Razer fully catered to the tastes of the American market with its latest Thunderbolt 3 external GPU enclosure, the Core X. The recipe for success is similar to that of a fast food burger; deliver a juicy, thick-cut patty quick and easy. The Razer Core X grew larger in size and provides more Power Delivery than its older siblings, the Core and Core V2.
There’s a lot to like about this new eGPU enclosure. First is its $299 price tag compared to the $499 Core V2. The 650W power supply amps up PD to a maximum 100W. It’s also one of the few Thunderbolt 3 enclosures that can withstand the extreme power demands of the RX Vega 64 graphics card. Internally it can accommodate virtually any GPU currently available on the market. Last but not least, the Razer Core X is a certified eGFX for both Windows and macOS.
|PSU max power||650W|
|GPU max power||500W|
|Power delivery (PD)||100W|
|TB3 USB-C ports||1|
|Size (in/mm, LxWxH)||14.72 x 9.06 x 6.61|
374 x 230 x 168
|Max GPU len (in/cm)||12.99/33.0|
|Updated firmware||33.1 ✔|
|TB3 cable length (cm)||50|
Supersize it! That’s what Razer did in all dimensions. The Core X is easily twice the volume of the original. Its black anodized aluminum outer shell, sturdy hinged handle, and vertical bar front fascia continue the Razer Core design lineage. It’s chubbier than the Core V2, but thin enclosures don’t get to have all the fun. In the case of the Core X, its tremendous girth allows fitment of 3-slot wide graphics cards with seemingly unlimited length and height. Component wise, it shares nothing with the original Core or Core V2 except for the chipsets. The Razer Core X has neither RGB nor expansion ports. In other words, axing the price means a cut in features and portability.
Accessing the inner carrier and swapping the GPU is intuitive, requiring no tools. The enclosure handle sits flush to the body in lock position. Unlocked mode is engaged by an outward pull of this handle. By continuing this same motion you can slide the carrier out of its enclosure. The sliding mechanism operates smoothly thanks to the two plastic rails mounted on the bottom of the carrier and a wide plastic base on the enclosure.
Without an installed graphics card, the Core X’s inner carrier is deceptively light. This is due to fewer components and sheet metal construction. One of the omitted components is the expansion I/O daughterboard. The Razer Core X’s sole I/O is the Thunderbolt 3 port. This may be good for overall eGPU performance and stability during heavy load. We’ve learned enclosures with expansion ports such as the original Core often suffer from USB lagging/stuttering. The Razer Core V2 came with a clever fix for this issue by adding a second DSL6540 Thunderbolt 3 controller to handle expansion ports. Another solution is to use a separate USB or Thunderbolt 3 hub for other peripherals.
The first component and one that features prominently inside the Razer Core X is the ATX power supply. This is only the second Thunderbolt 3 eGFX enclosure that comes equipped with such a PSU, the first being the OMEN Accelerator. The power supply’s label indicates it’s a 12V multi-rail unit. 5V and 3.3V outputs combine to provide at most 100W. The total current through 12V outputs tops out at 600W. Razer claims this PSU is capable of hosting AMD Radeon’s most powerful graphics cards such as the RX Vega 64 and Pro WX 9100. The only other enclosures with this capability are the Sonnet Breakaway Box 650 and ASUS XG Station 2. The Core X wiring harness provides one 24-pin power cable, one 4+4 EPS power cable, and two 6+2-pin PCIe power cables.
The Razer Core X and Sonnet Breakaway Box share similar component layout. The PSU’s self-contained fan is a 60mm unit, mounted towards the rear. This small fan produces the most noise when idling. It’s the weak link of an otherwise competent eGPU enclosure. The other cooling fan is 120mm and sits near the front of the enclosure. There’s a metal bracket for mounting the enclosure fan. It seems possible to modify this bracket in order to fit graphics cards with AIO liquid coolers. As a proof of concept, I used velcro squares to attach the radiator of an EVGA GTX 980 Ti Hybrid. The result didn’t look too bad.
The Thunderbolt main board has a simple layout with two power connectors. The first is a common arrangement, 24-pin power receptacle. The second connector is one I’ve never seen before in a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure. It’s an 8-pin EPS connector. I believe this EPS connector carries one of the four 12V rails. This is to distribute the load and prevent Over Current Protection shutting down the PSU. For eGPU use we prefer single-rail PSU because the primary power draw is from the single graphics card. The three crucial ICs are located near the Thunderbolt 3 port. The usual suspects are the TI83 USB-C controller, JHL6540 Thunderbolt 3 controller, and Winbond EEPROM.
