Back in January, Sonnet announced updated versions of its eGPU Breakaway Pucks, offering new options equipped with Radeon RX 5500 XT and RX 5700 graphics processors for Intel-based Macs. The docks connect to a host Mac over Thunderbolt 3 and allow for more powerful graphics capabilities than the included graphics in many Macs while also providing some dock capabilities such as additional USB ports and display connections.

sonnet pucks
I've been testing out both versions of the Breakaway Puck for a few weeks now, and I've found that they do offer significantly better graphics performance, particularly if you're using an older machine like the 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro with Radeon Pro 450 graphics that I use as my main machine.

Both models of the eGPU Breakaway Puck have the same design, featuring a metal enclosure with perforations on the top, front, and sides to help ventilate the dock, which can get quite hot during heavy usage. A large fan is designed to exhaust heat out through the top of the dock, and it will cycle on and off as needed.

sonnet puck front
The docks measure in at about 6 inches by 5 inches and about 2 inches high, so a bit larger than some standard Thunderbolt 3 docks like my favored CalDigit TS3 Plus, but the Sonnet docks of course come with eGPU capabilities and the large fan that require a larger size. It's still a pretty compact design that fits well on a desk.

The overall look is pretty unobtrusive with the black metal and fairly small branding with the company and product name. The most distinctive design element is a wavy blue light on the top of the dock that gives it a bit of a splash and lets you know that it's powered up and connected to a computer.

sonnet puck mac
The Radeon RX 5500 XT version comes with 4GB of GDDR6 video memory, while the Radeon RX 5700 model comes with 8GB.

To quantitatively assess the eGPU performance, I ran several benchmarks using both my machine's built-in graphics and the Breakaway Pucks, and I unsurprisingly found significant improvements when using the eGPU.

For my first test, I used Geekbench 5's Compute Benchmark, which rang up Metal scores of averaging 12,085 over three runs using the built-in discrete graphics on my MacBook Pro. Scores improved substantially when I added Sonnet's Breakaway Puck to my system, with the 5500 XT yielding Metal scores averaging 41,595 and the 5700 averaging 56,249. As a point of comparison, I also ran the test on an M1 MacBook Air with 7-core GPU, and that came in with an average score of 18,828.

geekbench
My next set of tests came from the GFXBench Metal suite of benchmarking tools, and I similarly found massively improved frame rates in several popular offscreen benchmark tests, again averaged over three runs for each test. In all three benchmarks, the 5500 XT Breakaway Puck delivered approximately four times as many frames per second as my MacBook Pro did on its own, while the 5700 XT puck's advantage was more like five to six times. As with the Geekbench tests, the ‌M1‌ ‌MacBook Air‌ came in somewhere in the middle.

gfxbench
My final set of tests involved some rendering using DaVinci Resolve. My test footage was a nearly 11-minute 4K clip that I rendered without any additional processing to 1080p using several different codecs: H.264, Apple ProRes 422, and Apple ProRes 422 HQ.

These tests are where things started to get a bit more interesting, as while both pucks cut render times by more than half compared to my MacBook Pro running on its own, the results for the two pucks were very similar and in some cases, the 5500 XT GPU performed better than the 5700 GPU.

With DaVinci Resolve also having just been updated with Apple silicon support, I was also able to run the tests on my ‌M1‌ ‌MacBook Air‌, where I once again found intermediate performance, which is quite impressive for a low-end consumer machine using Apple's first effort at a custom Mac chip, and it'll be very interesting to see how much Apple can improve performance on upcoming M-series chips aimed at more powerful Macs.

davinci
I talked with the folks at Sonnet about my results and my observations that the renders were not making full use of the eGPUs' capabilities over the course of each run, starting out at nearly 100% but tailing off toward 70% or less after a minute or so.

Sonnet's engineering team concluded that it appeared the rest of my MacBook Pro's hardware was a limiting factor in my tests, as even when using an eGPU, the CPU and other components like system memory can become performance bottlenecks. In those cases, the eGPU ends up being at the mercy of thermal throttling or other constraints of the host system and unable to reach peak speeds.

For that reason, it's worth highlighting that, at least for my MacBook Pro, the very similar performance between the two eGPUs means that for certain tasks the 5500 XT puck performs just as well as the more expensive 5700 puck, so that's something you might want to consider if you're weighing a purchase.

