Sonnet Breakaway Puck Review - Pint-sized Compromise  

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theitsage
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November 16, 2017 1:39 pm  

Introduction

With a dozen Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosures currently available on the market, we now have more options that either maximize performance or portability. The latest entry is the Breakaway Puck from Sonnet Tech. Built to be the most portable external graphics solution (eGFX), it's neither particularly powerful nor cost-conscious. The Sonnet Breakaway Puck is intended for multi-monitor expansion or as a compact setup for eSports gaming. Sonnet is catering to a niche group of customers in a very niche market, and I commend its commitment. So for those whose needs are perfectly met by a handheld eGPU, it's the best thing since sliced bread.

Hardware Specifics

Sonnet Breakaway Puck - the size of a slice of bread

Sonnet Breakaway Puck meets a slice of bread

Specifications  compare 
Price US$
$399 | $599
Included GPU RX560 | RX570
Max PCIe bandwidth 32Gbps
PSU location-type
external-AC
PSU max power 160W | 220W
Power delivery (PD)
45W
USB-C controller
TI83
TB3 USB-C ports 1
USB3.0 ports (+C type)
Ethernet & SATA  port
Other ports 3xDP,HDMI
Size (in/mm, LxWxH)
6.00 x 2.00 x 5.12
152 x 51 x 130
Weight (kg/lb) 2.38/5.25
Updated firmware 25.1 ✔
Implementations
link

Recent studies show American youth is losing their grip strength. Tech companies share some of the blame with their continuous advancements in the workplace and through thinner and lighter electronics. The Sonnet Breakaway Puck is a very clear example of this trend. It took the bulk and mass of a typical eGPU enclosure by relocating the power supply externally. Instead of building an enclosure large enough to house a PCIe graphics card, the Breakaway Puck uses an MXM GPU. Compared to the Breakaway Box that weighs more than 7 lbs, this Puck weighs in under 5.25 lbs including the AC adapter. You need both hands to handle the Breakaway Box. That's not the case with the Puck.

The four rubber feet at the bottom of the enclosure serve as covers for Philips screws. Opening this bottom cover to access the internal components will void your warranty. The metal housing is very sturdy. Its top cover features a Sonnet Tech logo which glows blue when active. This is also a point of air intake through mesh windows. The single fan disperses heat from the heatsink through cutouts on the sides. Sandwiched in between the heatsink and main Thunderbolt board is the MXM graphics card.

Using an AC adapter to power an external graphics card is a concept most eGPU enthusiasts are familiar with. Prior to the all-in-one enclosure with an internal PSU design, we have been building eGPU boxes out of the AKiTiO Thunder2 and Thunder3. The PSU of choice was often a Dell DA-2 220W. Sonnet enhanced this concept in the Breakaway Puck. It uses a Mean Well 160W power brick for the RX 560 media sample I received. This PSU is both lighter and smaller than the Dell DA-2.

The cooling fan is a 75mm unit made by Apistek. It's whisper quiet most of the time. The only occasion I noticed it running full speed was during initiation with the host computer to activate AMD XConnect. This process only lasts a few seconds. I can't speak for the RX 570 version, but in the Sonnet Breakaway Puck RX 560 this cooling fan is sufficient. With the power supply not located inside the enclosure, this eGPU runs relatively cool.

The Sonnet Breakaway Puck contains a Thunderbolt 3 main board that's arranged to uniquely work with an MXM card. The main differences with the other eGPU enclosure boards are a slot for the MXM card and the video output ports. Next to the Thunderbolt 3 port are an assortment of one HDMI and three DisplayPorts. The crucial controllers and IC for a Thunderbolt 3 external graphics card are all here: Texas Instrument TP865983 USB-C controller, Intel DSL6540 Thunderbolt 3 controller, and Winbond EEPROM.

Testings & Benchmarks

I'm not the target audience for this enclosure, but my wife immediately saw the appeal of this Sonnet Breakaway Puck, asking why all the other enclosures I reviewed were so large. The Puck has the same appeal as a Mac mini - a very small footprint, compact enough for you to pick it up just to admire the form factor. It just made sense to pair this Breakaway Puck RX 560 with a Mac mini for testing in macOS.

