When Razer released the first Razer Core, it was a novel concept. The idea of being able to connect a Thunderbolt 3 equipped laptop to an external graphics card was enticing. Reception of the original core was lukewarm. It was plagued with problem stretching from constantly disconnecting to lag when an USB peripheral was connected. A generation later, Razer released the Core V2. Despite an updated USB controller, the Razer Core V2 is still a hassle to use.
Disclaimer: All the equipment reviewed were purchased by Mindful Gadgets. No review units were received from Razer. I am not sponsored or affiliated with Razer in any way.
- Length : 11.81”/ 300 mm
- Height*: 5.71” / 145mm
- Width : 1.69” / 43mm
- USB 3.0 X 4
- Gigabit Ethernet 10/100/1000
- Razer Chroma – 2 Zones
- GPU Max Power Support: 375 Watts
The following was tested with the Razer Core V2 with a Razer Blade Stealth 2019 and AMD RX580. The Razer Core V2 is hooked up to an external monitor.
What sets this device apart?
Ability to use desktop grade GPUs on a laptop
The benefit of an external graphics card enclosure is the ability to hook up a desktop grade GPU. With this enclosure, you are able to buy a graphics card like the AMD RX580 or Nvidia RTX 2080 and connect it to something like a Dell XPS or Razer Blade Stealth. As long as the laptop you are using has a Thunderbolt 3 port, it should be plug and play.
Playing graphically intense games, like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, is totally possible with a setup like this. I was able to get an average of more than 30 FPS on high with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
If you do graphic editing or video editing, the graphic card will also help with processing and rendering.
Razer Chroma is Razer’s RBG lighting system. On the Core V2, you are able to select various lighting effects. The Core V2 has two lighting zones, allowing you to customize the color of each zone. You can choose from a variety of lighting effects as well, including but not limited to static, spectrum cycling, breathing, etc.
What are the drawbacks of this device?
Wasted potential of the GPU
There are drawbacks of using Thunderbolt 3 to relay data between the GPU and your computer’s motherboard. You will notice a significant drop in performance compared to using a gaming laptop with the same graphics card. In my experience the drop is up to 20 percent. It even more significant when you compare it to a desktop system with the same card. This is due to the limited bandwidth of the Thunderbolt 3 and the weak CPU in the Razer Blade Stealth 2019. Using a H series Intel CPU powered laptop will increase the performance, but it is still significantly slower than a true desktop system. At the end of the day, you won’t be getting the full potential of the graphic card you purchased.
Major Reliability Issues
I’ve experienced a lot of reliability issues with the Razer Core V2 setup. Below are just some of the more common ones:
Wake from sleep issues: The most annoying issue I have had with the Razer Core V2 is the Core not being automatically detected when booting from sleep. 1 out of 5 times I have had to re-plug the Thunderbolt 3 cable and restart the laptop in order to get the device to detect that the GPU exists. Given that I usually have my laptop docked on a stand and connected to a monitor through the Core, this made the whole process of getting things work a chore.
Wrong speaker: Another issue I have experienced is the laptop will randomly fail to detect the HDMI audio and revert to the laptop speakers on re-plug. There have been two occasions where I have had to completely reinstall the AMD drivers in order to get it to work properly again.
Sensitive Cable: Slightly hitting the Thunderbolt 3 cable seems to disconnect or reset the connection to the Core. The connection is super sensitive, so be careful of accidentally hitting it or moving your laptop around.
Expensive and Impractical
The Razer Core V2 cost a whopping $499 for the enclosure itself. If you add a decent graphics card, you are at looking at a price closer to $700. At that price, you can find a decent gaming laptop or build a decent gaming desktop. I also didn’t mention the price of a Thunderbolt 3 equipped laptop, which could very easily add another grand to the price. Economically speaking, the numbers just do not add up.
Razer has released two updated versions (the Razer Core X and Core X Chroma) as well. They cost $299 and $399 respectively. Although those prices are $100 – $200 cheaper, with the added laptop, you are still spending at least $1500 for the entire system.
Other things to know
Razer did fix the bandwidth issue from Core V1
The original Razer Core has issues where any USB peripheral connected to the Core would bottleneck the graphics performance. Razer was able to fix this issue in the Core V2. I have not had any issues with USB peripherals interfering with gaming performance.
Would I recommend it?
No, I would not. The cost of getting a setup like this is way too much. Coupled with all the issues that I have had with the Razer Core V2, it makes absolutely no sense to own. Razer seems to have stopped selling the Razer Core V2 in the US with the Core X and Core X Chroma being the replacements. Even if these new units don’t have these issues I mentioned, there is no denying that economically speaking its better to just buy a gaming laptop or desktop.
Thunderbolt 3 and eGPUs were suppose to be the holy grail of mobile computing. Allowing people to connect powerful GPU performance to portable laptops that are lightweight and long lasting. At this point, this uis more hassle and money than it is worth.