BlackMagic eGPU not just for HDMI and Thunderbolt 3 displays, but also for any USB-C monit...

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited July 2018
The Blackmagic eGPU isn't just the first one to accelerate the Thunderbolt 3 LG Ultrafine 5K, but will boost any two displays that can connect to the unit with USB-C or HDMI.

2018 Apple MacBook Pro with Blackmagic eGPU


As with the rest of the external GPU units AppleInsider has examined, the BlackMagic eGPU connects through Thunderbolt 3, and is designed to connect to an external display for maximum performance boost. However, the Blackmagic one is the first that will accelerate a Thunderbolt 3 display without relying on hacks or other hardware workarounds

However, AppleInsider can confirm that a USB-C LG UltraFine 4K display plugged in downstream of the eGPU on the pass-through Thunderbolt 3 port is accelerated. The functionality is not just limited to USB-C native monitors, as a monitor connected to the port with a USB-C to DisplayPort cable is also accelerated.




Additionally, the Blackmagic eGPU will support a pair of monitors, with one plugged in to the HDMI 2.0 port on the device, and the second through the Thunderbolt 3 port either with a native Thunderbolt connection, or with a USB-C to HDMI or DisplayPort cable.

At the core of the improvement is the Titan Ridge Thunderbolt 3 chipset. While there are many changes between the previous chipset, Alpine Ridge, and the newer version, the Titan Ridge chipset allows a DisplayPort signal to be injected into the Thunderbolt 3 stream at any point in the chain, rather than just by the computer or an eGPU only able to send video to a monitor connected directly to the card.

The Titan Ridge chipset also explicitly allows a 8K display to run at 30Hz without compression, or at 60Hz when Display Stream Compression is used. However, the bandwidth is still limited to 40Gbit/sec, so two 5K monitors are still not able to be connected in a daisy-chain configuration.

One of the new Titan Ridge controller chips available from Intel is intended for peripherals, and would allow use cases like a Thunderbolt 3 RAID to connect to a USB 3.1 type C host at the slower speed allowed by USB 3.1. With Alpine Ridge, the Thunderbolt 3 RAID wouldn't connect to a USB 3.1 type C connector like those found on the MacBook at all.

Existing Alpine Ridge peripherals are compatible with Titan Ridge devices, and vice versa. So, even an Alpine Ridge 2016 or 2017 MacBook Pro can connect to the Titan Ridge-equipped Blackmagic eGPU and use a display connected with one of the USB-C "alternate modes."

Apple's 2018 MacBook Pro line includes the Intel JHL7540 Titan Ridge controller.

The Blackmagic eGPU is available in select Apple stores now for $699, and is available from Apple.com as well.



Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    Can't wait to pick mine up on Friday!
  • Reply 2 of 19
    Sure, but professionals expressed disappointment with the unit. While interesting let's be careful with hype.
  • Reply 3 of 19
    Eric_WVGGEric_WVGG Posts: 921member
    The size of these enclosures is just incredible. That thing is bigger than a trashcan Mac Pro. At least they're not cheating by leaving the power supply outside the unit…
  • Reply 4 of 19
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,257administrator
    Sure, but professionals expressed disappointment with the unit. While interesting let's be careful with hype.
    I'm not even sure what you're talking about regarding hype. We've been talking about eGPUs for three years here.

    We got loads of questions about it from professionals who aren't disappointed, so we answered them.
    edited July 2018 StrangeDayscgWerks
  • Reply 5 of 19
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,565member
    Sure, but professionals expressed disappointment with the unit. While interesting let's be careful with hype.
    Must...express...disappointment...must...express...
  • Reply 6 of 19
    Any news on whether the eGPU can be used to run software/app-based processing like rendering with FCPX or Compressor? Running an external display is great, but many GPUs are used for offloading processes, too. How does the round trip through TB3 affect that?
  • Reply 7 of 19
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,257administrator
    Any news on whether the eGPU can be used to run software/app-based processing like rendering with FCPX or Compressor? Running an external display is great, but many GPUs are used for offloading processes, too. How does the round trip through TB3 affect that?
    It can. FCPX support isn't as good as it could be right now, but I'm expecting that to change.

    The round trip with calculations isn't really an issue.
    txsbaker75
  • Reply 8 of 19
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,720member
    Any feedback on sound levels (or descriptions of the sound quality/tone, etc.) when it is under full load? I notice the website says 'as low as' 18db.
  • Reply 9 of 19
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,257administrator
    cgWerks said:
    Any feedback on sound levels (or descriptions of the sound quality/tone, etc.) when it is under full load? I notice the website says 'as low as' 18db.
    It is very, very quiet even when you're beating on it.

    Much quieter than every other eGPU enclosure we've used.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 10 of 19
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,720member
    cgWerks said:
    Any feedback on sound levels (or descriptions of the sound quality/tone, etc.) when it is under full load? I notice the website says 'as low as' 18db.
    It is very, very quiet even when you're beating on it.

    Much quieter than every other eGPU enclosure we've used.
    Thanks Mike. If you happen to be testing it with a 13" 2018 MBP, I'd be curious about the impact on how much the fans run on the MBP or the impact it has on that.

    In another forum where this (vs other eGPUs) was being discussed, someone said you can get pretty quiet on one like the Mantiz too if you replace the fan and pick a GPU card with 3 fans, etc. But, I'm guessing that is still going to be way more noisy than Blackmagic... especially in light of your feedback here.

