Blackmagic eGPU Pro Vega Revealed

Apple lifted the curtain on the new eGPU Pro from Blackmagic Design without any fanfare; the event today was already packed with other new first-party products.

My quick take on today’s Mac Mini update? Upgrade the i7 Mini and grab a Blackmagic eGPU or two, and get to work! It will be interesting to see how much difference the high-bandwidth RAM in the 8GB Radeon Vega 56 in the eGPU Pro makes versus the 8GB Radeon Pro 580 in the base model eGPU. Boost the Mini’s RAM to 64GB afterwards, since Apple still charges quite a premium for their memory.

From the store page:

Blackmagic Design introduces the new Blackmagic eGPU Pro featuring a Radeon RX Vega 56 graphics processor with 8GB of HBM2 memory. You’ll be able to run incredibly graphics-intensive workloads that were previously possible only on iMac Pro. Housed in an all-in-one aluminium enclosure similar to that of the Blackmagic eGPU, the Blackmagic eGPU Pro has a DisplayPort connector so customers can connect a DisplayPort display for their workstation setup.

The eGPU has 8GB of HBM2 memory, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, four USB 3 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port and a DisplayPort 1.4 port, allowing for 85W of power to charge your MacBook Pro at the same time.

The new Blackmagic eGPU Pro allows accelerated graphics-intensive pro app workflows and super-smooth gaming, enables VR experiences or content creation, and supports multiple accessories for the ultimate workstation setup.

With macOS Mojave, you can now use an eGPU to accelerate compatible apps on the built-in display of any Thunderbolt 3–enabled Mac.

Radeon RX Vega 56 graphics processor with 8GB of HBM2 memory
Two Thunderbolt 3 ports (USB-C)
Four USB 3 ports
HDMI 2.0 port
DisplayPort 1.4 port
85W power delivery

System Requirements
Operating System: macOS 10.14 Mojave or later

Available to order now in the Apple Store app and online.

New Radeon Pro Vega Graphics Coming to MacBook Pro Next Month

Along with the new Mac Mini and other hardware, Apple announced today that new MacBook Pro graphics options will bring Radeon Pro Vega 16 and 20 graphics chips to the line for the first time, next month. According to Apple, these new graphics options deliver “up to 60 percent faster graphics performance for the most demanding video editing, 3D design and rendering workloads.”

The new graphics configuration options for MacBook Pro will be available to order on apple.com, in Apple retail stores and through Apple Authorized Resellers starting Wednesday, November 14.

Blackmagic Design Unveils its First eGPU, Co-Designed by Apple

Blackmagic today announced the release of their new eGPU. It includes an integrated(!) 8GB Radeon Pro 580, along with connections for Thunderbolt and HDMI displays.
The Blackmagic eGPU sports two Thunderbolt 3, one HDMI 2.0, and four USB 3.1 ports.

The device is non-upgradeable, with the GPU being integrated into the enclosure, and not following the norm of offering one or more PCIe slots. Either Thunderbolt port will provide 85W of power to a MacBook Pro for charging as well as data transfer.

Apple and Blackmagic Design worked together to develop a different approach to eGPU enclosures, and claim that going the integrated route “provides easier setup for users who don’t want to mess with installing their own cards and that it has a smaller footprint and runs quieter than many other enclosures.”

Blackmagic talks more about the device:

The Blackmagic eGPU is a high performance graphics accelerator for professional software such as DaVinci Resolve, 3D games and VR. Featuring an integrated design that’s optimized for performance and quiet operation! Now you can accelerate your DaVinci Resolve workflow and make 3D games and VR look more realistic than ever. The Blackmagic eGPU brings high-end desktop graphics processing to your laptop!

Extruded from a single piece of aluminum, the Blackmagic eGPU features a machine anodized finish and a unique thermal grill that’s designed for balanced airflow, convection cooling and efficient heat dissipation. This allows the variable speed fan to run more slowly, resulting in super quiet operation as low as 18dB. The Blackmagic eGPU also features a soft glowing LED that casts a pool of light through the base to let you know it’s powered on and ready for action.

The Blackmagic eGPU features a Radeon Pro 580 graphics processor that delivers stunning graphics and incredible computational performance. You get 8GB of GDDR5 RAM, 256-bit memory bandwidth and 36 discreet compute units for up to 5.5 teraflops of processing power. The Radeon Pro 580 can fill a massive 38.4 billion textured pixels per second! Plus, you get support for Metal graphics technology from Apple, which provides near-direct access to the GPU for maximizing graphics and compute performance with games and applications!

Available for sale now from the Apple Store worldwide, check your local listings for show times and get your eGPU on!

Additional links:

Blackmagic eGPU – Graphics Superpower for MacBooks via Thunderbolt 3 – Cinema5D

Final Cut Pro X 10.4.2 improves XML, continues the push to High Sierra

About three weeks after the 10.4.1 update that brought closed captioning and ProRes RAW support along with a mandatory system upgrade to High Sierra, Final Cut Pro X has been updated to 10.4.2.

Not as much of a bug fix bonanza as it is the next push for Sierra users to update. Depending on how deeply the bugs that have been newly squashed affect your workflow, this will be a strong prod towards High Sierra.

Here’s hoping that 10.4.3 will add motion tracking to really push us into the future/present, even if it only gains what Motion already ships with. I’m guessing we won’t see AR-based capture with camera motion data from iPhone to FCPX until at least version 10.5.

