Razer Core launch details, desktop graphics from your laptop

Razer Core external graphics enclosure launch details GDC photo
Razer Core external graphics enclosure launch details GDC photo

First announced in January, the Razer Core is an external graphics enclosure that allows notebook computers to access the power of the best graphics cards. We already knew the upcoming Core would work with the Razer Blade Stealth, Razer's sleek ultrabook that just launched this month. Yesterday, we also discovered that the new Razer Blade 14-inch gaming notebook will also work with the Core. But what about other notebook computers?

Razer has just revealed a fresh batch of details about the Razer Core, including full specs, what types of graphics cards it will work with, the price, and shipping date. The manufacturer will also offer the Core at a discount when bought with compatible Razer notebooks. Read on for full details on the Razer Core, plus our hands-on video from GDC!

What is the Razer Core?

Razer Core external graphics enclosure launch details and Razer Blade GDC photo

Razer Core external graphics enclosure launch details and Razer Blade GDC photo

As we've mentioned before, the Razer Core is an external graphics enclosure that allows someone with a compatible notebook to connect a desktop graphics card and utilize its increased graphical horsepower. This allows the notebook user to experience graphics far superior to what a notebook can do because even the best notebook graphics card can't compete with top-of-the-line desktop cards.

What's more, most notebooks can't be upgraded with better graphics cards (or not significantly better). And even if you could get a better one, mobile graphics cards are way more expensive than the equivalent desktop cards. My notebook can accommodate an nVidia GTX 970M (as featured in the new Razer Blade), but it would cost me $700 from my supplier of choice – and that's below retail!

The Razer Core is not the first external graphics closure on the market, but (according to Razer) it's the first true plug and play one. Users can safely connect and disconnect the Core from their notebooks via Thunderbolt 3 cable while the notebook remains powered on.

It doesn't sound like much, but something like this has never been done before. Imagine you have the Razer Blade Stealth with its onboard graphics, unable to run many 3D games. Plug the Core with an appropriate graphics card in and boom, your Stealth can play anything you throw at it.

Razer Core specs:

  • GPU Type: (1) double-wide, full-length PCI-Express x16 graphics card
  • GPU Max Dimensions: 12.20" x 5.98" x 1.73" (310 x 152 x 44 mm)
  • GPU Max Power Support: 375 W
  • Connects via Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) with speeds up to 40 Gigs/second
  • Adds 4 USB 3.0 ports and Gigabit Ethernet
  • Two light zones powered by Razer Chroma Technology – Can be synced with other Razer Chroma devices
  • Power Supply: 500 W
  • Approx. Dimensions: 4.13" (104.9 mm) wide x 13.38" (339.9 mm) deep x 8.6" (218.4 mm) high
  • Approx. Weight: 10.89 lbs. (4.94 kg)

Which graphics cards and notebooks can be used with the Razer Core?

Razer Core external graphics enclosure launch details and Razer Blade GDC photo

Razer Core external graphics enclosure launch details and Razer Blade GDC photo

The Razer Core does not include a graphics card, so they must be purchased separately. Because of the plug-and-play nature of the Core, graphics cards must be certified to work with it. At launch, a variety of AMD cards will be fully certified for the Core thanks to AMD's XConnect technology. nVidia Maxwell card support is currently in beta status, meaning Maxwell cards will work but have yet to be fully validated.

Qualified AMD Radeon graphics cards (AMD XConnect supported with Blade Stealth):

  • AMD Radeon R9 Fury
  • AMD Radeon R9 Nano
  • AMD Radeon R9 300 Series
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X
  • AMD Radeon R9 290
  • AMD Radeon R9 280

Supported NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards (as part of beta program):

  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan X
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750

Compatible Razer notebook models:

  • Razer Blade Stealth
  • Razer Blade (w/ Thunderbolt 3) as part of beta program
  • More to come!

At present, The Razer Core only works with the Razer Blade Stealth and Razer Blade. But Razer is working to make the Razer Core adhere to open standards, so it should eventually work with other Thunderbolt 3-equipped notebooks as well. Hopefully, that compatibility comes to pass, as it would add a lot of value to the Core for people who haven't fully bought into the Razer ecosystem yet.

Razer Core Pricing

Razer Core external graphics enclosure launch details and Razer Blade GDC photo

Razer Core external graphics enclosure launch details and Razer Blade GDC photo

The Razer Core is an innovative device that represents a bridge between notebook and desktop computers. Buy a notebook, maybe use it to play light games on the go, and when you get home, plug into the Core for a full desktop experience. Even with a GPU-less notebook like the Razer Blade Stealth, you'll still be able to play the latest games for years to come, should you choose to pony up for the Core and a decent graphics card.

