First look: Sonnet's eGFX Breakaway Puck RX570 delivers on-the-go graphics power to MacBoo...

Posted:
in macOS edited April 17
The Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck packs a Radeon RX570 GPU inside a portable, Thunderbolt 3-compatible package, offering MacBook users a take-anywhere graphics boost.

Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck eGPU Mac compatible


With the release of macOS 10.13.4 last month, Apple's desktop platform provides support for external GPU boxes over Thunderbolt 3. The handy hardware can provide a much-needed graphics boost to a variety of Macs, including MacBook Pro.

Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck RX570 for Mac


What really makes this external GPU different from others is its diminutive size. We'd even go as far as to say that it is portable.

To make the Puck so small in size, Sonnet used an external power supply that is nearly as big as the Puck itself. Our model contains a Radeon RX570, so we know that it is a relatively power hungry card.

The power supply is capable of handling up to 220W, which it can also use to provide up to 85W of power to a Mac at the same time.

Specs

There are two different flavors of the eGFX Breakaway Puck. One rocking a Radeon RX 560, the other with a Radeon RX 570. We are testing out the latter, as it seems the former isn't Mac compatible. Interestingly, the Radeon RX 560 worked with early macOS High Sierra beta builds, but that compatibility ended when full support for eGPU technology officially rolled out.

Regardless, in either configuration, the GPUs both come with 4GB of VRAM on board.

Sonnet eGFX Breakway Puck DisplayPort and HDMI Ports


Three DisplayPort 1.4 ports and a single HDMI 2.0 port make up the external connectivity. All of these outputs are capable of 4K at 60Hz, allowing even a two-port 13-inch MacBook Pro with function keys to have a quartet of monitors. Of course, it has a Thunderbolt 3 port onboard as well, which is used to connect to your Mac -- but no downstream connector.

A power supply and an OWC Thunderbolt 3 cable are included in the box, with no additional cables necessary.

Size and quality

When looking at the size, the Puck box measures roughly 6 inches-by-5.12 inches, standing 2 inches tall. Easy to move about or hide on your desk.

Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Puck RX 570 Mac Heat Sink


It is so compact that we would believe someone if they told us it was simply an external hard drive. When looking closely, a few things reveal the fact it is an eGPU. Looking in the side grills you see several copper heat spreaders and heat pipes. When looking through the grill on top, you can see the large fan that is used to cool the card and VRAM.

Obviously, the bevy of ports around back also reveal its true nature.

It is a shame the power supply is so monstrous, but I think I prefer the eGPU's small size over an integrated power supply. That way I can offload the power brick to below my desk, giving me more usable space on top.

The body is largely plastic, with a metal grill on the top. It still retains quite a bit of weight, however, lending a premium feel.

More to come

Sonnet eGPU Puck next to Apple MacBook Pro


We will be putting this eGPU through more exhaustive tests for our full review, but in our limited time with it we have been quite pleased with the performance.

If you are eager to pick one up for yourself you can find the Sonnet Radeon RX570 eGFX Breakaway Puck on Amazon or at B&H Photo for $599.00. As an added incentive, B&H will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside NY and NJ (Colorado and Vermont residents, see here).

Do you plan on picking up an external GPU? Let us know in the comments!

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    Or for right now you can get their larger breakout box with a RX580 for a dollar less and have something that can be upgraded later down the road. The Puck is a cool idea but locks you in to a particular video card.
    edited April 17
  • Reply 2 of 12
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,698administrator
    jridder said:
    Or for right now you can get their larger breakout box with a RX580 for a dollar less and have something that can be upgraded later down the road. The Puck is a cool idea but locks you in to a particular video card.
    Have you priced out video cards lately? While I don't disagree with you in principle, in actuality, there is no cost-effective way other than a non-upgradeable box to get into this at the moment right now.
  • Reply 3 of 12
    nhtnht Posts: 4,125member
    jridder said:
    Or for right now you can get their larger breakout box with a RX580 for a dollar less and have something that can be upgraded later down the road. The Puck is a cool idea but locks you in to a particular video card.
    Have you priced out video cards lately? While I don't disagree with you in principle, in actuality, there is no cost-effective way other than a non-upgradeable box to get into this at the moment right now.
    The RX560 isn't in high demand by bitcoin miners and $171 on amazon.  The cheapest breakaway is $250 but even if you splurge with the 550W version it's $329 for a total of $500 vs $400 for the puck.  The RX570 is $300 so $630 vs $599 for the puck.

    Those are amazon prices today.

