A range of clever hardware devices from Sonnett Technologies Inc. From the large 'XServed' Mac Mini to the ExpressCard reader, these boxes expand your Mac using Thunderbolt.
The first product from Sonnett that caught our eye was the $1,295 xMac™ mini Server. This is for the hardware expansion kit, you have to supply the Mac Mini yourself. Before you laugh, checkout what Thunderbolt has enabled the xMac to do, this box was stopping people on the show floor.
"1U rackmount PCIe 2.0 expansion system with two Thunderbolt™ Ports mounts a Mac® mini inside a specially designed enclosure that also contains two x16 (x4 mode) PCIe 2.0 slots, a 150W power supply, and an installed Gigabit Ethernet card. This system enables users to plug in two PCIe 2.0 adapter cards (one half-length and one full-length) to slots connected to the Mac mini via locking Thunderbolt cables while allowing the connection of additional Thunderbolt peripherals to the daisy-chain Thunderbolt port."
Our favourite feature was the mechanical arm on the right hand site of the unit which transferred the on/off button movement to the back of the Mac Mini. Possible uses in the video world range from servers to metadata controllers for SANS.
Next up are the two Echo™ Express PCIe 2.0 Thunderbolt Expansion Chassis.
The $799 Echo can take two full length PCIe cards and the $599 Echo Express takes one half sized card. The units aren't small though as you can see from the scale of the standard issue FCP.co pen.
"The Echo™ Express PCIe 2.0 Expansion Chassis with Thunderbolt™ Ports enables users to plug in high-performance PCI Express® 2.0 adapter cards to any computer with a Thunderbolt port. Professional video capture, digital audio, 8Gb Fibre Channel, 10Gb Ethernet, and RAID controller cards are examples of the PCIe adapters that may be used. Available in two sizes, the standard Echo Express PCIe 2.0 Expansion Chassis supports one half-length, single- or double-width, x16 (x4 mode) PCIe 2.0 card while the XL model supports two single-width, full-length cards, or one double-width, full-length card. Both have integrated universal power supplies, fans to cool the cards, and two Thunderbolt ports to support daisy-chaining up to six devices to the host computer."
These boxes would enable Thunderbolt equipped Macs like a MacBook Pro or iMac to use PCIe cards such as a Kona 3G, Blackmagic Decklink or even a transcoding card such as the Red Rocket. It would be interesting to find out if another GPU card could utilised with DaVinci Resolve.
Last up and probably of most interest to us editors is the $149 Echo™ ExpressCard®/34 Thunderbolt™ Adapter.
This is perfect for getting your XDCAM EX footage into an NLE quickly. There are two models available, the standard model will transfer data at 2.5 Gb/sec and the Pro version doubles that to 5 Gb/sec.
"The Sonnet Echo™ ExpressCard®/34 Thunderbolt™ Adapter adds an ExpressCard/34 slot to any computer to which it’s connected, extending Thunderbolt technology-equipped Macs’ capabilities like never before. The adapter enables users of the latest iMac®, Mac® mini, MacBook Air®, and MacBook® Pro models with Thunderbolt ports to seamlessly connect compatible ExpressCard/34 cards from Sonnet and other manufacturers. ExpressCard/34 adapters offer users additional connectivity and functionality beyond what is available through their computers’ stock configuration."