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January / February 2019

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Page 47 of 51 46 POST JAN/FEB 2019 REVIEW ast year, we got a surprising announcement from Blackmagic Design — that the company would be releasing an external graphics card, also known as an eGPU, and it would be co-designed and sold exclusively through Apple. It's an interesting collaboration, and it could mean amazing things for creative professionals and content creators — or it could fall flat on its face instead. Let's find out as I put the Blackmagic eGPU to the test. FIRST IMPRESSIONS The Blackmagic eGPU is a beautiful piece of design. Built from a single piece of aluminum and weighing almost 10 pounds, the unit has a sturdy yet elegant feel. The aluminum has a nice textured feel that makes it appear very high-end. This device would look right at home next to a space grey iMac or MacBook, especially with the white glow that's emitted from the power LED on the bottom of the device. Unfortunately, the stand isn't as pleasing on the eyes, but I wouldn't call it ugly either. On the front of the unit, Blackmagic continues its focus on minimalism, with no power button, no power/status light and no additional ports. It's a design aes- thetic that feels very similar to Apple, so you'll either love it or hate it. While I do appreciate the modern design, it would have been nice to have an additional Thunderbolt 3 or USB port accessible on the front of the device. On the rear of the device, there are a variety of ports to assist in connect- ing accessories: Two Thunderbolt 3 (TB3) ports, three USB 3.1 ports, and an HDMI 2.0 port. While the inclusion of USB-A ports is helpful, I'm disap- pointed to see only a single HDMI 2.0 port (which is limited to 4K DCI reso- lution) and no DisplayPort connections [Note: It's important to mention that a DisplayPort connection is available on the Blackmagic eGPU Pro]. While Blackmagic's higher-end eGPU Pro does offer a DisplayPort connection, I would have appreciated it on the eGPU as well. Though you can daisy-chain multiple eG- PUs, Blackmagic advised that you cannot use the additional Thunderbolt 3 port on the device for that purpose. [Note: If users would like to use two Blackmagic eGPUs on one machine, you can put one eGPU on each Thunderbolt 3 bus. The additional Thunderbolt 3 port on the Blackmagic eGPU can be used to daisy chain Thunderbolt 3 storage, or a monitor up to 5K resolution.] Unfortunately, the beautiful design comes with a pretty large caveat: You can't upgrade the graphics card, unlike many other DIY eGPU solutions, such as the Razer Core X and Sonnet EFX series. [Note: According to the company, There are a few very important reasons why the AMD Radeon 580 (or the Vega 56 when referencing the Blackmagic eGPU Pro) isn't replaceable in the Blackmagic eGPU. The design is optimized for quiet operation, so it's better suited for creative customers, including those that work in post production and require a quiet setup. While most eGPUs run very hot, and very noisy, the Blackmagic eGPU (and eGPU Pro) run at consistently low noise levels and maintain very cool temperatures, even throughout a heavy day of usage. If you're using an eGPU, you most likely don't have a machine room, all of your gear is right in front of you, on your desk, making noise. Additionally, high temperatures are counter productive for a GPU's long term ability. The Blackmagic eGPU and eGPU Pro are designed to operate at maximum efficiency, noise levels and temperatures all of the time, with simple plug and play operation.] EVALUATING THE HARDWARE Inside its beautiful aluminum chas- sis, the Blackmagic eGPU houses an AMD Radeon Pro 580 GPU with 8GB of GDDR5 memory. It's an interesting choice, as it provides more power than the built-in GPUs available in most lap- tops and some mid-range desktops (in- cluding the ATI Radeon 560X in my 2018 MacBook Pro, which was used for test- ing), but it's still somewhat anemic when compared with higher-end offerings, like Nvidia's RTXi or ATI's Radeon Vega (which is used in the iMac Pro). While Blackmagic has already announced it will offer the much-faster ATI Vega 56 in its upcoming eGPU Pro, I can't help feeling somewhat disappointed in the compa- ny's choice of such a middle-range GPU to power what is otherwise a very premi- um product. SOME TROUBLESHOOTING REQUIRED After carefully unboxing the unit, I con- nected the device using the included .5m (1.5ft) cable and was greeted to that nice white glow from underneath the device, along with an additional notification on my MacOS menu bar. Once connected, I fired up Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 15, Adobe Premiere CC 2018 and Apple Final BLACKMAGIC DESIGN BLACKMAGIC EGPU BY JASON BOWDACH LOS ANGELES, CA COLORIST/ FINISHING ARTIST PIXELTOOLSPOST.COM A THUNDERBOLT 3 EXTERNAL GRAPHICS PROCESSOR L The eGPU houses AMD's Radeon Pro 580 GPU. The eGPU looks right at home next to an iMac or MacBook.

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