VR on a MacBook? This external GPU would allow Rift, Vive and classic gaming
Are there Apple devotees out there yearning for a way to supercharge their laptops for gaming? Wolfepack and its backers say yes. The company is developing the Wolfe, an external Nvidia GPU-packing device, to do just that. The device's Kickstarter campaign runs until September 23 and has handily surpassed its US$50,000 fundraising goal.
Wolfepack says the device will turn otherwise unremarkably-rendering laptops into hopped-up graphics machines. Two versions are planned: the Wolfe, with a GTX 950 GPU, and Wolfe Pro, with a GTX 970 (though the company says that model may end up including the more powerful GTX 1060 instead). As a benchmark, Wolfepack says the former will give the average new laptop up to five times the graphical power, while the latter will increase performance up to ten times. That would make Wolfe Pro capable of turning a MacBook Pro into a VR-ready, 3D-rendering powerhouse that bypasses the performance of many desktops.
The Wolfe is technically PC compatible, but since it connects via Thunderbolt and there are already plenty of souped-up PC laptops for gaming, it's clearly been designed with MacBooks in mind. Of the new Apple laptop offerings, only the MacBook Pro and Air are Thunderbolt-equipped and have processors ready to handle a heavy load from VR or gaming (sorry, 12-inch MacBook), so Wolfe is shaping up to be a rather niche accessory.
Wolfepack promises easy installation and touts portability, but at the moment, we don't see a way for the Wolfe to turn a Mac into a highly mobile plug-and-play gaming console. For one, most games aren't compatible with OS X (soon to be macOS), so it will be necessary to run Windows through Boot Camp to use the software. Serious gamers also have accessories like controllers, headsets and necessary USB splitters to boot. No one is bringing all that to Starbucks (we hope), so the Wolfe's main benefit would be that it lets you enjoy your Apple laptop for VR and gaming, whether at home or on-the-go, without having to spring for an entirely different machine for graphics.
We've emphasized Wolfe as a potential gaming and VR enabler, but increased rendering power is also applicable to professional purposes like 3D-modeling and video editing. Still, it's difficult to say whether the benefits will justify the combined cost of the laptop plus accessory over simply buying a graphics-ready computer.
The standard Wolfe is being promised to Kickstarter backers for a pledge of $449, while Wolfe Pro requires a pledge of $599. Wolfepack is also offering reduced rates and faster fulfillment to a limited number of early bird backers.
Final Wolfe prototypes were made last June. If all goes as planned, the devices will go into production in December and start shipping in February 2017.