It may be genetic at this point with “Apple” products: beautiful, quiet hardware designed for media professionals, which makes little difference in the key metric: performance. While something of a PC vs. Mac conversation, we did want to take a brief look at the new Blackmagic eGPU pro and con, and compare it with more powerful, practical and still cost-effective Mediaworkstation options.

Let’s start with the BlackMagic eGPU specs:

BlackMagic eGPU ($699)
AMD Radeon Pro 580 8GB
Compute Units: 36
Stream Processors: 2304
Texture Mapping Units: 144
Raster Operation Pipelines: 32
Base Clock: 1200 MHz
Memory Clock: 1693 MHz
Memory Bus Width: 256-bit
Memory Bandwidth: 217 GB/s

1 x 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 Gen1 data rates and providing
a charging current up to 1.5A each.

2 x Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports with
85W host charging capability.

A strength of the eGPU is functionality – it is a Mac-only, well-designed external GPU hardware peripheral purpose-built for MacBook Pro users.

It is another classic example of providing little where it counts most – i.e. rendering speed –  with Thunderbolt3, USB 3.1 and HDMI, and a single, respectable AMD Radeon Pro 580 8GB graphics card.  Now, the bad news:

If you have a 4K, and especially a 5K display, most of your cards compute capability will be sapped.

Final Cut Pro X will use your eGPU on the timeline, but go to export and it doesn’t use it AT ALL.

Good news:  Fast clip stabilization in Resolve 15 with Blackmagic eGPU is one of the highlights as you can expect to see 5-10x performance increases over the MacBook Pro alone.

That’s right, apply LUTS and FIlm Grain, export – there will be no performance increase over your MacBook Pro, and in some cases it will slow down. Were talking about using the latest version of Final Cut Pro X (ProRes RAW capable version), older versions you may see some performance bump.

Also in our testing, a single NVIDIA GTX 1070 8GB provides about 20% better performance on average than the Radeon Pro 580, has the large added benefits of native integration and stability with the most powerful rendering tools on the market such as OctaneRender, Redshift, V-Ray and more.

For Photoshop test, results were averaged running GPU-engaged functions such as Smart Sharpen, Field Blur, Tilt-Shift Blur, Iris Blur in Photoshop, and the OctaneRender test…it’s not a fair fight.  And while many of you know this, Octane GPU performance scales almost absolutely, meaning you get a 100% performance increase going from 1 card to two. It’s the same with Redshift.

If you consider that a single GTX 1070 runs about $400 now, and for about $800 ($100 more than the BlackMagic eGPU) could could have more than twice the rendering speed, it really becomes clear just what kind of sacrifices (or pain) Mac users must continue to endure for sticking with OSX.  If OctaneRender, Redshift, V-Ray are tools you want to use, your choices are ready-made.

This said, we do want to mention AMD ProRender.  It is relatively new to the game, but we did see this render engine very capably and quickly rendering Cinema 4D scenes with the much more powerful 16GB Radeon Pro WX 9100 GPUs at NAB.  On this note, users interested in exploring AMD ProRender with Adobe CC, Cinema 4D, Maya or 3dsMax and Blender workflows, would find Radeon Pro equipped i-X Mediaworkstation or i-X Mini on clearance powerful rendering solutions.

We shall shortly see the release of the NVIDIA GTX 1180 and NVIDIA GTX 1170 Graphics Cards, and rumour has it the GTX 1170 will eclipse the performance of the current price for performance king GTX 1080 Ti.