[Unboxing] Netstor HL23T-Plus Thunderbolt 3 External PCI Express Expansion Box
The Netstor HL23T-Plus sample arrived today. The retail box is not ready so I will only show the enclosure. It comes with a power cable and a .5m Thunderbolt 3 cable. The finish is matte dark gray. Dimension-wise it’s slightly larger than the original Razer Core.
There are four total PCIe slot openings at the rear of this Netstor HL23T-Plus. The very back slot opening is for the Thunderbolt 3 PCIe card. The middle two slot openings are for an external GPU. I was hoping for more than two PCIe slots inside but that’s not the case unfortunately. The fourth space not only provides room for three-slot wide graphics card but can also mount the slot bracket (intake fan and its bracket have to be removed).
I like the collapsable handle at the rear a lot. The enclosure is all aluminum construction so it’s very light. It reminds me of the AKiTiO Node Pro in terms of usability. The matte finish is also nice because no finger smudges. Intake fan bracket can be adjusted to match the location of the blower fan on a reference graphics card.
There’s a switch to manually control this intake fan. I left it at the lowest setting which is at the smallest circle. The fan itself looks to be a 80mm unit.
With the RX Vega 56 reference cooler installed there are plenty of room left inside. Nestor made better use of the interior space of this enclosure than both Razer Core and AKiTiO Node Pro. I will remove the fATX 400W power supply and post additional information on it soon.
Power Delivery is 15W and Thunderbolt firmware is 33.1. It’s interesting macOS System Information showed Charging: Yes eventhough there’s only 15W PD. I never saw this before in other macOS version (currently running 10.15 Beta 2).
A new change in Catalina is the inclusion of GPU tab in Activity Monitor. This tab provides very useful information previously not easily accessible. You can tell what the eGPU is doing, which TB3 port it’s connecting to, and the model of enclosure.
Here are some photos of this enclosure next to a 2016 15″ MacBook Pro. The status circle light in front behaves like a button. However I’m not sure if it does anything. As soon as you connect the enclosure to a Thunderbolt 3 host, the light turns blue and fans run full speed. Once the Thunderbolt connection is established and drivers loaded, the fans quiet down to appropriate speed. Idle noise is at low 40s dB. This is similar to the Razer Core.
I’m working on a full review of the Netstor HL23T-Plus in the coming weeks. Let me know if I left out any information you’d like to know.
Great improvement on the original, looks like a great option now, if only it had another PCIe slot though... so close to insta buy. Looks like I am going to have to mod an enclosure to fit the TB3 card to directly power my 5K, so either this or the current Mantiz (as I am fairly sure we have discussed pass through on the Node Pro and that it doesn't work that way with the additional TB3 port - although it is tempting as they are available on Amazon UK).
If I'm nitpicking I would say a different front grille design might have been nicer, Razer really nailed theirs but the are other options... (dirty mock)
@eightarmedpet Your mockup certainly improves the front appearance. I think having a mounting location in the rear of this enclosure helps. We only need a power source to the Thunderbolt 3 AIC to produce TB3 monitor output. When I have time I will mount GC-ALPINE-RIDGE AIC to the PCIe riser inside this HL23T-Plus. There are spare power cables and plenty of room inside to work with. We have both Molex 4-pin and PCIe 6-pin available through a Y-splitter. The enclosure PCI slot board uses a Molex plug so it looks very easy here. I’m thinking even the mounting posts would align with the riser.
@itsage look forward to seeing the results, I guess the additional mounting bracket will help too.
I'm guessing the internal side fan may need to be removed? Would be interested to hear how that effects sound levels of the enclosure when idle because my guess is that the fan is quite loud and would benefit from an upgrade (Noctura - possibly larger and or slimmer)?
I have the TB3 card and a riser all good to go once I decide on the right enclosure (I think I bought the same one you recommended).
There does exist a 4-slot board that fits into this enclosure (if screw holes match, I don't know) but is not for sale separately. I happen to have Netstor's NP951AG3, taken from NA211A-G3:
Unfortunately Intel's eGFX certification does not allow multi-slot enclosures.
I installed the PCI riser + GC-ALPINE-RIDGE to test Thunderbolt 3 monitor output with the Netstor HL23T-Plus enclosure. The good news is the space inside and the fourth PCI mounting bracket is perfect for this purpose. The bad news is my PCI riser card doesn’t seem to work with the 6-pin PCI power plug. I will look for a Molex 4-pin splitter to power both the Netstor main board and PCI riser. Here are some photos.
Paging @eightarmedpet, I was able to produce Thunderbolt 3 monitor output through the same components and power connections. Thanks to @joevt‘s recommendation to power the riser card first prior to connecting DisplayPort cables and Thunderbolt 3 cable to monitor, all is working as expected. It took about a 30 seconds for the monitor initiation. Even better news is the setup works in Boot Camp too. 😀
Here are some screen captures of the RX Vega 56 eGPU powering the HP Z27q in both macOS and Windows.
