Unboxing: Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box

AMD XConnect team reached out to eGPU.io to test the Sonnet eGFX Thunderbolt 3 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.

Sonnet eGFX 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. 

sonnet breakaway box fan and psu

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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