Black­magic eGPU

MAC USERS WHO NEED MORE GRAPH­ICS GRUNT IN THEIR LIFE WILL AP­PRE­CI­ATE BLACK­MAGIC’S SLICK EF­FORT

PC & Tech Authority - - REVIEWS INTRO - AN­THONY AGIUS

One of the great things about Thun­der­bolt 3 is the mas­sive amount of band­width it pro­vides for ex­ter­nal de­vices. With up to 40Gbit/sec on tap, it the­o­ret­i­cally acts as an ex­ter­nal PCI Ex­press slot. Thanks to all that band­width, de­vices like ex­ter­nal graph­ics cards are pos­si­ble and Black­magic, an Aus­tralian com­pany mak­ing some of the best pro­fes­sional video gear in the world, has taken ad­van­tage of Thun­der­bolt 3’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties with their new ex­ter­nal graph­ics card, cre­atively dubbed eGPU.

Black­magic’s eGPU is an 8GB AMD Radeon Pro 580 in­stalled in a thick alu­minium case speci cally de­signed for the graph­ics card in­side, with large fans that al­low heat to be dis­si­pated with­out a lot of noise. Aes­thet­i­cally it ts in nicely with all the other alu­minium themed Ap­ple gear, so it looks right at home on a trendy Mac user’s desk next to their MacBook Pro.

Much like Ap­ple prod­ucts, the Black­magic eGPU is not up­grade­able. You can’t crack open the case eas­ily and re­place the Radeon Pro 580 in­side, un­like other eGPU cases such as the Razer Core X or Asus XG Sta­tion Pro.

Be­sides the GPU it­self, the Black­magic eGPU also in­cludes a 4-port USB 3.1 hub and dual Thun­der­bolt 3 ports for daisy chain­ing ex­tra de­vices. The Thun­der­bolt 3 ports also pro­vide 85W of power for charg­ing lap­tops or other USB-C pow­ered de­vices. The eGPU is com­pat­i­ble with all Macs equipped with Thun­der­bolt 3. Thun­der­bolt 2 via an adap­tor won’t work be­cause Thun­der­bolt 2 isn’t fast enough and the eGPU needs all the speed that comes with na­tive Thun­der­bolt 3.

Black­magic in­clude a short 0.5m Thun­der­bolt 3 ca­ble in the eGPU’s box. If you don’t keep the eGPU right next to your Mac, you’ll need to buy a longer ca­ble (i.e, if you plan to keep the eGPU un­der a desk or on the other side of a large desk).

Us­ing the eGPU is lit­er­ally a plug and play af­fair if you’re run­ning the lat­est ver­sion of ma­cOS. A GPU icon ap­pears in the menu bar that gives you the op­tion to con­nect or dis­con­nect the eGPU from your ma­chine. No con gu­ra­tion, no driv­ers to in­stall, just plug it in.

With­out a mon­i­tor con­nected to the eGPU’s HDMI port, the eGPU acts as a sec­ondary graph­ics card that ap­pli­ca­tions on your Mac can take ad­van­tage of to do com­put­ing. To see the glory of its 3D prow­ess in games for ex­am­ple, an ex­ter­nal dis­play con­nected to the eGPU’s HDMI 2.0 port is re­quired. This is just how ex­ter­nal GPUs work, there’s no way to send the im­age back to a lap­top’s in­ter­nal dis­play.

Mac gamers (a.k.a masochists) will get a mas­sive boost, as any game run­ning un­der ma­cOS will use the Radeon Pro 580, but those want­ing to play games on their Mac un­der Win­dows with the GPU will be dis­ap­pointed, as there’s no Win­dows driv­ers for the eGPU right now.

Black­magic’s own Davinci Re­solve shows a mas­sive im­prove­ment in ex­port times, even if you’re al­ready us­ing a Mac with a dis­crete GPU, as the eGPU won’t be held back by thermal throt­tling.

De­spite the fact the eGPU can be used for Metal, OpenCL and work­loads, Pre­miere and Fi­nal Cut Pro X don’t take ad­van­tage of ex­ter­nal GPUs at this stage and will re­quire soft­ware up­dates to lever­age any form of eGPU. There are 3rd party scripts avail­able to work around this, but if you’re re­ly­ing on this thing for a liv­ing, it would be sen­si­ble to wait un­til there’s of cial sup­port be­fore in­te­grat­ing it into your work ow.

At $1,149, only the most des­per­ate of Mac gamers (who should re­ally just bite the bul­let and build a PC gam­ing rig) will nd the Black­magic eGPU poor value con­sid­er­ing it’s yet to gain Win­dows com­pat­i­bil­ity. How­ever, if you’re a graph­ics or video pro­fes­sional that needs ev­ery ounce of power and your ap­pli­ca­tion of choice sup­ports eGPUs, the Black­magic eGPU won’t dis­ap­point.

KEY SPECS

Radeon Pro 580 GPU • 8GB video mem­ory • 1x HDMI 2.0 port • 2x Thun­der­bolt 3 USB-C ports with 85W host charg­ing ca­pa­bil­ity • 4x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A ports

$1,149 • www.black­mag­icde­sign.com.au

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