    RX560:

    https://www.amazon.com/MSI-RX-560-AERO-ITX/dp/B072J422CZ/

    RX570

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y5WGXX3/

    The RX580 bundle is only $649 but uses the 350W PSU.  Which honestly is probably good enough.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B077K8KNDS

    eGPU is having a pre-order of the Gigabyte RX580 bundle for $599.

    https://egpu.io/forums/deals/pre-order-gigabyte-rx-580-gaming-box-599-99-free-shipping/

    Eh, these are all on the same order of cost effective.
  • Reply 4 of 12
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,698administrator
    Well, good. Prices are a bit more reasonable than the last time I checked. I don't think the Gigabyte RX580 box is upgradeable, but I might be wrong on that account.

    The 350W power supply in that one bundle will handle a Vega 56, but not the 64.
  • Reply 5 of 12
    anomeanome Posts: 956member
    nht said:
    jridder said:
    Or for right now you can get their larger breakout box with a RX580 for a dollar less and have something that can be upgraded later down the road. The Puck is a cool idea but locks you in to a particular video card.
    Have you priced out video cards lately? While I don't disagree with you in principle, in actuality, there is no cost-effective way other than a non-upgradeable box to get into this at the moment right now.
    The RX560 isn't in high demand by bitcoin miners and $171 on amazon.  The cheapest breakaway is $250 but even if you splurge with the 550W version it's $329 for a total of $500 vs $400 for the puck.  The RX570 is $300 so $630 vs $599 for the puck.

    Those are amazon prices today.

    RX560:

    https://www.amazon.com/MSI-RX-560-AERO-ITX/dp/B072J422CZ/

    RX570

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y5WGXX3/

    The RX580 bundle is only $649 but uses the 350W PSU.  Which honestly is probably good enough.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B077K8KNDS

    eGPU is having a pre-order of the Gigabyte RX580 bundle for $599.

    https://egpu.io/forums/deals/pre-order-gigabyte-rx-580-gaming-box-599-99-free-shipping/

    Eh, these are all on the same order of cost effective.

    I'd have thought a key advantage of the Puck is its portability. Although, with that power brick, that's not as good as it might be. It's still better than lugging around a full height box like the others above. At present, I expect that upgrading the GPU in something the size of the Puck might be problematic. Even if it is possible, it's unlikely it will be done with off the shelf parts - more likely you'll have to get the Sonnet Puck GPU Upgrade board, probably at a premium.

    I'd love for them, or anyone else, to prove me wrong on this.

  • Reply 6 of 12
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,365member
    I love that this finally becoming a reality and I expect a lot of clever uses to come out of eGPUs, but I can't say I have a single use for one… and I really wish I did as it would be fun to test.
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 7 of 12
    anomeanome Posts: 956member
    Soli said:
    I love that this finally becoming a reality and I expect a lot of clever uses to come out of eGPUs, but I can't say I have a single use for one… and I really wish I did as it would be fun to test.

    I'm in a similar position, although I could possibly see using it for video compression, but I'd rather see an actual hardware compressor like the Elgato Turbo.264, even if it's only on USB-C.

    There might be other uses for external PCIe enclosures, though, but I'm not currently in the market for any of that.

    [EDIT - to clarify, I think it's really cool that these things are possible, I just don't currently need them. Except the video compressor, I'm still using my old H.264 one which is fine, but doesn't support 265 or UHD.]

    edited April 17
  • Reply 8 of 12
    nht said:
    jridder said:
    Or for right now you can get their larger breakout box with a RX580 for a dollar less and have something that can be upgraded later down the road. The Puck is a cool idea but locks you in to a particular video card.
    Have you priced out video cards lately? While I don't disagree with you in principle, in actuality, there is no cost-effective way other than a non-upgradeable box to get into this at the moment right now.
    The RX560 isn't in high demand by bitcoin miners and $171 on amazon.  The cheapest breakaway is $250 but even if you splurge with the 550W version it's $329 for a total of $500 vs $400 for the puck.  The RX570 is $300 so $630 vs $599 for the puck.

    Those are amazon prices today.

    RX560:

    https://www.amazon.com/MSI-RX-560-AERO-ITX/dp/B072J422CZ/

    RX570

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y5WGXX3/

    The RX580 bundle is only $649 but uses the 350W PSU.  Which honestly is probably good enough.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B077K8KNDS

    eGPU is having a pre-order of the Gigabyte RX580 bundle for $599.

    https://egpu.io/forums/deals/pre-order-gigabyte-rx-580-gaming-box-599-99-free-shipping/

    Eh, these are all on the same order of cost effective.
    £450 for the 580RX with Box.  Not a disaster.  About £300 more than I payed for my top of the line ATI card many moons ago.  GPU pricing has gone up and up.  But the last year has been crazy.  

