Your laptop already comes with its own built-in specs, so if you want to upgrade, you need to buy another laptop. And, since modern games have become increasingly demanding, your 2-3-year-old laptop might not be able to run it.
Fortunately, there is one way you can increase its graphical prowess and that is with the use of an eGPU. Today, I am going to talk about the Sonnet Echo Express III-D, a unique eGPU enclosure that has risen to popularity since its release.
You see, other eGPU enclosures have USB ports and a lone PCIe x16 slot for the graphics card. But, what if you want to include other PCIe devices into the mix? That is why the Sonnet Echo Express III-D is unique; it has three PCIe slots: (2) PCIe x8 slots and (1) PCIe x16 slot for the graphics card. But, with its three PCIe slots, is this eGPU any good? We will find out.
Review of Sonnet Echo Express III-D
The Sonnet Echo Express III-D looks rather plain. It sports an all-black aluminum chassis for increased durability and it has a slim form factor. But despite its slim design, it can actually hold up to three PCIe devices; this including a full-sized graphics card.
There is no easy way to open the Sonnet Echo Express III-D as there are eight screws in the back that you need to unscrew before you can pull everything out. Once that is done, you will be greeted with the main board that has (2) PCIe x8 slots and (1) PCIe x16 slot in the middle. Just above the main board lies the power connectors that you can use for your PCIe devices.
You do have to take note, however, that despite this eGPU having three PCIe slots, it only has a 300-watt power supply included inside. This can limit you regarding what graphics cards you can use with this. For the most part, I highly suggest that you stick to some midrange graphics cards or those highly efficient ones like the Nvidia GTX 1070 which only requires 150-watts of power.
Just below the main board lies the Thunderbolt interface card. When the Sonnet Echo Express III-D was shipped to the public, it used a Thunderbolt 2 interface card, but you can actually ask for a Thunderbolt 3 interface card today. The interface card has two Thunderbolt 3.0 ports which allow you to not only plug it directly into your laptop of choice, but it also allows you to use the other port to daisy chain thunderbolt devices together.
There are vents at the top, front, and back of the card. The front vents are for intake while the back and the top vents are for the exhaust. It is actually a smart design because it efficiently removes heat from the chassis when your graphics card is under full load (especially when you’re gaming with maximum settings).
Sadly, the Sonnet Echo Express III-D doesn’t come with USB ports so the only way for you to plug your gaming mouse is via the laptop. Other than that, this eGPU seems to be pretty good, especially if you’re going to utilize its other PCIe slots. You can put in a LAN card, for example. Again, the only limitation here is that it only comes with a 300-watt power supply.
Setup can be a bit tricky. Again, there are eight screws you need to remove before you can push the board to reveal the mainboard. Before anything else, you may want to remove the interface card for the time being so that setup will be a bit less cumbersome.
Once the mainboard is pushed out, you can then place your graphics card on the PCIe x16 slot. If you want to add another PCIe device, you can do so, provided that it can be powered by the remaining wattage the included power supply can give.
Once you have every PCIe device you want plugged into the main board, you can now place the Thunderbolt interface card right back in. After it is plugged back in, you can then just push the main board back in its place and then screw everything back again.
Connect the Thunderbolt 3 cable and then plug it into your laptop or PC. The good thing is that this can also be used on a Mac laptop as well which is something you do not find on other popular eGPU enclosures. The other slot can be saved if you want to daisy-chain Thunderbolt devices. Just make sure that the Thunderbolt 2 devices get plugged in first before you plug the Thunderbolt 1 devices to ensure that they have the proper bandwidth allocation.
In terms of performance, the Sonnet Echo Express III-D performs pretty well, especially if you’re using the new Thunderbolt 3 standard. The problem here is that, again, you’re only limited to a maximum of 300 watts of power, so you won’t be able to plug in those power-hungry cards like the GTX Titan Xp. In spite of this limitation, you can put a full-sized graphics card inside, provided that it can be fed with enough power with the 300-watt included power supply.
The Sonnet Echo Express III-D comes with included fans and although they are small, they do a pretty good job of exhausting hot air outside of the chassis. Furthermore, there are also fans on the front that act as intake and again, it works pretty well. Just make sure that you do not put anything in front of the eGPU so that airflow will not be restricted.
As previously mentioned, the other Thunderbolt 3 port can be reserved for daisy-chaining multiple Thunderbolt devices. When you chain them properly, there will be no performance degradation.
The Sonnet Echo Express III-D is a unique eGPU enclosure. It has three PCIe slots that you can utilize. However, despite its main feature being unique, there is a limitation and that is the small power supply. The 300-watt power supply is severely limiting, especially if you want to plug a powerful graphics card in the enclosure.
But I guess, the company wanted this to be more than an eGPU enclosure more than anything. I wish there was an option to upgrade its power supply, but as of now, there is no upgrade option. The Sonnet Echo Express III-D doesn’t come cheap, however, because this enclosure costs $899. Its design, features, and performance are pretty good, but the only thing holding it back to becoming the perfect eGPU enclosure is its power supply.
- Slim form factor
- Three PCIe slots
- Two Thunderbolt 3 ports
- 300-watt power supply can be very limiting