Sonnet Technologies has announced the eGFX Breakaway Box, a Thunderbolt 3-to-PCI Express (PCIe) expansion chassis with a single slot for connecting any size Thunderbolt-compatible PCIe card, including high-performance graphics (GPU) cards to a Thunderbolt 3-equipped computer.
The eGFX Breakaway Box is designed specifically for gamers and professionals who need to run bandwidth-intensive graphics applications on their eGFX-compatible notebook, all-in-one, or other small-form-factor computers, according to Sonnet CEO Robert Farnsworth. The company’s goal is to provide the quietest GPU card enclosure that is both affordable and supports the most popular graphics cards, he adds.
Additionally, the eGFX Breakaway Box is Thunderbolt-certified for both Mac and Windows, enabling customers with PCIe cards such as the RED ROCKET-X and Avid Pro Tools | HDX to benefit from using this enclosure. Using an NVIDIA GeForce GTX card with a Mac can be accomplished with a non-standard software installation procedure. Alas, AMD Radeon Cards are not currently supported on macOS.
With the eGFX Breakaway Box, smaller and lighter general-purpose computers become viable gaming alternatives to larger and more expensive gaming laptops, which are typically thick and heavy because of the built-in GPU and extra cooling required, according to Farnsworth. Professional users can also harness the computational capabilities of the externally attached GPU via OpenCL and CUDA using Thunderbolt-equipped computers.
Sonnet will offer two eGFX Breakaway Box models, the eGFX Breakaway Box 350 and eGFX Breakaway Box 550, so you can choose the one best suited to your needs. The eGFX Breakaway Box 350 includes one 8-pin and one 6-pin auxiliary power connector, supports cards requiring 300W or less of power, and provides 15W of upstream power.
The eGFX Breakaway Box 550 includes dual 8-pin auxiliary power connectors, supports cards requiring 375W+ of power, and provides 87W of upstream power, useful for charging a notebook computer.
Each eGFX Breakaway Box model is equipped with a 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 port that enables data transfers up to 2,750 MB/s, and supports popular GPU cards such as AMD Radeon R and RX series, and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 9 and 10 series. The Breakaway Box is the quietest eGFX box on the market and works with any Thunderbolt 3-compatible PCIe card regardless of length, says Farnsworth.
The eGFX Breakaway Box 350 is expected to be available in early July with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $299. The eGFX Breakaway Box 550 is expected to be available late in the third quarter of 2017 with an MSRP of $349.
While the eGFX Breakaway box features a 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 interface, some computers equipped with Thunderbolt 3, such as the Dell Precision 3510 and the Alienware 13 R2, use an implementation of Thunderbolt 3 technology that limits PCIe performance to 20Gbps. The MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports) also has this limitation in the two right-hand Thunderbolt 3 ports, while offering full performance from the left-hand ports. Full performance also requires the use of the included Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) cable, or other Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) cables; look for the Thunderbolt icon AND the number 3 on the connector housings to identify these cables.