Blackmagic Design eGPU

If you love using your new Apple MacBook Pro for editing but just wish it was quicker, then the Aussie filmmaking mavericks at Blackmagic Design have come to the rescue with a Thunderbolt 3 external graphics processor that boosts its performance to rival that of desktops, writes Pro Moviemaker magazine's Krishan Parmar.

The Blackmagic eGPU is a high-performance graphics processor for pro creative software such as DaVinci Resolve, Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premier Pro, as well as 3D games and VR. But it also works on processor-hungry applications like Adobe Photoshop, InDesign and lots more, speeding them up noticeably. So it’s useful for filmmakers, photographers, gamers and anyone who just wants a faster MacBook Pro.

Instead of using your MacBook’s internal GPU, the eGPU uses the quick Radeon Pro 580 graphics card, which is one of the best out there. It has 8GB of GDDR5 RAM, 256-bit memory bandwidth and 36 discrete compute units for up to 5.5 teraflops of processing power; this is a lot, and significantly improved from even the latest, top-of-the range MacBook Pro laptop which comes with Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655. All this makes it quick enough to be an alternative to having a fast desktop for editing and a laptop for use on location. You can buy one fast Macbook Pro and just get more use out of it.

However, this isn’t the only way to get a fast GPU: you can buy a standalone GPU unit and put it into housing that will plug into your MacBook Pro via Thunderbolt 3 and give the same results. This actually costs as much as the integrated Blackmagic eGPU, although obviously you can’t upgrade the eGPU like a separate GPU-and-housing set-up.  

As well as the speed improvement, the eGPU offers additional benefits as it has two Thunderbolt 3 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, 85W of charging power and four USB 3.1 connections, so it can act like a hub. Plug the eGPU into the mains and instead of having to power your laptop through its own charging cable, you run a Thunderbolt 3 lead from the eGPU to it. You’ll need to use a real Thunderbolt 3 cable, bundled with the Blackmagic device, as the MacBook Pro’s own power lead fits but uses a different protocol.

Another benefit is that it has an HDMI 2.0 connection and another Thunderbolt 3 port, so with the more powerful GPU it makes it possible to run higher-spec, large 4K and HDR monitors or TVs from your laptop. As a GPU accelerator, it brings high-end, desktop-class graphics processing to the MacBook Pro and is the first external processing unit to support Thunderbolt 3 displays. It also works as a docking hub for connecting devices such as keyboards, big screen HDMI televisions and high speed storage. For £599/$699 and available exclusively from Apple, it offers a lot for your money. 

Specification

GPU: Radeon Pro 580, 8GB video memory

Connections: HDMI 2.0 port supporting screen resolutions up to UHD and 4K DCI at 60fps, 4 x USB Type A ports supporting USB 3.1 providing a charging current up to 1.5A each, 2 x Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports with 85W charging capability

Operating system: MacOS 10.13.6 High Sierra or newer

Power usage: 315W

Noise: 18dB

Dimensions (WxHxD): 177x294x177mm/ 6.96x11.59x6.96in

 

PRO MOVIEMAKER RATING: 9/10

It’s an instant turbocharge for your MacBook Pro with lots of other benefits

Pros: Plug and play, makes your laptop more useful

Cons: Internal eGPU can’t be upgraded

 

PRICE: £599/$699

Blackmagic Design

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Targeting independent commercial filmmakers and small production companies, Pro Moviemaker delivers the latest industry tech innovation and gear scoops to creatives, entrepreneurs and decision makers hell bent on staying ahead of the game. As early adopters, Pro Moviemaker readers want news, reviews and technique features focused on kit so that they know what to buy next and how it will drive the continued success of their business. Diverse in their roles and shooting genres, Pro Moviemaker readers are united by their thirst for knowledge – a thirst which is quenched not only by our hands-on production, post and business advice features, but also our inspirational interviews with leading pros.

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