Razer Core X External GPU Review

Vulcanproject

Posts: 1,406   +2,502
This kind of peripheral has always confused me. Is there a significant market? Is it really that much cheaper than simply buying or building a dedicated desktop if the performance you get is actually quite a lot less for any GPU you fit inside?

I mean realistically you would only have to fit an RTX3070 to get the same performance as the 3080 tested here. Probably more consistent too.

With the money saved on that GPU combined with the steep cost of this and particularly the $500 version they want you to buy you can get a decent machine. You would probably have more muscular CPU performance as well unless you have a monster notebook.

So if the budget for a desktop machine is say around $700 without the GPU I would almost certainly go for a proper desktop build. Hmmm. The usage scenarios versus cost seem to be pretty slim.
 

Watzupken

Posts: 332   +309
Its quite surprising that the PCI-E 3.0 x4 bandwidth don't significantly bottleneck the performance of the RTX 3080. In other words, that means that a high end card like the RTX 3080 can run without any bottleneck on just PCI-E 3.0 x8.
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 2,720   +4,252
This kind of peripheral has always confused me. Is there a significant market? Is it really that much cheaper than simply buying or building a dedicated desktop if the performance you get is actually quite a lot less for any GPU you fit inside?

I mean realistically you would only have to fit an RTX3070 to get the same performance as the 3080 tested here. Probably more consistent too.

With the money saved on that GPU combined with the steep cost of this and particularly the $500 version they want you to buy you can get a decent machine. You would probably have more muscular CPU performance as well unless you have a monster notebook.

So if the budget for a desktop machine is say around $700 without the GPU I would almost certainly go for a proper desktop build. Hmmm. The usage scenarios versus cost seem to be pretty slim.
They certianly make little to no sense, and seem to appeal to the mentality of "a laptop should be able to do anything".

They're not even smaller FFS. These boxes are the size of mini ITX cases that can take a full GPU. You're spending more money ususally, it's a clunky setup, and worst of all it can bring driver issues and compatibility problems.

I thought maybe we'd see 75-100W versions of this with low profile or even laptop dGPUs in them just to act as accelerators, but instead all we get are bulky boxes. Like, where's the thunderbolt docks with a 3060 mobile integrated into them?
 

AnilD

Posts: 72   +94
TechSpot Elite
This kind of peripheral has always confused me. Is there a significant market? Is it really that much cheaper than simply buying or building a dedicated desktop if the performance you get is actually quite a lot less for any GPU you fit inside?

While cool on paper, I had the same thoughts... then I noticed on Amazon the Core X has over 1300 user ratings (!). So yea, someone must be buying these boxes, we're simply not part of the intended market.
 

Vanderlinde

Posts: 52   +44
Its quite surprising that the PCI-E 3.0 x4 bandwidth don't significantly bottleneck the performance of the RTX 3080. In other words, that means that a high end card like the RTX 3080 can run without any bottleneck on just PCI-E 3.0 x8.

This has bin tested over the course of years, https://www.techpowerup.com/review/nvidia-geforce-rtx-3080-pci-express-scaling/

The only reason why we're being fed more PCI-E lanes and / or bandwidth is due to the enterprise markets. It's obvious that that ends up in consumer platforms as well. Hell even AGPX8 to this day would suffice.
 

Lew Zealand

Posts: 1,946   +2,249
TechSpot Elite
Here's some gaming perspective from someone who has actually used one of these. Games vary wildly in how much they are bottlenecked by not only PCIe 3.0 x4 but also by:

The latency from TB3 to PCIe protocol translation
The way the TB lanes are connected to the CPU (current-gen Intel CPUs have less TB latency than the Skylake derivatives as the lanes connect directly to the CPU)

Here's my tested % FPS drops with various GPUs over a spread of games (Ark, DiRT Rally, SotTR, RotTR, Control, Horizon ZD, Minecraft w/Optifine

GTX 1050 Ti - 10-15%
GTX 1060 - 20-25%
GTX 1660 Super - 25-35%
GTX 1080 - 30-45%
Radeon 5600XT - 30-45%

smaller FPS drop: Ark, Minecraft, RotTR, SotTR
bigger FPS drop: DiRT Rally, Control, Horizon ZD

DiRT Rally is a high FPS game anyway so the drop didn't matter as much but Control and HZD are certainly not high FPS games. And it's surprising that Control dropped by so much as it's a pretty GPU-bound game, easy on the CPU, so I expected to be among the least affected. Not so. It''s pretty much unplayable at 1440p (~35fps) with either the 1080 or the 5600XT while both are great in a gaming PC (~60fps).

