain how your data is used and protected when Apple features require the use of your personal information.

Additionally, Apple lists the following enterprise-specific updates:

  • The user-approved kernel extension is no longer disabled on MDM-registered devices. For devices with DEP-initiated or user-approved MDM registration, administrators can use the kernel extension policy payload.
  • Improves Spotlight search results for files stored on network mounts.
  • Calculates ACLs properly on SMB share points.
  • Adds - radeinstall Flag for startosinstall Command in the macOS Installer App under Contents / Resources / startosinstall. Use this flag to delete and install macOS on a disk. Execute startosinstall with the usage flag
  • Updates the System Image utility to create NetInstall images that delete and install macOS on a named target volume.

Details about the security content of 10.13.4 are available at the Apple Security Center.

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