Over the past week AKiTiO has formally introduced its new external graphics enclosure using a Thunderbolt 3 connection. As with other external graphics enclosures, the AKiTiO Node allows a user to easily upgrade the graphics sub-system of notebook, AIO or SFF PCs that have a Thunderbolt 3 port by using a discrete graphics card. One of the key elements to eGFX is price and look, and AKiTiO has placed the Node at $299, but itcan fit graphics cards with massive coolers.

Enthusiasts started to experiment with external graphics over Thunderbolt 2 interface several years ago after multiple attempts of companies like ATI/AMD, ASUS and some others to develop commercial external GPU technologies had failed. Back in 2014, plugging a video card to a MacBook Pro using Thunderbolt 2 was costly: users had to buy a chassis for up to $1000 (there were cheaper methods, but they did not look solid), a PSU and a graphics board. The homebrew method worked, but had a number of limitations when it came to bandwidth, hot-plugging (more importantly, unplugging), driver support and some others, not to mention the aesthetics of such eGFX setups. Given the trend towards miniaturization of mobile and desktop PCs, the idea of external graphics was far too alluring to skip, which is why Intel decided to support it with its Thunderbolt 3 technology introduced in 2014. While technically TB3 is PCIe 3.0 x4 over a cable, to properly enable operation of external GPUs, Intel and its allies had to ensure support of eGFX hardware though operating systems, GPU drivers, firmware and so on. Earlier this year all pieces of the puzzle finally came together and the first “official” TB3 eGFX chassis were introduced by Razer and PowerColor.

While both Razer Core and PowerColor Devil Box do the job and even feature a couple of extras, they are rather expensive as they add more than just GPU features - $499 and $379, respectively. This week, AKiTiO, which has been offering external Thunderbolt enclosures for years, introduced its eGFX box that costs $299.99.

AKiTiO Node (NODE-T3IA-AKTU) eGFX Chassis Specifications
Max Video Card Size Double-Wide, 12.2" Long
(312 × 170 × 44 mm)
Max Video Card Power 300 W (?)
Connectivity 1 × Thunderbolt 3 (>40 Gbps via active cable)
Chassis Size 5.71 × 16.85 × 8.94 inches
(145 × 428 × 227 mm)
Internal PSU 400 W SFX
System Requirements Thunderbolt 3 eGFX Certified PC
Thunderbolt 3 w/Active Cable (included)
Windows 10
Shipping Date December 2016
Price $299

The AKiTiO Node is a 42.8 × 14.5 × 22.7 cm (16.85 × 5.71 × 8.94 inches) box made of stainless steel that is compatible with a variety of double-wide full-length/full-height AMD and NVIDIA graphics cards (see the list here). The Node comes with an integrated 400 W SFX PSU (which means that it can be upgraded) as well as one 120 mm fan. As for dimensions, the Node seems to be a little more spacious inside than its rivals, which is good for cooling and compatibility with custom video cards (such as those from ASUS or EVGA). Despite this, GPUs with hybrid cooling (integrated liquid cooling) are not supported, such as AMD Radeon R9 Fury X.

Comparison of Thunderbolt 3 eGFX Chassis
    AKiTiO
Node
BizonTech
BizonBox 3
PowerColor
Devil Box
Razer
Core
Chassis Dimensions Length 42.8 cm
16.85 in
36 cm
14.17 in
40 cm
15.748 in
34 cm
13.38 in
Height 22.7 cm
8.94 in
20.5 cm
8.07 in
24.2 cm
9.52 in
21.84 cm
8.6 in
Width 14.5 cm
5.71 in
8 cm
3.5 in
17.2 cm
6.77 in
10.5 cm
4.13 in
Max Dimension of Compatible Graphics Card Length 31.2 cm
12.2 in
Height
(PCB+Cables)
17 cm
6.7 in
over 14"
over 5.51"
14 cm
5.51 in
15.2 cm
5.98 in
Width 4.4 cm
1.73 in
5
1.96 in
4.4 cm
1.73 in
Maximum GPU Power 300 W (?) 375 W
PSU Wattage 400 W 200W/400W 500 W
Form-Factor SFX external internal proprietary
Cooling Fans 1 × 120 mm 2 × 60 mm unknown 3 × 80 mm
Connectivity Thunderbolt 1 × TB3 2 × TB3 1 × TB3
Ethernet     1 × GbE
USB - 4 × USB 3.0
SATA - 1×SATA 6Gb/s -
DisplayPort - 1 × DP 1.2 -
Availability December 2016 October 2016 April 2016
Price $299 $649 $379 $499

Unlike competing products, the AKiTiO Node is a pure external GPU box and nothing more. It does not have extra USB 3.0 ports (to connect a VR headset, for example), a GbE controller nor a SATA connector. This naturally cuts down its costs and allows Akito to sell the eGFX enclosure at $299 price-point, but additional USB ports will be greatly missed by owners of ultra-thin laptops as well as SFF PCs.

