Akitio Node makes Thunderbolt 3 graphics card docks attainable

When Razer first unveiled the Core external GPU dock, it was met with equal parts hype and hesitation. The promise of plugging in a external graphics card is great, but most gerbils balked at the $499 price tag. Powercolor's Devil Box is cheaper, but $379 is still more than most people are likely to spend on a graphics card to begin with. Folks who are still chasing the external-graphics dream might want to take a look at Akitio's Node eGPU dock.

The Node is as simple as it gets: a metal box with a power supply and a PCIe slot connected to a Thunderbolt 3 port. It doesn't have any of the spurious extras that the other docks offer, like extra USB-C or DisplayPort connections. It also doesn't have flashy logos or LED lighting. What it does have is a 400W SFX power supply with a pair of 8-pin PCIe power connectors. The SFX power supply accepts standard PC power cables, so there's no worry about losing a difficult-to-replace power brick.

The Node also includes a 120-mm fan in the front of the chassis to bring in fresh air. Along with that, vents on the rear and one of the sides should mean there's plenty of airflow for hot GPUs. The back panel sports a thick aluminum handle, too.

While the dock has room for just about any video card you want to stuff inside it—including cards up to 6.7" tall, 12" long, and 1.73" wide—the PCIe 3.0 x4 connection of Thunderbolt 3 could mean that builders should mind their choice of card. Akitio says it plans to start selling the Node for $299 in December.

Comments closed
    • TheRazorsEdge
    • 3 years ago

    As the price of these comes down, I will strongly consider one for my next desktop build.

    Why for a desktop?

    I can go smaller and quieter, plus I can use the same GPU with my laptop or desktop.

    This lets me have a super quiet workstation and a sweet gaming laptop without paying for two high-end GPUs. I can even grab the basic Surface Book and roll with that.

    Current pricing is ridiculous, but this should be a no-brainer in a few years.

    • DPete27
    • 3 years ago

    Ok, I’m sick of this. Is there any way to buy just the thunderbolt to PCIe x16 adapter?

    [b<]Let's build our own:[/b<] Something like a [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811119286<]$30 CM Elite 130 case[/url<] and any PSU you want like the stalwart $20 Corsiar CX430 for example. All you have to do to turn on the box is wire the case power button leads to the proper pins on the 24-pin cable like you would do to "jump start" a PSU. Done. $50. Don't tell me the thunderbolt to PCIe x16 adapter costs $250. STOP RIPPING PEOPLE OFF.

      • Chrispy_
      • 3 years ago

      OMG Yes.

      Once the bridge is available seperately, companies like Lian-Li will churn out a variety of enclosures for under $100 a pop.

        • drfish
        • 3 years ago

        Once [url=http://www.banggood.com/NGFF-Version-V8_0-EXP-GDC-Beast-Laptop-External-Independent-Video-Card-Dock-p-1009978.html<]these guys[/url<] offer a TB3 model, everyone else should get more reasonable. Right now the only way to do it cheaply, is to hack.

          • Chrispy_
          • 3 years ago

          Does that sort of hack let the eGPU pipe graphics back to the integrated laptop display?

            • drfish
            • 3 years ago

            Mostly.

            • Pwnstar
            • 3 years ago

            Yes, that’s a driver issue and both AMD and nVidia let you do that.

        • DPete27
        • 3 years ago

        [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA24G4R64815<]Thunderbolt 3 expansion cards cost about $70[/url<]. Looking at the card inside the Akitio Node, there's no way it costs the manufacturer that much, but lets just assume $70 for sake of argument. Even with a nice $100 case, you're talking $200 buying all parts from retail. So $150 to $200 should be the retail cost of these enclosures depending on the quality of the case.

        • JalaleenRumi
        • 3 years ago

        If I could get an Enclosure for under $100, I would buy it instantly. It will make my life a lot easier. I won’t have to buy a Laptop with a GPU that could fry the hell outta it. I don’t know, man. May be the technology now is so advance that we don’t have to worry about the GPU frying the insides of our laptop but call me paranoid, I think GPU inside the Laptops is not a good thing.

        In our country, AC is not that widely adopted due to many reasons, and the Heat in summer is so damn cruel that even the cellphones sometimes excuse themselves and automatically turn off because of it. “Sorry. I wasn’t made for this madness of the hell like hotness.. Gotta restart and hope to wake somewhere cooler.”

        Anyway. My point is that with an external GPU, I would be able keep it at home (without having to keep two separate systems) and not worry about the heat when outside. This will also force me NOT to game when away from home and focus on whatever the important task at hand. Lol.

        Long story short, I love me an eGPU, just don’t have this much extra cash to waste on it. I can’t justify the $300+ or $400+ for an Enclosure. $100 or under and I may be the first one to get it.

      • alphadogg
      • 3 years ago

      Just a matter of time that we get a female TB3 to male PCIe adapter. They already have the reverse.

      • The Egg
      • 3 years ago

      [url=https://www.akitio.com/images/products/akitio-node-gpu-card.jpg<]Inside view of the Akitio[/url<] I agree that it's still $100 too expensive and that they should offer a model without a PSU for folks who want to supply their own. At the same time, there's probably 3 boards involved here (power board, PCIe x16 riser/backplane, and the main PCIe-to-TB3 logic board), possibly with an FPGA being used. Their cost probably isn't inconsequential, at least right now.

