Sonnet DuoModo Assessment: Modular & compact Mac mini PCI-e and eGPU enlargement

Article Hero PictureSonnet DuoModo Assessment: Modular & compact Mac mini PCI-e and eGPU enlargement

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On Tuesday, Sonnet introduced the DuoModo enlargement system that may enclose your Mac mini, and both PCI-E enlargement playing cards or a video card, in a compact house not a lot bigger than simply an eGPU enclosure itself — and we have been creating content material with it for a month.

A PCI-E breakout field for Thunderbolt tools is not a brand new idea — the eGPU sprung from the concept. Nevertheless, till Tuesday, there weren’t any cohesive programs permitting a person to surround a Mac mini and both GPU or PCI-E enlargement in a single enclosure, a lot much less a modular one permitting you to customise an enclosure with precisely what you want.

Sonnet DuoModo system: Enclosures and modularity

Sonnet’s new DuoModo system is two-fold. First, there are three enclosures in Sonnet’s technique. The Twin-Module Desktop Enclosure and the rack-mounted mannequin maintain two modules every, and a Single Module Desktop Enclosure accommodates one.

Constructed from aluminum, the desktop enclosures are 16.7 inches deep, with the one additionally measuring 3.5 inches huge and 9 inches excessive, whereas the twin is 6.9 inches huge and 9.1 inches tall.

The Twin-Mode Rackmount Enclosure takes up 2U in a cupboard. Constructed from metal as a substitute of aluminum, it additionally takes two of the modules however features a blanking plate if just one module is put in.

Equipped with rail racks for a depth of as much as 24 inches, the enclosure measures 19 inches huge, 16.5 inches deep, and three.5 inches tall.

The DuoModo Single-Module and Dual-Module Desk Enclosures.
The DuoModo Single-Module and Twin-Module Desk Enclosures.

Three modules can slot into these enclosures, held in place by a thumbscrew and 4 Philips-head screws — the DuoModo xMac mini, the DuoModo eGPU, and the Echo III.

Sonnet DuoModo xMac mini

The xMac mini-module is a mounting module for the Mac mini, with it held safely contained in the enclosure and related to a built-in Thunderbolt 3 Dock. The Mac mini is mounted to the rear, permitting free entry to all of the ports on the again of the Mac from the again of the module itself.

The front of the xMac mini Module includes a pass-through Thunderbolt 3 connection.
The entrance of the xMac mini Module features a pass-through Thunderbolt 3 connection.

The Thunderbolt 3 dock component provides 4 front-panel ports, offering one pass-through Thunderbolt 3 port, two USB 3.2 Kind-C ports, and one USB 3.2 Kind-A port.

These aren’t all the ports the Thunderbolt dock component provides, as inside, there’s an additional Thunderbolt 3 port together with a USB 3.2 Kind-A port. The latter is meant to attach a bus-powered USB storage drive, an iLok USB-A thumb drive, or different software program licensing dongle much like the USB-A inside Apple’s Mac Professional.

Moreover, there is a pair of M.2 NVMe SSD sockets for increasing the storage capability by way of Thunderbolt 3, which might sea one or two M.2 2280 NVMe PCIe SSDs. Pace is what you’d anticipate — a slot singly can ship about 2600 megabytes per second learn and write, and the pair in a RAID can ship about 2900 megabytes per second, drive mannequin relying.

A pair of temperature-controlled followers preserve the temperature contained in the enclosure. In our testing with a 2018 six-core i7 Mac mini, the pc delivered the identical efficiency whereas reporting temperatures about the identical beneath load when contained in the enclosure, because it does when it’s out.

The xMac mini Module is designed to hold a Mac mini.
The xMac mini Module is designed to carry a Mac mini.

It isn’t onerous to think about an enterprise utilizing the dual-module enclosures and together with the xMac mini module as one of many two for a ready-to-go single-unit powerhouse.

The xMac mini module all Mac mini fashions from Late 2012 as much as the M1 Mac mini, although earlier variants would require Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 adapters to operate. Preliminary testing reveals that the M1 Mac mini works too, however given the overall lack of help from distributors for exterior PCI-E help on Apple Silicon, this looks as if a waste for many — except you’ve got a BlackMagic DeckLink card now.

Sonnet DuoModo eGPU Module

Whereas the xMac mini-module held a Mac, the eGPU one resembles a extra conventional eGPU enclosure.

