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$299 OWC Mercury Helios (16Gbps TB2) Discussion

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http://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/HELIOS1TB2/

Anybody have any experience using this enclosure?

Price:

Sits in between the Akitio Thunder2 and the Sonnet SEL, without the small size of the SEL and (perhaps) without the power slot restrictions of the Akitio.

Specs:

- Power adapter is 120W

- Supports single double width, full height, half length card.

- PCIe slot is 16x mechanical, 4x electrical (like all other TB2 enclosures)

- "25W (slot) +75W (supplemental power cable)" - What does this mean? Does the slot really deliver 75W as per PCIe spec?

Usage:

I'm still looking for a self contained solution that can power a <75W eGPU like the GTX 750Ti (and perhaps its successor, GTX 950Ti?).

So far, the Akitio needs an external PSU due to 25W PCIe slot power restriction, and the SEL is too small and needs a riser, besides being more expensive. The Sonnet EE SEII works best right now, but is even more expensive.

Any thoughts/use/discussion?

Full specs:

Product Specifications:

PCIe cards supported

  • One half-length (up to 7.75"), full-height, double-width x16 PCIe 2.0 card

Expansion slot

  • One PCIe 2.0 x16 (4x mode)

Device Interface

  • PCIe (PCI Express)

Port Configuration

  • (2) Thunderbolt 2 ports, backwards compatible with Thunderbolt

Compliances

  • CE
  • FCC

Max Data Transfer Rate

  • Thunderbolt – 20Gbps

Bootability

  • Bootable on Mac as long as the specific PCIe card installed is bootable

System Requirements

  • Mac running OS X 10.9 or later
  • PC running Windows 7 or later
  • Available Thunderbolt port
  • Note; Boot Camp® is not supported. The Thunderbolt certification process does not include Macs running Windows through Boot Camp.

External Case Dimensions

  • 5.7 in (W) x 9.2 in (D) x 2.9 in (H)
  • 114.78 mm x 233.68 mm x 73.66 mm

Enclosure Weight (without card)

  • 3.85 lbs. (1.75kg)

Product Manual

PCIe Card Minimum Guaranteed Power

  • 25W (slot) +75W (supplemental power cable)

Power Supply

  • UL Listed
  • Universal auto-switching power supply
  • AC input 100/240V 50/60Hz
  • DC output 12V/10A
  • Adapter cables for International use sold separately.

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All sizes of ×4 and ×8 PCI Express cards are allowed a maximum power consumption of 25 W. All ×1 cards are initially 10 W; full-height cards may configure themselves as 'high-power' to reach 25 W, while half-height ×1 cards are fixed at 10 W. All sizes of ×16 cards are initially 25 W; like ×1 cards, half-height cards are limited to this number while full-height cards may increase their power after configuration. They can use up to 75 W (3.3 V × 3 A + 12 V × 5.5 A), though the specification demands that the higher-power configuration be used for graphics cards only, while cards of other purposes are to remain at 25 W.

From Wikipedia: PCI Express - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

So it seems AKiTiO and OWC are giving these boxes the exakt amount of power they should provide to anything besides GPUs = 25W in the Slot.

A supplemental power cable should be a 6-Pin PCIe power cable = 75W.

This box is very interessting, but there might be a problem with GPUs which need more than 25W from the PCIe slot...

A GTX 750Ti with a 6-Pin power connector might work (maybe).

Edit: If you take a look at the manual of the OWC you can see that the internal looks pretty much the same, as the AKiTiO. Maybe they have the same supplier?!

Can't see anything of the supplemental power cable....

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Well I've used the GTX 750Ti, which is rated at about 60W, in the Sonnet SEL, whose slot is rated at 75W, and it worked without issues. Nando also confirms that the PCIe power spec states that it should power up to 75W.

In the case of the Akitio, the 25W limitation seems artificially limited. Now that you mention it, the OWC does look a lot like the Akitio. The pics in the OWC manual (http://eshop.macsales.com/tech_center/manuals/OWCMANHELIOS1.2.pdf) do look awfully like the Akitio. If it is just a rebranded product, then yeah we would have every reason to buy the cheaper Akitio.

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Maybe the reseller price will be lower...? I think it is an interressting product as it can provide the additional 75W by a 6-Pin PCIe cable. Just curious how they do that? By connecting that cable to the free 4-Pin on the PCB in the lower area, right next to the power socket?

