Friday, November 22nd, 2019 Posted by Jim Thacker

Nvidia drops macOS support for CUDA

Nvidia is to drop support for macOS in CUDA, its GPU computing platform, used by many GPU renderers.

According to the release notes for CUDA Toolkit, this week’s 10.2 update will be “the last to support macOS for developing and running CUDA applications”.

A further hurdle for Mac users who want to use Nvidia GPUs
Nvidia’s decision to stop supporting macOS in CUDA isn’t a major surprise given that, for some years, Apple hasn’t included Nvidia GPUs in its workstations and laptops.

Apple’s consumer machines offer integrated Intel graphics as standard; professional workstations, like the Mac Pro, iMac Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro, also offer discrete AMD cards.

That leaves an external GPU chassis as the only option for running GPU renderers that require CUDA – and therefore a Nvidia graphics card – on macOS.

However, even running Nvidia hardware in eGPUs became much harder with the release of macOS 10.14 last year, given the lack of graphics drivers for current Nvidia cards.

The reasons are discussed in more detail in this AppleInsider story, but at the time of posting, the only GPUs that Apple officially specifies for eGPUs are made by AMD.

So which GPU renderers don’t need CUDA?
That creates problems for Mac users hoping to use their GPUs for rendering, since the major commercial GPU render engines – including OctaneRender, Redshift and V-Ray GPU – currently require CUDA.

Renderer developers looking to use Nvidia’s OptiX framework – increasingly being used to implement hardware-accelerated ray tracing on Nvidia’s curent-gen RTX GPUs – also need the CUDA Toolkit.

While some GPU renderers, such as Blender’s Cycles engine, support AMD cards via OpenCL, even OpenCL support was deprecated in macOS 10.14 in favour of Apple’s own Metal 2 API.

At the time of posting, few GPU renderers support Metal: AMD’s own Radeon ProRender is one of the few exceptions, although Metal-compatible versions of both Redshift and OctaneRender have been announced.

Read Nvidia’s release notes for CUDA Toolkit 10.2, including news of the decision to drop macOS support