Blackmagic’s new $699 eGPU may be useless for photographers (for now)

Jul 19, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Blackmagic’s new $699 eGPU may be useless for photographers (for now)

Jul 19, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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External GPUs have become a big thing for MacBook and other laptop users lately. With limited internal graphics, an external GPU can speed up your workflow tremendously – although it does kind of defeat the portability of it being a laptop.

The recently announced Blackmagic eGPU, sold exclusively by Apple, might not be the best option, though, unless you’re only planning to use DaVinci Resolve. As this review from photoshopCAFE shows, it’s not so great with anything else.

YouTube video

The Blackmagic eGPU is a very sleek and interesting looking unit. It contains an AMD Radeon Pro 580 wituh 8GB RAM. It features two Thunderboilt 3 connectors, four Type-A USB 3.1 connectors, a full-size HDMI 2.0 port supporting up to 4K and it’s completely silent.

Unlike many other eGPUs on the market, this one isn’t marketed towards gaming, but more towards creatives. Photographers, designers, video editors, motion graphics and visual effects artists, etc. But that performance increase doesn’t seem to be applied to all software equally.

In fact, in Lightroom tests shown in the video above, using the eGPU actually showed worse performance than when just using the 2017 MacBook Pro’s internal GPU. When it came to Photoshop, the eGPU did help to improve performance, but barely.

Colin actually thought that the eGPU he had received might be defective or that the software wasn’t using it. But a settings check confirmed that it was. The next test, in Adobe Premiere Pro also didn’t really show any useful noticeable increase with the eGPU, either.

To be honest, it’s not that much of a surprise to me that a Blackmagic eGPU is tailored specifically towards Blackmagic’s software. They know the inner workings of both this device and their software. And I don’t think it’s really Blackmagic’s fault that other software doesn’t take advantage of it, either.

Colin, too, mentions in the video that he spoke to a number of software engineers at various companies who told him they had no idea Apple was about to release this device. They found out when the rest of the world did. So, they had no way to update their software to take advantage of the hardware or even check compatibility.

In the future, other software companies may start to support the new unit if it proves to be popular. Right now, though, it seems that it’s not worth it unless you’re using DaVinci Resolve regularly. But, by the time that happens, the hardware inside it might be obsolete. And it’s not upgradeable.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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3 responses to “Blackmagic’s new $699 eGPU may be useless for photographers (for now)”

  1. Ben Darwall Avatar
    Ben Darwall

    Adrian Lee

  2. sebastapol Avatar
    sebastapol

    Isn’t this to do with the fact that its AMD more than anything else? LR/PS don’t use the graphics card that much anyway and Premiere is optimised for Nvidia… These guys gave a fuller explanation a couple of days ago: http://appleinsider.com/articles/18/08/12/review-apple-and-blackmagics-egpu-with-thunderbolt-3-connectivity

  3. Czech4Life Avatar
    Czech4Life

    This is a useless article. The BlackMagic eGPU is made primarily for DaVinci Resolve. Photography has no use for an eGPU.