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Magma launches three Thunderbolt to PCI-e expansion chassis

updated 05:00 pm EST, Tue November 12, 2013

Units support three PCI-e cards, one model embeds a Mac mini internally

Magma has announced pricing and availability for three new Thunderbolt to PCIe expansion products. The product family is called Roben-3 and is designed to be the expansion solution for creative professionals who have adopted the Thunderbolt interface as the main high-speed input-output option, such as users of the upcoming Mac Pro.

The rack-mountable aluminum chassis was designed for integrated removable storage expansion, with room for up to eight hot-pluggable 2.5-inch SSD, SAS or SATA hard drives. The units connect through Thunderbolt interfaces at 10Gbps, with the option of 20Gbps bandwidth with the roll-out of Thunderbolt 2-capable devices. Roben-3 systems feature Magma's Quiet Temperature Controlled (QTC) cooling and a 540-watt power supply.

One model of the Roben-3 also allows users the option of hosting a Mac mini within the chassis, creating an integrated rackmount server with direct Thunderbolt connection to three-slot PCIe expansion slots. Mac mini external connectivity is provided through the front and rear panels, with the ability to upgrade to an iLok housing -- allowing users to secure valuable application or plug-in licenses right to the chassis.

The Roben-3TX has a pair of 5.25-inch bays, and room for three full-length, full-height PCI-e slots. The Roben-3TS also has the three PCI-e slots, but replaces the pair of 5.25-inch bays with eight 2.5-inch SATA drive bays. The Roben-3TM replaces the drive slots in the other two models with an area to embed the Mac mini directly in the case.

The Roben-3TX retails for $1,399. The Roben-3TS and -3TM both retail for $1,899.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. Altivec88

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-12-13

    Although I love the New MacPro's, this is exactly what I was afraid of. The New MacPro's pricing is out of whack. I normally upgrade my Mac Pro every couple of years and for the same money, I usually get a 150% to 200% speed increase for the same money. I currently have a mid 2010 12 core 2.66 that I paid under $5000. With this I got 3 PCI-e slots, and 4 drive bays. So after waiting almost 4 years to upgrade (because there was nothing compelling to upgrade to) I have to get something like a Roben-3Ts at $1899 just to have comparable expansion to what I have. That leaves me with $3100 for the MacPro which happens to be the cost of the cheapest Mac Pro. I don't care how improved the Xenon E5 is, I find it hard to believe that a 4 core chip is going to even come close to matching my current 12 core machine, never mind beating it by 150%.(Which I already had missed a two year upgrade cycle).

    Although I really want to support Apple with these New MacPro's I can not justify to pay this kind of money for such a slight improvement. I am afraid that the MacPro is going to end up being a flop strictly based on the (expansion price + machine price)/performance relative to the previous generation machines.

  1. James Katt

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 03-02-08

    Macs Pros are NEVER inexpensive. A Top of the line 2010 12-core Mac Pro with all the options costs $10,000. The new Mac Pro 2013 is going to be the same. Expensive. But worth it for Mac lovers.

    It is the same issue with cars. Sure, the Tesla is going to cost you $120,000 or MORE. But you can get a much cheaper BMW for $50,000 that can go just as fast.

    The new Mac Pro's pricing is cheap compared to the cost of its components. An Intel Xeon E5 with 12 cores costs $5000 alone. Two AMD FirePro GPUs cost $7000. This and the rest of the computer is going to cost you less than $12,000. And it keeps its value well.

    Thus the New Mac Pro is WORTH IT. Whether or not you can afford it depends on whether or not you have a good enough job.

  1. prl99

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 03-24-09

    @Altivec, I totally agree. I'm still waiting to see a reasonably priced TB2 RAID system. At this point, I don't see myself expanding past the included video cards but I definitely need storage.

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    You're making a number of presumptions that may turn out to be inaccurate. We don't yet know how fast the new Mac Pro is -- the entire system works together to produce true productivity, some benchmarks on the E5 don't tell the whole story (remember that Apple offloads a lot of work onto the GPU these days).

    Secondly, my understanding is that a new Mac Pro can be configured with up to 12 cores (boy I'd hate to see the price tag on that).

    Anyway, time will tell. But I think you're jumping to conclusions.

  1. Altivec88

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-12-13

    @ James. Like I mention I buy MacPro's every couple of years so I know they are expensive. I own many companies so money is not a problem, that does not mean I throw money around for no reason. When buying a system I look at the overall performance/dollar. That does not mean spend $10000 and get the best one. Like I said I paid $5000 to get a 12 core 2.6's almost four years ago because I found those to be the best price/dollar ratio. I understand your point if you don't have MacPro's already, but I have several that I would like to upgrade. So in order for me to upgrade, I need to see a substantial improvement without breaking the bank.

    To use your analogy. If I bought a Tesla last year for $120,000 and this year they release a new one that looks cool and has a new fancy paint job, Its cheaper at only $110,000 but they removed the battery pack that you have to buy separately for $40 000 in order to run the thing and if you want a motor that matches what you already have, you have to upgrade that to the supreme model for $80 000 more. There comes a point where you go this is stupid, I think I'll keep what I got.

  1. Altivec88

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-12-13

    @ chas_m.... Your point that I am making a number of presumptions is a fair one. Like you, I am assuming that the 12 core is going to cost an arm and a leg. It could only be $500 more (LOL!) and my point would be less relevant.

