Sonnet launches Thunderbolt 3-to-PCI Express Card expansion systems

Sonnet Technologies has launched its first Thunderbolt 3-to-PCIe card expansion systems, the Echo Express SEL — Thunderbolt 3 Edition and the Echo Express SE I — Thunderbolt 3 Edition. 

Like the other members of the Echo Express family, the SEL and SE I enable the use of a variety of PCI Express (PCIe) cards with computers equipped with Thunderbolt ports. Both the SEL and SE I are compact and lightweight single-slot Thunderbolt 3 expansion systems, differing only in size, that are designed for use in situations in which users only need to connect a single PCIe card. 

With the new interface, both systems enable users of computers equipped with 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, such as the new MacBook Pro, to take advantage of Thunderbolt 3's 2,750 MB/s of PCI Express bandwidth to support the most demanding, highest performance adapter cards. Sonnet is also making available Thunderbolt 3 upgrade cards for existing Thunderbolt 2 Echo Express SEL and SE I expansion systems, enabling those models with all the capabilities of the new Thunderbolt 3 Editions. 

The Echo Express SE I — Thunderbolt 3 Edition weighs 2.6 pounds and measures 5.6 inches wide by 8.6 inches deep by 3.5 inches tall, accommodating one-half length (up to 7.75 inches long), full-height, single-width PCIe 3.0 card with additional mounting space for a daughter card. With its Thunderbolt 3 interface, the SE I delivers ample bandwidth for the majority of Thunderbolt-compatible PCIe cards including pro video capture, digital audio interface, 6Gbps or 12Gbps SAS or SATA host bus adapters, 16Gb or 8Gb Fibre Channel, 10 Gigabit Ethernet, and RAID controller PCIe cards, according to Sonnet CEO Robert Farnsworth.

The Echo Express SEL — Thunderbolt 3 Edition measures 4 inches wide by 8.25 inches long by 2.8 inches tall and weighs 1.75 pounds. The SEL houses one low-profile, single-width PCIe 3.0 card, including the majority of the most popular Thunderbolt-compatible 16Gb and 8Gb Fibre Channel, 40 and 10 Gigabit Ethernet, 6Gbps or 12Gbps SAS and SATA host bus adapters, RAID controller cards, and even low-profile pro video capture cards like the BlueFish 444 Epoch 4K Neutron.

The Echo Express SE I and Echo Express SEL Thunderbolt 3 Editions feature dual 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 ports that support the daisy chaining of up to five additional Thunderbolt peripheral devices. Both models support backward compatibility for 20Gbps Thunderbolt 2- and 10Gbps Thunderbolt-equipped devices when connected via the Apple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter. 

The second Thunderbolt 3 port also supports a variety of displays and a multitude of USB 3.1, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0 devices when connected with the proper cable, and also fully support the DisplayPort 1.2 protocol, which enables streaming to one 4K display at 120Hz, or two 4K displays at 60Hz, or one 5K display at 60Hz.

Both the Echo Express SE I — Thunderbolt 3 Edition and the Echo Express SEL — Thunderbolt 3 Edition are housed in aluminum enclosures and each features a temperature-controlled fan that automatically speeds up and slows down as necessary to cool the installed card. Each Echo Express Thunderbolt 3 Edition chassis also includes a 0.5-meter Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) cable as well as Sonnet's ThunderLok 3 Thunderbolt Connector Retainer Clip to secure the cable to the chassis and prevent accidental cable disconnects.

The Echo Express SEL — Thunderbolt 3 Edition (part number ECHO-EXP-SEL-T3) and the Echo Express SE I — Thunderbolt 3 Edition will begin shipping on Jan. 23, 2017, and each will have a manufacturers suggested retail price of US$269. The Thunderbolt 3 Upgrade cards will begin shipping on Jan. 23, 2017, at an MSRP of $149.