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July 13, 2018

Bring magic to your desktop with a $699 external GPU for MacBook Pros, iMacs

by John_A

Blackmagic Design teamed up with Apple to create an external graphics card enclosure with a built-in AMD Radeon Pro 580. Simply called the Blackmagic eGPU, it connects to Apple Mac devices via a Thunderbolt 3 port (40GBps) that support external graphics. It’s available now for $699 exclusively through Apple’s online shop and its brick-and-mortar stores scattered across the globe.

“Featuring an elegant, textured finish design, Blackmagic eGPU is extruded from a single piece of aluminum and features a unique thermal cooling system that’s been designed to perfectly balance the airflow and dissipate heat more efficiently,” Blackmagic says. “The cooling system also enables extremely quiet operation as low as 18dB, vital for those working in video production and audio engineering environments.”

AMD initially introduced the Radeon Pro 500 series with the latest 21.5- and 27-inch iMacs in June 2017. The Radeon Pro 580 is at the top of the five-card family packing 2,304 cores across 36 compute units with a base speed of 1,100MHz and a maximum speed of 1,200MHz. It includes 8GB of on-board GDDR5 video memory clocked at 1,695MHz, 144 texture mapping units, 32 render output units, and more.

As for the actual enclosure, it’s a beautiful device sporting a wrapped one-piece aluminum design with a machine anodized finish and a thermal grille mounted at the top. The enclosure stands on your desktop at 11.59 inches tall, 6.96 inches wide, and 6.96 inches deep. On the back you’ll find four USB-A ports (5Gbps), two Thunderbolt 3 ports (40Gbps), and an HDMI port supporting an external monitor up to a 3,840 x 2,160 resolution.

Also crammed into the enclosure is a 315-watt power supply that not only feeds the Radeon Pro 580 card but provides 85 watts of power through the Thunderbolt 3 ports to charge your connected, compatible Mac device. Right now, the only devices that support external graphics are the following (MacOS 10.13.5 High Sierra required):

  • MacBook Pro notebooks released in 2016 or later
  • iMac computers released in 2017 or later
  • iMac Pro released ion 2017 or later

Note that the external graphics unit does not work on older Mac devices using a Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 adapter. There’s just not enough data bandwidth in Thunderbolt 2 (20Gbps) to handle an external graphics card, which typically either sits in a speedy PCI Express slot within a computer or is integrated directly onto the PC’s motherboard.

According to Blackmagic Design, you absolutely cannot upgrade the Radeon Pro 580 mounted inside, meaning you’ll be stuck with the now-older chip after the hefty $699 purchase. Blame the overall design that’s “optimized for quiet operation.” It’s not a simple stand-alone chassis with the card plugged into a slot, but instead features an integrated chip and cooling system that can’t be upgraded or swapped out.

Still, if you run into any problems, Blackmagic Design will provide technical support for an unspecified time. The device ships with a 12-month limited manufacturer’s warranty that you can read more about right here.

To purchase the $699 Blackmagic eGPU from Apple, head here. The company provides free two-day delivery if you can’t pick up the device from a brick-and-mortar location.

Editors’ Recommendations

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