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”