Hands On: Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck with Radeon RX 560

Posted:
in General Discussion
External GPU enclosures can be pretty massive. Sonnet has a solution to the problem with the portable eGFX Breakaway Puck -- and AppleInsider has one to test.




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 -- we have the RX 560 model on-hand.

The enclosure provides three DisplayPort 1.4 ports, and one HDMI 2.0b port, all capable of 4K resolution at 60Hz. At present, the RX 560 model needs a relatively minor hack to work, but we expect that this requirement will be exterminated once full support for external GPUs arrives in the spring.

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 3.2 pounds, 6 inches wide, 5.12 inches long, and 2 inches tall -- seen pictured with an iPhone SE in a Newer KX case for comparison.




While Apple was rumored to be working on a display with an integrated GPU, Sonnet may have a solution for inventive users. We've also got the VESA "PuckCuff mount for the breakaway puck on hand, so going forward we'll experiment with strapping the Puck to the back of a display, and see what we can do about attaching it to our wall-mounted articulated arms.

But, don't plan on using the included Thunderbolt 3 cable for this. At 18 inches, it is far too short to be of any practical use. Plan on spending about $50 for a longer, active cable.

Initial AppleInsider tests show the RX 560 to be faster, but close to the speed of the GPU included in the 15-inch 2017 MacBook Pro. We haven't strained the pair in parallel at this point -- so a closer examination will have to wait for the full review.




Non-quantitative observations show the eGFX Breakaway Puck to be slightly quieter than the eGFX Breakaway Box with the RX580 PCI-E card installed, but as with benchmarks, a more precise measurement will have to wait for the full review.

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.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    I'd love to see the benchmarks and real world performance with this paired with an older Thunderbolt 2 Mac (iMac, MacBook, mini etc..).  Just add on the $50 apple  thunderbolt 3-2 cable and you'd be good to go.  This could extend the life of my mid 2012 MacBook pro for another few years. Id buy it in a heartbeat if graphics performance was close to the performance of the new MacBooks. Cant wait for benchmarks.
    xzuwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 12
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,732administrator
    lilred505 said:
    I'd love to see the benchmarks and real world performance with this paired with an older Thunderbolt 2 Mac (iMac, MacBook, mini etc..).  Just add on the $50 apple  thunderbolt 3-2 cable and you'd be good to go.  This could extend the life of my mid 2012 MacBook pro for another few years. Id buy it in a heartbeat if graphics performance was close to the performance of the new MacBooks. Cant wait for benchmarks.
    We've checked Thunderbolt 1 and 2 compatibilities with all the other eGPU enclosures we've tried. That said, you have a mid-2012. That means you have Thunderbolt 1.

    That's a really bandwidth-constrained environment. While it's 10Gbit per second per channel, with two channels, it'll only use one of them resulting in one quarter the effective data transfer rate as TB3.

    It's hard to recommend spending money on an eGPU for a TB1 machine.
    chiaxzuwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 12
    lilred505 said:
    I'd love to see the benchmarks and real world performance with this paired with an older Thunderbolt 2 Mac (iMac, MacBook, mini etc..).  Just add on the $50 apple  thunderbolt 3-2 cable and you'd be good to go.  This could extend the life of my mid 2012 MacBook pro for another few years. Id buy it in a heartbeat if graphics performance was close to the performance of the new MacBooks. Cant wait for benchmarks.
    We've checked Thunderbolt 1 and 2 compatibilities with all the other eGPU enclosures we've tried. That said, you have a mid-2012. That means you have Thunderbolt 1.

    That's a really bandwidth-constrained environment. While it's 10Gbit per second per channel, with two channels, it'll only use one of them resulting in one quarter the effective data transfer rate as TB3.

    It's hard to recommend spending money on an eGPU for a TB1 machine.
    Perhaps his answer will come when more mainstream but lower performance & lower cost eGPUs become available?  Right now its all bleeding edge stuff.

    Along those lines:   I see enormous growth potential here for enabling lower power mobile/portable devices to drive large(r) screen applications.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 12
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,732administrator
    lilred505 said:
    I'd love to see the benchmarks and real world performance with this paired with an older Thunderbolt 2 Mac (iMac, MacBook, mini etc..).  Just add on the $50 apple  thunderbolt 3-2 cable and you'd be good to go.  This could extend the life of my mid 2012 MacBook pro for another few years. Id buy it in a heartbeat if graphics performance was close to the performance of the new MacBooks. Cant wait for benchmarks.
    We've checked Thunderbolt 1 and 2 compatibilities with all the other eGPU enclosures we've tried. That said, you have a mid-2012. That means you have Thunderbolt 1.