Paging @eightarmedpet, I was able to produce Thunderbolt 3 monitor output through the same components and power connections. Thanks to @joevt's recommendation to power the riser card first prior to connecting DisplayPort cables and Thunderbolt 3 cable to monitor, all is working as expected. It took about a 30 seconds for the monitor initiation. Even better news is the setup works in Boot Camp too. 😀
I guess Thunderbolt 3 adapters/displays can have different behavior than USB-C adapters/displays. The long 30 seconds wait time is normal for 5K dual cable displays (like your HP z27q and my Dell UP2715K). Does the LG UltraFine 5K have a similar delay with normal Macs? I've never seen one in operation.
Did you try keeping the DisplayPort cables connected before power up, and just connect Thunderbolt 3 after power up? That would make things slightly easier.
I tried keeping the DisplayPort cabled connected before power up just now. It didn’t work. It took a few tries after this to get TB3 monitor output going again. Most reliable is definitely step-by-step by powering up, connecting the DisplayPort cables, then connecting TB3 cable/adapter to monitor. While I was in Windows, I tried hot-plugging the HP Z27q monitor to a different Thunderbolt 3 port rather than through the eGPU + AIC. The 5K monitor worked through same TB3 controller and separate TB3 controller. The performance drop is not much. I think it’s not worth going through the effort to produce Thunderbolt 3 monitor output.
I tried keeping the DisplayPort cabled connected before power up just now. It didn't work. It took a few tries after this to get TB3 monitor output going again. Most reliable is definitely step-by-step by powering up, connecting the DisplayPort cables, then connecting TB3 cable/adapter to monitor. While I was in Windows, I tried hot-plugging the HP Z27q monitor to a different Thunderbolt 3 port rather than through the eGPU + AIC. The 5K monitor worked through same TB3 controller and separate TB3 controller. The performance drop is not much. I think it's not worth going through the effort to produce Thunderbolt 3 monitor output.
I think you might be right here... you mention a 5% loss and that's not too bad and something I can live with, I was possibly chasing a pointless dream (that sounds a bit more emotional than intended).
Thanks so much for testing this set up out though, saves me the trouble!
Going to forget about directly powering my 5K and focus on more CPU power and getting the most silent set up I can (current loudest part is my Vega 56 blower fan which never stops spinning!).
Hi guys, talking about performance difference between running the Ultrafine 5k straight from the eGPU vs connecting it to a MacBook Pro with a connected eGPU, how much of a difference is it? I don't play games and primarily use my Mac for Photoshop, Logic Pro and Final Cut, by the way.
MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2018) with 4GB Radeon Pro 560
2 LG Ultrafine 5k Monitors
I would say to not venture into powering the LG 5K UltraFine directly. Your 2018 15″ MacBook Pro can power the dual 5K UltraFine directly with its internal Radeon Pro 560 dGPU. The eGPU would then provide the extra boost in the applications you mentioned once you right-click to select “Get Information” and check the “Prefer External GPU” box.
Unfortunately Intel's eGFX certification does not allow multi-slot enclosures.
Are you sure about that? Where can I find any information on this subject? Thanks.
Pending: Add my system information and expected eGPU configuration to my signature to give context to my posts
Where do you buy this enclosure in the US? I'm assuming you're in the US based on a post you recently made. Thanks!
Edit. I got my answer from DynapowerUSA, but this is too pricey:
Thank you for your inquiry.
HL23T-Plus (https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u%3Dhttps-3A__www.netstor.com.tw_product-5Finfo.aspx-3FPID-3DPID-5F180802287622763%26d%3DDwMFaQ%26c%3D7ypwAowFJ8v-mw8AB-SdSueVQgSDL4HiiSaLK01W8HA%26r%3DdGiMt1TedGQxwFFmp7RG6A%26m%3DrT4drY8aflZnTQN9VuUW2sYd6VJ1lSPhw70d0mFkD74%26s%3DYxaztD0BbldyM4WE4d1c4M3Fx2ygLvRJsdCUG2HJ8P4%26e%3D&source=gmail&ust=1578604218396000&usg=AFQjCNFLWfYnmHNqnTiJLntjyMWDUPc2A A"> https://www.netstor.com.tw/product_info.aspx?PID=PID_180802287622763 ) is a Special-order item. This item approximately can be ready to ship in 5 -8 days once payment is confirmed.
It will be shipped directly from Taiwan to your location. If there's no delay on US Customs, normally it will take an additional 5 -10 days in transit.
Your cost is $435.00 + $81 (Express Mail Service shipping charge to the US)
If this works for you, please confirm your shipping address and I will send you a Credit Card Authorization for you to continue with this inquiry, thank you!