Nvidia Titan Xp for a PCI-E Mac Pro, backed up by High Sierra
Editor's Note: This is a complex subject, and AppleInsiders YouTube audience requested a condensed version of the editors written in January on the subject. We're not going to rehash the entire editorial here, but the transcription for the video follows.
The beauty of the modular Mac Pro until 2012 is that you can replace your graphics cards to keep your Mac Pro up-to-date with the latest technology and graphics recovery capabilities, but those who chose Nvidia cards are stuck with old MacOS software, and it can be annoying.
MacOS Mojave dropped support for new Nvidia graphics drivers, except for a couple of chip sets included in Apple portable laptops, all of them outdated.
In the last couple of years, external GPUs have been on their way and Macs with otherwise low graphics performance are boosting things like video transmission and gaming. For example, the 2018 Mac Mini has a great performance potential with a 6-core i7 processor that surpasses even the best CPU in the 2018 MacBook Pro.
The small size means that it does not contain a dedicated graphics card, so for those who need graphics performance, they must resort to an eGPU. And with Nvidia drivers who don't see support in MacOS Mojave, those who already own Nvidia cards are out of luck.
So why is there no support for Nvidia drivers? What caused this and what can you do about it? We'll tell you what you can do in an instant, but let's go back in time to see how Apple and Nvidia's relationships fell apart.
The first Mac with Nvidia graphics processor was released in 2001, but Apple still used chips produced by ATI, the company that was eventually acquired by AMD in 2008.
In 2004, Apple Cinema Display was delayed, apparently because of Nvidia's inability to produce the required graphics card, the GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL.
So in 2008, Apple's MacBook Pro came with Nvidia graphics chips that revolutionized the MacBook by taking over the features of Northbridge and Southbridge controllers along with the actual graphic rendering. Because of that, Intel filed a lawsuit against Nvidia, making things a bit complicated for Apple.
Nvidia processor in a MacBook Pro 2008
Not only that, but Apple had to admit that some 2008 MacBook Pros had faulty Nvidia processors, which led to a class action case for Nvidia and lost profits for Apple due to MacBook Pro repairs.
About the same time, the iPhone transformed the mobile market and meant that phones now needed GPUs and Apple decided to go with Samsung instead. At this time, Nvidia believed that its own patents also applied to mobile GPUs, granting patent infringement claims against Qualcomm and Samsung, trying to get them and possibly Apple to pay license fees.
In 2016, Apple did not put Nvidia processors in the 15-inch MacBook Pro, and instead went with AMD, publicly because of performance per watt problems.
Nvidia competitor AMD recently launched Radeon 7, a high-performance 7-nanometer GPU that allegedly has drivers on the way to macOS Mojave
And now, in 2019, there are no functional drivers for modern cards in Mojave at all. In October 2018, Nvidia issued a public statement that Apple fully controls drivers for MacOS and that they cannot release a driver unless approved by Apple.
Basically, there is no chemical technical limitation that causes the macOS Mojave to be incompatible with the Nvidia graphics card. Someone at Apple simply won't support Nvidia drivers, possibly due to past relationship issues.
For a long time, Apple's professional apps were optimized for OpenCL, which AMD cards run efficiently, not CUDA, the proprietary framework that Nvidia focuses on. Apple wants Apple apps to run better, as easy as that.
On an Apple support site to install Mojave on older Mac Pros, Apple says Mojave requires a graphics card that supports Metal. Within the list of compatible graphics cards, you see two older Nvidia cards and quite a few new options from AMD.
Blackmagic eGPU Pro next to a MacBook Pro
So, from the look of it, to Nvidia and Apple both relent and decide to meet the other halfway , there will be no Nvidia support for eGPUs or Mac Pro that may or may not have PCI-E slots. And with AMD's Vega 56 and 64 already supporting metal and Vega 7 support coming soon to MacOS, Apple doesn't look like negotiating temperature.
Complicating issues are that Apple is working on its own GPU technology. It looks like it's already in the iPhone, and it's just a matter of time until it makes it to the Mac.
If you need Nvidia, you can always downgrade to High Sierra and hope that the two companies come to their senses for the sake of the user.