Because the identify suggests, the enclosure can be utilized to insert a graphics card and join it to your Mac. A user-supplied graphics card is put in right into a PCI-e card slot, which in flip will be related to a Mac utilizing Thunderbolt 3.

Past the Mac mini slot, there are two M.2 slots for quick storage. The pair of slots continues to be “restricted” by the max pace of Thunderbolt 3, so there is no purpose to get PCI-E 4 M.2 drives.

The enclosure helps 2.5-width graphics playing cards, in addition to full-length and full-height playing cards. Supported {hardware} consists of AMD Radeon playing cards at present accessible to make use of in macOS. This consists of help for the Radeon RX 5500 to 5700 XT vary, the Radeon Professional W5500 and W5700, and the Radeon RX 6700, Radeon RX 6800 XT, and 6900 XT.

The DuoModo eGPU Module can easily accommodate practically all Mac-compatible graphics cards on the market.
The DuoModo eGPU Module can simply accommodate virtually all Mac-compatible graphics playing cards available on the market.

The enclosure consists of an 800-watt energy provide, which is able to present as much as 750 watts of energy to a graphics card. A pair of 8-pin auxiliary connectors present energy to a PCI-E graphics card.

Twin Noctua followers cool the enclosure, that are rated to function at 17 decibels. In observe, we have discovered noise from the enclosure to have extra to do with the cardboard you choose than the Noctua followers.

Echo III Module

The Echo III is, at face worth, comparable in idea to the eGPU module. As an alternative of a dual-width, power-hungry GPU card, the Echo III helps three full-height, full-length PCIe playing cards, with its single x16 and two x8 PCIe 3.0 slots. Sonnet says that it helps virtually any Thunderbolt-compatible non-eGPU card that has Apple drivers.

The ability provide offers 400W of energy with a 75W auxiliary energy connector and can robotically activate and off with the related Mac. Whereas it does not help GPU playing cards, it’ll nonetheless deal with different power-hungry varieties.

As an Avid-qualified system, it could actually additionally help as much as three AVID Professional Instruments or HDX PCIe playing cards. Crucially for Apple Silicon customers, it does help M1 Macs, in contrast to the GPU enclosure.

Together with PCIe slots, it additionally provides a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports. Cooling is dealt with once more by a pair of Noctua followers.

Pre-configured Methods

Together with the separate parts, Sonnet additionally provides bundles of the enclosures and modules, together with all cables you must join all of them. In addition they function examples of the place you may go in planning a rollout utilizing the system.

There are six such programs, with 5 together with dual-module enclosures. The lone one-module bundle is the Echo III Desktop, together with the single-module enclosure and the Echo III module, meant to offer PCIe enlargement for Mac customers over Thunderbolt with none important extras.

The rear of both desktop enclosures filled with enclosures. The entire back panel of the Mac mini is easily accessible once installed in its module.
The rear of each desktop enclosures stuffed with enclosures. All the again panel of the Mac mini is definitely accessible as soon as put in in its module.

Two of the variants are the Twin Module Desktop Enclosure and the xMac mini-module, accompanied by both the Echo III or the eGPU Module.

The Rackmount enclosure is obtainable in three bundles, together with the 2 module mixtures used within the desktop counterpart. The third consists of the enclosure and an Echo III module, with the final house left empty for customers so as to add their choice.

Sonnet DuoModo – Pricing

The most cost effective elements of the system are the enclosures, sans modules. The DuoModo Twin-Module Desktop Enclosure prices $149.99, the Single-Module variant is $99.99, and the Rackmount Enclosure is $199.99.

The xMac mini Module prices $499.99, however you’ll have to add your individual Mac mini. The eGPU module is $599.99 by itself, once more with out the graphics card. Lastly, the Echo III is $699.99.

In case you needed a pre-configured system, you’d successfully pay the entire price of the enclosures and modules put collectively. So, you are not going to get any precise price financial savings when shopping for a package deal.

For instance, if you happen to needed the DuoModo xMac mini, eGPU Module, and the Twin-Module enclosure, Sonnet will promote it to you for $1,249.99. That is basically the identical as if you happen to had purchased them individually.

A finances Mac Professional?