Breakaway Puck with Mac mini and Lenovo Yoga 920

The RX 570 version (shares same PCI ID 67DF with RX 580) is plug-and-play with macOS 10.13 native eGPU support. The RX 560 however does not have this same fate. It's not hard to enable eGPU for it though. Goalque created and packaged automate-eGPU.kext installer for 10.13 to make this process easy. Once I ran this installer, the Sonnet Breakaway RX 560 works great with a 2011 Mac mini via the Apple USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt adapter (Thunderbolt 1 speed). The process is the same as with the natively supported RX 570/580; I hot plug the eGPU, macOS notifies me to log out to enable external GPU then log back in to use.

Power delivery is only possible when paired with a Thunderbolt 3 host computer. I tested with a late 2016 15" MacBook Pro and saw 45W PD through this Breakaway Puck. Thunderbolt firmware version is 25.1 which should not have the H2D bandwidth issue found in earlier eGPU enclosures.

If you recall back in March this year, I ventured into building a custom AKiTiO Thunder2 RX 470 eGPU and mounted it on the back of a monitor. That idea was very well-received. Sonnet made that a reality in this Puck. It offers a Puckcuff VESA mounting kit ($59) for you to accomplish this same task. For more pictures of the Breakaway Puck and Puckcuff, please read my unboxing post.

For performance testing, an ultrabook would make the best pairing for the intended use of this product. The release of this enclosure coincides with Intel 8th generation quad-core ULV CPU availability. I used a late 2017 Lenovo Yoga 920 for this review. This ultrabook has the i7-8550U that many eGPU enthusiasts anticipate will boost external graphics performance.

I sound like a broken record, but it bears repeating there are two main performance hindrances on ultrabooks paired with eGPU. The first one is PCI Express lane assignment for Thunderbolt 3 connection. The ideal arrangement is 4 data-transmission PCI Express lanes but many come with only 2 lanes. The second issue is whether the laptop is set for low-power GT2 OPI mode or high-performance GT4 OPI mode. This information is unfortunately not available on the spec sheet from the manufacturers. We want to bring more awareness so that eventually the PC OEMs will provide this detail for future products. The good news is this Yoga 920 has both x4 PCIe connection over its Thunderbolt ports and runs in GT4 OPI mode. The Sonnet Breakaway Puck provides sufficient power to charge this laptop through the Thunderbolt 3 cable.

I didn't have any eSports games to test. Sonnet provided these tests they did in-house. I ran my usual set of synthetic benchmarks, except I changed the settings to Medium at FHD. These were run through the Intel UHD Graphics 620 iGPU with the internal display and Sonnet Breakaway Puck RX 560 eGPU with an external monitor. Here are the numbers:

Lenovo Yoga 920Intel HD 620 iGPUAMD RX 560 eGPU
Unigine Valley4561,559
Unigine Heaven2661,014
Unigine Superposition7982,856
3DMark Time Spy5822,163
3DMark Fire Strike1,1234,807
Tomb Raider 201318.0 FPS70.8 FPS
Shadow of Mordor14.5 FPS49.0 FPS
Dirt Rally15.5 FPS48.8 FPS
Hitman18.0 FPS63.8 FPS

Conclusion

With electronics, smaller and lighter often comes with a hefty price. The Sonnet Breakaway Puck is no exception. It accomplishes the mission of being the most compact external graphics solution on the market. At $399 for the RX 560 and $599 for the RX 570 version, the Breakaway Puck is a compromise on performance given the alternatives. Nevertheless it still roughly quadruples the performance of an Intel iGPU. If portability is the main priority, net yourself a Breakaway Puck.

 

See also

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

eGPU enclosure buying guide

94 external GPU build guides


slhdsnet, OliverB, bluetech and 4 people liked
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wusel
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November 17, 2017 6:59 am  

Thanks for the nice review. The first picture is really cool. It should be a new standard to compare tech dimensions with a toast or even better - a new unit: "My new notebook is only 4 toasts" 😀

Pending: Add my system information and expected eGPU configuration to my signature to give context to my posts


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adamtoday
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November 17, 2017 1:57 pm  

I think this eGPU is far from being perfect. It is targeted for doing work rather than gaming. It should have an internal SATA or Nvme support, a Lan and mix of some USB ports otherwise it is a waste of TH3 port!

Hopefully, we can have a newer model that can give us more GPU option up to mobile 1080.