    Quiet is really important to me in what I pick. My dilemma now is whether to go with something like the 13" MBP and this eGPU, or a 2013 MP, or maybe wait if I can and see if I could do an updated Mini + this eGPU (supposing they actually update the Mini to be similar to the 2013 MBP). The latter would be my preference if it isn't too noisy, but who knows if they will do such an update. The 2013 MP is powerful and quiet, but I'm just concerned about how out of date it is.
  • Reply 11 of 19
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    I got one, works great, have been playing Rise of the Tomb Raider at much nicer detail than my internal GPU.

    If you close the laptop into clamshell mode then it kind of "shuts off" the internal GPU, and "About this Mac" now says you've got a Radeon 580, and even games that don't explicitly support eGPU (such as Civ VI) start to use it, simply because the external monitor is the only one available.

    I hoping though that Mojave will have more options with respect to the internal display. I'd rather use the internal display and have the eGPU render on there, despite the performance drop from a Thunderbolt round-trip, simply because I really like the built in screen on the MBP.
    wreighven
  • Reply 12 of 19
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,257administrator
    ascii said:
    I got one, works great, have been playing Rise of the Tomb Raider at much nicer detail than my internal GPU.

    If you close the laptop into clamshell mode then it kind of "shuts off" the internal GPU, and "About this Mac" now says you've got a Radeon 580, and even games that don't explicitly support eGPU (such as Civ VI) start to use it, simply because the external monitor is the only one available.

    I hoping though that Mojave will have more options with respect to the internal display. I'd rather use the internal display and have the eGPU render on there, despite the performance drop from a Thunderbolt round-trip, simply because I really like the built in screen on the MBP.
    Developers can "opt in" to looping back to the MBP display under Mojave on an app-by-app basis.
    asciicgWerks
  • Reply 13 of 19
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    ascii said:
    I got one, works great, have been playing Rise of the Tomb Raider at much nicer detail than my internal GPU.

    If you close the laptop into clamshell mode then it kind of "shuts off" the internal GPU, and "About this Mac" now says you've got a Radeon 580, and even games that don't explicitly support eGPU (such as Civ VI) start to use it, simply because the external monitor is the only one available.

    I hoping though that Mojave will have more options with respect to the internal display. I'd rather use the internal display and have the eGPU render on there, despite the performance drop from a Thunderbolt round-trip, simply because I really like the built in screen on the MBP.
    Developers can "opt in" to looping back to the MBP display under Mojave on an app-by-app basis.
    Thanks for the info! I hope Feral, Aspyr etc. will opt-in.
  • Reply 14 of 19
    IanSIanS Posts: 39member
    Now if an updated MacBook would get a Thunderbolt port instead of USB-C. It would make it the ultimate light portable that could still get a big performance gain.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 15 of 19
    I picked mine up yesterday.  Works great right out of the box!

    I plugged in the power cable, the short thunderbolt 3 cable from my 13” 2016 MBP (left port) to the eGPU, and the display’s thunderbolt 3 cable from the eGPU to the LG UltraFine 5K.  Everything just worked.  Video card icon displayed on the monitor.  About this Mac showed the Radeon Pro 580 with 8GB RAM for the video card driving the 5K display.  Everything you’d expect.

    I turned the graphics on World of Warcraft from all the way down at 5K (which was still a bit laggy; the 2016 13” MBP just struggles driving that many pixels) to halfway up (there’s a 5 setting out10 that sets a bunch of lighting, details and other levels to “good” as well as some anti-aliasing) and it was buttery smooth at 5K!

    Also did some testing with iMovie editing and playing a bunch of 4K 60 FPS video and there was a huge difference in how smooth all of that video played back.  Photos was the same story, scanning through a massive photo library.  Also OS animations such as switching desktops, etc. all showed marked improvement.

    Super happy with the purchase!  I highly recommend it especially if you have a 13” 2016 MacBook Pro.  It’ll give that system so much more oomph while docked at a desk.


    edited July 2018 cgWerks
  • Reply 16 of 19
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    One new thing I have learned: to get the eGPU to "replace" the internal discrete GPU and become the default, you don't actually have to clamshell the laptop, you just have to open Display Preferences, Arrangement tab, and drag the little white menu bar on to the monitor that is connected to the eGPU.
    wreighven
  • Reply 17 of 19
    That is correct, and important.  Have the workload you want accelerated on the “main” external display by moving the white bars to that display.   That way applications will by default open there (games, for instance).
    edited July 2018 ascii
  • Reply 18 of 19
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    I discovered you can make some games use the eGPU to render on the internal display using a terminal command, e.g.

    defaults write -app "Rise of the Tomb Raider" GPUSelectionPolicy -string preferRemovable

    Gives me exactly the setup I want, a normal laptop using its normal screen, just with a graphics accelerator plugged in.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 19 of 19
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    Here are some more games that work well with Blackmagic eGPU + internal screen:

    defaults write -app "Rise of the Tomb Raider" GPUSelectionPolicy -string preferRemovable
    defaults write -app "Bioshock3" GPUSelectionPolicy -string preferRemovable
    defaults write -app "Batman Arkham Asylum" GPUSelectionPolicy -string preferRemovable
    defaults write -app "COD_MW3" GPUSelectionPolicy -string preferRemovable

    The change in Modern Warfare 3 is most noticeable, that game has some very high res graphics I had never seen before. Rise of the Tomb Raider also improves lighting effects very nicely. Bioshock3 is the app bundle name of Bioshock Infinite.

    These games work but I didn't notice much difference, I think my internal Radeon 560 was already powerful enough at 1440x900 (the res I play at on the internal screen):
    defaults write -app "Bioshock Remastered" GPUSelectionPolicy -string preferRemovable
    defaults write -app "Thief - Shadow Edition" GPUSelectionPolicy -string preferRemovable

    The only game I have found so far that doesn't work is Civilisation VI, it seems to reset it's defaults with each launch.
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