Moving on to the dock capabilities of the pucks, you won't see the breadth of port options available on some regular Thunderbolt docks, but they do give you some decent expansion options. Displays are obviously a big feature for docks to support, and Sonnet's pucks come equipped with a downstream Thunderbolt 3 port, a DisplayPort 1.4 port, and an HDMI 2.0b port for maximum connectivity.

sonnet puck rear
4K and 5K displays, and even Apple's 6K Pro Display XDR, are all compatible with the Breakaway Puck, and I tested things out with an LG UltraFine 5K display and had no issues. The puck can support up to four 4K displays simultaneously if you take advantage of the DisplayPort and HDMI ports and then use a Thunderbolt 3 to Dual DisplayPort or Dual HDMI adapter.

It would be nice to see a few other port options like Ethernet or some additional USB-C ports, but at least the two 5 Gbps USB-A ports support a broad range of peripherals. The dock can supply up to 60 watts of power to a host computer, which may not be quite enough if you've got a more powerful machine like a 15-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro, so you may have to connect a separate power adapter.

The fan on the Breakaway Puck does put out a decent bit of noise, so if you're used to a quiet work environment it will definitely be noticeable as it cycles on and off, particularly if it's placed prominently on your desk.

For power users who really need the GPU horsepower these Breakaway Pucks can provide, they are a solid addition in a space-saving and even portable design. With souped-up graphics capabilities, display connectivity, and some additional USB expansion, they are good options that can pay for themselves if you're a professional user looking to speed up graphics-intensive tasks. Most consumers will not, however, have a need for this additional hardware.

It would be nice to see some even newer and higher-end GPU options in these pucks, but it no doubt takes time to get them integrated into these dock designs, and there's undoubtedly also some effort by Sonnet to target a balance between price and power that will result in the broadest appeal for these accessories.

Of course, things become murkier looking toward the future, as Apple's latest Macs based on Apple silicon don't support eGPUs. But there are still plenty of Intel-based Macs out there, so Mac eGPU solutions like Sonnet's Breakaway Pucks will have a market for some time to come.

Sonnet's eGPU Breakaway Pucks come bundled with a fairly large external power brick that you'll need to tuck away somewhere and a 0.5-meter Thunderbolt 3 cable. The RX 5500 XT version is priced at $599.99 through Amazon and Sonnet, while the RX 5700 version is priced at $899.99 through Amazon and Sonnet.

Note: Sonnet provided MacRumors with the Breakaway Pucks on loan for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received.

Top Rated Comments

ArPe Avatar
4 weeks ago
Save the money. Sell your Intel and upgrade to the next 16” which will be awesome.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Apple Knowledge Navigator Avatar
4 weeks ago
I was interested until I saw the price
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ArPe Avatar
4 weeks ago

Does it contain technology derived from ancient alien technolgy? :p
FREE SHIPPING with Oumuamua Express.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
69Mustang Avatar
4 weeks ago

Bad timing for a product that isn't going to work with new Macs going forward. I wish them the best.
Not really. The product is specifically designed to work with and support the majority of Mac architecture; which is Intel. This will be the case (Intel majority) for years to come. Depending on who's stats you use, the average age of a computer is 5 to 8 years. -Probably a safe bet that most of the MR demographic fall into that average- I think there will be plenty of potential users. Potential being the key word. The demographic (eGPU) was already niche. So the switch to Apple Silicon really won't hit the eGPU makers anytime soon. As I said earlier, Intel Macs are going to be around for a long time... especially in business imo.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gavroche Avatar
4 weeks ago

Save the money. Sell your Intel and upgrade to the next 16” which will be awesome.
Does it contain technology derived from ancient alien technolgy? :p
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Edgecrusherr Avatar
4 weeks ago
Bad timing for a product that isn't going to work with new Macs going forward. I wish them the best.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

apple event spring loaded

Apple's 'Spring Loaded' Event Officially Announced for Tuesday, April 20

Tuesday April 13, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Following an overnight leak by Siri, Apple today officially announced that it will be holding a special "Spring Loaded" event on Tuesday, April 20 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. As with all of Apple's 2020 events, the April 2021 event will be a digital-only gathering with no members of the media invited to attend in...
iphone12cameras

Kuo: 2022 iPhones to Feature 48-Megapixel Camera, 8K Video, and 6.1 and 6.7" Sizes With No 5.4" Mini Option