AKiTiO plans to start selling the Node (NODE-T3IA-AKTU) in December.

Source: AKiTiO

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  • 1_rick - Thursday, November 17, 2016 - link

    Once you've already dropped $1000 on a Skull Canyon (or, maybe an Ultrabook with a great CPU but lame GPU) you may not want to buy a whole nother computer just for gaming. Reply
  • Lolimaster - Monday, November 14, 2016 - link

    Things things should MXM gpu's and external power brick. Reply
  • farzher - Monday, November 14, 2016 - link

    Why the heck is an EMPTY BOX that holds a graphics card more expensive than a graphics card? x_x

    These need to be around 100$
    The m.2 eGPU setups cost around 30$
    Why is the thunderbolt price such a ripoff?
    Reply
  • beginner99 - Tuesday, November 15, 2016 - link

    You are right but if Intel charges you $100 per TB3 controller...then there isn't much room. Reply
  • xype - Tuesday, November 15, 2016 - link

    They’re not charging that much, but from what I know they are picky with who and what they certify.

    I think it’s simpler than that; lack of competition. If you’re the only kid on the block you can charge $600. If you want to compete with the company charging $600, charging $500 will work.

    We’re at $300 now, so here’s hoping that in 6 months or so we’ll get to $200.
    Reply
  • A5 - Tuesday, November 15, 2016 - link

    Yeah, but even if it is $25 for the controller chip, then you add $50 or so for the SFX PSU, a few more for the fan and case, plus whatever amortized engineering costs...they're probably making a decent margin on this thing, but not the outrageous amount you'd think at first glance. Reply
  • xype - Tuesday, November 15, 2016 - link

    Sure, and as long as there isn’t much competition around they will continue to have higher margins. If enough people start buying those, prices will come down anyway. But yeah, something like that isn’t really comparable to a self-built franken-eGPU, so it’s a bit simplistic to calculate costs like was done above. Reply
  • KimGitz - Tuesday, November 15, 2016 - link

    I love that they haven't included another Thunderbolt 3 port for daisy chaining or any other ports (USB, Ethernet, SATA, Audio, SD Card). For eGPUs you really want all the bandwidth from the PCIe 3.0 x 4 to be dedicated to the GPU.
    I can see a dock on the main image just infront of the HTC VR headset. When you think about it if you have more than 2 Thunderbolt ports ( as long as they dont share the same PCIe 3.0 X 4 lane) AkiTiO could actuall be selling you two seperate products for roughly price of the Razer Core.
    I don't see the point of trying to install a water cooled card as an eGPU since really is such devices are mainly used for gaming in environments where the fan noise from the GPU and 120mm won't be an issue.
    I'm really liking the turn of events for Thunderbolt, this third version has brought a lot ofjoy especially to Windows users.
    For me the biggest advantage is theThunderbolt Audio and Video interfaces that can now be used with Windows as well as Mac for production.
    Recently Intel indicated that they will natively support USB 3.1 in their chipsets, I wish they could support Thunderbolt natively on their chipsets too.
    I hope those Thunderbolt fibre cables come soon and at an affordable price. 2 meter copper cables are too short for some situations.
    The price of eGPUs should $200 or cheaper. In an article on here discussing Series 100 Chipsets/Motherboards and Skylake, Gigabyte mentioned that it costs around $20 for the Alpine Ridge controller.
    Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Tuesday, November 15, 2016 - link

    No-one, not one single person, should buy these devices. Why not? The price. Just look at what's included above! £99 should be the price with smart looking devices being around £150. But WHY? You then have to buy the gpu which, frankly, are also over priced. By the time you've finished you might as well buy a laptop and desktop. Reply
  • xype - Tuesday, November 15, 2016 - link

    I, too, want a MacBook Pro for $999. But I guess both of us can dream. :P Reply

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