PowerColor, a Taiwanese-based graphics card manufacturer, launched a brand new eGPU at CES 2019: The PowerColor Mini Pro — a pint-sized eGFX chassis powered by an included small-form-factor Radeon RX 570 graphics card.
Aimed specifically at Thunderbolt 3-enabled machines, the PowerColor Mini Pro provides a healthy graphics lift for GPU-starved Macs like the 2018 MacBook Air and Mac mini.
Should the PowerColor Mini Pro be on your radar if you’re looking for a smaller external graphics solution for the Mac? Watch our hands-on video walkthrough for the details.
- AMD Radeon RX 570 8 GB, GDDR5
- Upgradable mini-ITX GPU
- External power supply: 240 Watts
- DisplayPort 1.2: 3840 x 2160
- HDMI: 3840 x 2160
- DL DVI-D: 2560 x 1600
- Thunderbolt™ 3 (USB-C) port Upstream x 1
- USB 3.0 Type A x 2
- Gigabit Ethernet x 1
- DC-in x 1
- Dimensions: 215 x 153 x 68 mm
- macOS 10.13.4 or above
- Price: $479
Power Color Mini Pro unboxing & Hands-on
Inside the PowerColor Mini Pro box you’ll find the eGPU chassis, power brick and power cable, Thunderbolt 3 cable, and instructions.
Don’t expect an elegantly packed unit like the Razer Core X, or Blackmagic eGPU Pro, but PowerColor’s packaging gets the job done.
The eGPU unit itself is, as expected, extremely small. Height and width-wise, it’s more compact than the iPhone XS Max.
The Mini Pro is also less than 8.5-inches long, which results in it having a tiny footprint that’s much smaller than the full-sized eGPU chassis we’ve reviewed in the past.
The downside of the Mini Pro’s small form factor is that its power supply unit is external, meaning that the power brick is quite large — nearly 8-inches long, almost 3.5-inches wide, and over an 1.5-inches tall.
That large and heavy power brick means that the Mini Pro is less portable than the size of the chassis might lead one to believe at first glance.
On the side of the Mini Pro chassis, you’ll find a molex-style connector for the external power brick. It’s an awkward place for the power connector, which may need to be considered when thinking about how to position the Mini Pro on your desk.
It appears that PowerColor built the chassis around existing PCB and not vice versa, which may explain the odd connector locations.
Also included in the package is a standard 0.5m Thunderbolt 3 cable for connecting to your Thunderbolt 3-enabled Mac.
Given its form factor, I decided that the Mini Pro was perfect for my 2018 MacBook Air, so I connected it directly to that and bypassed the option of utilizing an external display.
With the release of macOS Mojave, external GPUs are capable of driving applications on the Mac’s internal display.
One of the notable aspects of the PowerColor Mini Pro is its use of a mini-ITX-friendly GPU that can be upgraded, at least technically. Accessing the GPU inside the Mini Pro couldn’t be easier, as only three Philips screws need to be removed before gaining access to the internals.
The big issue to think about when considering a mini-ITX-friendly GPU upgrade is the power requirements. The Mini Pro comes with an 240W external power supply, and features a single 6+2-pin power connector.
To my knowledge, there aren’t many Mac-compatible GPUs that will fit comfortably within the power footprint of the Mini Pro eGPU chassis.
There are cards like the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080, which features an ITX-friendly form factor, but again, this card is not compatible with macOS Mojave.
PowerColor itself produces a RX Vega 56 nano card, but its power requirements are outside of the scope of the stock chassis configuration.
Along with the single Thunderbolt 3 port on the front of the enclosure, you’ll find two USB-A ports for quickly connecting legacy accessories. You’ll also find a Gigabit Ethernet port on the side of the chassis for connecting to your network. If you’re using the PowerColor Mini Pro as a dock, this additional I/O might come in handy.
PowerColor Mini Pro performance
When an application really leans on GPU performance, pretty much anything is better than the integrated graphics found inside the 2018 MacBook Air or 2018 Mac mini. With this in mind, even though the PowerColor Mini Pro “only” has an RX 570 inside, it provides a major boost in apps like DaVinci Resolve, which heavily relies on graphics.
Although to a lesser degree than DaVinci Resolve, operations that rely on graphics power in Final Cut Pro X yield noticeable benefits as well. For example, running the BruceX 5K benchmark with the Mini Pro cuts export times by over 5x in my tests with the 2018 MacBook Pro.
And then there’s the typical Unigine Heaven and Valley benchmarks, which yield unsurprising results.
Gaming with Rocket League, my go-to test game from Steam, also results in much higher frame rate performance when using the Mini Pro.
Versus the Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box
As you can see in the benchmarks above, I also included the Gigabyte RX 580 Gaming Box in the results. That’s because the closest competitor to the PowerColor Mini Pro as far as features, size, and performance are concerned, is Gigabyte’s RX 580-powered offering.
In my opinion, if size is the most important factor in your eGPU buying decision, then Gigabyte makes a box highly worth considering. As far as power is concerned, it’s not a huge upgrade over the RX 570-driven PowerColor Mini Pro, but Gigabyte provides a better overall portable solution.
Gigabyte’s box is slightly larger, which should be factored in, but it also features an internal power supply. This means that, instead of a power brick, all you need is a simple cord to power the unit. With this considered, I find that the Gaming Box is actually the more portable of the two.
The next big difference is noise. The Gigabyte Gaming Box, with its much larger and quieter fan, is a bit more sound-friendly. I measured about a ~9 dBA difference between the two boxes when under the full load of Unigine’s Heaven benchmark.
Another factor is the overall design of the I/O. All of the ports on the Gaming Box, including the power connector, resides on the rear of the unit. Although the Gaming Box lacks the Gigabit Ethernet connectivity of the Mini Pro, I prefer having all of the I/O in one designated area.
Personally speaking, I think full-sized GPUs are the best choice unless a portable solution is an absolute must for your workflow. They provide more power potential, better upgrade potential, and are generally quieter. But if a tiny, portable eGPU solution is a must-have for your workflow, the PowerColor Mini Pro lends users another option to choose from.
The PowerColor Mini Pro was recently launched for $479, and is available from retailers like Newegg.
What are your thoughts on the PowerColor Mini Pro, and smaller external graphics boxes in general? Sound off in the comments with your thoughts and opinions.