    Preliminary bench marks show that my 2010 12 core will easily trounce a 4 core E5. So with the proof and pricing information I have today, $5000 will get me something slower than what I got 4 years ago for the same money. You are right that the GPU will also play into this and I just don't know how much of an affect this will have or if my software will even take advantage of openCL in this way. I may be wrong on all of this and I will definitely keep an open mind, but I will not be upgrading my MacPro's until I have proof that a $5000 system will soundly beat what I already have.

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    Fair enough, Altivec88.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Did everybody miss that this thing connects to MacBooks and Mac minis, too?

    Magma have been the standard solution for laptop expansion for over fifteen years.

  1. hayesk

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 09-17-99

    If I may ask, Altivec88, what do you use the PCIe slots for right now? Also what work do you do? Does it benefit from having more cores?

  1. drbenru

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 01-20-07

    Thunderbolt expansions tend to be ridiculously overpriced. I blame Intel http://goo.gl/qQp9k I hope they don't stifle the growth of a great technology by being overly intrusive and protective of what can and cannot be done with it.

    As for Magma, I haven't used their products, I don't know how good they are. I do know that Sonnet is a decent company and the products I've bought from them have been solid performers. They also make a thunderbolt chassis for 3 PCI-e slots in both desktop and rack mount and its way cheaper than magma. http://goo.gl/xIDbb the desktop version is under $1K and the rack mount is $1200. They are also providing a free upgrade to thunderbolt 2.

    As far as value, James Katt is right, the components alone cost so much you are actually paying an excellent price for the system. I believe part of the high expected cost comes from the perception that thunderbolt is a PRO only technology and I hope that is not its intent. Now wether this new system gives you an actual performance increase is highly dependent on what you do and how your software works.

    The fact that the new Mac Pro has 6 thunderbolt 2 ports makes me think that Apple fully expects many, if not all the new hardware "cards" to be standalone thunderbolt devices. And until that happens your PCI-e cards will have to go into chasis.

    As it stands today, there are no bridge boards, raid boards or any other component level items like you can find for USB3 USB2 or even firewire. You can't get your own Thunderbolt to SATA III adapter or any other convenient thing like that. If you're not willing to pay and arm and a leg your only recourse is to hack around with components made for thunderbolt and make a kludgy setup that negates the benefit of simplicity that thunderbolt offers.

    It makes no sense for one manufacturer to have a chassis that does the same thing, that probably uses almost the very same components and charges 100% more than the other. It seems the industry sees Mac PRO customers as big pots of gold to be emptied as fast as possible.

    I'm dying to have more affordable thunderbolt components. I don't do high end stuff, but I was blown away when I borrowed a dual hard drive thunderbolt dock. I duplicate drives and install custom images for different machines and the speed of thunderbolt is awesome. And I can keep doing all my work from my MacBook Air if I could just afford to get multiple docks daisy chained. As it stands the docks cost me 6 times the price of the same two drive dock in USB3 ($35 vs $199). I cannot justify the expense for a 20% increase in speed (this price difference is same dock from same manufacturer thunderbolt vs usb3).

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by drbenruView Post

    Thunderbolt expansions tend to be ridiculously overpriced. I blame Intel Thunderbolt still a 'niche' due to Intel licensing requirements I hope they don't stifle the growth of a great technology by being overly intrusive and protective of what can and cannot be done with it.

    As for Magma, I haven't used their products, I don't know how good they are. I do know that Sonnet is a decent company and the products I've bought from them have been solid performers. They also make a thunderbolt chassis for 3 PCI-e slots in both desktop and rack mount and its way cheaper than magma. Sonnet - Echo Express III-D and III-R Thunderbolt 2 PCIe Expansion Chassis the desktop version is under $1K and the rack mount is $1200. They are also providing a free upgrade to thunderbolt 2.



    Magma has been the default external expansion chassis in the audio and video industries for a long time.

  1. Altivec88

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-12-13

    @hayesk. Right now I don't have anything major for PCIe cards. Just a USB 3 card and a video capture card. I know that USB3 is included and that I can easily get an external capture box but I am just use to the piece of mind of having PCI expansion for when new technologies come out in the future. You did get me thinking that I just may not require PCI anymore. The only biggy would be if the GPU's are soldered in and not upgradable. So I can probably subtract PCIe from the price of the MacPro but I am also sure that anything I have to get externally in the future will be more expensive due to a case and power supply being required for every piece.

    What will be for sure required though is some external drive bay system. The internal SSD may be great for system software and applications but I can't think of too many pro's that can live with 256GB and flash drives are just not feasible for mass storage. This will definitely have to be added to the MacPro's base price.

    What do I do you ask. Well, I do a little of everything (video,graphics,web,photography,database) but the majority of my time is spent doing architectural 3D design. I use vectorworks/renderworks to do my CAD work and renderings. The software does utilize all 12 cores (24 threads) of my current system at full blast when rendering. I require my rendering times to decrease in order for me to justify an upgrade. I don't care if its called a 2 core or 64 core system or if it uses openCL to get there. The bottom line is that if those times don't go down considerably, its not going to happen. Again, this also goes with the caveat of not spending over $5000 with a driveway, which is the cost of the system it is replacing.

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