Of course, functionality like the Razer Core's doesn't come cheap. The Razer Core enclosure will cost $499 when it launches in April. You'll also need to purchase a separate graphics card to pair with it if you hope to take advantage of its graphical expansion capabilities.

To sweeten the pot a bit, Razer will also offer the Core for $399 when purchased with a compatible notebook from the Razer online store. That deal also applies to Razer Stealth owners who purchased the Stealth before today's announcement. If you can afford a Razer notebook/Core combo and a separate graphics card, you're in for an exciting mobile and at-home computer gaming experience.

What do you think of the Razer Core's specs and price, radical readers?

Paul Acevedo

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  • I'd love something like this for the Surface Pro 4.
  • Absolutely
  • I don't know if the surface connect on the pro 4 is the same as the book but if so then its possible  
  • Not just Surface, all upcoming notebooks that have USB-C Thunderbolt 3 on it! Also this isn't really the first. Magma ExpressBox also does this several years ago but didn't really much took-off because of some driver issues. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oO1Ze5JXnFk Hope this is a start for these universal expansion box for notebooks.
  • I know there have been other external PCIe enclosures, but supposedly something about the way the P&P works has never been done before. Then again, Razer could be mistaken about that.
  • Ok - while this is new for Thunderbolt3, it is not new. I wrote an article about this on Neowin member section about 3-4 years ago. I had a plug and play Nvidia desktop 670GTX that I plugged into a Lenovo 230XT convertible tablet. No special drivers. Complete plug and play. Could connect/disconnect in seconds without rebooting. Took 3dMark2011 scores from 700ish up to 8k ish and worked a treat. But that was ExpressCard slot (using ViDock) not Thunderbolt - but it was Fantastic. I shouted from the rooftops about this, but no-one saw the point.... to be it was perfect as small convertible laptop during the day while travelling. Then full desktop power graphics to play games in evenings. Video showing connect/disconnect and games - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_R6u7PjAwY  
  • Paul don't let him get to you, you are better than that.
  • Heh, thanks for the vote of support. I doubt he'll be around much longer.
  • It will be the best system EVAR~!!!
  • Great to see stuff like this, but that is a hefty price point.  The unit itself is almost as much as a 980ti. 
  • The price is astronomical. Most graphics cards aren't even $500, with the flagship 980Ti being $500. You'll spend more on the enclosure than on the card. Also, Paul, what laptop do you have that lets you upgrade the graphics? That's something I want to look into.
  • It's a Sager. They have user-upgradable CPUs, GPUs, RAM, and drive bays. Got mine from XoticPC a few years back. Note that Sager keyboards and especially touchpads are behind the curve compared to other manufacturers.
  • them eurocomm & dell(alienware is guaranteed to have mxm support) all run the same standard but yeah cost & if the bios can detect them are what keep them at arms length
  • I see. I just got a new laptop, but an upgradable laptop sounds wonderful. It's more attractive than the core to me. Thanks!
  • The pricing on that is a little insane, I assume its because its a gen 1 thing, but yeesh. 
  • That price is crazy. For $500 I can build a PC and put a graphics card in it. 
  • Erm.... Really wishing my laptop had a thunderbolt port now. -Mach 8 Solutions, LLC a software company.
  • How about you advertise somewhere else?
  • Oh quit your whining. -Mach 8 Solutions, LLC a software company.
  • This would be perfect if had USB 3 and was compatible with the Surface line! thethirdhelix Posted from Windows Central for Windows 10
  • This is a really weird thing. For starter, $500 is rough. By the time you've bought the enclosure and a card, you're approaching a decent desktop, or even a laptop that might run some of your games (if you aim at a high-end card that runs $500+). I'm not quite sure about the supporting cards. Specs for the Core in here said its max power draw on the GPU is 375W, but I'm pretty sure the supported R9 290X peaked at 400W or so in testing. I wonder if it gets throttled, or if it's more power efficient in this thing or what. It's also weird that the 280 is supported, but not the 280X. Huh. The Thunderbolt thing is also kind of tough to work with. It seems like SOME laptops are gettting TB3 support, but not all. I guess anyone looking into this would understand the difference between USB-C and TB3, but aren't they physically identical, which could cause confusion? Good review, but this is such a weird product. It's really expensive, support is very limited, and the overall appeal is pretty questionable. I guess if you're a high-end gamer who travels a lot and wants to carry a large brick, this'll help. I guess one other interesting option would be to get this, then use it with your desktop GPU while traveling.
  • I think the idea is that you leave the brick home when traveling. You take with you a still pretty powerful laptop. Then when you get home you turn it into a high end machine for your serious gaming.
