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