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Reader Question: eGPU for Photoshop and Lightroom?

Reader Darren K writes:

Long story short is I had a RAID failure and got me thinking about all of my old-ish gear (chain below if you’re inclined to read). Considering selling 2013 Mac Pro for a 2018 Mac mini.

Read your article about the eGPU issue. My friend Bob is a video guy, and doesn’t know about whether eGPU is available in Photoshop or Lightroom. Would be good to know if you find that out at some point, but bailing on the Mac Pro might be wise.

DIGLLOYD: using RAID-5 is plenty fast these days and the best way to avoid RAID issues as it offers fault tolerance. For most uses, the modest performance gains with RAID-0 striping (no fault tolerance) is not going to be worth the risk of drive failure (at least with hard drives).

For RAID, use SoftRAID in an OWC Thunderbay since failure of a hardware RAID can be a very painful experience when the enclosure fails—it might not even be available any more and with the drives for hardware RAID using proprietary formatting they are useless in any other enclosure without reformatting. Not so with SoftRAID—any enclosure will do. And as a daily losing proposition, hardware RAID has long had inferior performance compared to SoftRAID.

eGPU for Photoshop and Lightroom.

I think that some readers are missing important information at the top of this bloge.g., headlines from MacPerformanceGuide are shown for a week or so in smaller type.

An eGPU is Useless for Photoshop and Lightroom Unless...

Put another way: the eGPU is used for Photoshop and Lightroom if and only if that eGPU is driving the main screen. At least that is what Adobe online support says, an what I found when testing the 2018 Mac mini with macOS Mojave 10.14.2.

There might be one exception for an eGPU when not driving the main screen—the Adobe Camera Raw Enhance Details feature. Adobe states:

Enhance Details heavily uses the available GPU and can use an external GPU (eGPU) if available

Adobe states:

1. We tested with a MacBook with an Intel integrated GPU, both with and without an eGPU plugged in. Enhance Details ran much faster with the eGPU plugged in. We've not tested all eGPU scenarios, however. 2

2. At present, Enhance Details only uses a single GPU. The choice of GPU is actually determined by the operating system.

3. Enhance Details uses only one GPU at a time. In the built-in GPU + eGPU scenario, only one of these would be actively used to run Enhance Details (and the OS should be choosing the eGPU to do so).

See also: Adobe Camera Raw Enhance Details Feature: Integrated into my Workflow... How Much Does it Use the GPU?

Stephen G writes:

I'm puzzled by your finding that eGPU's aren't recognized by Photoshop CC and /or Lightroom. I have a newish 2018 Mac mini with 64GB of Apple memory and the 3.2 GHz Intel Core I7.

Below are details of the EGPU Thunderbolt 3 I use every day with these programs and the Radeon Card etc. I only use the one monitor on the Thunderbolt 3 Bus with HDMI. Both of these Adobe programs use the EGPU simultaneously and without fail. They are fast and reliable. Mac OS X 10.14.4

DIGLLOYD: the An eGPU is Useless for Photoshop and Lightroom Unless... post links to the Adobe support pages which confirm what I’ve stated: an eGPU is used for Photoshop and Lightroom if and only if that eGPU is driving the main display. Stephen G is driving the main display using the eGPU, hence it does get used by Photoshop/Lightroom.

At the time I tested the 2018 Mac mini, there were still bugs in macOS Mojave (since fixed, apparently) that made using the NEC PA271Q with the eGPU not work. With the Mac mini and an eGPU it is defensible that using the eGPU to drive the main display is the best choice. With a machine with a built-in display (iMac 5K, MacBook Pro), it gets iffy since the built-in display can only be driven by the built-in GPU.

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