Benchmarks content creation: Premiere Pro and Blender
You can use an egpu for more than playing video games. A powerful gpu can also boost content creation, for example when creating 3D-models or when editing videos. In order to find out how much use an external gpu is in these scenarios, we perform two benchmarks. We run these benchmarks using the RX 580 Gaming Box in combination with both the XPS 13 9370 as well as the Macbook Pro.
In Premiere Pro we measured the time it takes to render a test episode of Hardware.Info TV, as always this is done in 4K resolution at 50 fps. Unfortunately the Macbook Pro produced a disappointing result. With the egpu connected the program was not finished significantly faster. This indicates that the program does not use the external gpu at all. Instead, the rendering task was still assigned to the Radeon Pro 560-gpu which is built into the lapto.
Of course we have tried to get the program to use the external video card anyway. As mentioned earlier, these attempts came to a standstill because MacOS does not yet offer an option to force a particular application to use the external gpu. Adjusting the energy settings did not help. Running the program on an external monitor which directly connected to the external gpu did not achieve better performance either.
Due to the limited implementation of external gpus in MacOS, using one does not make any sense when running an application like Premiere Pro on your Macbook Pro. Other media are also running into the same problem. For example, Ars Technica reports that the problem also occurs with Final Cut Pro - perhaps even more remarkable, given the fact that the software is supplied by Apple itself. It would be useful if Apple were to update MacOS in the future with additional options so that you can force the use of the separate graphics card on systems with an egpu. At the moment, as a MacOS user with an egpu, you are in pretty much at the mercy of the support from program creators.
However, with the Dell XPS 13 we were able to measure an increase in performance. Even if the video card driver does not provide an option to assign a particular program to a specific graphics card, you can turn off the built-in graphics card of the laptop in Windows in the Device Manager. Normally you do not want to do that at all, but in this case it is a useful solution. This makes this egpu the only installed graphics card, which forces the laptop to use it to speed up the rendering process.
Fortunately for Mac users, there are already applications that give you the option to choose a gpu. An example is the free 3D-software Blender. The program not only gives you the option to render on the cpu or the gpu, but also allows you to choose which gpu you want to use for rendering 3D images. Using the Macbook Pro with the RX 580 Gaming Box connected, there were three available options: the Intel HD Graphics-igp, Radeon Pro 560 GFP in the laptop, and the external RX 580.
We then let the laptop render a 3D-image of an AMD Ryzen processor, for which we first selected the Radeon Pro 560 and the RX 580-egpu after that. As the graph shows, the second run took less than half of the time that the first run needed.
We hebben de laptop een 3D-afbeelding laten renderen van een AMD Ryzen-processor, waarvoor we eerst de Radeon Pro 560 selecteerden en vervolgens de RX 580-egpu. De tweede keer verliep het rekenproces inderdaad meer dan dubbel zo snel, zoals de grafiek laat zien.