Apple has given the MacBook Pro a much-needed refresh. But as Apple refresh cycles for its laptops and desktops grows more erratic and unpredictable, pros will increasingly have to rely on external accessories to both boost the power of their hardware and extend its lifespan.
Enter the eGPU - short for external GPU - such as this new model from Blackmagic. eGPUs aren't new, but lately Apple has been keen to show off how they can be used to boost the performance of Macs, both to make them capable of handling workloads that the base hardware can't, or boost their operating lifespan.
Professionals who rely on Macs -- especially MacBook Pros -- are no strangers to attaching stuff to their devices. As a pro-am photographer, I regular hook my MacBook Pro up to beefy external storage devices and docks to get my work done.
For many, an eGPU will be the next thing they'll have of their desk connected to their MacBook Pro.
An eGPU basically brings the power of a desktop GPU to a laptop to use as a graphics accelerator. The Blackmagic eGPU contains an AMD Radeon Radeon Pro 580 graphics processor with 8GB of GDDR5 RAM, 256-bit memory bandwidth and 36 discreet compute units to offer up to 5.5 teraflops of processing power. The eGPU also supports Apple's Metal graphics technology, and offers near-direct access to the GPU for maximum performance.
Apple added eGPU support in macOS 10.13.4 and are supported on MacBook Pro systems released in 2016 or later, the iMac 2017 or later, and the iMac Pro.
And depending on how much (or specifically, how little) you spent on your MacBook Pro, the performance that this $699 eGPU brings with it can be phenomenal, especially on high end software such as Blackmagic's DaVinci Resolve 15.
The performance boost is more modest for higher-end hardware.
Another thing the Blackmagic eGPU brings to the MacBook is more and more diverse ports in the form of four USB 3.1 ports, a couple of Thunderbolt 3 ports, and an HDMI port.
And it's not just creative types that Blackmagic is aiming the eGPU at. The sales pitch makes it clear that the company is making a play for gamers and the emerging VR market. And given the price, this may well have a following that's outside the circle of creative types.
It will be interesting to see how Mac users take to eGPUs. Will they adopt them as a way to alleviate the uncertainty about the future of the Mac, or will it scare them into making a switch to Windows?
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