Razer has taken a scalpel its external GPU enclosure, shaving a few hundred bucks off the price tag and some features along with it. Dubbed the Core X, it joins the Core V2 in the company's stable of "eGPU" boxes and like its predecessor lets you drop a desktop GPU into a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure and connect it to a compatible laptop for desktop-level GPU power in a laptop.
While the previous V2 model was priced at a steep $499, the new Core X (See it on Razer's site) is both physically larger and much less expensive, coming in at a rather surprising $299. Neither product comes with a GPU, of course, and they're only compatible with Thunderbolt 3 laptops running Windows 10 or MacOS High Sierra, and there are some other restrictions. Let's take a closer look.
Razer Core X - Design
The black metal housing isn’t anything fancy, but it does have that flair Razer is known for thanks to various vents and lines. The X version is bigger all-around than the previous model, with the most noticeable change being that it's two inches wider. The front of the enclosure no longer features RGB "Chroma" lighting like on the V2, and the back of the enclosure sports a power switch and a single USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port, but it's just the port used to connect it so there's not a single "extra" port. A handle swings out and unlocks the internal tray for GPU removal, and it is just as easy to use as it was before.
The lack of expansion ports on the back of the Core X is a disappointment, but not terribly surprising given its price. The previous model included four USB ports and an Ethernet port, which is a godsend if you're using a thin-and-light like Razer's own Blade Stealth, or the new Macbook Pro.
For those of you saying the lack of ports is no biggie, for my testing I couldn't even connect my mouse and two-port Razer keyboard to the Blade Stealth because it only has two USB ports, and they're on opposite sides of the laptop. Believe me; those four ports that are on the back of the V2 were sorely missed. Despite the missing ports, the Core X is much larger than the Core V2 as I mentioned above, and can now accept 3-slot wide graphics cards, as opposed to the 2.2-slot card on the Core V2. The compatible GPUs for Windows machines include every GPU from recent years, including the GTX 1080 Ti, AMD RX Vega cards, and less-powerful models as well.
The main reason for the increase in size in the Core X is the addition of an ATX 650W power supply, which provides up to 100W of power to a connected laptop. The V2 model had a smaller 500w PSU, capable of providing just 65w. The one that is in there now is a full-blown desktop PSU that has enough juice for even a GTX 1080 Ti, Titan Z, etc. Think of the beefier power supply as future-proofing your investment as laptops and gaming cards continue to require more energy.
Razer fans will surely be disappointed to learn the Core X lacks any sort of Chroma lighting effects. It’s a black box, without any lights, and you’re just going to have to be OK with that. That said, if the GPU you put inside has lights they will appear as a soft glow thanks to the mesh side panel.
Razer Core X - MacOS Support
The Core X will work with Apple’s MacBook Pro line running MacOS High Sierra 10.13.4 or higher. The only downside is that currently the Core X when paired with MacOS only works with AMD Radeon cards, but it does support Vega 56 and 64, as well as the RX 580 and RX 570, which should be enough for most people. When I asked Razer why MacOS didn't support Nvidia GPUs they basically said that's an issue between Nvidia and Apple. Still, this is yet another eGPU option for Mac users. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s nice to see Razer expanding outside of PCs.
Razer Core X - Performance
Initial setup took a little longer than I expected. After installing the GTX 1080 into the enclosure, I used the included 20-inch long USB-C cable to connect the Core X to the Blade Stealth. With Razer emphasizing the Core X as a Plug and Play device, I anticipated a small driver update may be in order, but figured the Blade Stealth would identify the Core X and GPU without issue.
After about 10 minutes waiting for necessary updates to install, the Core X and the Blade Stealth were properly talking to one another and were ready for use. Going forward, the Core X was indeed treated as a Plug and Play device by the Blade Stealth.
Razer included an Nvidia GTX 1080 for testing, and I fully anticipated its fans would be pretty loud when the system was stressed, however I hardly heard the fans at all — even throughout IGN’s benchmark testing process. There was a persistent quiet hum from the enclosure, but nothing that overpowered the laptop’s own speakers when gaming.
As for overall performance with a GTX 1080 inside the enclosure, benchmark tests revealed performance that’s more on par with a GTX 1070. What puzzles me the most is the gaming experience itself felt more in line with what I’ve previously experienced when testing a GTX 1080 GPU. For instance, PlayerUnknown’s Battleground with Ultra settings I was consistently seeing frame rates around 90fps. Indeed, benchmarks don’t tell the entire story about a device’s overall performance.
Remember, the scores above are with the Core X connected to the Blade Stealth, which is a thin-and-light, so you're basically getting desktop level performance on a super portable laptop, which is the entire goal here. So overall, it's mission accomplished.
That said, easily the most annoying aspect of the Core X is the length of the included USB-C cable with the enclosure. I had this same complaint about the Core V2, and ultimately replaced the cable with one of my own. For the Core X, the cable is only 20 inches long, which isn’t even long enough to plug into the back of the enclosure and wrap around to reach the front where it should connect to the laptop. Instead, I had to place the enclosure sideways on the back of my desk. Cable’s aren’t all that expensive, and if someone is shelling out money for an enclosure that doesn’t offer extra ports or fancy lighting, the least Razer could do is include a three or six foot cable.
The Razer Core X has an MSRP of $299.99, and it's only available via the Razer website:
- See it on Razer's site