[Unboxing] AKiTiO Node Duo - Dual Slot Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Expansion Enclosure
I've been anxiously waiting for the Node Duo. My plan with this dual PCIe slot TB3 enclosure is to test different expansion cards alongside the eGPU. My media sample from AKiTiO arrived yesterday. This box is certified for PCIe expansion so there's a second Thunderbolt 3 port for daisy-chaining as well as a Displayport passthrough output.
The package retains the same look as the other two Nodes (original Node and Node Pro). The front of the box shows macOS compatibility (10.13 and later). AKiTiO is throwing in a 2m 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 cable for free with the Node Duo. The sticker says it's an introductory offer so I don't know how long it lasts.
Opening the box reveals a clear plastic bag with manuals sitting atop the enclosure. On the side a brown box contains the 150W power adapter, 2m Thunderbolt 3 cable, power cord, a rubber cable tie, and a velcro cable tie.
The AKiTiO Node Duo is about half the length of the original Node, while slightly shorter and wider. It has the same sliding forward method for internal access. Instead of placing the secure screws in the rear, they are now located to the bottom of the enclosure.
I/O ports in the rear are along the left side. The power receptacle is at the bottom left. It's an exact match for a 6-pin PCIe power connector. You also notice a raised metal tab on the top left. Break this tab away so that you can route PCIe cables through. Keep in mind AKiTiO does not sell this Node Duo for eGPU use. The included power adapter is 150W (230W also available) with only one 6-pin connector to the enclosure. In order to install an eGPU you would need a more powerful PSU with at least two PCIe power cables/connectors.
Inside is where the fun begins. The main Thunderbolt 3 board has a clear plastic cover to prevent damage. The PCI slot board is very clean looking and spacious. One 120mm cooling fan mounted at the front. There's plenty of working room from the top and right side.
The first test and one I anticipated the most was eGPU Thunderbolt 3 monitor output. We can accomplish this by installing a graphics card in the first slot and a Thunderbolt 3 add-in card in the second slot. I have an HP OEM ITX RX 480 4GB GPU and a Gigabyte Alpine Ridge AIC rev 1.0 (has two TI82 USB-C controllers) for this test.
I broke the metal tab to feed PCIe power cables through. I also connected a pair of DisplayPort to mini DisplayPort cables from RX 480 to Alpine Ridge AIC. The supplied AKiTiO rubber tie found a perfect use here. For power I used a PCIe splitter to provide one 6-pin PCIe power connector to the eGPU and one to the Node Duo's main board.
Next was to connect the PCIe splitter to the PSU. I used an Enermax Revolution 650W SFX power supply. It may seem like an overkill for this task but I have plans for running two beefy eGPUs inside this box. Shorting the 24-pin connector is a prerequisite to make this PSU work with the Node Duo. Also to note is the spare room inside the enclosure. It's possible to fabricate a mount so that you can place an SFX PSU inside the Node Duo.
There were a lot of cables going to different devices. To break it down, here's a quick summary of what I did to verify Thunderbolt 3/USB-C eGPU monitor output in this setup.
It was a beautiful mess when everything worked plug-and-play. I'm running the latest Mojave beta on this 2016 15" MacBook Pro. The LG 4K monitor connected to the Mantiz Titan dock through DisplayPort cable. The AOC portable FHD monitor connected to the Alpine Ridge AIC through a USB-C cable and was able to get bus power and video signal. Power delivery is confirmed at 60W through the bottom Thunderbolt 3 port of the Node Duo. Thunderbolt firmware version is 33.3.
In the coming weeks, I will be doing tests by pairing an eGPU with NVMe PCIe card, 10GbE network card, sound card, and another graphics card for a full review of the AKiTiO Node Duo. Please let me know if I left out any information you’d like to know.
Holy cow - beautiful mess describes that perfectly. This eGPU is smaller than I expected, depending on what cards fit this could finally be a solution for folks like me with the bloody LG 5K display and no way to connect to it directly... I would ask about price but I know whatever it is we will get stitched up in the UK.
edit: Just read about the hacking to get enough power to the GPU...
2017 13" MacBook Pro Touch Bar
GTX1060 + AKiTiO Thunder3 + Win10
GTX1070 + Sonnet Breakaway Box + Win10
GTX1070 + Razer Core V1 + Win10
Vega 56 + Razer Core V1 + macOS + Win10
Vega 56 + Mantiz Venus + macOS + W10
Two eGPUs in one box are working well in macOS. I installed the HP OEM RX 480 4GB alongside the Gigabyte RX 580 8GB ITX. It's not working so well in Windows. Via Boot Camp on the MacBook Pro, Windows was not able to detect any eGPU at all. When I tested with a regular Windows laptop, one eGPU would show up and the other one encountered error 12.
Even though the PCIe slot are x2 each, there's little loss in performance. LuxMark showed external eGPU can scale very well.
I downloaded and briefly opened Blender benchmark to test. It could detect multiple eGPUs without issues.
As it's not certified for eGFX yet shipped with fair power supply and massive venting ans size - what is Akitios idea for it actually?
A couple of tiny SSDs or capture cards does not need that volume nor sheer size.
@jim_c I tried eGPU daisy-chained to this Akitio Node Duo. They both were detected and worked in macOS. There were one RX 480 inside the Node Duo on that attempt though. I'll see if two eGPUs inside the Duo and another eGPU daisy-chained would work the same way. 😀
I was thinking you can get 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports if you put two controller cards inside. Then connect 4 or 5 eGPUs onto those. Won't really be daisy chaining, more like a TB3 hub I guess?
Excellent guide, thank you. If you use this with a Mac Mini 2018 that requires no charging with the 150W Power Brick does each PCI-E land get 75W? Cheers!
I just set this up with a PCI-E SSD, Its is an M.2 Patriot Scorch. 3.0 x 2 512G Drive. Testing it now, I notice that the Node Duo enclosure fan blows air out the front of the enclosure; is my fan backwards then? Looks very well built.