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This is a rebadged AKiTiO Thunder2 as is evident studying the internal pics in the PDF guide. Only noticable differences being:

- costs is US$299 versus $200 for the AKiTiO unit

- has a 3yr warranty versus 2yr of the AKiTiO unit

- OWC labelling on the front faceplate

- the outer shell feet are on the longer side making it a shorter but fatter unit when 'upright'

- comes with a 120W AC adapter rather than 60W. They specify the power as 25W (slot) + 75W supplemental connector.

Suspect the AC adapter supplied has some form of splitter to provide a DC jack and PCIe power output.

- the video shown against the product is not the product since it's a 3-slot unit. It's a OWC Helios II

Overall, only better features are the warranty and the bigger PSU. Not worth the extra $99 for it.

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I think this one is very interesting if it does in fact have a power connector. That would make for a very compact and simple case that can be used with a GTX750Ti or maybe even a 960, without the hassle of external PSU's and modifications.

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GTX 960 can only work if the OWC can provide more than the 100W and more than the 25W on the PCIe slot. Especially with all the higher clocked versions compared to Nvidias base model.

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I think this one is very interesting if it does in fact have a power connector. That would make for a very compact and simple case that can be used with a GTX750Ti or maybe even a 960, without the hassle of external PSU's and modifications.

I agree. It has a free 4-pin power socket, which should be able to output nearly 75W (based on my tests of AKiTiO's 4-pin power consumption).

post-28870-14494999367783_thumb.jpg

Would be interesting to know if they provide a 4-pin to 6-pin cable for that or a splitter from the PSU.

It’s hard to distinguish the markings of the AKiTiO 4-pin yellow cable, but it looks like 22 AWG, 80°C, 300V. If the outer chassis was a bit higher than AKiTiO’s, it would be possible to fit also non-low-profile 6-pin power plug. However, the manual says it’s the same 14.9cm (including the feed pad I guess).

EDIT: Hmm.. in pdf the enclosure is positioned differently - if it is indeed 14.9cm without the feet, there is more room (maybe extra ~5-6mm) inside for the 6-pin plug!

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I got this answer from the OWC support:

Right that is basically stating that it can provide up to 25w on the pci slot itself but if more is required as by some cards you can use an supplemental power cable as you would for the card inside a computer and connect to the Aux. power ports on the motherboard. In this case the Aux power port on the controller inside the Helios.

Sincerely,

OWC Jose S

Technical Customer Service Rep

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I agree. It has a free 4-pin power socket, which should be able to output nearly 75W (based on my tests of AKiTiO's 4-pin power consumption).

[ATTACH=CONFIG]13936[/ATTACH]

Would be interesting to know if they provide a 4-pin to 6-pin cable for that or a splitter from the PSU.

It’s hard to distinguish the markings of the AKiTiO 4-pin yellow cable, but it looks like 22 AWG, 80°C, 300V. If the outer chassis was a bit higher than AKiTiO’s, it would be possible to fit also non-low-profile 6-pin power plug. However, the manual says it’s the same 14.9cm (including the feed pad I guess).

EDIT: Hmm.. in pdf the enclosure is positioned differently - if it is indeed 14.9cm without the feet, there is more room (maybe extra ~5-6mm) inside for the 6-pin plug!

You've figured it out. A while ago I got some info on how the 25W slot limit could be extended. Originally the message didn't make any sense but now it does. The J6 plug is how they are splitting off a 120W AC adapter to feed PCIe power. So the OWC must come with a 4pin-to-6P PCIe cable. This from a AKiTiO engineer:

Re: Development for graphics applications

Message: The board is designed for a maximum of 25W on the PCIe slot, this cannot be modified. The only option for extra power to the card is with that 4-pin connector and a bigger power adapter that is plugged into the existing DC jack.

You mentioned that you have the skills to modify the circuit board yourself, so with this drawing, you should be able to add a 4-pin connector to the pins labelled J6 for extra power. You can then replace the power adapter with a more powerful one sufficient for 75W. Having said that, the maximum power must NOT exceed 120W and as you said earlier, the modification is at your own risk.

mMwJg06.jpg

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Yes, and the spots for C3 and C4 are on the board already.

Save yourself $100 and make the mod yourself.

What i would really like to know is what all the empty spots on the PCIE board are for. Two giant caps C12 and C13, a coil, some buck controllers, and a large power plug, all laid out but left off.

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Have had confirmation that AKiTiO makes the OWC Mercury Helios with slightly different componentry specced at 120W (25W slot + PCIe power).