Fixes an issue where selecting multiple clips using the shift key or marquee selection could inadvertently select other clips in the timeline

Fixes issues related to XML import and export

Dragging events between libraries no longer uses XML and correctly copies all settings and media

Removes unnecessary settings that were included in XML 1.7 export

Some detail as far as the XML fixes go, so maybe we’ll finally get markers showing up in DaVinci Resolve? Not sure whose issue it is, but we’ve been waiting for years for this to work.

The FCPX release notes and version history can always be found on this page.

The newest version of Final Cut Pro X can be downloaded free of charge from the Mac App Store for existing users.

New Final Cut Pro X users can purchase the app for $299 flat, with no subscription fees. I can’t guarantee anything, but every update since 2011 has been free for existing owners and I believe this will continue. This applies to Motion as well, except for just $49.

References

1. MacTrast, “Apple Releases Final Cut Pro X 10.4.2 – Update Fixes Timeline Selection and XML Support Bugs” – Chris Hauk – 18-04-30

2. 9to5Mac, “Apple releases Final Cut Pro 10.4.2 bug fix update to address timeline selections and XML support” – Jeff Benjamin – 18-04-30

Final Cut Pro X 10.4.1 requires High Sierra, full eGPU support coming soon

For the first time in a long while the newest version of FCPX requires the newest version of Apple’s operating system. The first version was released on June 21, 2011 and required OS X 10.6.7, which was the current OS at the time. The final update (10.6.8) for Snow Leopard was available just two days later, and 10.7 Lion arrived to great fanfare less than a month after that. As Alex Gollner notes,

“Since 2011, the ProApps team have only required that the OS is as old as 16 months old.”

Sierra is finally stable enough to trust. I know a few people who have only just now got their Sierra installs working properly with all their hardware and third-party software. This upgrade is a big ask and I’m holding off on it for the moment, as my secondary machine (a Hackintosh) doesn’t play nicely with High Sierra yet and I already manage a set of libraries for FCPX 10.3.4.

On the other hand, it’s a very good thing that Final Cut can now take further advantage of external GPU support, since (again, according to Mr. Gollner)

“while parts of Final Cut Pro 10.4 and earlier [could] be sped up by attaching an eGPU, some core parts weren’t.”

Does this mean that internal Mac displays can get a performance boost from the eGPU, as users have been hoping? It all depends on the software. Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve already supports multiple eGPUs and I’m sure FCPX and Motion will too. Hopefully this will be the case in an upcoming release, as Apple’s Support document mentions that developers can already take advantage of this ability. Ars Technica notes,

“Connecting the Mac to the enclosure without an external display does nothing in all circumstances we tested—the OS recognizes that the GPU is there, but it still runs everything off of the laptop’s own discrete or integrated GPU until an external display is connected to the enclosure.”

They also say that Apple did show Cinema4D running on an iMac Pro while using an eGPU at a December Apple event, so internal display support is likely on the horizon for most major post-production applications, as long as your CPU is also up to the tasks. At the time of Ars’ testing, Final Cut rendered and exported a video with effects without touching the eGPU, relying solely on the internal Radeon Pro 460.

However, 9to5Mac was able to get full support for multiple eGPUs with Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve. The free version supports the choice of any single one GPU (or eGPU) which they benchmarked with multiple machines, including a MacBook Pro 13-inch that had only integrated Intel graphics, and saw a massive difference in performance. With the Studio version of Resolve, you can daisy-chain multiple eGPUs and also use your internal card, if it’s worth using. They also tested this with an iMac Pro and other Macs, and saw another huge jump in performance.

“When harnessing the power of one or even two eGPUs, the performance was in a whole different league”

It’s safe to say that some people using Resolve alongside FCPX thought the 10.4.1 update might have included this kind of support, as Resolve has offered the user control over choice of graphics device for a long time, and the Studio version has also had multiple-GPU support for what seems like forever. It’s always great to see Blackmagic pushing things forward, and I can’t wait to see how Motion and Final Cut take advantage!

Hopefully Apple will release their own eGPU with a pure-Metal card inside, a chip of their own design like the A10X Fusion in the large iPad Pro, which has a custom design of 12 GPU clusters, paired in twos. Not needing to worry about battery life or heat opens the door to much more powerful chips, as well as asking more of them.

On a side note, why are we not yet able to easily chain additional CPUs other than the traditional node and cluster methods? It would be great if Apple managed to have their machines take advantage of an external box with both graphics and processor power.

This “Apple Juice Box” could launch alongside the new Mac Pro and iMac Pro (2019 model) and offer multiple chips soldered together inside a little Thunderbolt 3 box, which could of course be daisy-chained itself.

A regular full-sized PCIe graphics card draws much more power than an interface like Thunderbolt or USB can provide at the moment. This device could possibly draw all the power it needs from Thunderbolt.


References

  1. Ars Technica, “Are external GPUs for Macs viable in macOS 10.13.4? We tested to find out” – Samuel Axon – 18-04-14
  2. Alex Gollner, “Today’s Final Cut Pro 10.4.1, Motion 5.4.1 and Compressor 4.4.1 updates require macOS High Sierra 10.13.2”
  3. Apple, “Use an external graphics processor with your Mac”