    The puck seems outrageously priced, though.  $600 smackers for what is a very low end card (but some may not say so in Mac terms...heh.)

    The fact that this price is relative to the current market can't gloss over that this is an early market, with limited competition at the moment and doesn't make the price any better to stomach.  The sooner the mining craze implodes, the better.  Markets are being manipulated due to a lack of competition.  Two competitors in CPUs.  Two competitors in GPUs.  And if you have one company that doesn't compete?  The other charges monopoly prices.  That's where crony capitalism gets you.

    https://wccftech.com/amd-response-to-nvidias-gpp/

    My advice?  

    Sit this one out and wait until 2019.  For everything.  It's going to be a technology year.  Mac Pros.  Thumping A13 chip.  Possible Arm transition (in which case, wait until 2020...). Depends on what you're buying.  GPUs will be an order of magnitude faster by next year.  And you'll get a 1080 style performance for the price of less than half that puck.  For the price of that puck you'll get something that beats the tar out of the current Vegas.

    Review sites are about the 'now.'  Life is about timing.  And this year is still driving out the churn of stale old technology from the last 5 years.  The i7 is now an old chip.  And Intel's new ones are expensive.  Apple doesn't offer the better performing, lower power and CHEAPER AMDs to its customers.  

    Apple still has old Mac Pros.  Old Minis.  The design on the consumer iMac is old and it ships with an i5 and a low end GPU for around £2000.  This is still a lot of money in the UK.  The MacBook Air is old.  Intel are only just coming to terms with the fact that AMD are competing with them again.  It's worth waiting another year to see how this plays out.  AMD have also shaken up their GPU team and the Vegas are going to age when that happens.  But the real GPU boost will happen next year when they start going 'multicore' with GPUs.

    The biscuits on the plate are stale.  Get a fresh packet next year.

    Save your money.  It's hard earned.

    Lemon Bon Bon.
    edited April 18
  • Reply 9 of 12

    “Our proud pastime of PC gaming has been built on the idea of freedom. Freedom to choose. How to play the game. What to do and when to do it. And specifically, what to play it on. PC gaming has a long, proud tradition of choice. Whether you build and upgrade your own PCs, or order pre-built rigs after you’ve customized every detail online, you know that what you’re playing on is of your own making, based on your freedom to choose the components that you want. Freedom of choice is a staple of PC gaming.

    Freedom to choose.  (Source, from link above...)

    Ironic in light of Apple's Pro design for the last 5 years.

    However, the development of eGPUs is welcome but it will be at least another year before it starts to come of age and deliver its promise.

    A puck with a crap cpu in it is, 'a start.'  Mac users with low expectations from pretty poor GPU treatment in the last 5 years may think otherwise...

    Lemon Bon Bon.
  • Reply 10 of 12
    man this is so awesome, imagine how thin the next line of macbook pros will be when they finally muster up the courage to remove that silly screen that is attached to the laptop. i cant wait for the day i finall have that super thin laptop that i can convinently connect to my portal graphics card, screen, hard drive and the ton of other shit i will have to carry in my bag to get a laptop to be usefull.  new age computing is awesome!
  • Reply 11 of 12
    You know, with ThreadRipper CPU costing 'only' £1000, it makes me think about a 'home brew' PC build to do the heavy lifting for eg. 3D work and pipe the images across to work on a 5K iMac.

    Lemon Bon Bon.



    Here's one of Appleinsider's own reviewers (?) making a kick ass Threadripper system.  For a competitive price.  That's not a choice Apple users have.  Unfortunately.
    edited April 18
  • Reply 12 of 12
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 4,787member
    man this is so awesome, imagine how thin the next line of macbook pros will be when they finally muster up the courage to remove that silly screen that is attached to the laptop. i cant wait for the day i finall have that super thin laptop that i can convinently connect to my portal graphics card, screen, hard drive and the ton of other shit i will have to carry in my bag to get a laptop to be usefull.  new age computing is awesome!
    You’re being sarcastic but your underlying point is still bogus. As soli pointed out needing an eGPU isn’t a given, even for pros. Per Apple most of their pros are software devs (like me) and software devs stare at text and compile it. An eGPU sounds neat but I’d only use it for occasional gaming. Considering this it makes little sense to build a powerful GPU into the MBP eating up power, mass, weight, etc. Nope, I want my portable as portable as reasonable. That means light which means thin. 

    Get a desktop or workstation if you want tons of bulky power. 
    randominternetpersonanomewatto_cobra
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