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Hardware and Operating Systems | Rhino for Mac

Hardware Requirements for Rhino 7 for Mac

Please note that these requirements are different from those listed by McNeel. Our suggestions represent practical recommendations for professional users and are based on new Apple hardware specifications available at the time of writing.

Apple Mac Hardware Notes 02/08/2021 - We are currently in a transitional period with available Mac hardware, and it is difficult to make solid recommendations.

Apple currently produces and sells machines with ‘Apple Silicon’ and ‘Intel’ processors.

Going forward all new Apple Mac laptops and desktops will be built on versions of Apple Silicon rather than using Intel technology.

The first products to feature Apple Silicon are the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro 13” and iMac 24” with the M1 processor.

Rhino 7 for Mac is supported on Apple Silicon Macs with M1 processors running macOS Big Sur 11.3 onwards.

Please note that this implementation is not native but uses Apple’s Rosetta 2. Apple’s Rosetta Translation Environment attempts to automatically translate Intel applications to run on Apple Silicon. Using Rosetta is essentially a ‘stop-gap’ until Rhino can be made to work natively on Apple Silicon and this is unlikely to happen before Rhino 8.

Although not a native application, McNeel report that Rhino runs well on the M1 processor, and the performance is better than the similarly specified (lower end) Intel processors.

There are however, some limitations with the existing M1 based machines including limited screen size and a maximum RAM ceiling of 16GB.

This leaves the higher specified Intel machines including the 16” MacBook Pros and 27” iMac which, of course, will run Rhino natively and, dependant on model, can be configured with a good amount of RAM and dedicated graphics cards. However, both products are scheduled to be replaced with Apple Silicon based machines and, particularly if you are using other software with Rhino, then you may be better off waiting for the Apple Silicon based machines. At the time of writing, it is thought that the 16” MacBook Pro replacement may be introduced from September/October 2021.

The table below summarises the suitability of the current Apple Mac range available from Apple in the UK as at 02/08/2021:

Model  Suggested Upgrade   Rhino Suitability
 MacBook Air M1  Upgrade RAM from 8GB to 16GB*  Limited
 MacBook Pro 13" Intel    No
 MacBook Pro 13” M1  Upgrade RAM from 8GB to 16GB*  Limited
 MacBook Pro 16"  Upgrade RAM from 8GB to 16GB*  Yes
 iMac 21”    No
 iMac 24” M1  Upgrade RAM from 8GB to 16GB*  Limited
iMac 27" 5k Display Upgrade RAM from 8GB to 16GB Yes
Mac Pro   Yes
Mac Mini (all)   No

The information below predates the information above but will be of interest to those with existing Mac OS X hardware and Rhino software. This information will be updated when the Mac transition period, noted above, is complete:

The hardware specifications and recommendations below apply to professional users of Rhino (and other design software) this same group often creates complex and demanding models. Having spoken to a good number of Rhino for Mac users, many of whom were using underpowered hardware with disappointing results, we decided to create a matrix of the current Mac products that are most suited to the more demanding Rhino for Mac user.

It is certainly possible to “get by” with a lower specification Mac and experience restricted rendering (for instance), but for those purchasing up to date hardware most do not want to make that compromise (in our experience).

The best specification for running Rhino 7 for Mac ultimately depends on what you are using Rhino for but here are some pointers on the various facets that can influence performance.

The four hardware variables that we are commonly asked about and that have the most effect on performance are:

Operating System (OS)
Processor (CPU)
Graphics Card (GPU)
Memory (RAM)

For new Apple machines the above choices are somewhat limited by the fact that Mac notebook and desktop machines are pre-configured with limited options and, in some cases, not upgradeable.

The table below summarises the suitability of the current Apple Mac range for running Rhino.

Model Suggested Upgrade Rhino for Mac
MacBook Air (all)   No
MacBook Pro 13"   No
MacBook Pro 16"   Yes
iMac 21.5" 1920x1080 display   No
iMac 21.5" 4k Display Upgrade RAM from 8GB to 16GB* Yes
iMac 27" 5k Display Upgrade RAM from 8GB to 16GB Yes
iMac Pro   Yes
Mac Pro   Yes
Mac Mini (all)   No

RAM in iMac 21.5” is not user upgradeable.

The ‘sweet spot’ for new hardware is the higher spec iMacs and 16” MacBook Pro models. These all have dedicated Graphics Cards (GPU) and fast processors (CPU). On some machines the base RAM specification is 8GB and we strongly recommend upgrading to 16GB – note that if you are looking for a 21.5” iMac then you should request this upgrade as a purchase option as the memory in these machines is not user upgradable. If you are considering the high end iMac Pro and Mac Pro in the quest for ultimate performance then we would suggest that you also look at the Windows platform as there is a larger choice of high end CPU’s and dedicated GPU solutions for the professional CAD and 3D modelling market.We would also advise that many of our customers report that the ‘Magic Mouse’ supplied by Apple with the desktop Macs is not suitable for CAD and modelling – a conventional wireless two button mouse with scroll wheel may be much more useful.

As well as operating hardware, the way in which Rhino models are built and large files referenced can make a huge difference on the speed and efficiency of working with Rhino and its associated plug-ins.

Modelling efficiency and file referencing are covered extensively in our Rhino Level 2 for Architecture and Rhino Level 2 Intermediate/Advanced Rhino courses and we also offer Bespoke on-site training. All classes are now also available online.

If you have an existing Mac the specification outlines listed below may be useful.

Operating System (OS)

  • macOS 10.15.7 (Catalina)
  • macOS 10.14.6 (Mojave)

Processor (CPU)

The main specification value that affects CPU performance is the combination of processor clock speed and the number of processor cores – so, for example, a 4GHz six core processor will be faster than a 4GHz four core processor.

Even with multi-core processors, modelling applications such as Rhino will use only one processor core for some modelling tasks. Some complex modelling calculations are linear and do not lend themselves well to multi-threading i.e. splitting the calculation between a number of processors. Rendering applications such as KeyShot will, however, make use of all the available processor cores.

Apple has been using Intel processors since around 2006 and there will be three Intel processor families of interest to Rhino users:

  • Intel i5 – Budget
  • Intel i7 – Mid-Range
  • Intel Xeon – High End

The latest processors from Intel feature 'Turbo Boost' dynamic over-clocking meaning that when the CPU senses a maximum load it increases the processor clock speed. The i7 and Xeon processors also feature Hyperthreading; this is a process where the number of physical processor cores is effectively doubled so that a quad-core processor has eight logical processors.

If you have an existing Mac then our suggested minimum processor specification would be an Intel i5 Dual Core 2.3 GHz with a more useful processor being an Intel i5 Quad Core 3.2 GHz.

Graphics Card (GPU)

We strongly recommend that your Mac has a dedicated Graphics Card. The GPU handles the display of your work on your monitor. More powerful cards will be able to represent the various manipulations of complex models more smoothly, reducing or eliminating the display lag that can cause jerkiness with very complicated models.

There are two main graphics card vendors, NVIDIA and AMD. Apple currently uses AMD cards exclusively whereas some older Macs may have NVIDIA graphics. Unlike their Windows counterparts the GPU’s on Macs (including the Mac Pro from 2013 onwards) are not upgradable.

Please note the following GPU’s are NOT supported:
AMD Radeon HD 6750M, 6770M, and 6970M

Memory (RAM)

Rhino for Mac will work with a minimum of 8GB RAM but we recommend 16GB of RAM as a useful practical amount of RAM for professional use with 32GB or more being preferred for more extreme use.

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