  • Yeah, I'm just not too keen on that. I see a laptop as for being the portable option to my desktop. If you're a person who doesn't want a desktop, I guess that works. Me, I'd prefer to have a desktop do the heavy lifting at home, with the laptop as its mobile replacement. In that case, I want the Core with me to game on the road, if I have a long vacation. That's what made me think of carrying your desktop GPU in it on the road.
  • Yeah, I think on some lower-end laptops the included USB C port doesn't support the Thunderbolt 3 standard. I think the ones that do have a little lightning bolt symbol next to the port. I made sure the laptop I recently bought supported it, but it's admittedly a lot of jargon for the average user to sort through on a spec sheet. But then again, I wouldn't expect a non-tech savvy person to buy into anything like this. Just my two cents.
  • An interesting idea, although I'd like to see this type of device go universal rather than for one vendor only. It's nice for laptop users to not have to carry around a huge gaming system just to play on decent settings.
  • I know razer products tend to be overpriced but $500 just for an enclosure is absurd. I'd stick with the msi gaming dock mini and wait for the competitors.
  • Gaming laptop is a myth !
    Desktop FTW & VFM !
    Its not worth that money. I mean come on ! that hardware will be outdated in the near future and you will be left with an old lap and a fancy card dock.
    With that 500 dollars alone you can put one of those gaming mini ATX board with all components (including gfx) in a custom designed aluminum frame.
    I dont think you would be able to operate that card on dock without external power, same goes with the lap. So in the end you are plugged in. Posted from Windows Central for Windows 10 Mobile.
  • For a lot of words, you actually said very little there.
  • Yikes price is pretty crazy. I was running an egpu for a while using the exp-gdc adapter, which while not as elegant was about $100 for adapter, psu and enclosure. Would be interesting to see what new thunderbolt options they have as sure they will be a lot cheaper.
  • This setup is (or should be) the way of the future. Keep applying open standards and competition to this idea and I'm all onboard. Travel with your laptop, convertible, etc and leave your dock at work or home (or travel with it, if you please). Hopefully, competitors (and the GPU manufacturers) will hop onboard with this scheme and bring it to the market for all.
  • The specs on this, including the 4 USB ports, makes this a way to add Oculus Rift support to a laptop. Nice.
  • Good call!
  • Pretty neat idea if a laptop is your only computer. That said, I would still invest in a gaming desktop if I am that devoted enough to playing games.
  • I want this beast! But I guess I'll wait it's too expensive now, im sure the price will drop in future when its widely available for all laptops.
  • Would be great if they support the Dell XPS 15 which has Thunderbolt 3.0.
  • This is a really cool idea. I can see this catching on and even becoming less expensive at some point.
  • That's an interesting device but it adds bulk and cables all over the desk. Our computers today are starting to look like the ZX Spectrum with Interface 1, Intrrface 2, microdrives and the power brick :)
  • Is it too early for this? If you have 500W graphic card you usually have 100W CPU and that CPU usually have 500g heatstick. It would be a shame if you spend $3k just to see your laptop melt down after two hours of gaming. Other then that it's a tempting idea. Also, I don't know why docking stations are so expensive. For $200 you got a phone with screen, CPU, memory, storage and lot of sensors and then, the very same company charge $200 something that is basically USB HUB. And here we have USB hub with 500W power supply for $500. 
  • Would be cool if something like this comes to your phone via continuum. Plug your phone into a external dock that has maybe a faster cpu and gpu for more intensive apps or games on continuum
  • Um...Surface phone dock needs this.....could you imagine using ur phone to drive this thing......thats where we r headed peeps
  • What I like the most about this concept is that you can finally have a powerful one-cable docking experience with your laptop. In the past this has been attempted with the likes of DisplayLink by offering moderate graphics multipliers via a single USB 3.0 port, but with the USB-C port (aka Thunderbolt), they have finally unleashed the speed barriers!  I own an Alienware laptop and have tested the Alienware Graphics Amplifier, which has a proprietary port, and I assume Dell is worried about this competitor because it dropped in price from $399 to $179 just recently.  I also tested an external PCIe enclosure to put my Elgato HD 60 Pro card and it worked fantastically well with my Dell M3800 (work laptop), but it only allowed for 1/2 lenght cards, so I sent it back and put it back on a desktop computer. Supposedly, the Razer offers more PCIe lanes than the Alienware, but if anyone gets their hands on a Razer one, let me know and we can run a live benchmark and record it via Skype or Hangouts. As a closing note, since my Alienware does have a USB-C port, once the price comes down I might give it a shot too to compare the experience.