On Saturday, 14 February 2015, 5:17, Richard Wright wrote:

Hi Nando,

Good eye! Yes, we do make the OWC unit as well. However, our unit can only be sold with the PSU that it was certified with. I will check to see if we can sell the 120Watt adapter separately and how much it would cost.

Best regards,

Richard

RICHARD WRIGHT

Vice President

Sales & Marketing

AKITIO

Tel: (657) 216-2222 / Fax: (408) 657-4686

2951 Saturn St. Suite B, Brea, CA 92821 - USA[

----

Nando wrote:

120W AKiTiO Thunder2?

One query if I may. We've discovered that a US$299 OWC Helios is a rebadged AKiTiO Thunder but is shipped with a 120W AC adapter, and with a few components added onto the DC board allowing power splitting(See http://forum.techinferno.com/enclosures-adapters/8848-%24299-owc-mercury-helios-16gbps-tb2-discussion.html#post121898 ). Those details available for our AKiTiO users now who may want to use a 120W AC adapter.

Q: can you make available a separate 120W product like the OWC for a little more $$? That could be of interest to users wanting to attach a GTX750 card or GTX960 (120W) via card using only the supplied AC adapter.

Regards,

Nando

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Would it be possible to make this work with an R9 AMD graphics card? Or is it the same story as with the AKITO?

Is there a risk that I'll blow any components in the OWC Helios if I use a 170W graphics card (R9 270X)? Is the included 120 W PSU really the only bottleneck keeping us from using higher power cards in the enclosure?

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The OWC has the specs for 100W, but the PSU can provide 120W. Higher loads will be possible, but than the PSU is running out of specs.

Buy that you can damage the PSU and you can't tell if the system is even working with a high load card.

Better to get a AKiTiO with an additional PSU.

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The OWC has the specs for 100W, but the PSU can provide 120W. Higher loads will be possible, but than the PSU is running out of specs.

Buy that you can damage the PSU and you can't tell if the system is even working with a high load card.

Better to get a AKiTiO with an additional PSU.

100W makes sense. Each TB port providing up to 10W to peripherals with 2 of them on the OWC/AKiTiO unit, so 120W-20W=100W.

100W giving pretty much only a GTX750Ti to play with. Hardly worth paying $299 for the 120W OWC unit when can get the 60W AKiTiO for $110 less. See http://forum.techinferno.com/enclosures-adapters/7205-us%24189-akitio-thunder2-pcie-box-16gbps-tb2.html

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I would use a 700 or 900 series NVIDIA card if it weren't for the fact that NVIDIA's card are limited to using 25 % of the available VRAM under OpenCL rendering (probably to make developers move over to CUDA, idiotic). Since the main reason for me to buy new graphics is rendering in Indigo, which boasts an OpenCL GPU rendering mode, I really need a minimum of 3 or 4 GB of ram for my heavies scenes. Quadro cards with 12 GB are definitely out of my budget, and would still give me less headroom memory wise than a 200$ 270X 4GB.

Man, this is frustrating.

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I would use a 700 or 900 series NVIDIA card if it weren't for the fact that NVIDIA's card are limited to using 25 % of the available VRAM under OpenCL rendering (probably to make developers move over to CUDA, idiotic). Since the main reason for me to buy new graphics is rendering in Indigo, which boasts an OpenCL GPU rendering mode, I really need a minimum of 3 or 4 GB of ram for my heavies scenes. Quadro cards with 12 GB are definitely out of my budget, and would still give me less headroom memory wise than a 200$ 270X 4GB.

Man, this is frustrating.

You could consider HD 7970, take a look at this:

http://forum.techinferno.com/enclosures-adapters/7205-us%24189-akitio-thunder2-pcie-box-16gbps-tb2-100.html#post124442

I am waiting for the Indigo 4, supporting multiple OpenCL AMD cards: Indigo 3.8 | Indigo Renderer

"Multi-GPU support allows near-linear scaling - just add more GPUs to your computer to upgrade your rendering power. Indigo's pure GPU rendering uses OpenCL - which means pure GPU rendering will be available on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, on Nvidia, AMD, and Intel GPUs."

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No 6P PCIe extension cable from the board is included or available from OWC

From http://forum.techinferno.com/diy-e-gpu-projects/7910-diy-egpu-macbook-experiences-77.html#post132715

P.S. I got a delayed message from OWC tech support about the power extension cable mentioned in the Helios manual. I had hoped that this cable would connect the Helios' mini-4 pin PCB-mounted connector to a 6-pin graphics card connector. It turns out there IS a cable included, but it has a SATA connector at the other end, not a 6-pin. Guess the Helios doesn't offer much advantage for those looking for a plug-and-play closed-box eGPU option, unless you want to wire up your own internal connector cable.

