GPU Performance and Razer Core

After years of “razer” sharp focus on the premium gaming notebook market, why would a gamer-centric company like Razer build an ultrabook without dedicated graphics? The answer is Razer Core, a device which the company claims is the, “world’s first true plug and play Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) external graphics enclosure”. It’s through this device that an otherwise mild-mannered ultrabook like the Blade Stealth can be transmogrified into an upgradable, desktop GPU-wielding menace.

Separating notebook from GPU allows Razer to focus on a better ultraportable experience without the inherent trade-offs suffered by all competent gaming notebooks (e.g. noise, heat, weight and battery). The exciting thing about Razer Core though is its reliance on an industry standard interface: Thunderbolt 3.0.

Unlike prior external GPU solutions, (e.g. Alienware Graphics Amplifier or MSI’s GPU dock) Razer Core will not be locked to a specific model or even brand. The device is expected to work with any notebook sporting Thunderbolt 3.0 and “proper support” for Intel graphics switching. It won't be cheap though, especially as you'll need a discrete graphics card to go with it.

The Razer Core is expected to become available later this month starting at $499 if bought alone or $399 if purchased alongside a Razer Blade or Stealth. When it finally becomes available, we’ll be sure to post our hands-on experiences for you.

GPU Performance

Without Razer Core, the Stealth’s Intel HD 520 is woefully inadequate for enjoying most modern AAA 3D titles. The Witcher 3, for example, is unplayable even at 720p under its lowest possible settings. The somewhat older and considerably less intense Bioshock Infinite remained somewhat playable at 720p and low settings.

For many games that can run well (e.g. Skyrim, Team Fortress 2 and various RTS and MMORPG titles) 720p is the sweetest spot. Sometimes, for games like these, even 1080p isn't that bad. Some simpler titles where FPS isn’t much of a concern like League of Legends and DOTA2, for example, run smoothly at 1080p. Resolutions like QHD or UHD 4K will be out of the question given the 520's constraints on memory bandwidth.