Review: Blackmagic’s eGPU for Mac

It’s nice to see an eGPU being sold in the Apple Store, but how does it compare to the competition?

Jeff Benjamin from 9to5 Mac has been doing eGPU reviews for a while. And as I’ve been watching them, I definitely had a favorite: Gigabyte's Radeon RX 580 “Gaming Box.” It’s smaller and cheaper than most options because it has an integrated GPU. The ease of use and portability benefits at the loss of customization. In my eyes, this is acceptable because it only runs for $500 right now.

Enter Blackmagic’s eGPU, costing $700. Made with macOS in mind, it’s not running NVIDIA because the operating system doesn’t officially support it yet, so it instead rocks an AMD Radeon Pro 580. It’s not small, standing about a foot tall, but it’s not ugly either. One of the major selling points is the noise levels. Obviously pushing a GPU to its limits causes a cacophony of buzzing fans, but not here.

However, Benjamin makes a great point: while the eGPU unit will stay quiet, your MacBook won’t. As a result you may want to pair this with an iMac, which is usually quieter, for a silent office space. It’s an interesting point that I’ll leave up to the video to explain why it matters.

A size comparison between the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

One thing is for sure though, support for eGPUs on Mac OS just isn’t cutting it. Tests from Max Yuryev found that while Final Cut X will smoothly playback ProRes Raw 4K footage on the timeline, it won’t use the eGPU when exporting. If there’s issues with Apple’s own software, you’d better believe it gets worse from there. In general, Blackmagic’s Davinci Resolve utilizes the external power as it should.

In my opinion it’ll be the end of the MacBook 2018 cycle that we’ll see eGPUs really take hold. Now that a major player is selling out of the Apple Store, public awareness and need will hopefully grow. Here’s to hoping Adobe can get on board with this within the coming year.

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10 Comments

Ryan Cooper's picture

The fundamental problem is simple. The only macbook models that dont have a GPU and would benefit the most from this thing max at 16gb of ram, thus making them unsuitable for working with large resolution media. Thus this is effectively targetted at an audience who is buying a machine that already has a GPU (albeit a slightly weaker one) to enjoy a minimal gain for the combined cost of picking up an iMac pro that has a much more powerful Vega in it.

Now, if I could buy a 13" MBP with no GPU, 32gb of ram, and a 2.6ghz 8th gen i7 it would be a whole different conversation.

Or even better than that, a Macbook with the above specs. But apparently Apple doesn't understand that some people want a decent workstation in a smaller form factor...

Leigh Miller's picture

This!

$700 on top of a $5K+ laptop to do something the computer should already be doing at that price. Don't get me wrong, I love Apple products because they just work. It's the premium price I doubt is fair any longer...at least not for a small incremental increase in performance.

The issue is not the $700, it's the fact that the card is a year old already. Why would they even release such a dumb product? It's just insulting.

Leigh Miller's picture

Listen I have a bit of money and $700 for a DOA piece of tech is a big deal. This is nothing but a forced upgrade since any MAC user now needs a machine with TB3. Those machines are basically nothing upgrades as well since they NEED this eGPU to do anything of significance with video work.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

So you buy a pro machine with a really hefty price tage sporting a GPU that sucks and you buy an external GPU with an also rather hefty price tag and this will not work rendering footage.
Which was probably the reason you bought this external GPU in the first place.

Or you buy an even more expensive i9 that throttles back because the cooling system will not cope with the powerful procesessor once pushed. And so the most powerfull option is being overtaken by the slower version.
And I bet that in the iCult world everybody will think that this is acceptable.
I have to ask this, are you all freaking mad?????
What drugs are you on to accept this??

Ryan Cooper's picture

Because, at the end of the day, the reason most mac users, are mac users, is because of software, not hardware. At least in my experience. That said, I wont be buying any of the above.

Johnny Rico's picture

as a dual mac/windows user, the software functions the same on either. Or are you talking the OS?

Ryan Cooper's picture

Generally speaking, the OS, but the overall user experience is far superior. In my opinion. Though, in recent years, Apple has been slipping a bit.

"If there’s issues with..." Hello copy writer? That's just annoying to read.

Also, the video says it's ten-sided. Looks like eight to me. Man, who checks these things?