Tuesday April 13, 2021 10:45 pm PDT by
The upcoming 2022 iPhone lineup will feature two 6.1-inch devices and two 6.7-inch devices, with no mini-sized 5.4-inch iPhone, well-respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in a note to investors that was seen by MacRumors. Two of the iPhones will be high-end models and two of the iPhones will be lower-end models, similar to the current iPhone 12 lineup. Apple introduced the 5.4-inch...
macos catalina serial number

Apple Preparing Rollout of New Randomized Product Serial Numbers Ahead of 'Spring Loaded' Event

Wednesday April 14, 2021 2:08 am PDT by
Apple is advising its authorized premium resellers and dealers to prepare for new products with 10 and 12 digital serial numbers, days ahead of when it's expected to reveal a slew of new products. MacRumors previously reported that Apple plans to switch to randomized serial numbers for future products starting in early 2021. The company now seems to be preparing for that roll-out, telling...
apple event particularly innovative article

Gurman: Apple's 'Spring Loaded' Event Won't Feature Anything 'Particularly Innovative'

Thursday April 15, 2021 1:30 am PDT by
Bloomberg's highly-respected Mark Gurman says that he expects nothing "particularly innovative" or "extraordinary" to launch at Apple's "Spring Loaded" event next week, Tuesday, April 20. Gurman made the remarks during an interview for Bloomberg Technology, in which he reaffirmed that Apple will launch a new 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, with the higher-end model featuring a brand new...
duanrui iphone13 notch samples

More Leaked iPhone 13 Samples Show Smaller Notch, Repositioned Earpiece and Front Camera

Wednesday April 14, 2021 1:06 am PDT by
Leaker known as "DuanRui" has today shared an image of two iPhone 13 "film samples," which show the same rumored smaller notch design coming to the iPhone 13 series that we've seen from other sources. In past tweets, DuanRui has accurately leaked the correct names of the iPhone 12 models and an iPad Air 4 manual revealing its new design, so there's good reason to think this leak is credible, ...
siir apple event april 20

Siri Reveals Apple Event Planned for Tuesday, April 20

Tuesday April 13, 2021 12:04 am PDT by
Siri has apparently prematurely revealed that Apple plans to hold an event on Tuesday, April 20, where the company is expected to reveal brand new iPad Pro models and possibly its long-awaited AirTags trackers. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Upon being asked "When is the next Apple Event," Siri is currently responding with, "The special event is on Tuesday, April...
apple event hashflag

Twitter Hashflag for April 20 Apple Event Goes Live

Tuesday April 13, 2021 2:21 pm PDT by
Following the overnight Siri leak and subsequent announcement that Apple will hold a media event on Tuesday, April 20, a new Twitter hashflag has appeared to help provide visibility for the event on the platform. For the last several recent events, Apple has utilized hashflags, which are little icons next to hashtags on Twitter, as a way to market its events. The company first started the...
parallels windows 10 arm mac

Parallels 16.5 Can Virtualize ARM Windows Natively on M1 Macs With Up to 30% Faster Performance

Wednesday April 14, 2021 7:00 am PDT by
Parallels today announced the release of Parallels Desktop 16.5 for Mac with full support for M1 Macs, allowing for the Windows 10 ARM Insider Preview and ARM-based Linux distributions to be run in a virtual machine at native speeds on M1 Macs. Parallels says running a Windows 10 ARM Insider Preview virtual machine natively on an M1 Mac results in up to 30 percent better performance compared ...
iphone 13 pro render rear

iPhone 13 Pro Rumored to Be Thicker and Feature Larger Rear Camera System

Wednesday April 14, 2021 7:07 am PDT by
Tech blog 91Mobiles has obtained 3D renders of what it claims will be the iPhone 13 Pro, revealing a largely familiar design with a few notable changes, including a smaller notch and a significantly larger rear camera system. Following renders of the standard iPhone 13 model from MySmartPrice yesterday, which showed a new diagonal rear camera layout, these renders of the 6.1-inch iPhone 13...
third gen Apple pencil leaked video

Video of Alleged Third-Generation Apple Pencil Leaks Ahead of Apple Event

Friday April 16, 2021 6:13 am PDT by
A video purporting to be of the third-generation Apple Pencil has today been shared online, showing a glossy finish that mirrors previous leaks. New ✏️ ready to 🚢 #AppleEvent @TommyBo50387266 pic.twitter.com/s4RCDwDi5M— 漢尼斯·拉斯納 🇨🇳 (@ileakeer) April 16, 2021 The brief video from Twitter account @ileakeer, spotted by 9to5Mac, shows an Apple Pencil with a glossy finish much like the...