The laptop graphics-amping Razer Core supports non-Razer laptops, but it’s not really designed to be carted around with you, Razer’s director of product marketing, Kevin Sather, told Polygon.
The Core went on pre-order last night for $499 (or $399, if you buy it with a supported Razer laptop).
The graphics card enclosure doesn’t start shipping until April, but people are already wondering how else they can use the Core beyond as a graphics amp for a Razer laptop. In particular, people are curious about whether the Core could be used with a laptop as a portable gaming rig.
“We didn’t design it to be portable. We didn’t put a handle on it,” Sather said. “But it’s definitely something that could be taken out of the home. It weighs under 11 pounds.
“We have tossed it into our backpacks and taken with us to events.”
Despite toting the Core around themselves, Sather said that Razer was caught a little off guard by how many people are asking about portability of what is essentially a docking station.
“We designed it to be this thing that sits on your desk, but people want to know if they can move it from room to room, or bring it to a friend’s house or a LAN party,” he said. “I think one of the reasons people are thinking about it that way is because you wouldn’t need to bring a display with you.”
That’s because the Core can pass the graphics card information back to the supported Razer laptops, both of which have a 4K display option.
The Core is a slick rectangular box with rounded corners and a mesh metal screen on one side that allows users to see the interior lighting and for air to pass through for cooling. It supports compatible double-wide, full-length, PCI Express x16 cards from AMD and Nvidia. (The cards are sold separately.) The enclosure includes a 500 W power supply, four USB 3.0 ports, a gigabit Ethernet port and two-zone lighting.
One zone is inside the Core and the other adds downlighting.
The unit uses a Thunderbolt USB-C port to connect to a compatible laptop, and can transfer data at up to 40 Gbps. While it is designed to allow a mobile user to essentially turn their laptop into a more powerful, docked gaming system complete with your own plugged in mouse, keyboard and monitor; it can also be used just to increase the graphics power of the laptop.
The one drawback of relying on the laptop’s screen instead of a separate monitor is that the data has to be piped to the graphics card and then back to the laptop. Using an external monitor, Sather said, would likely be a “bit better.”
“But the capabilities of the laptop would still be improved,” he said.
While there does seem to be some demand for the Core as portable device, Sather said it’s unlikely Razer would redesign it to better suit that purpose.
“We are really happy with the design as it is now,” he said. “It’s sleek and compact. We wanted to keep a design consistent with the materials and colors we use. And we can fit it in our backpack with a notebook.”
The Core does actually have a handle, but it’s one that, when lifted, unlocks the system so an owner can slide out the PCIe slot to add or change the graphics card. Sather said Razer warns owners in the instruction manual not to use that handle for carrying around the Core, lest it fall open.
In terms of compatibility with non-Razer laptops, Sather said the Core is designed to be open to any laptop that can support it. That means that a laptop needs to fully support the external graphics standard for Intel’s Thunderbolt connection.
“It’s on the bleeding edge of these standards,” Sather said. “Anyone who adheres to it should have a laptop that supports it.” The only system Sather knew of that does support the standard is a recently announced Intel NUC mini-computer.
Finally, I asked Sather if Razer may start offering bundle deals with the Core and a graphics card.
“It’s something we definitely want to explore,” he said. “But I think in the short term is on the [Core and laptop] discount.”