Gaming Laptops are highly revered for their portability. I mean, imagine having a portable gaming machine that you can bring with you anywhere to play your favorite titles such as The Witcher 3, Dota 2, or Star Wars: Battlefront.
But, some of the current generation games are very demanding and depending on your laptop’s GPU, it might not be up for the heavy task. Wouldn’t it be a great way if there is something you could do to beef up your laptop’s graphical prowess?
Actually, there is something you can do: plugging in an eGPU. An eGPU, as you may have probably guessed, stands for “External Graphics Processing Unit“. Basically, eGPUs are enclosures wherein you can put a desktop graphics card in it so it can supply the necessary graphical power to the laptop so that it can support those AAA games.
That being said, the eGPU market has evolved through the years and one prominent gaming company has already created their own. Razer is one such company and along with their flagship, Razer Blade Stealth laptop comes to the Razer Core. Is the Razer Core a good eGPU? We will find out in this article.
Review of Razer Core eGPU
The Razer Core is the company’s take on an external GPU for your laptop. It is a small enclosure that comes with its own power supply and it also comes with four USB 3.0 ports so that you can plug in your peripherals.
The magic of the core is that you can pretty much use any graphics card as long as it can fit inside. You can use any graphics card that can fit a 310 x 152 x 44mm enclosure. So, the possibilities are near limitless!
This eGPU enclosure sports an all-aluminum build with a matte black finish that not only looks professional, but it guaranteed to be sturdy as well. It pretty much resembles a small PC, but you can bring it with you without any hassle (it can be a bit heavy depending on the GPU you’re going to use, though).
Graphics cards can get hot, especially when they’re used in a pretty demanding game. Since GPUs require ventilation to properly cool itself, the Razer core comes with big vent at the top and it also has another vent at the bottom with three cooling fans already installed.
Razer is a company that knows what enthusiasts want and since RGB peripherals have already become mainstream, the Razer Core also comes with a light that can be configured to various colors depending on your preference. You can toggle it on/off by pressing the switch at the bottom part of the Core.
The company also includes a handle that when you lift it up, all of the internals can be grasped. This is where you can plug your graphics card of choice in and you can simply put it back where it belongs; inside of the Razer Core.
This eGPU makes use of the Thunderbolt 3.0 port that should have enough bandwidth to push some extra juice to your laptop. In theory, all laptops that come with the said port should work, but in reality, this is not the case. You see, some laptops that do come with the Thunderbird 3.0 port faced some issues like incompatibilities, system freezes, just to name a few. Razer has been notified of this and they promised to fix these issues in the future (probably via Razer Synapse updates).
Setting up the Razer Core is pretty easy. All you have to do is pull the handle to reveal the PCIe slot. Next, plug your graphics card into the said slot and plug in the necessary connectors in. Once that is done, you can just push the tray back inside and power it on.
There are a few things you need to do after that. One of the first things that you need to do is download the latest version of the Razer Synapse software. Next, you will download another program called the “Razer GPU Switcher Tool”. And lastly, you need to download and install the latest Nvidia/AMD graphics drivers.
Now, some people have reported that they ran into problems when installing the appropriate GPU drivers. You can try any of these things when you run into some problems:
- When the system hangs when you’re installing the GPU’s drivers, install it without the Razer Core attached to your laptop.
- After installing it without the Core, plug it in again. If nothing unusual happens, then you’re good. If it still hangs, do the next step.
- If the system still hangs, unplug the Razer Core from the laptop, restart your system, and then plug it right back in. It should work after this.
To make the most out of the eGPU, you will need to make use of another display. You see, when you use your own laptop’s display, there will be some latency problems which translates to lower framerates as opposed to using a dedicated monitor for gaming. This can be frustrating for people who want to use the Razer Core on the go, but for now, if you want to maximize its performance, you have to do this.
So, which graphics cards are perfect for the Razer Core? Well, that entirely depends on the games that you play and on your current budget. If you’re into 1080p gaming and you want a graphics card that performs well in the said resolution without breaking the bank, then the AMD Radeon RX480 is a fantastic choice. If you want a graphics card that is a bit expensive, but pretty much demolishes the 1080p resolution with all of the settings cranked up, then the Nvidia GTX 1070 is a must.
Of course, the choice of the graphics card that you will use will rest entirely on you. If you have the budget for the most high-end graphics cards like the Nvidia GTX 1080Ti or even the new Nvidia GTX Titan Xp, then, by all means, use it.
The Razer Core works perfectly well for the company’s own gaming laptop, but how does it perform when plugged into a non-Razer laptop? Well, it does work, but you need to do a few things first before you can get this up and running on a non-Razer system:
- First, you need to have all of your laptop’s drivers up to date. This also includes the BIOS as well.
- Download the latest Synapse Software and also the GPU Switcher tool.
- Do the steps above for installing your graphics card’s drivers.
- After everything is setup and installed, the Razer Core should work.
Do note that the performance difference between using a Razer gaming laptop and a non-Razer laptop can range from minimal to dramatic. On some laptops that have nearly the same specs as the Razer Core, the performance difference is minimal at around 1-5 FPS. But, for laptops that have low to midrange specs, expect to have a huge drop in performance.
The Razer Core is an exceptional eGPU enclosure. It has professional looks, it has an easy to work with design, and it pretty much gives you an extra boost in performance. As of now, it only works great when paired with the company’s own Razer gaming laptop. If you’re using it on another laptop, there is a high probability that you will run into some issues. But, the Razer’s CEO is aiming to improve compatibility in the near future.
Again, the performance of the Razer Core will depend on the graphics card you’re going to plug into the system. As of the time of writing, the Razer Core costs $500. It is expensive, yes, but it comes with an amazing build quality, some RGB lighting, and an easy to work with interface. Compatibility will improve over time, at least, according to the company’s CEO.
- Amazing build quality
- Easy to work with
- Comes with own PSU
- A wide variety of GPUs you can plug in
- Compatibility issues when using a non-Razer gaming laptop
- Software is a bit clunky to use