Give your Thunderbolt 3 equipped laptop a boost when running DaVinci Resolve with the Blackmagic eGPU, Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box and eGFX Breakaway Puck.

The best way to speed up DaVinci Resolve on a Thunderbolt 3 equipped Windows laptop, Macbook Pro or iMac is to use an external GPU. If you’re struggling with DaVinci Resolve performance, my post on DaVinci Resolve minimum system requirements may also be helpful. Your GPU is not the only factor that might be a bottleneck. It’s important to consider your system as a whole when looking at optimization.

You can either buy a turnkey eGPU that comes with a GPU installed, or you can buy a PCIe breakout box and install your own GPU. Turnkey eGPU solutions such as the Blackmagic eGPU or Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck may not have the latest and greatest GPU, but they are purpose engineered and optimized. If you’re looking for sheer power, then an enclosure such as the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box with your own choice of compatible GPU is a better choice. Here are three DaVinci Resolve eGPU options worth considering.

What is an eGPU?

An eGPU is an external Thunderbolt 3 to PCIe chassis or enclosure that provides a high speed PCIe x4 lane slot compatible with a desktop GPU card. The enclosure has its own power supply and may also provide charging power to an attached laptop. Both MacOS and Windows support eGPU over Thunderbolt 3 but the compatible GPU cards differ. MacOS supports AMD Radeon GPU’s only whereas Windows supports both AMD and Nvidia.

Integrated Turnkey eGPU

A turnkey eGPU is a great option if you’re looking to give DaVinci Resolve a boost and you don’t want to be bothered with buying components separately. In the case of the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck, it’s also the most compact and portable option.

Blackmagic eGPU

The Blackmagic eGPU was available in two models until recently. An entry level Blackmagic eGPU comes with an 8GB Radeon Pro 580. The more expensive Blackmagic eGPU Pro comes with an 8GB Radeon RX Vega 56. The Blackmagic eGPU Pro has been discontinued recently due to AMD discontinuing the Radeon RX Vega 56.

It’s unclear if Blackmagic Design intend to replace it with an updated version. In any case both the Radeon Pro 580 and Radeon RX Vega 56 are getting a bit old, and are certainly don’t offer the best performance for price in 2020. This said, the Radeon Pro 580 equipped Blackmagic eGPU is still available, and it’s a turnkey solution that will still improve DaVinci Resolve’s performance on any Thunderbolt 3 equipped laptop with a lesser integrated GPU.

The Blackmagic Design eGPU connects to your laptop via Thunderbolt 3, and will charge your laptop while connected. The Blackmagic eGPU also gives you a 4K HDMI output, an additional Thunderbolt 3 connection and four USB 3 ports. The Blackmagic eGPU Pro features an additional displayport supporting an external display at up to 5K resolution.

Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck

The Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck is a compact eGPU with an integrated GPU. It’s available in two models, with either a Radeon RX560 or Radeon RX570. Both models have 4GB video memory and will supply 45W of power for charging a laptop while connected. One 4K HDMI connection and three displayport connections support up to four 4K displays.

Building Your Own eGPU

Building an eGPU for DaVinci Resolve gives you the most flexibility to upgrade your GPU in the future. It isn’t the most compact option, but it makes up for this in performance. There are many Thunderbolt 3 enclosures that will work, I’ve only mentioned the Sonnet because I know it and I know how much effort the company has put into this solution over the past few years. However, you can use just about any Thunderbolt 3 PCIe enclosure with an AMD Radeon GPU for Mac, and either AMD or Nvidia for Windows.

Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box

If you don’t want to be tied to a particular GPU, the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box is a good solution. It’s compatible with most GPU cards on the market and is likely to be upgradable for a while to come.

The Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box is an external Thunderbolt 3 to PCIe interface that can accommodate a full-length, full-height, single- or double-width card. You need to supply the GPU, as it isn’t included like the Blackmagic eGPU. There are two readily available Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box models to choose from.

eGFX Breakaway Box 550

The Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 550 supports cards requiring 375W of power (equivalent to 600W recommended system power). This model supports nearly every compatible GPU card. Exceptions are the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64, Vega Frontier Edition, WX 9100, and overclocked NVIDIA cards with high peak power requirements.

eGFX Breakaway Box 650

The Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box 650 supports more power hungry cards requiring 375W of continuous power plus an additional 100W peak power (equivalent to 750W recommended system power). This model is AMD approved for the air-cooled editions of the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64, Vega Frontier Edition, and Radeon Pro WX 9100. It also supports overclocked NVIDIA cards with high peak power requirements.