Other observation: It's really the 1% and 0.1% lows that get tanked here. No data, just how the games feel while playing. It's really a big difference, the smoothness of gameplay is notably better on a gaming PC. It seems that to get smoother gameplay from the 5600XT I need Vsync enabled as the stutter is pretty bad with no Vsync, while the GTX GPUs are less affected by stutter w/o Vsync, which is good. Because it seems that the GTXes get lower fps with Vsync enabled while the Radeon seems less affected by this setting. Overall the GTXes seem less affected by stutter but I also have far less experience with the Radeon so far so it's possible that could change by finding the right settings.

Test mules:
Gaming PC: Core i5-8400 6c6t @3.8 GHz, 16GB 2666 CL13, B360
TB PC: NUC8i5, Core i5-8259u 4c8t @3.6 GHz, 16GB 2400 CL14, Akitio Node eGPU
 
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Farkinell

Posts: 192   +300
Two comments

1. Isn't Thunderbolt 4 on the way, does this offer more lanes for the eGPU? If not then there's no hope on the horizon of closing that 20% performance deficit.

2. To all the people who don't understand the purpose, this is meant to essentially turn your portable ultrabook into a desktop gaming machine, that way you can buy a thin, light iGPU for work/travel then dock it at home to game on. You then only have one machine as opposed to an additional full-blown desktop -which for $400 won't be great- or a very expensive hot and loud gaming laptop with a crippled Max-Q dGPU
 

Lew Zealand

Posts: 1,946   +2,249
TechSpot Elite
Two comments

1. Isn't Thunderbolt 4 on the way, does this offer more lanes for the eGPU? If not then there's no hope on the horizon of closing that 20% performance deficit.

Nope, TB4 has the same bandwidth and PCIe links as TB3, TB4 just guarantees you also get the USB4 spec rolled into TB3. Which means next to nothing for now.
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 4,240   +3,457
Two comments

1. Isn't Thunderbolt 4 on the way, does this offer more lanes for the eGPU? If not then there's no hope on the horizon of closing that 20% performance deficit.

2. To all the people who don't understand the purpose, this is meant to essentially turn your portable ultrabook into a desktop gaming machine, that way you can buy a thin, light iGPU for work/travel then dock it at home to game on. You then only have one machine as opposed to an additional full-blown desktop -which for $400 won't be great- or a very expensive hot and loud gaming laptop with a crippled Max-Q dGPU
Except you can get fairly thin and light gaming laptops for the same, or cheaper, than you can an ultraportable + this monstrosity.... and they perform as well or better...

 

ikesmasher

Posts: 3,131   +1,537
The appeal of this isnt just that its an EGPU, its the fact that its also effectively a single cable dock. One cable to charge your laptop and plug it into your home setup with greatly enhanced gpu performance. It also gives the CPU much more breathing room.

I owned a core x chroma for many months. IMO it is not worth it. The performance is fine, but I had to spend way too much time rebooting laptops, opening/closing laptop lids, unplugging and replugging the GPU, dealing with USB disconnects, and dealing with certain games having terrible performance with it. Its not really a reliable plug and play experience. I used it with 3 different laptops too.

This product is a dream for people who are some degree of minimalist or don't have much space, or just want one computer for everything, but the product isnt perfect. I ended up building a good desktop and getting a m1 macbook and am quite happy.

Except you can get fairly thin and light gaming laptops for the same, or cheaper, than you can an ultraportable + this monstrosity.... and they perform as well or better...
Fairly thin and light is subjective, and as someone who has used LOTS of gaming laptops, most of them have horrendous build quality, reliability, or heat management issues. (You can thank intel for insisting OEMS that its okay to run laptops at 100C sustained)
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 4,240   +3,457
The appeal of this isnt just that its an EGPU, its the fact that its also effectively a single cable dock. One cable to charge your laptop and plug it into your home setup with greatly enhanced gpu performance. It also gives the CPU much more breathing room.

I owned a core x chroma for many months. IMO it is not worth it. The performance is fine, but I had to spend way too much time rebooting laptops, opening/closing laptop lids, unplugging and replugging the GPU, dealing with USB disconnects, and dealing with certain games having terrible performance with it. Its not really a reliable plug and play experience. I used it with 3 different laptops too.

This product is a dream for people who are some degree of minimalist or don't have much space, or just want one computer for everything, but the product isnt perfect. I ended up building a good desktop and getting a m1 macbook and am quite happy.