Pending: Add my system information and expected eGPU configuration to my signature to give context to my posts


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Flash315
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November 18, 2017 7:57 pm  

The new node pro coming soon I think will improve on a few of those questions, the form factor of the aorus 1080 box and the sonnet Puck (although there is a huge difference in performance between the two) i think will be the standard for future portability audiences especially gamers 

Pending: Add my system information and expected eGPU configuration to my signature to give context to my posts


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NobodyKnowsYourName
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November 22, 2017 2:27 pm  

Does the Puck's GPU go to sleep with the Macbook? Or does it keep running? I heard the HP Omen Accellerators GPU does not go to sleep when you put your Mac into sleep mode.

Pending: Add my system information and expected eGPU configuration to my signature to give context to my posts


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C4PPY
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January 2, 2018 12:39 pm  

Has anyone tried with a different MXM card?
Was thinking that you could take a GTX10xxM card and install instead would give you close to real GPU power in a much smaller footprint?

Pending: Add my system information and expected eGPU configuration to my signature to give context to my posts


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nombrescreeno
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January 3, 2018 7:36 am  
Posted by: C4PPY

Has anyone tried with a different MXM card?
Was thinking that you could take a GTX10xxM card and install instead would give you close to real GPU power in a much smaller footprint?

I'm curious about this too. MXM cards can be pricy, but are a viable upgrade path if that works!

Pending: Add my system information and expected eGPU configuration to my signature to give context to my posts


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ashfreqk
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January 27, 2018 9:07 pm  

has anyone used this with mbp 2017/2016 bootcamp? Would be glad to know how it works out:)

Pending: Add my system information and expected eGPU configuration to my signature to give context to my posts


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mois
 mois
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March 13, 2018 2:11 am  

Discussion about the optimal Thunderbolt 3 eGPU for driving the 8K Dell UP3218K display here https://egpu.io/forums/thunderbolt-enclosures/drive-the-8k-display-dell-up3218k-fed-via-two-dp1-4-using-sonnet-puck-560-570-or-other-solution-thoughts-comments/ . I would have hoped the Puck would be optimal but maybe only Nvidia are stable enough, err. If anyone has experiences or thoughts please share, thanks!

Pending: Add my system information and expected eGPU configuration to my signature to give context to my posts


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Taikuh
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April 22, 2018 4:03 pm  

Hi @itsage, in your opinion, is it possible to modify the innards of the Puck to fit inside a Unibody Mac Mini? It would have to be 2.5 cm thick at most, I think.

Pending: Add my system information and expected eGPU configuration to my signature to give context to my posts


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theitsage
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May 25, 2018 12:58 pm  

@taikuh It may fit but cooling will be a serious issue. You will have to create more airflow than the existing arrangement in the Unibody Mac mini. In my opinion it's not worth it. I've done the reverse and fit the Mac mini inside an AKiTiO Node.

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

eGPU enclosure buying guide

94 external GPU build guides


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theitsage
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July 5, 2018 2:26 pm  

Sonnet is doing a July 4th sale. You can use coupon code USA100 [Sonnet Store] to take $100 off the Breakaway Puck 560. This brings the price down to $299 for this handheld eGPU. The deal is good until end of the month.

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

eGPU enclosure buying guide

94 external GPU build guides


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OliverB
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January 31, 2019 8:55 pm  

@itsage, thanks for the review.

Today, I have received a Breakaway Puck 570 and I have to say, it's great piece of hardware. It's small, silent, yet powerful. It is as silent as the ASUS XG Station Pro, but much smaller. It fits well on the foot of our monitor.

I have got it for really good price (327 EUR) and my wife loves it. It will probably be used by my wife's 13-inch MBP 2015. It works immediately out of the box with that Notebook. I hope I find soon time for a user build thread.

This post was modified 2 weeks ago

2018 15" MBP & 2015 13" MBP connected to RTX2080Ti GTX1080Ti GTX1080 Vega56 RX580 R9-290 GTX680


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theitsage
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January 31, 2019 10:53 pm  

Glad to hear you enjoy the Breakaway Puck! Other than the large power brick it's a very compact unit.

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

eGPU enclosure buying guide

94 external GPU build guides


OliverB liked
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OliverB
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February 1, 2019 6:22 pm  
Posted by: theitsage

Glad to hear you enjoy the Breakaway Puck! Other than the large power brick it's a very compact unit.

