Sonnet crams Thunderbolt 3 eGPU into original Mac mini-sized enclosure with eGFX Breakaway...

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in macOS
Mac upgrade company Sonnet has released the eGFX Breakaway Puck, enabling multi-display capabilities in a portable enclosure for Thunderbolt 3 computers.




The eGFX Breakaway Puck comes in two models, one with a Radeon RX 560 similar to that in the high-end 15-inch 2017 MacBook Pro, and a second with the Radeon RX 570 as found in the high-end 20.5-inch 2017 4K iMac and one model of the 5K iMac. The enclosure provides three DisplayPort 1.4 ports, and one HDMI 2.0b port, all capable of 4K resolution at 60Hz.

The unit provides 45W of charging power to connected laptops through the Thunderbolt 3 port. While not sufficient to maintain full charge when a computer is under heavy load, the unit provides sufficient power to significantly reduce battery drain -- and will charge a connected computer fully given time when not in use.




The unit measures 6 inches wide, 5.12 inches long, and 2 inches tall. It weighs 3.2 pounds with the RX 560, and 4.3 pounds with the RX 570. A 0.5 meter Thunderbolt 3 cable is included in the package.

The Radeon Pro 560 has a peak performance of up to 1.9 teraflops, and has 16 compute units, and a memory bandwidth of 81 Gigabytes per second. The Radeon Pro 570 is faster at 3.6 teraflops, with 29 compute units, and 218 GB/S memory bandwidth. At present, it is not clear how much the Thunderbolt 3 interface will constrain performance versus a "native" chip, if noticeable at all.

A VESA mounting bracket is available, which secures the Puck to the back of a monitor or multiple display stand. A short DisplayPort cable is included with the VESA kit to assist with cable management.




Apple's compatibility with external GPUs is limited until the spring. The RX 570 works out of the box, with no software installation required, but the RX 560 requires a relatively simple hack to use -- for now.

AppleInsider will be examining the new eGPU offering in the weeks to come.

The eGFX Breakaway Puck Radeon RX 560 has a retail price of $449. The higher-end eGFX Breakaway Puck Radeon RX 570 retails for $599. The optional PuckCuff VESA Mounting Bracket Kit sells for $59. All models are immediately available.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    Booyah!  Wow!  Fantastic!  So INEXPENSIVE!  This is going to sell like pancakes. It easily is a stocking stuffer for Christmas.

    Thank you Sonnet!!!!!
  • Reply 2 of 35
    Wouldn't it be better if Apple built decent GPUs into Macs to begin with?
  • Reply 3 of 35
    Could someone explain who buys this for a Mac? I'm not asking rhetorically, and I know AI will answer this question in their review, but what's the basic idea? Is it about gaming?
    edited November 2017 watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 35
    grangerfx said:
    Wouldn't it be better if Apple built decent GPUs into Macs to begin with?
    Me - for example.

    But by and large the consumer PC market has died and that includes the Mac.

    As much I love them - the segment *the only segment* that’s growing is pc gaming. Even MICROSOFT pumped actual power into thier console and while that’s great Apple is not into it. 

    I suppose theyre declining actual investment in that segment because these other companies have excellent workarounds now but I wager it’s got something to do with thier casual gaming profits... or because Macs run both Operating Systems - which is probably the smartest thing any computer maker has done in 10 years. 

    Now that they they can play GTA Online and Chatology/Pixelmator etc. 

    Im not just a one off. People love Macs but can’t afford two setups. An under 500$ box that turns a MacBook Air into a ROG or whatever should be illegal. 

    Thankfully it’s not. 
    colinngwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 35
    I assume this is for gaming and graphics professionals.  Seems as though mobile GPUs in MBP's aren't quite powerful enough for intense graphics situations. Something like this would allow for almost any TB3 Mac to be able to plugin and have graphics as powerful as a Windows workstation-class PC (ie. AutoCAD, gaming rigs, Adobe Pro apps, Video editing apps, etc.)  This would indeed be a boon to laptops.  