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Maybe the following could be (or is) the reason why there is no 6P PCIe expansion canle included.

It is not wise to get so much current over these JST connectors.

Their max current is about 3A (<40 Watts).

Due to the small contact surfaces there is the risk that the housing melts when you will pull more

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Maybe the following could be (or is) the reason why there is no 6P PCIe expansion canle included.

It is not wise to get so much current over these JST connectors.

Their max current is about 3A (<40 Watts).

Due to the small contact surfaces there is the risk that the housing melts when you will pull more

True.

http://www.jst-mfg.com/product/pdf/eng/eXH.pdf

JST connector - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

XHP-4 | Crimp housing,XH,2.5mm pitch,4w | JST

Current rating 3A, AWG 22 (the same is marked on the AKiTiO 4-pin cable)

A small incongruity:

http://forum.techinferno.com/enclosures-adapters/7205-us%24189-akitio-thunder2-pcie-box-16gbps-tb2-120.html#post129670

1) “By spec the x16 PCIe slot is capable of 75W power while the x4 is spec’ed at 25W..”

The board is designed for a maximum of 25W on the PCIe slot, this cannot be modified. The only option for extra power to the card is with that 4-pin connector and a bigger power adapter that is plugged into the existing DC jack”

2) power goes through the 4-pin JST 3A connector -> TB card -> x4 (max 25W) -> x16. As far as I know, there is no other route.

3) “For the eGPU application, users do not connect anything else to the Thunderbolt daisy-chain. In such case 10W for the Thunderbolt circuits should be enough and there is 50W to the PCIe card. In order to support 75W power to the PCIe card, users can simply upgrade the power to 90W or larger.”

Did he meant only PCIe cards that draw max 75W total, including 4-pin auxiliary power connector?

Nando’s reference about 22AWG was 7A, but it's for copper: “The following chart is a guideline of ampacity or copper wire current carrying capacity”.

American Wire Gauge table and AWG Electrical Current Load Limits with skin depth frequencies and wire breaking strength

“A commonly used rule-of-thumb for converting the two conductor metals is to have aluminum two AWG sizes larger than copper for equivalency.”

How to Convert From Copper to Aluminum Conductors

Two AWG sizes larger would be 24AWG 3.5A = 42W with aluminium, matching closer JST XH specs.

Anyhow, my energy meter showed numbers from ~30W to max ~60W from the x16 slot depending on the GPU. I don’t know what would happen if I use a GPU consuming that 75W from the x16 slot? No melting seen so far... I am still a bit confused.

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Maybe the following could be (or is) the reason why there is no 6P PCIe expansion canle included.

It is not wise to get so much current over these JST connectors.

Their max current is about 3A (<40 Watts).

Due to the small contact surfaces there is the risk that the housing melts when you will pull more

If you do power budget calculation based on the 120W AC adapter then we have:

- 75W PCI slot (max)

- 10W TB circuitry

- leaving 35W available for a PCIe power connector

35W is under your suggested 40W limit.

I could see AKiTiO/OWC deliberately not including the 6P pigtail connector to prevent exceeding their safe operating limits. For instance, say a user adding a 150W AC adapter and then attempted to draw 65W to their 6P connector. That would give an unsafe situation.

The AKiTiO engineer I was in contact stipulated to not exceed the 120W AC adapter input.

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So a 75W GPU should be fine at any time right? By that I would assume that we can run a GTX 750Ti in

- a OWC Mercury Helios

- a AKiTiO Thunder2 with a e.g. 120W PSU (of course using less)

And if I would solder the 6-Pin PCIe plug directly to the PCB at the power input port, that would fine as well to run a bigger card with less than 150W TDP.

Is there any limit of that barrel plug for safe usage?

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I would suppose that power is splitted equally:

- max 45W (PCIe x16) through the x4 spec'ed 25W

- max 30W TB circuitry (Apple/Intel requirement, when two TB ports in use)

- max 45W (auxiliary 4-pin JST connector)

= 120W

Still cannot understand that they said: “The board is designed for a maximum of 25W on the PCIe slot, this cannot be modified.” and it would be fine to draw 75W through the x16 slot. The power goes via that 4-pin cable as we know. They were speaking about PCIe cards, not x16 slot power consumption if we are precise. Damn :D

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