[Unboxing] Sonnet Breakaway Box Thunderbolt 3 eGPU Enclosure
 
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[Unboxing] Sonnet Breakaway Box Thunderbolt 3 eGPU Enclosure  

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itsage
(@itsage)
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Joined: 4 years ago
 

AMD XConnect team reached out to eGPU.io to test the Sonnet eGPU enclosure and the RX 580 graphics card. This coincides with AMD's recent announcement of the Radeon RX 500 series GPUs and Sonnet's announcement of its Thunderbolt 3 external GPU enclosure at 2017 NAB Show.

The test units I received are the Gigabyte AORUS Radeon RX 580 XTR 8G and the Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box. eGFX is the same wording used on the AKiTiO Node package. Here are some unboxing photos of this new Thunderbolt 3 enclosure and first impressions:

The box says "For Windows" in bold letters. Not to worry Mac users, I'm writing this post on Mac OS running this very same Sonnet enclosure paired with the RX 580.

Sonnet states this box is a Thunderbolt 3 Expansion System for Desktop GPU and Other PCIe Cards.

It comes with a standard power cable and a .5m Thunderbolt 3 cable. The product label is on the bottom of the enclosure which is nicely fitted with sturdy rubber feet. The enclosure is clean and understated with a matte black finish and a blue Sonnet logo when active. With dimensions of 13.38" x 8" x 7.25" (340mm x 202mm x 185mm), the Sonnet Breakaway is shorter and wider than the AKiTiO Node but much lighter. 

Everyone has been waiting for a close-up of the rear I/O. It has one Thunderbolt 3 port, mounted horizontally. The PSU is located behind the GPU, similar to the AKiTiO Node and Mantiz Venus.

Three thumb screws hold the top cover in place. If you've opened a desktop tower before, this task is a simple process. This view of the inner cage shows the three main components of this eGPU box: Thunderbolt 3 board, PSU and fan.

If you're thinking this Thunderbolt 3 board looks very familiar, you're right. I compared the Mantiz Venus board side-by-side, and there appeared to be minimal differences.

Here's the top view of this board.

I zoomed closer in to identify the USB-C controller. It's a Texas Instrument TPS65983.

The power supplier is an Akasa SFX 350W unit. It's custom-made to have one 24-pin main power cable, one 6-pin PCIe cable, and one 6-pin + 2 PCIe cable.

I did not see any information on the max dimensions of graphics cards this enclosure would house. The smart thing for me to do was to get the bulkiest GPU I have and force it in there. It was a challenge, but the Sapphire R9 Fury Nitro barely fits this Sonnet Breakaway Box.

Saving the best for last, the cooling fan is a standard size 120mm with a well-placed mounting bracket on the left front of this enclosure. Sonnet appears to be targeting professionals rather than gamers with this box. During operation with the main cover off, I could hardly hear the PSU and case fan. 

With regards to compatibility, this eGPU enclosure works the same way as the AKiTiO Node and Mantiz Venus do. The host I'm using is a Mac Pro trashcan which runs macOS 10.12.4 with automate-eGPU script installed. I simply swapped the Mantiz Venus with the Sonnet Breakaway, and eGPU functionality works as if nothing had happened.

Upon seeing many similarities with the Mantiz Venus' TB3 board, I was hoping the Sonnet's board would have similar power delivery to charge TB3/USB-C laptops. A quick check with my Late 2016 MacBook Pro 15" shows it provides only 15W. This is the same as the AKiTiO Node.

I have yet to test CUDA-Z to confirm H2D speed, but the firmware shows 25.2 which is very new and most likely includes the H2D fix.

Testings and a full review with the RX 580 are under way. Please let me know if I left out any information you'd like to know. 

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2020 13" MacBook Pro [10th,4C,G] + RTX 2080 Ti @ 32Gbps-TB3 (AORUS Gaming Box) + Win10 2004 [build link]  


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fireheadman
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very nice!  I'm interested to know what the mini/micro motherboard has for capabilities...  I see a handful of headers on it.

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nando4
(@nando4)
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Posted by: fireheadman

 

very nice!  I'm interested to know what the mini/micro motherboard has for capabilities...  I see a handful of headers on it.

