Apple announced external GPU support for Macs at WWDC 2017, and now the company teamed up with the cinema company Blackmagic to develop a new eGPU designed specifically for the new MacBook Pros announced today.
Simply named the Blackmagic eGPU, this external graphics card enclosure is powered by a AMD Radeon Pro 580 featuring 8GB of video memory, 256-bit memory bandwidth and 36 discrete compute units for a total of 5.5 teraflops of processing power.
According to Apple, the Blackmagic eGPU will deliver 2.8 times faster graphics performance on the 15-inch MacBook Pro and 8 times faster on the 13-inch model.
In some DaVinci Resolve 15 performance charts from Blackmagic, we can also see the eGPU adds a seven-fold performance boost to the 13-inch MacBook Pro, while the 15-inch MacBook Pro gets a two or three times improvement. Oddly, Blackmagic decided to test these machines with two 2016 MacBook Pros, but if anything the performance gains should be even higher.
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The Blackmagic eGPU also acts as a Thunderbolt docking station. So, connecting your MacBook Pro to this graphics accelerator will grant access to four USB 3.1 Type-A ports, two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports and one HDMI. The enclosure also provides up to 85W to the connected laptop over Thunderbolt 3.
Unlike most external GPU boxes, the Blackmagic eGPU comes pre-installed and ready to go. The bad news is users won’t be able to crack this box open and replace it with something more powerful, like the highest-end AMD Radeon RX Vega.
This is because Apple and Blackmagic specially designed the enclosure with a single piece of aluminum and a special cooling system – not to mention a layer of I/O between the graphics card and the eGPU’s rear ports. One silver lining of this custom design is the unit runs quietly at as little as 18 dB.
The Blackmagic eGPU is available to purchase now exclusively from Apple for $699 (£599, AU$1,149). Apple added eGPU support in macOS High Sierra 10.13.4, so the Blackmagic eGPU should be compatible with MacBook Pro systems released in 2016 or later, an iMac 2017 or later, and the iMac Pro.
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