Kool Tools: Sonnet Thunderbolt 2-to-PCIe expansion systems
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Kool Tools: Sonnet Thunderbolt 2-to-PCIe expansion systems

With the Mac Pros offering little in the way of internal expandability, Thunderbolt 2 is touted by Apple as the primary interface for adding high-speed and high-performance peripherals. Sonnet’s Echo Express III-D, III-R, and SE II are the only shipping Thunderbolt 2-to-PCIe card expansion systems available.

The new expansion chassis support every kind of Thunderbolt-compatible PCIe card available — enabling the use of professional video capture, audio interface, 16Gb and 8Gb Fibre Channel, 10 Gigabit Ethernet, SAS and SATA HBA, and RAID controller cards with Thunderbolt-enabled iMac, Mac mini, Mac Pro, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro computers.

The Echo Express III-D (desktop), Echo Express III-R (rackmount), and Echo Express SE II (desktop) Thunderbolt-to-PCI Express card expansion chassis ship with 20 Gb/sec Thunderbolt 2 interfaces. The systems’ dual Thunderbolt 2 ports support full-bandwidth connectivity with Thunderbolt 2-equipped host computers, full backward compatibility with 10 Gb/sec Thunderbolt-equipped computers and devices, and daisy-chaining of other Thunderbolt 2 and Thunderbolt devices.

Designed for users needing an optimum solution for connecting three PCIe cards to their computers, both the Echo Express III-D and Echo Express III-R provide one x16 and two x8 PCIe slots to support three full-length, full-height, single-width PCIe cards. Both chassis feature a built-in universal 300W power supply with a 75W auxiliary power connector to support PCIe cards with higher power requirements. In addition, the systems integrate two large, quiet, temperature-controlled cooling fans to enable their use in noise-sensitive environments.

The companion Echo Express III-R Mobile Rack Kit enables users to install one or two mobile rack-form-factor devices inside the Echo Express III-R chassis. Peripherals such as LTO tape drives, 2.5-inch SSD or HDD drives, 3.5-inch drives, Blu-ray burners, and memory card readers can be installed into the kit and connected to the PCIe cards installed in the chassis, saving rack space for other equipment.

The Echo Express SE II was designed for users needing a simple way to connect two adapter cards to their computers, and it supports all but long Thunderbolt-compatible PCIe cards. Weighing 3.7 pounds and measuring 6.5 inches wide by 11 inches long by 4.6 inches tall, the Echo Express SE II is compact and lightweight.

The new chassis supports two half-length (up to 7.75 inches long), full-height PCIe 2.0 x8 cards and provides an additional space for a daughter card. Some specialty cards, such as RME’s HDSPe MADI FX card, Blackmagic Design’s DeckLink 4K Extreme, and the Lynx Studio Technology AES16e-50, include a daughter card that mates with and provides additional external connections to the main card. The Echo Express SE II provides the slot space and mounting support for an adjacent daughter card without sacrificing an entire PCIe slot.

Until now, the Echo Express III-D, III-R, and SE II have been equipped with 10 Gb/sec Thunderbolt technology. Customers who have purchased these Echo Express systems received an in-box coupon for a free upgrade to Thunderbolt 2. These customers can claim their Thunderbolt 2 upgrade now. Go to www.sonnettech.com/thunderbolt2upgrade for more info.

The Echo Express III-D (pictured alongside a Mac Pro) has a suggested retail price of US$979. The Echo Express III-R has a suggested retail price of $1,199. The Echo Express III-R Mobile Rack Kit has a suggested retail price of $199. The Echo Express SE II has a suggested retail price of $499. For more info go to www.sonnettech.com .


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