July 12, 2018

Speed Up Post-Production with the New Blackmagic GPU Expander

Blackmagic Design has released a Thunderbolt 3 Expansion box that should save you time.

Blackmagic has just announced the creation of an external GPU box, working in collaboration with Apple. Designed as a complement to the MacBook Pro, the new eGPU has an AMD Radeon Pro 580 built into the box, bringing 8GB of GDDR5 graphics memory, which should help with larger renders on 4K and 8K projects.

Combined with four USB3 ports, two T3 ports, and an HDMI port, this should be hugely popular as an on-set tool for faster image review and dailies stations. With speeds of up to 2.5 times the 15" MacBook Pro (or even 7x the 13" MacBook Pro), this could be a huge time saver and could potentially make the 13" a more appealing option for 'posties' who have stuck with the 15" for its graphics horsepower.

While NVIDIA is the sought after name for graphics horsepower for gaming and post, Blackmagic engineers have worked hard to ensure that AMD GPUs are well supported by its popular color-grading software. At this point, NVIDIA and AMD are performing roughly equally with Resolve. Blackmagic's choice to integrate a native AMD chipset is a big endorsement from the company, signaling that processing will continue to be competitive with NVIDIA and that it will keep Resolve working well with AMD in the future. 

Blackmagic worked closely with Apple on the development of the device, a highly encouraging sign as Apple works to regain popularity with filmmakers. Apple has actively started promoting the use of eGPU's, and that, in combination with a willingness to work with a company that might be considered a competitor (Final Cut and Resolve both edit, after all), shows a really exciting "big tent" attitude to make the Apple platform remain a choice for filmmakers.

Right now, the eGPU only supports Thunderbolt 3, although we're sure the second it's in the wild, folks will test to see if benefits can also be had on Thunderbolt 2 machines. We still regularly color grade on a 2013 MacBook Pro for its NVIDIA GT750 and its lack of a touch bar, and if there is some way to make this work on that, it would be very popular with pros.

Having the extra USB ports and T3 ports is a huge get, and we're excited to play with one of these in the field. If we have any apparent frustrations, it's that there isn't a pro version that includes an integrated Mini-Monitor out. Yes, the mini monitor is affordable, but wrapping one of those into a box to save us cabling when we take these to set would be nice. 

Considering you can charge your MacBook Pro from this expander—saving the need for a power brick—the computer footprint on set is getting smaller and smaller. While there is an HDMI output, it's likely only a graphics/desktop extension and won't be giving out a full broadcast signal. Maybe there will be an upgrade option in the future to a version with SDI.

Available soon at the Apple store for $699.

Tech Specs:

  • Radeon Pro 580 GPU 
  • 8GB of GDDR5 VRAM
  • 4x USB ports
  • 2x Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • 1x HDMI 2.0 port
  • 315W total power draw including GPU
  • 85W out to laptop (for charging)
  • 18db noise level
  • Requires Mac OS 10.13.5

Your Comment

3 Comments

It costs about as much as a GTX 1080 Ti card but with much less power.
Why not give people the option of Nvidia?

July 12, 2018 at 6:27PM

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Brian
Senior Producer / Graphic Design Artist
168

Nice to have this option available. If Apple had better GPU options in their products we wouldn't necessarily need this.

July 12, 2018 at 9:06PM

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Dantly Wyatt
Musical Comedy & Content Creator.
680

putting 300w gfx card in MBP is not a option for heat, battery what not.

July 13, 2018 at 10:49PM

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TJ Kim
Photograper
74