Apple could be the big winner of Intel’s Thunderbolt 5 announcement - here’s why

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Intel has announced Thunderbolt 5 connectivity will beryllium disposable successful 2024 connected Windows-based PCs, astir apt those equipped pinch Core and Xeon processors alternatively than AMD’s Ryzen and Threadripper ones. But nan existent victor successful this announcement could beryllium Apple.

It’s easy to hide that nan iPhone shaper is nan institution down Thunderbolt, and location are much Thunderbolt ports connected Mac computers than connected immoderate different platforms.

Remember that Apple first introduced nan original Thunderbolt backmost successful February 2011 and has been religious to nan exertion each since. All caller Apple computers person astatine slightest 1 Thunderbolt 4 larboard pinch immoderate - for illustration nan MacBook Air - sporting Thunderbolt ports only.

One of nan astir breathtaking usage cases Thunderbolt 5 introduces is nan expertise to usage an external GPU (eGPU) acknowledgment to 120Gbps bi-directional bandwidth available. Now while an outer GPU cannot and will not switch an soul one, it tin complement it rather nicely. 

We can’t foretell what Apple’s adjacent move is erstwhile it comes to support for eGPU but nan caller loop of Thunderbolt gives proponents of this theory, further ammo. Nvidia and AMD relentlessly present caller generations of GPU each year, enabling Mac users to scope caller levels of schematic performance.

There’s besides nan truth that support for eGPU could promote information scientists and developers to usage Mac pinch GPU accelerators for illustration nan Nvidia H100 aliases nan AMD Instinct MI bid for AI training and inference.

But there's a catch

It won’t beryllium easy though; nan existent Apple Silicon is doesn’t person autochthonal support for eGPU. As Appleinsider pointed out successful an fantabulous exposé backmost successful 2022, 2 captious things are lacking: nan cards deficiency Apple Silicon drivers, and nan expertise to reside GPUs pinch a discrete representation excavation simply doesn't beryllium successful macOS for Apple Silicon.

The first 1 tin beryllium resolved by nan vendors while nan 2nd 1 is resolutely successful Apple’s camp; its engineers tin do it if this fits wrong nan broader strategy of nan company. The latest Geekbench Metal benchmark, which looks astatine nan GPU capacity connected Apple’s platform, shows that nan M2 Ultra has closed nan spread pinch nan AMD Radeon RX 6900XT, which was launched almost 3 years ago. 

The M3 Ultra is apt to surpass nan paper which remains nan fastest discrete GPU disposable connected Mac but will that beryllium capable to support demanding master happy? The assemblage is retired there. As Matt Bach from Puget Systems told TechRadar Pro backmost successful June, nan Mac Pro does not support further GPUs and truthful nan strategy cannot beryllium upgraded to a faster render, and cannot use from having aggregate GPUs successful nan aforesaid system. 

Previous Intel-based Mac Pro systems allowed for aggregate GPUs giving artists ways to amended their render times. This is unfortunate arsenic galore of these 3D applications person been putting successful a batch of effort to get their renderers onto OSX, but Apple has chosen to measurement distant from GPU support. Support for outer GPU connected Apple’s fastest silicon could beryllium a crippled changer for them.

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