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Blackmagic Design launches the Blackmagic eGPU

Friday, July 13th, 2018 | Posted by Jim Thacker

 
Blackmagic Design has launched the Blackmagic eGPU, a new external GPU chassis targeted at Mac users who want more compute power when working with CG software like its own Fusion and DaVinci Resolve.

The unit, which was designed in collaboration with Apple, and is available exclusively via the company’s website and its stores, launched yesterday alongside Apple’s new MacBook Pro line-up.

The ‘world’s first eGPU designed specifically for DaVinci Resolve’
Like existing eGPU units – there are quite a number focused on gaming, and Sonnet has a range targeted at CG work – the Blackmagic eGPU is designed to augment a workstation’s internal GPU.

That’s a particular issue for Mac users, who have limited options when it comes to upgrading their system’s internal graphics cards, particularly on mobile workstations like the MacBook Pro.

By extension, it’s an issue for Blackmagic itself, given that many of the users of DaVinci Resolve and Fusion, work on Macs – and that many of the new tools in the software are GPU-accelerated.

In its press release, the company describes the Blackmagic eGPU as “the world’s first eGPU designed specifically for accelerating professional video workflows with DaVinci Resolve”.

Powered by an AMD Radeon Pro 580 GPU
A powered freestanding unit – in photos, it looks slightly taller than the MacBook Pro itself – the Blackmagic eGPU features a built-in AMD Radeon Pro 580 graphics card.

Its 8GB of VRAM and peak single-precision floating-point compute performance of 5.5Tflops put the Radeon Pro 580 roughly on a par with Windows cards like AMD’s Radeon Pro WX 7100 or Nvidia’s Quadro P4000.

That’s a step up from the integrated GPUs used in any of the new MacBook Pros: the 580 is the same card used in the current top-of-the-range configuration for the 27-inch iMac.

Connectivity, noise levels and power consumption
The Blackmagic eGPU connects to a host machine via a Thunderbolt 3 port, while its second Thunderbolt 3 port is intended to drive an external display: something that Blackmagic claims is a first for an eGPU.

The unit also sports one HDMI 2.0 port and four USB 3.1 ports.

As you might expect for an Apple peripheral, it looks pretty stylish: Blackmagic’s press release talks about it being “extruded from a single piece of aluminium” and featuring a “unique thermal cooling system”.

The latter runs “as low as 18dB” – considerably quieter than some of the figures recorded for the internal fans in MacBook Pros.

The power supply works from 100-240W, and gives 85W of downstream power for charging other devices.

 

 
Competitively priced – but how much bang do you get for your buck?
Blackmagic notes that DaVinci Resolve 15 users can expect “increased performance for editing with more real time effects [and] color corrections with more nodes” when using the eGPU with a MacBook Pro.

According to the firm’s tests, temporal noise reduction is 1.91x faster than when using the internal GPU alone in a 15″ MacBook Pro, and 7.07x faster than with that of the 13″ MacBook Pro alone.

However, that’s for the 2016 models, not the new MacBook Pros launched yesterday.

We’ve asked Blackmagic if they have benchmark figures for the new machines, or for non-Blackmagic Design software – for example, Cinebench test scores – and will update if we hear back.

But at $699, the Blackmagic eGPU is competitively priced: Sonnet’s recommended chassis for running a Radeon Pro WX 7100 with a MacBook Pro cost $199-399, with around a further $600 for the card itself.

Pricing and availability
The Blackmagic eGPU costs $699. It is avaiable exclusively via Apple’s online store and “selected Apple Retail stores worldwide”.

Read more about the Blackmagic eGPU on Blackmagic Design’s website

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