[Unboxing] SAPPHIRE GearBox Thunderbolt 3 eGFX Enclosure  

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theitsage
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November 27, 2018 4:32 am  

This eGPU enclosure is one of the few eGFX solutions released this year that didn't get much coverage. I was browsing Amazon during Black Friday and found it listed for $259. Given the features (500W PSU, 60W Power Delivery, and expansion ports) this is a great deal. I bought one and the enclosure arrived this evening. Here are my unboxing photos and early impression.

The package is unusually bland. It's a literal brown cardboard box with absolutely no branding. You'd only know what it is until the accessories box is removed.

Opening the accessories box reveals the user manual, .5m Thunderbolt 3 cable, power cable, Hex key wrench, and GPU support bracket and screws. This support bracket is a unique feature to help prevent sagging of heavy graphics cards.

It was a pleasant surprise to see the footprint of the Sapphire GearBox. The Razer Core is both longer and taller. The Sapphire GearBox is thicker however. Its footprint is very similar to the AKiTiO Node Duo.

The rear I/Os consist of one Thunderbolt 3 port, two USB ports, and one Ethernet port. The power plug and power switch are above the expansion ports. The front fascia is plastic. There's a power button and a blue lightbar.

I used the supplied hex key wrench to remove four screws. The top shell is aluminum and doesn't require much torque to tighten/loosen.

Once the four screws are out of the way, I lifted the top shell up and forward. The shell can rest on the front fascia but remain connected to the bottom platform at the front hinges. There are also four cables running from the main board to the power button, lightbar, and two 120mm cooling fans mounted inside the top shell.

The component arrangement of this Sapphire GearBox is a mix between the Razer Core and ASUS XG Station 2. The fATX power supply sits atop the Thunderbolt mainboard and would run alongside the GPU. The PSU is a 12V single rail 500W unit. It has two 6+2-pin PCIe power cables, one 24-pin ATX cable, and one 8 EPS cable.

Here's a closeup of the PSU label. While the width of this enclosure can accomodate 2.5 wide cards, I had some concern about its length. Therefore I only tried a reference RX Vega 56. It was a very close fit. A GPU that's slight longer would prevent the top shell from closing.

Take caution when lowering the top shell to the bottom platform. There's some play at the pivot point so you need to align the two panels to make sure they don't bend.

Once the RX Vega 56 was installed, I connected the Sapphire GeaBox to my 2018 13" MacBook Pro. The lightbar is very bright and it stays on solid. Airflow is good with the two large top mounted exhaust fans. The tiny 40mm PSU fans make the usual buzzing noise but not as bad in this enclosure.

I verified Power Delivery is 60W in System Information > Power tree. This enclosure comes with Thunderbolt firmware version 26.26.

The bad news is this firmware restricts H2D speed to half-bandwidth. Here are screen captures of CL!ng.

I booted into Windows Boot Camp mode using @goalque's eGPU EFI Boot Manager. The Sapphire GearBox + RX Vega 56 eGPU worked without error 12. I set up my 2018 13" MacBook Pro previously with other AMD eGPUs and the key was to disable PCI Root Port #13 to the wireless card. Here are screen captures of AIDA and HWiNFO.

I'll be doing testings and in the coming weeks for a full review. If you have questions about any particular features let me know.

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Eightarmedpet
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wimpzilla
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November 27, 2018 9:07 am  

Nice find thanks for sharing, didn't know Sapph would release an eGPU enclosure.
The price seems also quite interesting, 250$ is quite cheap compared to the other top enclosures.

Tbh i would rather have an ugly eGPU enclosure that is fully functional than a nice enclosure that is performance constrained by the look.
From what i can see from here, 2 big top fan for airflow, 41A 12v power supply, a lot of airflow for the gpu with grids everywhere, standard psu/connectors.
I mean at 1st glance it look like build to run beefy gpu, if the enclosure fan curve is well designed, should have a low noise output, aside the small psu fan as pointed out.

Any chance to get a pcb picture please?

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Eightarmedpet
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November 27, 2018 10:04 am  

@wimpzilla you can have looks and function, looks are not a performance constraint in anyway. Currently only the Core and the Asus are anywhere near looking good (they also function pretty well although the Core's are a bit loud and the Asus needs more ports).

This looks like some robot sentry from a straight to video Jean Claude Van Damme sci fi action flick from the 90's...

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+

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theitsage
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November 27, 2018 5:47 pm  

@wimpzilla I will be doing a teardown and post closeup of PCB.

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eGPU enclosure buying guide

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Yukikaze
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November 30, 2018 8:57 pm  
Posted by: Eightarmedpet

This looks like some robot sentry from a straight to video Jean Claude Van Damme sci fi action flick from the 90's...

It's a Cylon 🙂

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rubycrow
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December 9, 2018 5:19 am  

Would really appreciate if you could test to see if an EVGA 20 series 3-slot card would fit in this enclosure.

Edit: nvm. Looks like the enclosure can only fit cards up to 260mm in length. 

Soon I will add my system & eGPU details or a build link to this my signature to give context to my posts


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kittysavage
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December 17, 2018 10:32 pm  

Does this have USB stuttering as well?

Soon I will add my system & eGPU details or a build link to this my signature to give context to my posts


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