Quick test: Razer Core X Chroma – external graphics card dock for laptops

Demanding computer games are usually played on desktops that have enough power to provide high levels of detail with a soft frame rate. Laptops rarely provide a good experience, but there are solutions through external graphics dolls that provide extra computing power when needed.

The disadvantage is often the price, where only the external graphics doll can land around 5,000 kronor without a graphics card. However, the entire device can often function as a charging station, USB hub and network adapter, three claims that are in line with the Razer Core X Chroma that the editors received in the test lab.

Razer Core X Chroma

As can be seen, this is a relatively simple box with ventilation panels on both sides for both power supplies and graphics cards. One ventilation panel is also equipped with the company’s logo, but is otherwise quite clean from details. The front is equipped with a grille-like panel that covers the entire front and this does not let air through.

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The most interesting thing about the Razer Core X Chroma is on the back. There are four USB 3.1, an Ethernet port, a switch and a USB Type-C with the Thunderbolt 3 interface. It is the latter that enables the product’s main number to be able to dock a graphics card to a laptop.

On the back there is also a handle that folds out and allows you to pull out the cradle where all components are mounted. There are no cables in the housing, but the cradle is completely free to pull out and then mount the graphics card. Once this is done, just send in the cradle again and fold in the handle, and it will lock into the rest of the construction.

The cradle itself is relatively simple with a power supply and circuit board with a PCI-Express slot for the graphics card. The mounting is exactly the same as on a standard motherboard in a chassis. Remove the cover for the expansion slot, insert the graphics card and connect the power cables and everything is ready.

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The power supply that Razer has chosen to include is as much as 700 watts, which for a graphics card is very much but should also provide power to various peripherals and send charge to the connected computer. The company simply took height to really be able to deliver to all connected units.

When everything is done and the Razer Core X Chroma is plugged into the compatible PC, the graphics card fans run at full speed before the PC accepts the device. The graphic doll’s RGB lighting also starts up and then serves as a visual confirmation that the graphic doll is in contact with the computer.

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Included in the box is a size guide for graphics cards that unfortunately already requires the physical card. On the company’s website, the measurements are also described for more accurate figures. It is about a length of 330 mm and a height of 160 mm, while the card can be up to three expansion slots thick.

Tests and Test Method

To get some performance figures, the undersigned kidnapped a Dell XPS 13 from colleague Andreas Eklöv. The computer has an Intel Core i7-8565U with a turbo frequency up to 4.6 GHz under the hood. The games being tested are Destiny 2 and The Witcher 3, which are rounded off by a classic round 3DMark Fire Strike. The tests use the same test method as the editorial staff’s standard graphics card tests. The graphics dock is connected to a screen with a resolution of 3,840 × 2,160 pixels.

The graphics card used is Nvidia Geforce RTX 2080 where the editors can compare with the results from the graphics card tests on a powerful desktop system. To measure the frame rate, OCAT is used again, which scrolls for 60 seconds. The computer used has a maximum resolution of 1,920 × 1,080 pixels and can only be performance tested in the same resolution without having the external graphics dock connected.

With the results from the resolution 1,920 × 1,080 pixels, you can see huge differences in performance where the computer without an external graphics solution is completely unplayable. When the Razer Core X is connected, it makes a big difference and is now playable, although it differs a lot from the results from the editorial board’s graphics card tests with a significantly faster desktop processor.

With the resolution up one step, there is still a big jump up to the result from the test suite which is partly due to loss of performance with the graphics doll, but even the computer as such can not keep the same pace as the full-size computer system.

When the resolution is screwed up to 3,840 × 2,160 pixels, there will not be as much difference as before as now the graphics card stops before the processor in Dell XPS 13. Here you can also estimate approximately how much performance loss there will be with an external graphics dock.

In hindsight, the Geforce RTX 2080 is not the best match to dock with an Ultrabook whose processor limits demanding gaming. Between the thumb and forefinger, a more reasonable choice would be around RTX 2060 performance and downwards, so that both the processor and the bandwidth in the Thunderbolt 3 should not put too many sticks in the performance wheel.

Summary thoughts

External graphics card solution is an excellent alternative for those who sit on a laptop and do not really have the space, advice or interest in a desktop computer. The undersigned was a little impressed with how easy it was to get started with the device and the performance that delivered in the end.

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Of course, it comes with a performance loss set from a desktop computer. Having the same high demands with a laptop and external graphics dock is not reasonable. The loss is especially evident in lower resolutions where the computer, which in this case is the Dell XPS 13 with a 15 W processor, puts a stop to a relatively limited processor.

In terms of Razer Core X Chroma, it is a fairly discreet device, apart from the RGB lighting, and is not much larger than what is necessary for all internal components. However, the price is quite high at SEK 4,790, which seems to be common for an external graphics card solution.

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Despite the price, no graphics card is included. Admittedly, it gives the user full freedom to choose the performance class, model and manufacturer, but it undeniably makes the price stand out for the graphics card doll. In other words, it will be a really expensive story, which can be a little cheaper if you buy a good used graphics card.

Some users have reported some issues when the graphics dock is disconnected, which causes the computer to crash immediately. The undersigned was spared from that particular problem, but got a completely black screen at one point and then had to restart the computer.

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As a whole, the solution works very well. It is easy to connect and you immediately get access to a screen, network, keyboard, mouse and at the same time get a charge to the computer. The price is what really gets it, but if it is not an obstacle for you, it is a solution that can turn your laptop into a gaming machine.

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