AKiTiO has been a designer, OEM, and vendor of Thunderbolt products from day one. With Thunderbolt 3, technologies such as eGPU enclosures can now be taken seriously as the needed throughput for a high-strung GPU is now mostly available. Also, Thunderbolt 3 has given the end-user even more flexibility than past generations, with the move to this new generation, one cable now provides four times the data and twice the video throughput of any other on the market, all while supplying up to 100W of power.
AKiTiO played with the idea of an external PCIe enclosure with the Thunderbolt 2-powered Thunder2 PCIe Box. Now with the push to Thunderbolt 3, AKiTiO has launched an official solution called the Node.
The Node features a full aluminum enclosure with built in 400w power supply with a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface supplying 75 watts of power. This enclosure can accommodate a GPU up to 6.7 inches wide and 12.6 inches long, this should give plenty of room for those ASUS Strix and MSI TwinFrozr coolers.
The MSRP of the AKiTiO Node comes in at $299.99 with a two-year warranty.
Packaging is ample for the Node. We have the slightest bit of marketing and branding along the bottom and a sketch of the enclosure centered.
The scope of delivery is quite good with reading materials, cable ties, and a Thunderbolt 3 cable included.
The Node has a full mesh front again an all-aluminum design.
The rear I/O supports double slot cards with the Thunderbolt 3 connection right below.
Internally, we find much of the business takes place on the left with AKiTiO using a modular design. This allows PCBs to be swapped in and out allowing AKiTiO an easy upgrade path for products. The GPU PCB includes 75 watts of power from the PSU at the top while allowing additional power via two 8-pin connections off the PSU itself.
The front houses a 92mm fan to push cool air into your GPU.
The power supply comes from Enhance. It's 400 watts and has 33 amps on the 12v rail. For those that want a higher quality PSU, you can freely replace this unit with any SFX unit you desire.
For testing this unit, I had a spare RX460 lying around, so I installed and started testing.
I decided to use Unigine Superposition because it's heavily biased towards GPU and not so much the CPU and since my initial results above show the card used internally on our C6H this was very important. Using the 4K optimized profile, this card brought in a score of 1281.
The setup for using this drive externally included using our Alienware 15 R3. With this being a new platform, I was pleasantly surprised with a score of 1259. 22 points shy of our internal results.
The eGPU market has exploded over the last year; I'm not sure there is a single vendor not offering some sort of solution. For those that want a simple box for their MacBook or Ultrabook, the AKiTiO Node is a perfect solution that complements in aesthetics as well. Build quality is top notch, but with that, I am kind of suspect on the PSU, as don't know the brand and have been burned in the past with cheap units. I would have loved to see AKiTiO reach out to SilverStone or Corsair for a quality unit.
With an RX460, the Node was plenty, from our internal testing to external testing we lost 21 points in Unigine Superposition. Internally we grabbed a max of 11.57 FPS with an average of 9.58 FPS. Temperatures idled at 49c and maxed at 70c. Moving the GPU to the Node, we see temperatures at 48c idle and 69c max, and FPS coming in at 9.42 average and 11.28 max.
Setup of the AKiTiO Node was simple; a few screws open the enclosure, you install the card, and plug in any power. For the RX460, we had no issues due to its size and lack of PCIe power needs, but larger GPUs like a power hungry RX480 or Vega may need more attention to detail. The included Thunderbolt 3 cable I found a bit on the short side whereas I'd like to see a 2m cable or enough to get the box away from the Notebook included. With all of that, the Node represents one of the cheapest Thunderbolt 3 GPU solutions on the market, but it does have some serious competition in the Razer Core and Sonnet eGFX box.
Tyler's Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS Maximus IX Hero (buy from Amazon)
- CPU: Intel Core i7 7700K (buy from Amazon) / (Read our Review)
- Memory: G.SKILL TridentZ DDR4 3200 (buy from Amazon)
- Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Hybrid (buy from Amazon)
- OS Storage: Intel 730 480GB SSD (buy from Amazon) / (Read our Review)
- Secondary Storage: MyDigitalSSD BP5 512GB SSD (buy from Amazon)
- Case: EVGA DG-86 (buy from Amazon)
- Power Supply: EVGA SuperNOVA 750 P2 (buy from Amazon)
- Networking: ASUS PCE-AC88 AC3100 (buy from Amazon)
- Networking: ASUS ROG 10G Express
- Networking: ASUS Thunderbolt EX3 (buy from Amazon)
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 (buy from Amazon)
Last updated: Nov 15, 2019 at 01:16 pm CST
The Bottom Line: The Node is our first foray into external GPUs, but its a strong start with a budget-friendly solution that with a few tweaks could be the best bang for your buck.
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