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 35
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,574administrator
    Could someone explain who buys this for a Mac? I'm not asking rhetorically, and I know AI will answer this question in their review, but what's the basic idea? Is it about gaming?
    Gaming and GPU-accelerated calculations, like some graphic rendering or Photoshop manipulations.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 35
    Apple should build computers with the latest GPUs to begin with. If other manufacturers can do it, why shouldn't Apple be able to do it? I don't understand what Apple has against PCI slots when it's an industry standard. I'm not a gamer so it doesn't affect me that much but I would think Apple could have higher desktop sales if they allowed users to update their GPUs. I could be wrong because most of the gaming industry is built around Windows PCs where every component is upgradeable (which makes a lot of sense), but maybe Apple could change that. I'm not complaining. I just don't quite understand Apple's thinking so I'd like to hear their reasons why they shy away from upgradeable components. I'd say maybe all those variables would be hard to give good support for Apple users.
  • Reply 8 of 35
    petieg said:
    I assume this is for gaming and graphics professionals.  Seems as though mobile GPUs in MBP's aren't quite powerful enough for intense graphics situations. Something like this would allow for almost any TB3 Mac to be able to plugin and have graphics as powerful as a Windows workstation-class PC (ie. AutoCAD, gaming rigs, Adobe Pro apps, Video editing apps, etc.)  This would indeed be a boon to laptops.  

    It’s better than that. It allows ALL MACS WITH TB1,2,3 to game. Yes, of course the power hits the graphics card will take are severe... but perhaps ur a college kid with a hand me down PowerBook from 2012 and would really like to keep using that machine.

    Gaming is double the size of Hollywood and still no one cares. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 35
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,250member
    grangerfx said:
    Wouldn't it be better if Apple built decent GPUs into Macs to begin with?
    Duh. Do you see them doing it—ever? Apple has historically used underpowered graphics cards for built-ins. That hasn't changed. 

    So what's a used to do, wait for Apple to catch up?
  • Reply 10 of 35
    Have you had one of these in your lab yet, Mike? I wonder how distracting the noise is.

    One of the things I love about my MacBook Pro is that it's almost always dead silent. Even when it's working hard, the fan noise is barely noticeable because of the effort Apple puts into its exhaust systems to "shape" the noise to make it less objectionable to human ears. That kind of work involves some fairly sophisticated engineering and R&D -- and probably a fair amount of trial-and-error -- which is expensive. It also requires expertise in a discipline that falls outside what most tech companies likely have in-house.

    Since "quiet" seems to be expensive to design and build, I get the feeling that any affordable outboard device is going to be noisy, and conversely, that quiet devices will be expensive. Is that accurate, or am I making a flawed assumption?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 35
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,250member

    petieg said:
    I assume this is for gaming and graphics professionals.  Seems as though mobile GPUs in MBP's aren't quite powerful enough for intense graphics situations. Something like this would allow for almost any TB3 Mac to be able to plugin and have graphics as powerful as a Windows workstation-class PC (ie. AutoCAD, gaming rigs, Adobe Pro apps, Video editing apps, etc.)  This would indeed be a boon to laptops.  

    I wish this or something like it could work with Mac minis, especially since it's supposed to be of similar size. I think the latest (2014) mini only does TBolt 2.

    Almost makes me want a NUCintosh or a FrankenNUC.
    entropys
  • Reply 12 of 35
    I was ready to buy this thing sight-unseen, but I was expecting an RX 580 GPU and maybe 2/3 the price. 

    This thing costs as much as one of those shoebox-sized enclosures plus a modestly-specced desktop class GPU. I guess the idea is that people will pay more for portability, but who? Not graphics professionals. Probably not gamers. No bueno.
  • Reply 13 of 35
    macgui said:
    [...] Apple has historically used underpowered graphics cards for built-ins. That hasn't changed.
    Apple doesn't use hot-rod graphics systems, but I might disagree with the assessment that what they use is "underpowered." In the work I do I haven't yet run into a case where the graphics chip was a noticeable bottleneck.

    Using a more powerful graphics card adds heat, so the additional cooling requirements increase the weight and size of the computer. It also uses more power, requiring an even bigger and heavier computer to accommodate increased battery capacity. For some people those would be acceptable trade-offs. Others, including me, would prefer a more svelte, efficient daily driver to which I can attach a trailer when I need to do heavy hauling.

    As people like @StrangeDays have pointed out in other discussions, computer design is a series of balancing acts, especially in a laptop. Every gain in one area has a downside in another. There's no way to please everyone, so the designer has to aim for the largest group. Thankfully improvements in Thunderbolt and the rise of external enclosures are making this less of an issue.
  • Reply 14 of 35
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,574administrator
    Have you had one of these in your lab yet, Mike? I wonder how distracting the noise is.