    That's a really bandwidth-constrained environment. While it's 10Gbit per second per channel, with two channels, it'll only use one of them resulting in one quarter the effective data transfer rate as TB3.

    It's hard to recommend spending money on an eGPU for a TB1 machine.
    Perhaps his answer will come when more mainstream but lower performance & lower cost eGPUs become available?  Right now its all bleeding edge stuff.

    Along those lines:   I see enormous growth potential here for enabling lower power mobile/portable devices to drive large(r) screen applications.  
    Don't get me wrong -- anything Lilred gets will be faster than what's on board. I just think that maybe the money is better saved for a new machine.
    xzuGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 5 of 12
    Does this mean one could buy a 13" MBP w/o touch bar and have it run a powerful graphics card for FCP when at a desktop work station, but still have excellent portability?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 12
    Wow. This is a great solution to a multimonitor setup. Just one cable to all external monitors.

    I wonder if it is possible to do an external CPU setup - e.g. a second Intel i7.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 12
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,732administrator
    simms327 said:
    Does this mean one could buy a 13" MBP w/o touch bar and have it run a powerful graphics card for FCP when at a desktop work station, but still have excellent portability?
    This particular model is a fixed GPU. It will always have the RX 560 in it. 

    But, yes. In fact, I feel like this particular one is aimed particularly at that MacBook Pro model.
    edited November 2017 xzuchiawatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 12
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,732administrator

    Wow. This is a great solution to a multimonitor setup. Just one cable to all external monitors.

    I wonder if it is possible to do an external CPU setup - e.g. a second Intel i7.
    Not across Thunderbolt 3. Bandwidth-constrained.
    xzuchiawatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 12
    lilred505 said:
    I'd love to see the benchmarks and real world performance with this paired with an older Thunderbolt 2 Mac (iMac, MacBook, mini etc..).  Just add on the $50 apple  thunderbolt 3-2 cable and you'd be good to go.  This could extend the life of my mid 2012 MacBook pro for another few years. Id buy it in a heartbeat if graphics performance was close to the performance of the new MacBooks. Cant wait for benchmarks.
    We've checked Thunderbolt 1 and 2 compatibilities with all the other eGPU enclosures we've tried. That said, you have a mid-2012. That means you have Thunderbolt 1.

    That's a really bandwidth-constrained environment. While it's 10Gbit per second per channel, with two channels, it'll only use one of them resulting in one quarter the effective data transfer rate as TB3.

    It's hard to recommend spending money on an eGPU for a TB1 machine.
    you are correct.. Its TB1.. but actual FPS do not reflect the bandwidth limitation.. at least in the benchmarks I've seen. only about 15-20 cut in framerate. I will also be able to use this on a TB2 MacBook Air and or my mac mini.. so many options.
    GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 12
    tipootipoo Posts: 976member
    Interesting product. Would allow the 13" rMBP to be close to the top end 15"s GPU capabilities, the higher than mobile clocks probably cancelling out the 10-15% performance hit from TB3 bandwidth. 

    That said, that nearly 500 dollars would go a long way towards getting you a 15" instead, unless you really wanted the 13" portability most of the time and the GPU at home. But for external TB boxes to be appealing, they have to be cheap, otherwise their somewhat stationary nature makes it more tempting for me to just have a 13" rMBP and then use that 500 towards a desktop build, a few hundred more for much better performance. 
    edited November 2017 VRing
  • Reply 11 of 12
    I find it annoying when product designers present their offering as space-saving and compact when all they've really done is split the device into two chassis. The outboard power supply occupies almost as much volume as the device itself!

    I don't know how other people feel about those external power supplies, but in our house they're a royal pain in the caboose. They complicate placement of the device they're attached to. The result of using them is the equivalent of having to find room for two devices, which is a nuisance and actually takes up MORE space than a single, larger device with built-in power supply would.
    VRingwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 12
    VRingVRing Posts: 108member
    tipoo said:
    But for external TB boxes to be appealing, they have to be cheap, otherwise their somewhat stationary nature makes it more tempting for me to just have a 13" rMBP and then use that 500 towards a desktop build, a few hundred more for much better performance. 
    Agreed, these are very expensive for what you're getting. An RX 560 4GB is $99, and this is $449.

    In this scenario, it would be nice to have a dGPU 13" model. I would expect a slightly thicker/heavier device, but it would be a fair trade-off. Heck, even the 13.5" SB2 has a GTX 1050 in its base and that offers slightly better performance than an RX 560.

    Point being, for $449 there should be a lot more performance that just an RX 560.
    edited November 2017
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