How to tell if your Mac will work with OS X El Capitan's Metal

OS X El Capitan ships this fall but is already in beta. With it comes Apple's Metal framework which will help the Mac display graphics faster by reducing processing bottlenecks. The question is, which Macs will support it?

Metal was first introduced on iOS 8 in 2014, and at WWDC 2015 Apple announced Metal for OS X. Metal makes the Mac's main processor and its graphics system work more efficiently together. This boosts high-performance apps like games, photo software, video editing. Graphics-heavy programs should benefit greatly once El Capitan is out.

Metal streamlines developers' access to the graphics processor in the Macintosh, reducing the amount of time the Mac's CPU spends doing work related to graphics, so it can do more. The net result is dramatically improved graphics performance: A Mac running Metal can draw objects on the screen up to ten times faster than without.

Unfortunately, not every Mac running El Cap will see a Metal boost. During a "What's new in Metal" session at WWDC, Apple announced that Metal support in OS X extends to Macs built since 2012.

If you're not sure how old your Mac is, go to the menu and select About This Mac. The Overview tab should indicate the age and model of your Mac.

Mac models made since 2012 include:

  • MacBook 12-inch (Early 2015)
  • MacBook Air 11-inch (Mid 2012 and later)
  • MacBook Air 13-inch (Mid 2012 and later)
  • MacBook Pro 13-inch (Mid 2012)
  • MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina (Late 2012 and later)
  • MacBook Pro 15-inch (Mid 2012)
  • MacBook Pro 15-inch Retina (Mid 2012 and later)
  • Mac mini (late 2012 and later)
  • iMac 21.5-inch (Late 2012 and later)
  • iMac 27-inch (late 2012 and later)
  • iMac Retina 5K, 27-inch (late 2013 and later)
  • Mac Pro (Mid 2012)
  • Mac Pro (Late 2013)

That includes graphics hardware made by Intel, Nvidia and AMD. Intel's integrated graphics hardware is used extensively throughout the Mac product line, while discrete Nvidia and AMD graphics processors are used on some systems like some 15-inch MacBook Pros, higher-end iMacs and the Mac Pro.

It's worth noting that Apple has not posted system requirements for El Capitan on its web site yet, though right now the developer beta runs on all Macs that were compatible with OS X Yosemite when it came out last year — that includes Macs that were manufactured in 2008.

There'll be plenty of reasons to install El Capitan on older Macs even if you don't get the benefit of Metal support: Features like Split View, an improved Spotlight, improved Safari, Mail and Notes, easier to use Mission Control and much more.

Peter Cohen