Missing from the Core X’s main board is an LED strip and RGB effects under the enclosure as in the Core V2. As a matter of fact, there are no lights at all. This makes for a clean, understated look more appropriate for work settings. Mac users may find this non-feature more appealing compared to the original Core and Core V2. The RGB in those enclosures can only be adjusted/turned off through Razer Synapse utility software in Windows.
Testings & Benchmarks
Connecting to my 2016 15″ MacBook Pro showed power delivery is 100W as claimed. Unlike the Thunderbolt firmware version of the Razer Core V2 at 26.1, this Razer Core X comes with version 33.1. There’s no official statement as to what benefits this newer Thunderbolt firmware provides. The good news is all Razer eGPU enclosures so far have firmware that yields the most performance out of Thunderbolt 3 eGFX bandwidth (capped at 22Gbps).
An improvement in this Razer Core X versus its older siblings is airflow. Due to the minimal space inside the original Core form factor, Razer had used three 80mm fans placed on the bottom to dissipate hot air through the top. The Core X takes a different approach in moving air horizontally. Intake air goes in on the side of the graphics card. Exhaust air flows out the side of the PSU and cooling fan as well as the rear. In my observation, this approach helps the eGPU run cooler and emit less noise overall.
The Razer Core X is plug and play in macOS 10.13.4+ when paired with an RX Vega card and a Thunderbolt 3 Mac. Nvidia eGPU and older Macs don’t have support from Apple and require the use of workarounds. Mac_editor wrote a script to unblock Thunderbolt 1 and Thunderbolt 2 Macs for eGPU access. Goalque improved his automate-eGPU.kext to add external GPU compatibility for two dozen AMD graphics cards. Fr34k is developing an all-in-one automated script to enable Nvidia eGPU support in 10.13.4. I used fr34k’s solution to enable the GTX 1070 via this Razer Core X.
In Windows 10, there are more graphics card choices and the setup process is much easier. Razer described the setup process as “plug and game.” It really was that easy. You essentially plug the Thunderbolt 3 cable into your Thunderbolt 3 host computer, and Windows installs the drivers automatically. If it’s your first time connecting a TB3 enclosure, you may need to grant permission to establish this connection. It’s advisable to download the latest graphics drivers from AMD or Nvidia manually to get the best support for newest games. Mac computers running Windows in Bootcamp are an exception. In order to use the 15″ MacBook Pro with eGPU internal display acceleration, I followed the steps as outlined in our external GPU Bootcamp setup guide.
To run a set of synthetic benchmarks I paired the Razer Core X with the RX Vega 56 and the GTX 1070. The host computers are the 2016 15″ MacBook Pro and the 2018 Razer Blade Stealth. All tests were run through internal display mode in Windows 10 using the latest drivers. It’s worth noting the Razer Blade Stealth is one of only a few ultrabooks optimized for external graphics card use. For detailed criteria in selecting the best ultrabook to use with an eGPU, read our buying guide.
|Razer Core X||15" MBP + RX Vega56||15" MBP + GTX 1070||13" RBS + RX Vega56||13" RBS + GTX 1070|
|Unigine Valley||69.8 FPS||73.3 FPS||69.8 FPS||73.3 FPS|
|Unigine Heaven||70.8 FPS||68.8 FPS||69.9 FPS||68.5 FPS|
|Unigine Superposition||85.6 FPS||77.1 FPS||84.1 FPS||76.2 FPS|
|3DMark Time Spy||36.2 FPS||error||39.9 FPS||33.6 FPS|
|3DMark Fire Strike||69.6 FPS||64.5 FPS||85.2 FPS||63.1 FPS|
|Tomb Raider 2013||111.6 FPS||107.2 FPS||153. 2 FPS||137 FPS|
|Shadow of Mordor||87.5 FPS||82.9 FPS||85.5 FPS||81.8 FPS|
|Dirt Rally||73.1 FPS||77.3 FPS||64.1 FPS||65.6 FPS|
|Hitman||66.2 FPS||72.5 FPS||55.2 FPS||53.4 FPS|
The Razer Core V2 is the filet mignon you order at a fine dining restaurant. It’s delicious and refined with the price to match. The Core X is more like a Big Mac. It gets the job done, appealing to many palates and satisfying your hunger affordably. The Core X checks off many of the items from the Core V2 wishlist including a sub $400 price point and a quieter power supply. Meeting these demands meant compromising the slender build, RGB effects and expansion I/O. Despite this, Razer not only priced its new enclosure at $299 but also increased the Power Delivery, internal enclosure volume and GPU max power. Effectively the Core X emerges as the go-to single I/O Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosure that can pair with almost all graphics cards and Thunderbolt 3 laptops.
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