The large power brick is now brother of the Asus XG Station's power brick and both are behind die desk, where is enough space.

Sonnet Breakaway Puck 570 User Build

This post was modified 2 weeks ago

2018 15" MBP & 2015 13" MBP connected to RTX2080Ti GTX1080Ti GTX1080 Vega56 RX580 R9-290 GTX680


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OliverB
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February 2, 2019 10:36 pm  

I have just seen that the Puck 560 has been sold shortly before for 302 EUR. So we were quite lucky, because 327 EUR for the Puck 570 is really great value. )

Of course, the Puck 560 is not attractive for someone who has a 15-inch MBP 2018 which exactly the same chip built in. 🙂

This post was modified 2 weeks ago

2018 15" MBP & 2015 13" MBP connected to RTX2080Ti GTX1080Ti GTX1080 Vega56 RX580 R9-290 GTX680


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Eightarmedpet
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February 2, 2019 10:44 pm  
Posted by: OliverB

I have just seen that the Puck 560 has been sold shortly before for 302 EUR. So we were quite lucky, because 327 EUR for the Puck 570 is really great value. )

Of course, the Puck 560 is not attractive for someone who has a 15-inch MBP 2018 which exactly the same chip built in. 🙂

I think there’s a post on here which shows the built in 560’s are about 60% of the performance of a desktop 560 so even in an egpu a 560 would be more powerful, but not by much...

2017 13" MacBook Pro Touchbar + [email protected] (AKiTiO Thunder3) + Win10
2017 13" MacBook Pro Touch Bar + [email protected] (Sonnet Breakaway Box) + Win10

2017 13" MacBook Pro Touch Bar + GTX1070 (debating 2070 upgrade) @32Gbps-TB3 (Razer Core V1) + Win10

2017 13" MacBook Pro Touch Bar + Vega 56 @32Gbps-TB3 (Razer Core V1) + Win10 & macOS 10.14+

---
LG 5K Ultrafine flickering issue fix


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OliverB
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February 2, 2019 10:54 pm  
Posted by: Eightarmedpet
Posted by: OliverB

I have just seen that the Puck 560 has been sold shortly before for 302 EUR. So we were quite lucky, because 327 EUR for the Puck 570 is really great value. )

Of course, the Puck 560 is not attractive for someone who has a 15-inch MBP 2018 which exactly the same chip built in. 🙂

I think there’s a post on here which shows the built in 560’s are about 60% of the performance of a desktop 560 so even in an egpu a 560 would be more powerful, but not by much...

Yes, the "external 560" is more powerful for two reasons:

1) The "external" 560 has a higher clockrate, that is about 1200 MHz to 1000 Mhz, which gives of course abound 20% gain.
2) Under load the built-in 560 can get quicker hot and thus is throttled down. You can see this very good in Unigine Heaven, when at the end the FPS drop rapidly.

But as you said, it's not thaaaat much, still the exactly same chip, so not very attractive for owners of 15-inch 2018 MPBs. The 570, however, has a very notable gain.

This post was modified 2 weeks ago

2018 15" MBP & 2015 13" MBP connected to RTX2080Ti GTX1080Ti GTX1080 Vega56 RX580 R9-290 GTX680


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OliverB
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February 2, 2019 11:03 pm  
Posted by: NobodyKnowsYourName

Does the Puck's GPU go to sleep with the Macbook? Or does it keep running? I heard the HP Omen Accellerators GPU does not go to sleep when you put your Mac into sleep mode.

It goes to sleep in a nice and fine way together with the Macbook. And so does the Asus XG Station. But there are issues with nVidia cards in Bootcamp, which of course does not concern this fine piece of hardware, the Puck 🙂

2018 15" MBP & 2015 13" MBP connected to RTX2080Ti GTX1080Ti GTX1080 Vega56 RX580 R9-290 GTX680


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OliverB
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February 2, 2019 11:06 pm  

What is most amazing with this little box is the fact, that is super quiet. I thought the Asus XG Station Pro was the most quiet next to the Blackmagic. That's not exactly true, this is the most quiet. All three solutions are amazingly quiet.

I had the Aorus Gaming Box and Razer Core X and those were really very, very loud compared to it.