Compatible GPU Cards

Check the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box GPU Compatibility list for a full list of GPU cards. It’s a long list and breaks down both AMD and Nvidia GPU’s by the specific brands of the card. Be sure to check the OS compatibility. The AMD Radeon GPU cards are compatible with macOS (High Sierra 10.13.6 and higher) but Nvidia cards are not. Both AMD and Nvidia cards are compatible with Windows.

I’ve put together a hierarchical list of both AMD and Nvidia GPU’s ranked by performance in DaVinci Resolve in case you’re choosing a GPU to build your own eGPU solution using an external Thunderbolt 3 enclosure.

Liquid Cooling

The eGFX Breakaway Box does support 120mm x 1, single-fan radiators. This enables higher overclocking. The supplied system fan can simply be replaced with the radiator/fan assembly.

DaVinci Resolve eGPU Recommendation

Best Value Turnkey eGPU

While the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck is the smallest and least expensive solution, it also provides only 4GB video memory in either configuration. For this reason, I recommend the Blackmagic eGPU with the 8GB Radeon Pro 580 as the best value turnkey eGPU for money. It also provides a higher charging output of 85W and an additional Thunderbolt 3 connection.

Best GPU for Power and Upgradability

If you’re looking for more power than the Blackmagic eGPU, I recommend looking at the Sonnect eGFX Breakaway Box 550, or in fact just about any Thunderbolt 3 PCIe enclosure, with a GPU of your choice. This may not be the most compact or portable option, but it is the most flexible and powerful solution. It also allows you to upgrade the GPU later on.

Best Low Budget eGPU

If you’re on a very tight budget and can’t stretch for the Blackmagic eGPU, then the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck with the Radeon RX560 is a good choice. The Radeon RX570 version is not far below the Blackmagic eGPU and I’d highly recommend making that stretch.

Buying an eGPU for DaVinci Resolve

If you’re interested in the Blackmagic Design eGPU, you should get in touch with your nearest Blackmagic Design authorized reseller. I don’t have Amazon links as it’s not being sold through Amazon.

If you click on the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck link or the eGFX Breakaway Box link below you can further configure exactly which version you want on the Amazon product page. The Breakaway Box listed doesn’t include a GPU but does list compatible GPU’s for MacOS and Windows.

Further Reading

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6 Comments

  1. Hi Richard,
    Fantastic articles about eGPUs. I didn’t even know this was possible, so to see how I can upgrade my system easily and efficiently is great.
    With these eGPUs, is it as simple as plug and play, or do we need to configure the software/hardware to utilise both an internal GPU and a eGPU?
    Thanks

    • Richard Lackey

      Hi Simon, thanks for reading! and for the question. This is where things can get tricky. It’s supposed to be plug and play but depends on your system, OS, and what software you want to take advantage of the external GPU. What is your system? Mac or PC?

  2. Hi there. You really know what you are talking about so grateful for people like yourself. I am currently using a Mac book pro with DaVinci resolve 14 and it is painfully slow I have a budget of $500 Canadian and was wondering what you would recommend. Thanks so much

    • Richard Lackey

      Hi, what is the year, and the specs of your Macbook Pro? and what kind of video are you working with? Camera, resolution, codec?

  3. Hi Richard – thanks for this post it’s been really helpful. I’m wondering if you have a recommendation for a card to go inside the Sonnet 650 box. I run Resolve 16 on both a Mac Pro and a laptop and the laptop really struggles. I’d love to find something that could help it work much faster. I’m aslo looking at the BM Pro box – but would like to try and save some money.

    Many thanks J

    • Richard Lackey

      Hi, sure, the other advantage of the Sonnet box over the BM is you can upgrade the GPU later on. It all comes down to budget, and the best value for money cards change all the time. A couple of suggestions to look at are the GeForce® RTX 2060 8GB (GDDR6), or AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB (GDDR5). Best to do some research, maybe on some of the forums online, see what others are using too.

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