Why You Need A 10GbE Adapter - Updated for 2020

March 13, 2020 |


This post was originally published on June 27th, 2019 and updated on March 13, 2020.



Most computers today aim to be as thin and sleek as possible while remaining powerful. Toward that end, there are high-speed ports, like Thunderbolt 3, that allow connection to hard drives, printers, monitors, etc. However, when connecting a team to shared storage, Thunderbolt cables cannot exceed more than six feet from port to port. To fix this issue, shared storage, like the Jellyfish, connects over inexpensive 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) cables that can be run long distances. The problem is even some of the more modern computers don’t have ethernet ports. Thankfully, there are a number of companies that have made adapters from Thunderbolt to 10 GbE.


If the shared storage system has a 10GbE port, how will you connect to it? Here are a few indicators that you may need an adapter:


  1. If there is not an ethernet connection on the workstation.
  2. If there is a 1GbE connection but you need 10GbE for 4k workflows.
  3. If more ethernet ports are needed on the workstation than what is provided.


10GbE Adapters in 2020

It is easier than ever these days to connect to network-based storage, especially with a LumaForge Jellyfish. If you have an iMac Pro, the most recent Mac Mini, or a PC with a 10GbE enabled port, you can plug directly into the Jellyfish without having a third-party network adapter and start editing 4K - 8K media without transcoding or going to a proxy workflow.


For those of you currently using your existing ethernet port for a wired internet connection, consider going with a USB-C to Ethernet adapter. Most of the ones out there will be just fine and we recommend the Belkin USB-C to Gigabit Ethernet adapter which costs around $30 and will provide you a stable connection to the internal network at the office.


Even if your video team doesn't have the latest and greatest computers, they will still likely have access to  Thunderbolt 2 and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. This is where the market offers various options for ethernet to Thunderbolt 2/3 adapters that deliver 10GbE speeds at reasonable costs.


$300- $500 Range

Sonnet Twin 10GbE adapters provide redundancy and extra ports that allow the ability to daisy chain connections. LumaForge clients who own older Mac Pros, iMacs, or other devices with Thunderbolt 2 connectivity rely on the Sonnet Twin 10G-TB2 product to get 10GbE speeds from their Jellyfish. Clients with an iMac 5K, MacBook Pros, or any computer with a Thunderbolt 3 connection use the Sonnet Twin 10G-TB3. Both Sonnet Twin adapters have dual 10G ethernet ports and dual Thunderbolt connections on the adapter itself. These adapters have external power sources that enable the unit to provide up to 15 watts of power. There are two benefits to adapters with external power sources:


1) The connection to the workstation is exclusively used to move data which leads to higher speeds.

2) The new MacBook Pros can be powered by the Thunderbolt 3 connection, although it will sacrifice data transfer speeds.

A similar option is the Promise SanLink2 which also has twin ethernet and Thunderbolt 2 ports. Although this is an option that’s on the market, we tend to see better performance with the Sonnet Twin adapters.


As laptops become more and more powerful, like the new 16” MacBookProand Razor Laptop product lines, there are all-in-one docking stations that can provide a ton of additional value on top of a high-speed connection. For example, the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock provides a 10GbE Ethernet to Thunderbolt 3 connection to the workstation as well as multiple USB ports and SD and CFast card readers.


Thunderbolt 3 Adapters Under $250

Over the last few years, there has been an influx of cost-effective (ranging from $170-$250) adapters to connect your Jellyfish to a Thunderbolt 3 enabled computer. These adapters are smaller in size, bus-powered and travel-friendly. Bus power is a slower connection because the connection is splitting power to the adapter and the data transfers.


There are a few adapters we've tried, like the Sonnet Solo and OWC’s TB3, that gave us fairly similar results when it comes to heating and performance. After about an hour of editing in our lab, we found that both adapters mentioned began to heat up and showed a decrease in performance after prolonged use. Caldigitalso has a Thunderbolt 3 option that has given similar performance to the options listed above. Lastly, the Promise SANLink 3 is an even smaller footprint but the performance is closer to 5GbE rather than 10GbE. All of these options have one thing in common though - they are quiet and don’t add to the noise pollution of one's edit bay or work area.


All of these options are ways to get over the 1GbE hump and into faster pipelines. All of our lab tests were done using an iMac 5K with High Sierra OS. Keep in mind that adapter speed results differ across many variables including computer models, operating systems, and ethernet cable types used to connect a Jellyfish to the adapter. We even found that two iMacs from the same year with different components could lead to different results.


Here are some quick links to the adapters we mentioned above:

Sonnet Tech Solo 10G Thunderbolt 3 to 10GBASE-T Etherner Adapter

OWC Thunderbolt 3 10G Ethernet Adapter

Promise Tech SANLink3 Thunderbolt 3 to NBase-T Ethernet Bus Powered Adapter

Caldigit 10G Thunderbolt 3 to 10GBASE-T Ethernet Adapter 


Ultimate Solution

The Jellyfish workflow server by LumaForge comes with multiple 10GbE ports and the option to add more when needed. This is an important factor to consider for video teams intending to scale.


Moreover, when connecting with adapters to the Jellyfish, we recommend a direct connection of the Jellyfish to the adapter for the highest speeds possible. Our preferred adapters include the Sonnet Twin 10 G-TB2,10 G-TB3, or the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Pro Dock.


We hope you found this information helpful! If you have additional questions about workflow, please check our YouTube channel or reach out to our team directly!