EDIT: And it's not even getting hot. It has now a superficial temperator of 34 Celsius. Very pleasing. I am buffed how great it is.

This post was modified 2 weeks ago

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Joikansai
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February 3, 2019 2:19 am  

@OliverB, from where did you get it? From your typo I assumed you’re from Germany, aren’t you? I check amazon.de didn’t find that price, kind need something small as well for my Blade stealth, rather than buying new one.

Razer Blade 15 2018, i7 8750H 16gb ddr4 2666mhz 1tb 970Evo
Razer Blade Stealth 12,5 2016 i7 7500U 8gb ddr3 1866mhz 500gb 970Evo
MacBook Pro 13 mid 2012 i5 3210M 12gb ddr3 1600mhz 500GB HDD
Razer Core V2 rtx 2070 Black 2040mhz Boost clock
Previous setting: rtx 2080ti Asus Turbo, rtx 2080 xc gaming, rtx 2080 Fe, Zotac Mini 1080ti, Evga 1080 FTW2 gaming.
Dual Monitor Predator XB241YU 165Hz 1440p, LG l24UD58 60Hz 4K
Portable Monitor Magedok 1440p HDR 60Hz usbA/C monitor


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OliverB
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February 3, 2019 11:35 am  
Posted by: Joikansai

@OliverB, from where did you get it? From your typo I assumed you’re from Germany, aren’t you? I check amazon.de didn’t find that price, kind need something small as well for my Blade stealth, rather than buying new one.

@joi_kansai, which typo is revealing me?

It was actually an ebay auction, but from a company with invoice. The action ended at 7:30 in the morning and I told my wife she should bet 333,33 EUR in the last seconds. That was a close thing (image that I was also thinking about betting only 300,51 EUR).
Now after getting it, I would have said to bet at least 400 EUR...because that's value.

This post was modified 2 weeks ago

2018 15" MBP & 2015 13" MBP connected to RTX2080Ti GTX1080Ti GTX1080 Vega56 RX580 R9-290 GTX680


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Joikansai
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February 3, 2019 12:48 pm  
Posted by: OliverB
Posted by: theitsage

Glad to hear you enjoy the Breakaway Puck! Other than the large power brick it's a very compact unit.

The large power brick is now brother of the Asus XG Station's power brick and both are behind die desk, where is enough space.

Sonnet Breakaway Puck 570 User Build

 

Hi @OliverBdie” instead “the” 🙂  Thanks I’ll keep my eyes on eBay as well.

This post was modified 2 weeks ago

Razer Blade 15 2018, i7 8750H 16gb ddr4 2666mhz 1tb 970Evo
Razer Blade Stealth 12,5 2016 i7 7500U 8gb ddr3 1866mhz 500gb 970Evo
MacBook Pro 13 mid 2012 i5 3210M 12gb ddr3 1600mhz 500GB HDD
Razer Core V2 rtx 2070 Black 2040mhz Boost clock
Previous setting: rtx 2080ti Asus Turbo, rtx 2080 xc gaming, rtx 2080 Fe, Zotac Mini 1080ti, Evga 1080 FTW2 gaming.
Dual Monitor Predator XB241YU 165Hz 1440p, LG l24UD58 60Hz 4K
Portable Monitor Magedok 1440p HDR 60Hz usbA/C monitor


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OliverB
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February 17, 2019 10:46 am  

Update for the little Puck. It is still a great asset combined with my wife's 13" inch MBP. My wife is not a computer tinkerer/hacker (of course, lol) and she was not happy with the solutions before and now she is very happy. It's absolutely user friendly, you even don't notice it and never fails.

For this topic I found an interesting video, which was very good until the Mac part came. Was ist really so bad at the time the video was made?

2018 15" MBP & 2015 13" MBP connected to RTX2080Ti GTX1080Ti GTX1080 Vega56 RX580 R9-290 GTX680


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theitsage
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February 17, 2019 3:19 pm  

February 2018 was when Apple was actively finalizing the official eGPU support for 10.13.4. The Puck 570 was plug-and-play at that point in time. It was not possible prior to 10.13 unless you used our community support scripts. Stating it was a waste of time and money shows his lack of understanding why Mac users are the driving force of eGPU technology.

This post was modified 16 mins ago

Best ultrabooks for eGPU use

eGPU enclosure buying guide

94 external GPU build guides


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