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WWDC 2017: External GPU And VR Support Are Coming To macOS

One day in, and there has already been a steady stream of announcements from WWDC 2017. From the new iMac Pro to Amazon Prime Video on Apple TV, it has been a good 24-hours for Apple.

That stream of announcements continued with big news for anyone hoping that Macs will be able to properly run games. That is going to be a reality with an external GPU and VR support on macOS.

Apple VR

In the newest edition of macOS, macOS High Sierra, Apple will finally bring support for virtual reality to Mac users. This will be through SteamVR, which has already launched into a beta that is accessible to anyone. However, there are some limitations to what it can be run on. The current beta will only be able to run on macOS Metal graphical support and it has to be after version 10.11.6. Also, the HTC Vive will be the only VR headset that will support SteamVR on macOS with no word on whether the Oculus Rift would be added later on.

Adding VR support proper to macOS is a big step considering Apple's patchy history with gaming on its computers. If a Mac user wanted to play VR, the Mac would boot into Windows as a sort of "MacGyvered" solution. This sort of improvising won't have to happen on macOS High Sierra, but there is still the issue of graphical power to handle VR. This is an issue that has always plagued Apple computers, but there is now a solution for that too.

External GPU Support

macOS High Sierra will also be adding external GPU support thanks to the Metal 2 graphics update and through the Thunderbolt 3 port. Apple has already started offering a Thunderbolt 3 GPU developer kit to give any Mac users looking for that bump in graphical power. This will also work in tandem with VR so that Macs can handle the workload for VR.

The GPU will use an AMD Radeon RX 580 graphics card built into a Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box and a Belkin USB-C to 4-port USB-A hub. The dev kit will run for $599 for anyone interested in bumping their graphical power. Any devs that purchase the kit will also get a $100 off toward the purchase of the HTC Vive, which normally runs around $800 to $900 on its own.

With how the VR community is booming on PC, it only made sense that Apple would look to jump in as quickly as it could. While it will take some time for this to get off the ground, it will also open the door to more gaming support on computers that, historically, haven't had the best history in the medium.

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