Laptop gaming has always had a trade off, portability for performance. It is easy to find a lightweight laptop that suits your business needs, and it is also easy to find a gaming monster that can tackle the latest and greatest, but it is hard to combine them without some notable sacrifices—at least without an eGPU solution like the $399 Razer Core X Chroma.
This device was built with the concept of giving any laptop with Thunderbolt 3 the opportunity to use a full-size GPU for gaming, work or whatever else your heart desires. If we were in a world where it was possible to find a graphics card without selling your firstborn, this would be great! But once that cools down, this means your Ultrabook can take advantage of the newest tech, without needing to fully upgrade or sacrifice the portability when travelling is in the cards.
Boasting a 700Watt power supply, Ethernet, four USB 3.1 ports, and the ability to throw in (most) graphics cards you can get your hands on, the Razer Core X Chroma is the laptop dock on steroids. It gives a new level of power to any device plugged in that supports Thunderbolt 3. For testing, we ran the Razer Core X Chroma with an Nvidia RTX 2080, while not the most recent card, it gave a fair taste on what users can expect if they decide to take the plunge.
“The Razer Core X Chroma sits as a great choice, giving enough power and ports, while not making many compromises to hit the price point.”
With many modern Ultrabooks, including modern mac laptops offering an extremely limited port selection, the range offered with the Razer Core X Chroma is a welcome change. While not everyone needs a mouse and keyboard while gaming, for myself it is the only way I play modern PC games, and even on my laptop I will find a way to plug in at least a mouse. Razer clearly understands the needs of modern gamers and it is something I am pleased to see.
The Razer Core X Chroma sits in the middle of the Razer eGPU range. The Razer Core X sits at $299 and the Core V2 comes in at a hefty $449, with each offering a different value to different markets. The Razer Core X Chroma sits as a great choice, giving enough power and ports, while not making many compromises to hit the price point.
Setting up the Razer Core X Chroma was an easy task provided you have ever installed a GPU before. You unbox the unit, remove the thumb screws, pull it open, and install as you would with any computer. It has all the cables snuggly tucked away in the enclosure so provided you know what you are doing, and you are not afraid to handle computer hardware, it should all be pretty easy. Once installed, ensure the required number of 6- or 8-pin PCIe power connectors are plugged in, and once everything is back together, you are ready to enjoy your new eGPU experience.
“Running through a range of games including Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Total War: Three Kingdoms, Apex Legends, and of course, Fortnite—overall, I was impressed.”
As the name suggests, this version of the Razer Core X features the fun Chroma lighting, that does add a level of flair once you turn the enclosure on. Razer manages to keep things somewhat tasteful this outing, giving only a subtle hint of the lights when viewed from the front, with all the fun saved for when you look into the side panel, allowing you to see the GPU running in all its coloured glory. You can of course adjust all the lighting and settings with the Synapse software so don’t worry, you can keep things professional if you so choose.
Testing the enclosure with the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 with the latest Intel 11th Gen i7, the svelte laptop could finally push some polygons. Running through a range of games including Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Total War: Three Kingdoms, Apex Legends, and of course, Fortnite—overall, I was impressed.
I will preface this and say you will need to temper your expectations with any Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosure. But running through the gambit of titles, while running at native FHD resolution with all games, I did not see any title dip below a solid 60FPS. Now granted, this is to be expected with these titles paired with this level of GPU, but it was still amazing to see a game even from a few years ago, running on Ultra settings on a laptop that is under 2 lbs. I will also mention, the results we saw were far less than a similar PC running the same card at similar specs.
This does all come down to the fact that while Thunderbolt 3 is good, and can push a lot of data, with it only offering four PCIe lanes, you are losing out. This is especially true when in your computer these cards will run at a full 16, blowing Thunderbolt 3 out of the water in throughput. While Thunderbolt 3 is good, it limits the potential, and does not take full advantage of a card like a 2080 or especially the newer 3080.
Let’s be fair, there is possibly no perfect solution to using your ultra-thin laptop to game, but Razer—with the help of Thunderbolt—has given it a fair effort. If your laptop of your only gateway to media, and you can’t or don’t want to build a desktop, the Razer Core X Chroma is a great way to open doors to 60FPS gaming. You can keep a minimal setup and still enjoy the latest titles in 1080P or even 4K, while avoiding the need for a massive, dedicated setup. For everyone else, having two dedicated devices will always offer the best performance without compromise, provided a GPU can be found when you are ready to upgrade.