The 4 pre-configured variations with xMac mini-modules show how one can create an enhanced Mac setup centered round a Mac mini. And, the mixture might simply be deployed wherever inside an enterprise the place a necessity erupts.

Within the case of consumers trying on the Mac Professional and wishing that they had an upgradable Mac possibility that did not begin at $5,999 for the bottom mannequin, these may look like a viable possibility. Positive, setting one among these up will not essentially be on par for efficiency on the increased Mac Professional configurations. Nonetheless, they are going to provide increased upgradability that is not accessible with the opposite Macs in Apple’s vary.

Some could even see the worth level as making it a reputable different as soon as you have paid out for all the extras and the core {hardware} you want.

Given the aforementioned xMac mini and eGPU setup above for $1,249.99, you may nonetheless have so as to add an acceptable Mac mini and a graphics card — assuming you’ll find one at retail. When you cannot fairly match the processor used within the baseline Mac Professional, in addition to another extra minor variations, you may nonetheless get fairly shut with what Apple nonetheless sells for an Intel Mac.

Configuring for a 3.2GHz 6-core Intel Core i7 clocked at 4.6GHz, 32GB of reminiscence, retaining storage at 512GB, and paying for the 10-gigabit Ethernet possibility brings the Mac mini as much as $1,999.

You still have to supply your own Mac mini and NVMe storage.
You continue to have to produce your individual Mac mini and NVMe storage.

When you cannot get a Radeon Professional 580X, you possibly can pay about $650 on the open marketplace for a Radeon RX 580 with 8GB. You could possibly purchase a distinct graphics card, reminiscent of the identical Radeon RX 580 however with 4GB of reminiscence for nearer to $400 for comparatively comparable graphical efficiency.

Utilizing a Radeon RX 580 8GB for $650 brings the entire outlay as much as roughly $3,900. This nonetheless offers you over $2,000 to play with to enhance the enclosure-based setup.

GPU market pricing is a multitude and beneath pressure from cryptocurrency miners. There are higher-performing playing cards that retail for about the identical as an 8GB RX 580, however good luck discovering one at retail.

Geekbench’s browser reveals the Mac mini with the Core i7 as scoring 1,099 factors in single-core efficiency, narrowly forward of the 1,014 of the Mac Professional. The Xeon chip within the Mac Professional takes the lead on multi-core processing, managing 7,972 versus the Mac mini’s 5,465.

The Mac Professional is meant for intensive processing duties and has higher thermal circumstances than the Mac mini. This must be thought of when making an ersatz one out of third-party peripherals.

An enterprise improve path for the Mac mini

This is not the primary time that the Mac mini has had a rack mount answer. It is not even Sonnet’s first product to take action.

What the Sonnet DuoModo system is, although, is a modular Thunderbolt 3 enlargement system for that rack-mount. Alternatively, its a pretty system that may put a Mac mini, further NVMe storage, and a GPU in your desktop for about the identical quantity of house as the corporate’s personal EGPU enclosure alone.

That mentioned, the Sonnet DuoModo system is not for everybody. It is handsome, nevertheless it is not a “laptop as equipment'” just like the iMac is, and the worth for the system pushes into that iMac territory alone. We do acknowledge that the pricing is probably going affordable, given what’s included, and the engineering concerned — however that realization does not make a DuoModo system reasonably priced for many.

Actually, although, it could actually construct a xMac of yore — a small form-factor Mac with some PCI-E expandability. As Apple grows, the marketplace for that type of factor is an more and more smaller portion of it, making the probability of Apple doing itself decrease and decrease with any given 12 months.

And for enterprise, the modularity and deployability of complete modules of the system is a bonus. It simply could also be too near the Mac Professional for consolation, given the completely bonkers present avenue pricing on GPUs.

We just like the System total. It performs effectively, it appears to be like good, and it is enjoyable — which you do not usually say about pro-oriented equipment.

Sonnet DuoModo system professionals

  • Modular upgrades for Mac mini
  • Easy accessibility to PCI-E playing cards, or GPU
  • Good air flow
  • GPU and Mac mini in about the identical house as an eGPU enclosure

Sonnet DuoModo system Cons

  • Mac mini plus a DuoModo system and a PCI-E GPU card begins to strategy a Mac Professional in pricing
  • Whereas not particular to the DuoModo, GPU pricing is loopy proper now

Ranking 4 out of 5


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