   

It's using the same DSL6540C 1.0 mainboard like the Mantiz Venus and Powercolor Devil Box. The grey empty header used on these other enclosures to host the daughterboard: USB 3.0, Ethernet and SATA:

 

The Mantiz Venus internals for comparison from here and here

 

 

This comparison then begs some questions about modification possibilities:

 

1.  Mantiz tweaked their enclosure for 87W power deliver via firmware. Could Sonnet increase power delivery with this enclosure? eg: 15W->60W. If they can then this would set a new standard for this desirable feature at the ~$300 pricepoint.

 

2.  Can the Mantiz Venus daughterboard work in this enclosure (eg: not firmware locked)? There's no chassis cutouts on the Breakaway Box for the daughterboard's external ethernet and 3xUSB 3.0 ports but the cabled 2xUSB 3.0 and SATA connectors could be usable.  Concurrent use of those ports with the eGPU does impinge on the 22Gbps-TB3 bandwidth so while useful as a dock, not necessary for those wanting maximum eGPU bandwidth.

 

@itsage, thank you for the dimensions. You raise enclosure weight differences.

This detail was a requested addition to the buyer's guide but the vendors were not disclosing the dry weight (with no eGPU installed). If you have some digital scales it would be a unique eGPU.io spec we can add to the buyer's guide for the reviewed enclosures.

eGPU Setup 1.35    •    eGPU Port Bandwidth Reference Table

 
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itsage
(@itsage)
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I received a PM from a forum member in France who saw a retailer showing 2 versions of this Sonnet enclosure. This standard one with a 350W PSU is selling for $299. There's another one priced higher and comes with a 500W PSU. That version is likely to have power delivery feature with at least 60W. Expansion ports through the the daughterboard would be a welcome feature too.

I'll definitely try it with the Mantiz daughterboard I have to see whether it's a firmware restriction. Getting the dry weight for these enclosures is also on my to-do list.

external graphics card builds
best laptops for external GPU
eGPU enclosure buyer's guide

 
2020 13" MacBook Pro [10th,4C,G] + RTX 2080 Ti @ 32Gbps-TB3 (AORUS Gaming Box) + Win10 2004 [build link]  


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polo
 polo
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How it looks with availability on market?  when? 

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traceq
(@traceq)
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Posted by: itsage

 

I received a PM from a forum member in France who saw a retailer showing 2 versions of this Sonnet enclosure. This standard one with a 350W PSU is selling for $299. There's another one priced higher and comes with a 500W PSU. That version is likely to have power delivery feature with at least 60W. Expansion ports through the the daughterboard would be a welcome feature too.

I'll definitely try it with the Mantiz daughterboard I have to see whether it's a firmware restriction. Getting the dry weight for these enclosures is also on my to-do list.

   

Do you have that retailer's name ? In France I did not see a lot of eGPU retailer ... even amazon.fr doesn't have any so i'm quite interested

2016 13" MacBook Pro [6th,2C,U] + GTX 1070 @ 32Gbps-TB3 (AKiTiO Node) + macOS 10.12.4 & Win10 [build link]  

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ikir
 ikir
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Boom this is quite big news since show AMD interest in eGPU and macOS!!

Thansk for sharing mate, the Sonnet solution si pretty good too! Really hope AMD implement free sync on macOS and I will switch back to radeon the same second.


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itsage
(@itsage)
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I've been testing this box in Windows with FreeSync enabled. It's a sweet setup.

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2020 13" MacBook Pro [10th,4C,G] + RTX 2080 Ti @ 32Gbps-TB3 (AORUS Gaming Box) + Win10 2004 [build link]  


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ed_co
(@ed_co)
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@itsage, is the frontal plastic or metal??

2017 15" MacBook Pro (RP560) [7th,4C,H] + GTX 1080 Ti @ 32Gbps-TB3 (Mantiz Venus) + macOS 10.13 & Win10 [build link]  

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itsage
(@itsage)
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@ed_co the front fascia is plastic. It's matte finish.

external graphics card builds
best laptops for external GPU
eGPU enclosure buyer's guide

 
2020 13" MacBook Pro [10th,4C,G] + RTX 2080 Ti @ 32Gbps-TB3 (AORUS Gaming Box) + Win10 2004 [build link]  


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