Kool Tools: Sonnet xMac mini Server
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Kool Tools: Sonnet xMac mini Server

Sonnet has introduced an upgrade of its xMac mini Server, a Thunderbolt-to-PCI Express (PCIe) expansion system and 1U rackmount enclosure for a Mac mini with a Thunderbolt port.

The xMac mini Server accommodates one full-length, full-height PCIe card and one half-length, half-height (low-profile) card. The updated xMac mini Server now supports a double-width PCIe card's daughter card and includes BNC connector mounting holes on the enclosure's rear panel. In addition, the length of the xMac mini Server is now just 15.8 inches, making it ideal for deployment in a wider range of popular mobile racks, carts, and rack bags. This will benefit pro video and pro audio users.

Some PCIe cards, such as RME's HDSPe MADI FX card, Blackmagic Design's DeckLink 4K Extreme, and the Lynx AES16e-50, include a daughter card that normally occupies the adjacent PCIe card space. The enhanced xMac mini Server is now able to accommodate a daughter card via a special mounting bracket included with the system, which saves the additional PCIe card space.

Also, with the addition of two holes for mounting BNC connectors on the rear panel of the xMac mini Server, operators now have a convenient place to mount HD/SDI connectors for PCIe cards, such as the Red Rocket, without having to use a bracket that blocks the use of a PCIe card slot. To better support customers that require a very quiet work environment, a quiet fan module is available as an option.

Sonnet's newest xMac mini Server and the previously announced xMac mini Server 2H transform a Mac mini into an 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, making it a smaller, lighter, and quieter stand-in for the discontinued Xserve. 

The xMac mini Server and xMac mini Server 2H include a 100W power supply and employ variable-speed fans to cool the cards and computer. An ultra-quiet fan module 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. An xMac mini Server's second Thunderbolt port enables the daisy-chain connection of additional Thunderbolt peripherals. T

The xMac mini Server and xMac mini Server 2H, 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 categories including pro audio, Ethernet, Fibre Channel, SAS/SATA RAID controllers, and 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 enhanced xMac mini Server (part number XMAC-MS) is now available at a suggested retail price of US$1,295. The xMac mini Server 2H (part number XMAC-MS-2H) is also available now for $1,295. The xMac mini Server Quiet Fan Module (part number XMFAN-Q) is available for $79.95. More information on these products and compatible PCIe expansion cards is available at http://tinyurl.com/chunw6u .

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