Fairly thin and light is subjective, and as someone who has used LOTS of gaming laptops, most of them have horrendous build quality, reliability, or heat management issues. (You can thank intel for insisting OEMS that its okay to run laptops at 100C sustained)
You can buy a thunderbolt dock for less than half the price with far greater connectivity...

And check out the new Asus gaming laptops - thanks to mobile Ryzen, you don’t need huge and clunky to have great performance
 

ziffel66

Posts: 123   +202
Fairly thin and light is subjective, and as someone who has used LOTS of gaming laptops, most of them have horrendous build quality, reliability, or heat management issues. (You can thank intel for insisting OEMS that its okay to run laptops at 100C sustained)


I just bought an Asus Zephyrus G14 with a 2060 in it. Followed the reddit setup guide and get mid 60's, to low 70's temps on both the CPU and GPU in Horizon Zero Dawn, F1 2020, Hitman 2, etc. Though it has a Ryzen 9-4900HS and not intel.

The laptop has tremendous build quality (check reviews) and weighs less than 4 lbs.
 

Farkinell

Posts: 192   +300
I doubt this is competing with gaming laptops with a 2060 in though, the point is to have high end desktop GPU (ish) performance. Many users will dock this with a 1440p or even 4k monitor, which anything less than a $2-3K gaming laptop would struggle to drive.
 

mattferg

Posts: 189   +175
"All eGPUs on the market currently use the Thunderbolt interface"

Except, y'know, the ones that don't. Alienware Graphics Amplifier, for one. Can never understand journos who make bold statements and do 0 research. Just don't say it if you don't know it.
 

Namtrooper

Posts: 118   +62
I don't understand why all these external enclosures are so overpriced. I'm pretty sure a lot of people on the move would love to game at home from time to time with these. People in my personal family included. You just can't justify paying 400usd for a controller board a few fans and a tin that houses the gpu.
 

Michael7

Posts: 68   +56
This is a niche product. I see the appeal of connecting a thin laptop to desktop class GPU but right now this tech is crippled by the interface. Thunderbolt 3 or 4 is not enough. It is silly to pay $500 for a device that cripples your expensive GPU by 20-30%, which essentially downgrades your GPU by at least 1 class. You are still far better off buying gaming laptop or second dedicated gaming PC. Sure the PC will cost more but at least you have second device that has much longer life-span than any laptop.
 

Michael7

Posts: 68   +56
I don't understand why all these external enclosures are so overpriced. I'm pretty sure a lot of people on the move would love to game at home from time to time with these. People in my personal family included. You just can't justify paying 400usd for a controller board a few fans and a tin that houses the gpu.
You forgot to mention perhaps the most expensive part - PSU, which could be around $100. But I agree they are overpriced - I don't see any reason of it's cost beyond $300
 
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amghwk

Posts: 1,078   +993
Don't see the point getting this over a sturdy desktop.

Extra power cable and power supply in addition to the laptop make the setup more complicated when compared to a desktop. A m-ITX system would be more sound. Portable, powerful and a single unit.

And if it's from Razer, be prepared to waste your money for nothing.
 

Lew Zealand

Posts: 1,946   +2,249
TechSpot Elite
FYI KitGuru tried the current RTXes in an eGPU, but here's all you need to know:

56% performance loss at 1080p and 52% loss at 1440p by putting a 3090 in an eGPU. A 3060/2070S/1080Ti/5700XT will get you more performance in a regular gaming desktop.

 

ZedRM

Posts: 631   +395
FYI KitGuru tried the current RTXes in an eGPU, but here's all you need to know:

56% performance loss at 1080p and 52% loss at 1440p by putting a 3090 in an eGPU. A 3060/2070S/1080Ti/5700XT will get you more performance in a regular gaming desktop.

Well said.
 

neeyik

Posts: 1,881   +2,199
Staff member
FYI KitGuru tried the current RTXes in an eGPU, but here's all you need to know:

56% performance loss at 1080p and 52% loss at 1440p by putting a 3090 in an eGPU. A 3060/2070S/1080Ti/5700XT will get you more performance in a regular gaming desktop.
So they pitched an i9-10900K against an i7-10750H? A 10C/20T 5.3GHz CPU versus a 6C/12T 5GHz one? A 125W TDP chip pitted against a 45W TDP processor? At 1080p?

And there was a performance difference? Well colour me surprised...

Sarcasm aside, a far more appropriate setup would have been to use the same desktop system, and compared the RTX 3090 in the motherboard against the external unit. There are plenty of LGA1200 motherboards that support Thunderbolt 3.