    One of the things I love about my MacBook Pro is that it's almost always dead silent. Even when it's working hard, the fan noise is barely noticeable because of the effort Apple puts into its exhaust systems to "shape" the noise to make it less objectionable to human ears. That kind of work involves some fairly sophisticated engineering and R&D -- and probably a fair amount of trial-and-error -- which is expensive. It also requires expertise in a discipline that falls outside what most tech companies likely have in-house.

    Since "quiet" seems to be expensive to design and build, I get the feeling that any affordable outboard device is going to be noisy, and conversely, that quiet devices will be expensive. Is that accurate, or am I making a flawed assumption?
    It's on the way.

    The 980ti in my Mantiz case is a hair quieter than a 5,1 Mac Pro under heavy load.
  • Reply 15 of 35
    colinngcolinng Posts: 108member
    Apple should build computers with the latest GPUs to begin with. If other manufacturers can do it, why shouldn't Apple be able to do it?
    It's not about putting the biggest engine (for an 18-wheeler, or heck, why not a tugboat engine) into a passenger car. There is a balance between portability, cost, but most important - thermal envelope. A single top end GPU puts out many, many times the heat as an entire MacBook Pro. 
    I don't understand what Apple has against PCI slots when it's an industry standard. 

    They are an inelegant "solution" to a computer that is poorly designed in the first place. If they were absolutely necessary then Apple would never have been able to sell a single MacBook of any kind. Since there are professionals who get by just fine without slots, you then have to ask the question why should everyone have 7 slots when most people need none? 

    Look at what people are using, or could use, and either build it in or find a future proof interconnect. The fact that you can hook up all these wonderful GPUs through a ThunderBolt 3 interface - which basically just moves the slot outside of the computer - now allows even a MacBook Pro to have access to the fastest crazy large GPUs. I suspect the market for that is small, which is why they aren't building ROG style laptops. Besides those who really want an ROG laptop are free to buy one. 

  • Reply 16 of 35
    Radeon RX 570 retails for $599.
    This is great, but... it's a pity that:
    1. It's not nVidia (so sad)
    2. It's not as powerful as a GTX 1060 (the minimum requirement for VR)
    3. It's 2.6 times more expensive than the what the RX 570 typically sells for (at $229) 
    But at least you can buy it for a Mac in one convenient fourth-party, repackaged solution.  So... that's nice.

    Then again, you could just buy any eGPU and stick whatever card you wanted (hello GTX Titan, you beautiful monster).  And if you're a stickler for the $600 budget, you could just nab an eGPU with a built-in GTX 1070 for $569.99 today.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 17 of 35
    macgui said:
    I wish this or something like it could work with Mac minis, especially since it's supposed to be of similar size. I think the latest (2014) mini only does TBolt 2.

    Almost makes me want a NUCintosh or a FrankenNUC.
    Got to figure the Intel + AMD announcement this week is aimed at the notebook and NUC markets. A Mac mini with Coffee Lake Core-H, 32 GB RAM, Thunderbolt 3, and Radeon graphics could arrive sooner rather than later. Intel: "Look for more to come in the first quarter of 2018, including systems from major OEMs based on this exciting new technology."
    colinngdatsond
  • Reply 18 of 35
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,179member
    Apple should build computers with the latest GPUs to begin with.
    Note that these aren't the best and latest GPUs and Apple does build products with these in them. This (or other eGPU) solutions enable us to add GPUs that might be better than what we currently have, or so we don't have to pick a particular Apple model to get the GPU we need.

    lorin schultz said:
    One of the things I love about my MacBook Pro is that it's almost always dead silent.
    Which one do you have? One of the issues with the MBP (and laptops) has often been noise that gets picked up easily in recordings, podcasts, etc.
  • Reply 19 of 35
    cgWerks said:
    Which one do you have? One of the issues with the MBP (and laptops) has often been noise that gets picked up easily in recordings, podcasts, etc.
    Late 2016 15" 2.9 i7 460. In the past I wouldn't have even considered having a computer in the same room as the mics. With this one I might. And with 2TB of the world's fastest solid-state storage on board, I can record for hours without external storage.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 20 of 35



    https://www.anandtech.com/show/12003/intel-to-create-new-8th-generation-cpus-with-amd-radeon-graphics-with-hbm2-using-emib


    “It has been discussed if this is a play just for Apple, given that Apple was behind Intel implementing eDRAM on its Crystalwell processors, and the latest generation of Crystalwell parts seem to be in Apple iMacs almost exclusively.”

    🤔
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