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Razer Core X Chroma review: colorful, talented and expensive



$ 399 Razer Core X Chroma is the ultimate portable accessory: it is an external graphics card (eGPU) cabinet that with a single Thunderbolt 3 cable can enhance the graphical performance of a slim laptop and offer a range of additional USB ports and connections.

Like other eGPU cabinets, the Core X Chroma comes empty, yet full of promise. In addition to the cabinet, you need a computer with Thunderbolt 3 port and an AMD (the only option for MacOS users) or the Nvidia desktop card. These range in price from around $ 200 to $ 1200, depending on the amount of power you're looking for.

This is not Razer's cheapest or most expensive eGPU. The Core X Chroma divides the price difference between $ 299 Core X and $ 449 Core V2, and its feature set lends the best features and worsens them a little.

Good things

  • More power and ports for USB accessories
  • Chroma lighting effect is undervalued
  • What's New to increase a portable power with a single cable does not get old

Bad Stuff

  • Premium $ 100 is barely justified
  • Thunderbolt 3 inherent bottlenecks GPUs

Several ports are always a good especially since most Thunderbolt 3-color laptops are missing from them. It also features an Ethernet jack to increase download speed and minimize latency versus Wi-Fi gaming. All these extra ports and connections mean you can use the Core X Chroma as a dock, with your mouse, keyboard, external monitor, and wired network connection connected to it, instead of doing all those connections every time you sit down at your desk.

Razer's multi-colored LEDs also provide a Core X Chroma look. You get the most from the effect if you already own other Razer products that support the system. The synaps software (not available on macOS) can synchronize light effects across the devices for a coordinated lighting program, or you can customize them individually to look different. It's superfluous, though, I admit that the graphics card that is dimly lit by the Core X Chroma side panel looks cool.

Our throughput unit was filled with an RTX 2070, which we replaced for a more powerful RTX 2080 Ti. Opening the cabinet is a tool-free case and easy to do: just move a lever and give it a pull. Then there is a lot that operates on a desk board motherboard (without all other components getting in the way). Align the GPU with the PCIe slot, slide it into a lock click, and connect the required number of 6 or 8-pin PCIe power connectors to the GPU.


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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

I tested Razer Core X Chroma with the lowest specific Razer Blade Stealth laptop, built on integrated graphics. Blade Stealth is a playable notebook, though it can't run the latest AAA titles without compromising on screen resolution and graphic quality. So, it's the perfect test subject.

You can get away with just using the Razer Blade to play games, even though the cabinet allows the inserted graphics card to be sent to multiple monitors. Things work differently for MacOS laptops. According to Razer's documentation, the Razer Core X Chroma will not increase the gaming performance of a MacBook laptop display. You need to connect an external monitor (or buy one if you don't have an extra handy) to see the benefits of using the eGPU cabinet. But if you're serious about gaming, you're probably not using Mac.

Coming back to Blade Stealth, games like Prey and Rage 2 run smoothly, consistently 60 frames per second at maximum settings, but it's not the limit of what this setup is in capable of. Blade Stealth comes with a 1080p screen with a 60Hz refresh rate by default, so in addition to seeing how the Core X Chroma performs on a screen with faster refresh rate, I also tried it with the Razer Blade 15 with a 144Hz display.

The Razer Blade 15 has a dedicated graphics card, the RTX 2060, and before I could get the eGPU cabinet, I had to download the Razer's GPU switcher app to force Windows 10 to recognize the RTX 2080 Ti as the primary GPU . As expected, the same games, as well as others like performed Apex Legends and Shadow of the Tomb Raider well over 60 frames per second. These games even exceeded 100 frames per second, but none of them came close to taking full advantage of the 144 Hz refresh rate. The RTX 2080 Ti is currently the fastest gaming GPU, so the likely culprit for these lower than expected numbers is Thunderbolt 3.

Ready As It Is By Quickly moving data, Thunderbolt 3 puts a noticeable bottleneck on a GPU's bandwidth. It supports four lanes of PCIe, which are significantly fewer than the 16 lanes in PCIe supported on most desktop-based motherboards. (Some laptops have even less bandwidth on Thunderbolt 3 ports, so you have to check with the manufacturer's specifications to see exactly what your laptop can do.) When playing on a laptop screen, the simple cable pulls double duty: The computer must send data to the GPU for processing, and then receive the processed data back to be displayed. Playing intense games is a great workload, and ultimately even the most powerful graphics cards out there will struggle to show truly impressive slides. Despite this, I didn't notice any choppiness in the gameplay.

The perfect solution for getting laptop PC performance into laptops can never exist. It is a moving target that always improves, and as long as the eGPU enclosures meet the Thunderbolt 3 limitations, it may take a while before something better comes along.

Nevertheless, the performance at the Razer end for the Core X Chroma is as good as it is at the moment, and the news of improving the performance of the light, portable laptop with a cord is not dim. It is the best solution for low maintenance for a high maintenance problem.

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