Making the 2013 Mac Pro VR Ready

Several years ago, 2013 in fact I bought a 6 core Mac Pro with dual D700 cards for work.  I was excited at the time but also slightly worried that Apple had gone AMD again. What are these D700’s, what do they perform like, will OpenCL get support like CUDA etc etc.  I was sold on the hype and early benchmarks and now, after 3 years can say that I am still happy with the machine in general.  It has a fast 6 core CPU and the video cards are good for most media work.  Except it isn’t VR ready or as quick for CUDA based rendering.

The entire Apple Mac range of computers do not meet the VR ready status.  This doesn’t mean that VR doesn’t work on a Mac Pro but it does suggest you will get sub performance. Maybe feel motion sickness. This is because developers have a minimum standard.  Which roughly equates to a GTX 970 or being able to hit 90 fps using something like the steam VR benchmark test.  The developers of VR content will tweak minimum performance to hit the VR Ready standard with options to up the quality from there.

After waiting for Apple to release anything relating to a GPU upgrade and getting zilch the only alternative was to simply buy a Windows PC. But that comes with it’s own issues. Need extra plug sockets, desk space, switching monitor cables, another port on the switch, noise etc.  So what else can we do?

It seems we finally have external GPU options built specifically for any Mac that has a thunderbolt 2/3 port.

The Bizon Box

https://bizon-tech.com/us/bizonbox2-egpu.html/

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The Bizon box Supports a single GTX 960 to GTX 1080 / Titan X Pascal with the 10 series pascal cards requiring Windows/Bootcamp (until NVidia update the web driver, maybe when macOS Sierra goes gold).  From the benchmarks you can see they even daisy chain the boxes for apps that support selective GPU rendering.

Although this looks promising, you will notice that the longer cards stick out the case with the front panel removed.  I would prefer to see a case that fits full length cards. A GPU’less box would set you back $600 USD.  Looking at the webpage and benchmarks it appears to run very well.

The Wolfe

The next one is a Kick Starter project starting 23rd August (today) called “The Wolfe” with early Kickstarter backers getting it for $399.  It appears this device has two card options, GTX 950 and GTX 970.  It is smaller than the Bizon so more portable if you have a 13″ Mac Book or similiar.  Check out the page: https://thewolfe.io/

VR2

Road to VR have started a blog on it here: http://www.roadtovr.com/the-wolfe-external-gpu-aims-to-make-macbooks-vr-ready/

Alienware and Asus have also released external GPU enclosures but targeting their own laptops.

DIY

Or maybe you would like to go the DIY route?. Back in April 2016, Techrepublic wrote a guide available here using the AKiTiO Thunderbolt 2 box ($265).  They also sell a Thunderbolt 3 box.

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