Best Thunderbolt 2 Expansion Chassis

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Thunderbolt 2 is still relatively very new and breakthrough technology and if you are looking for a Thunderbolt 2 expansion chassis, your choices are fairly limited in number, although not limited in quality. Below, we have reviewed the only Thunderbolt 2 expansion chassis available in the market, at least for as of now, the Sonnet Technologies Echo Express SE II, a very good expansion chassis.

The Sonnet Technologies Echo Express SE II is primarily aimed at portable Mac users with very demanding audio and video recording needs, possibly working with studio quality video and audio production or audio/visual content editing.

In its marketing material, Sonnet Technologies have described the Echo Express II as a perfect companion for the portable Mac equipped audio professional who is looking to convert their MacBook Air, Pro or even their Mac Mini into a high end mobile studio.

Thunderbolt 2 expansion chassis - Sonnet Technologies Echo Express SE II

Whatever maybe your needs, here is a quick run through of the main features of this Thunderbolt 2 expansion chassis.

  • Thunderbolt 2 compatible
  • Up to 20 Gbps transfer speeds
  • 6.5′ x 11 x 4.6′
  • 3.7 lbs
  • 12 V external power source
  • 2 x PCIe 2.0/3.0 slots OR 2 X full height (7.75′) PCIe cards
  • +1 slot for a daughter card
  • Backwards compatible with first generation Thunderbolt technology
  • Aluminum build and design
  • Ventilated on the front, back and bottom
  • 2 Thunderbolt 2 ports to daisy chain up to 12 devices (6 on each port)
  • Automatically controlled variable cooling fan

Buy Sonnet Technologies Echo Express II from Amazon.com

The Echo Express II is a very good PCIe expansion chassis or a Thunderbolt 2 Expansion chassis. Then again, remember that it is the only Thunderbolt 2 expansion platform out there and only time will tell if the Echo Express SE II becomes a benchmark expansion chassis or if future competitors will emulate or better this product.

We personally liked it though.

Design

The aluminum build and finish is nice. Sonnet have done their best to put out a form factor that will complement stylish Mac computers like the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air. It doesn’t quite measure up to Apple’s style statement but at the same time it doesn’t fall woefully short either.

Weight

It is portable but it weighs close to 4 lbs. Again, with this being the only PCIe expansion chassis capable of supporting Thunderbolt 2 connections, we think you will quickly not mind the weight when you start to enjoy its performance capabilities.

Fan noise

Sonnet Technologies claims that the fan is super quiet. Well, it isn’t. Actually, the lack of a completely silent fan is the only real con that we would list for this PCIe Thunderbolt 2 expansion chassis. That is not to say that the fan is loud as that wouldn’t be true either. It is neither loud nor quiet but you will know that there is a fan humming inside, when it runs.

Can you accommodate this noise level in a studio like environment? You can. You will probably not want to but you definitely can.

Compatibility

Now, we come to the part that you are probably most interested in when considering the purchase of this Thunderbolt 2 expansion chassis, compatibility.

Sonnet have done an excellent job of trying to make the Echo Express II compatible with most of the popular pro audio cards, fiber channel devices, SSD, SAS/SATA devices, video capture and processing cards and high speed storage devices.

Below, you will find a quick run through of the Echo Express II’s compatibility capabilities. For a full and exhaustive look at the Sonnet Express II’s compatibility chart, as released by the manufacturers themselves, please go here.

Pro Audio

Compatible with most Pro Audio cards available from Avid, Lynx, RME, Solid State Logic and Universal Audio.

Video Capture and Processing

Compatible with most video capture and processing cards from AJA, Black Magic and Sienna Automation.

Storage

Compatible with Thunderbolt 2 storage devices from Sonnet Fusion, Tandberg Data, TOLIS and Storage DNA.

SSD

Compatible with most SSD devices from OWC and Sonnet

Ethernet Adapters

Compatible with ethernet adapters from Small Tree, Sonnet, ATTO and Myricom

Fibre Channel

Compatible with Fiber Channel devices from Apple, ATTO and Sonnet

PCIe Bus Extender

Compatible with PCIe bus extenders from Accusys and Sonnet

SAS/SATA

Compatible with SAS/SATA devices from Areca, ATTO, HighPoint and Sonnet

To conclude this Thunderbolt 2 expansion chassis review, we will say that the Sonnet Technologies Echo Express II is a definite go, not because it is the only available expansion chassis that supports Thunderbolt 2 but because it is a pretty good expansion chassis that will match your demanding mobile recording work requirements very well.

Moreover, Sonnet Technologies is a company that has been around a while, being an Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 expansion partner to big names like Adobe, Apple, ATTO, CalDigit and Lynx. Buy Sonnet Technologies Echo Express SE II from Amazon.com 

About the Author
Michelle, author at Mach Machines. A tech lover and an insatiable latte drinker. Michelle blogs about improving the personal computing experience.

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