How to expand you Mac or Windows PC with an External PCIe Expansion Box

Think outside the Box with PCIe Expansions

akitio-thunder2-pcie-box-angleopen-highres Stepping away from the subject of Storage and Backups, another decision you may have to make will be whether to invest your budget into a high-end Desktop setup or a more fluid, portable operation. Traditionally the problem has always been that portable operations via a Macbook, Laptop or Tablet are plagued by Hardware limitations. Not now though. With innovations in Thunderbolt and PCI Express Expansion technology, you can now install Upgrades and Hardware intended for Desktop setups in a highly portable PCIE expansion chassis. Need 4GB Graphics Card power in your Mac book – no problem. Large channelled Sound card – easy peasy.

QNAP PCIe cards However, with so many companies offering you varieties of PCIe expansions, it’s easy to get lost between compatibles and suit-abilities. Lets take a closer look at each manufacturers below and what’s the best of the best they have to offer.

First up, Sonnect Technologies – The Apple Recommended Choice

Sonnet Echo Express SE II Sonnet Echo Express SE II
Thunderbolt2 Expansion Chassis
2x Half-Length PCIe£346 ex.VAT
Sonnet Echo Express III-D Sonnet Echo Express III-D
Thunderbolt2 Expansion Chassis
3x Full-Length PCIe2 slot£696 ex.VAT
Sonnet Echo Express SEL Sonnet Echo Express SEL
Thunderbolt2 Bundle
Expansion Chassis + Presto 10GbE£768 ex.VAT

Netstor PCIe Expansions for Sound Cards, Graphics Cards and more

Netstor-_LOGO a - Copy Next, For those looking at expanding, but on a tighter budget – or they just want more bang for their buck, we have Netstor Technology. Whilst not as well known as Sonnet, they have been pioneering the PCIe Expansion market for a number of years with their early ‘TurboBox’ unique SAS range, available in both Desktop and MacBook / Laptop versions. Their latest products have been fully harnessing the Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt2 market. Definitely a contender in the PCE-Express stakes. Take a look at the pick of the litter below:

NetStor Thunderbolt2 NetStor Thunderbolt2
PCIe Expansion
Up to 3x PCI-Express v3.0 slots

+ 4x 2.5″ HDD Bay£805 ex.VAT
NetStor NA221A-NB NetStor NA221A-NB
ePCIe Expansion
Notebook Package
TurboBox Mini

(Inc. ExpressCard34 Card + Cable)£318.00 ex.VAT
NetStor PCIe NetStor PCIe
Expansion Tower
TurboBox GPU
6x PCI-Express-v3.0
(Inc. PCI-Express-x16 Card & Cable)
£1620.00 ex.VAT
Cost effective PCIe Expansions for Smaller users

startech logo only Last, lets take a look at the two lesser known companies of the Bunch – Akitio and  StarTech. Both have been around for a long time in a multitude of fields within Data storage, but have only recently decided to enter the PCIe market. Don’t be put off by their relatively thinner product range in PCI-E circles though, both come with high reviews and highly adaptable products. Both are Mac (OSx) and Windows compatible. Take a look below and see what we think stands out.

StarTech StarTech
PCI Express Full Length
£287 ex.VAT
AKiTiO 2xTB2 AKiTiO 2xTB2
ThunderBolt2 PCIe Box
1x PCI-Express-v2.0-x16
£218 ex.VAT
StarTech pcie StarTech
4 Slot PCI Expansion System
£239 ex.VAT

Pro Tip – PCI-Express cards comes in a variety of speeds and physical sizes. Always check that the expansion you are considering can accommodate the card you have in mind. Look at:

1. Speed – Is it x4, x8, x16? Make sure you buy a PCIE expansion that can accommodate your Card’s speed level Such as The Netstor NA211TB which supports all the way upto 16x.

2. Profile – Think of this as the Width. If your PCI-E card is not Low Profile, make sure the expansion can house it correctly – the reverse is also true.

3. Height – Whether your card is Half Height or Full Height is also an important consideration. Particularly if you plan on housing more than one card in your expansion. Some units will either house 2 Half-Height or 1 Full-Height…not both!

Click Here for more options on PCI-EXPRESS expansions via either Thunderbolt or SAS options.