      • Bonusbartus
      • 3 years ago

      Does it have to be tb3 to pcie? Why not directly pcie to an external pcie enclosure:
      [url<]http://www.onestopsystems.com/[/url<] Used these before. I've also seen tb3 to pcie3 variants, but could not find them as quickly

        • alphadogg
        • 3 years ago

        Doesn’t *have* to be, but for myself, I was looking to do a laptop with TB3 to external video. That way, you can a regular laptop and eat your cake too. 🙂 Also, I don’t think those device are cheap anyways, so doesn’t solve the OP’s complaint…

      • derFunkenstein
      • 3 years ago

      why don’t you just build the whole system in the CM Elite 130 case instead?

        • DPete27
        • 3 years ago

        Because you’d have the added cost of CPU/mobo/RAM/OS and then it would be a desktop computer instead of an external graphics card that you can hook up to your laptop.

      • NeelyCam
      • 3 years ago

      From the case Newegg page:

      “5. Supports ultra high-end graphics card up to 13.5in. (343mm), such as AMD HD7990 and NVIDIA GTX690”

      lol

    • thesmileman
    • 3 years ago

    I’m curious why no one is selling these 1070s they use in laptops in a tiny enclosure with just enough cooling and a thunderbolt 3 connector. I would love one of those I could throw in a bag and use when needed. My Aorus laptop is tiny and so I’m sure they could make a pretty small enclosure with one in it.

      • DPete27
      • 3 years ago

      MXM cards aren’t very commonplace in the retail channel. It’s sad, but true. Very good idea though! It’d be awesome to have an eGPU in an enclosure the size of an external 3.5″ hard drive.

    • Kretschmer
    • 3 years ago

    I am seriously tempted to ditch my Ivy Bridge i5 desktop for my i5U XPS 13. Given general sluggishness on that latter it would probably be a losing proposition, but the consolidation of devices is certainly tempting.

    If I had a quad-core laptop and this box offered a single USB 3.0 and 3.5mm port (to allow for a single cable plug-in), it would be a no-brainer.

      • ImSpartacus
      • 3 years ago

      I’m curious – why the 3.5mm port to/from your gpu?

      [sub<]I want to make a "courageous" joke so bad...[/sub<]

        • Kretschmer
        • 3 years ago

        It’s beneficial to plug in your laptop into as few ports as possible on the desktop. This sounds trivial, but I currently plug in 4 cables and would love to keep it to two. Audio and minor peripherals shouldn’t stress one’s TB3 bandwidth, and a USB 3.0 port + desktop hub allows you to plug in your mouse, keyboard, printer, etc, as well.

        For $300, we really should get a 2.5″ SATA bay (gaming storage), USB 3.0, and 3.5mm audio. GPU + PSU only should be <$200.

        I’d actually rather pay a bit extra for the devil box but wouldn’t be caught dead with that garish paintjob on my desktop.

    • EndlessWaves
    • 3 years ago

    Has anyone done any benchmarks on these things yet to see how much the 4x PCI-E connection impacts frame times?

      • Kurotetsu
      • 3 years ago

      Don’t have benchmarks, but its worth mentioning that TB3 provides 5GB/s of bandwidth (which is actually a little less than what 4 lanes of PCI-E 3.0 can provide). That exceeds the both max bandwidth that 16-lanes of PCI-E 1.0/1.1 could provide back in the day and 8-lanes of PCI-E 2.0. A GPU being fed over TB3 would basically be getting the same bandwidth a single GPU would get in a 2-card SLI setup, and I don’t recall anyone complaining about bandwidth starvation back when SLI actually mattered to anyone.

        • bhappy
        • 3 years ago

        You should check your facts a little bit better next time. 4 lanes of PCI-E 3.0 can provide 3.938 GB/s which means that TB3 can actually provide roughly 25% more throughput than 4 lanes of PCI-3.0, NOT less.

      • Chrispy_
      • 3 years ago

      There are loads of benchmarks all over the web going back years. GPUs don’t need that much bandwidth until you use SLI.

      Last review I read was Maxwell rather than Pascal, but you’re only losing 1-2% even if you drop down to x4 from x16, and that’s at 1080p when aiming for 144fps. The problem pretty much disappears as the framerate drops closer to 60fps for higher resolutions and higher detail settings.

      As always, the GPU is your primary bottleck. If the CPU is rarely stressed by game engines, the link between the CPU and the GPU is going to be equally unstressed. I’m sure you can find an edge-case game or benchmark that lies outside of this general rule, but for the vast majority of titles on the market, a typical CPU is at low load whilst the GPU is pegged at 100%.

        • Pwnstar
        • 3 years ago

        There are several games that are CPU limited, like Starcraft, Civilization and ARMA.

        • EndlessWaves
        • 3 years ago

        More like 3-4%
        [url<]https://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/AMD/R9_Fury_X_PCI-Express_Scaling/18.html[/url<] But that's average FPS. If that's a result of long 99% frame times or bouncy average frame times then it could feel noticably inferior despite the average being the same.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 3 years ago

      Four lanes of PCIe 3.0 is the equivalent to an x16 slot on the original spec. I think it’s plenty of bandwidth, although I’m sure performance in memory-intensive scenes (when you need to get textures out of RAM, for example) would have some increases in single frame-times.

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