Kool Tools: xMac mini server line-up
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Kool Tools: xMac mini server line-up

Sonnet's xMac mini Server 2H is a second model of the company's xMac mini Server Thunderbolt-to-PCI Express (PCIe) expansion system and 1U rackmount enclosure for a Mac mini with a Thunderbolt port.

The new xMac mini Server 2H enables the use of two half-length, full-height PCIe cards, allowing users to select from and install the majority of Thunderbolt-compatible cards into either slot. The original xMac mini Server accommodates one full-length, full-height PCIe card and one half-length, half-height (low-profile) card.

By adapting the original xMac mini Server's design to create a new model that enables the installation of two full-height PCIe cards, the folks at Sonnet have provided a solution for other workflow configurations that require two full-height PCIe cards but have no need for a full-length card. The xMac mini Server 2H features additional design improvements such as shortening the chassis' length to 16 inches, which allows it to be deployed in a wider range of popular mobile racks, carts, and rack-bags." 

The xMac mini Server 2H and xMac mini Server transform a Mac mini computer into a full-fledged expandable rackmount server. This enables users to harness the power of PCIe cards such as full-size pro video capture and processing, digital audio interface, DSP accelerator, FireWire, RAID controller, 10 Gigabit Ethernet, eSATA, and other PCIe cards.

Both Sonnet expansion systems mount the Mac mini inside a specially designed 1U rackmount enclosure containing a Thunderbolt-to-PCIe expansion system with two PCIe 2.0 slots that connect to the computer's Thunderbolt port via an included Thunderbolt cable. This allows the Mac mini to use expansion cards normally usable only in the Mac Pro, and makes it a smaller, lighter, and quieter stand-in for the now-discontinued Xserve. 

The expansion systems include a 100W power supply and employ variable-speed fans to cool the cards and computer; a new ultra-quiet fan kit option for cool-operating cards is now available. The Mac mini's Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0, and HDMI interfaces are extended to panel-mounted connectors on the back of the unit, and a USB 3.0 interface and power switch are mounted on the front.

The xMac mini Server's second Thunderbolt port enables the daisy-chain connection of additional Thunderbolt peripherals. These features make xMac mini Servers good for use in many fixed and mobile applications, from video ingest and editing station to pro audio recording rig, and from metadata controller to back-office RAID server.

The xMac mini Server 2H and xMac mini Server, like Sonnet's line of Echo Express PCIe-to-Thunderbolt expansion chassis, require the use of Thunderbolt-compatible PCIe expansion cards. Compatible cards fall into numerous categories including pro audio, Ethernet, Fibre Channel, SAS/SATA RAID controllers, video capture, and editing. A complete list of compatible cards is available on Sonnet's website, with the list continually expanding as more cards are tested and certified. 

The xMac Mini Server 2H has a suggested retail price of US$1,295. The original xMac Mini Server is available now at a suggested retail price of $1,295. The xMac mini Server Quiet Fan Kit is available now at a suggested retail price of $79.95. More information on the products and compatible PCIe expansion cards is available at www.sonnettech.com/product/xmacminiserver.html.

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