Razer Core GPU Expander:
Does Gaming at 4K Match The Speed of Desktop Computers?
Posted June 9th, 2016 by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
Updated June 10th with results for Razer Core using external display
On the surface, the Razer Core Thunderbolt 3 GPU Expander seems like a killer accessory for the Razer Blade Stealth laptop but we only benchmarked it at 1280x720 in a previous article. What if we ran games and other GPU intensive apps at 3840x2160 and High Quality settings? Could the Thunderbolt 3 connection be a bottleneck compared to the 16 lane PCIe slots of desktop computers like the Mac Pro tower?
GPU GRAPH LEGEND
cMP 980 Ti Win = 'mid 2010' Mac Pro Tower with GeForce GTX 980 Ti installed and connected to Dell 5K display; Windows 7 in BootCamp partition.
cMP 980 Ti OS X = 'mid 2010' Mac Pro Tower with GeForce GTX 980 Ti installed and connected to Dell 5K display; OS X 10.11.4
Core 980 Ti Dell 5K = 'early 2016' Razer Blade Stealth connected to Razer Core with GeForce GTX 980 TI installed and connected to Dell 5K display; Windows 10 OS.
Core 980 Ti Built-in = 'early 2016' Razer Blade Stealth connected to Razer Core with GeForce GTX 980 TI installed and looped back to internal display; Windows 10 OS.
Set to "HIGH" preset, we ran the built-in benchmark. (HIGHEST in Average Frames per Second = FASTEST)
Left 4 Dead 2
We used the console command "timedemo" to playback a recorded game session. Settings were Fullscreen, No AA, Anisotropic 2X, Vsync Disabled, Shader Detail Very High, Effect Detail and Model/Texture Detail both High, Multicore Rendering Enabled. (HIGHEST in Average Frames per Second = FASTEST)
Team Fortress 2
We use the console command "timedemo" to playback a recorded game session. Settings were Fullscreen, Detail "High", Water = Reflect World, Color Correction Enabled, no AA, Anisotropic 2X, Vsync Disabled, Motion Blur Enabled, Multicore Rendering Enabled. (HIGHEST in Average Frames per Second = FASTEST)
Diablo III (Patch 2.4.1)
My character is standing next to the New Tristram Waypoint. Settings were Fullscreen, Reflections Disabled, no AA, all other settings "HIGH" or "HIGH Smooth." (HIGHEST in Average Frames per Second = FASTEST)
World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draener
Our character is standing at the entrance to the Dark Portal watching the forming crowd assaulting each other. Settings were Fullscreen, Ultra Preset, Anti-Aliasing = None. Average FPS was calculated by Titan Performance Addon. (HIGHEST in Average Frames per Second = FASTEST)
Whether you are running games on your Mac Pro tower under OS X or Windows, the Razer Core Thunderbolt 3 GPU expander gets 'smoked' at 3840x2160 resolution and High Quality settings. The gap would even be higher if we tested on a native desktop PC with x16 PCIe Gen 3 slot(s).
However, the 40+ frame rates generating using the Razer Blade Stealth's internal display were good enough to provide smooth animation. It's is certainly better than attempting 4K gaming using the integrated Intel HD Graphics 520 at 4 FPS (Tomb Raider).
FLASH: By connecting the GTX 980 Ti inside the Razer Core directly to the Dell 5K display and using Display Settings to "turn off" the Built-in Razer Blade Stealth display, the frame rates jumped up to rival those of the Mac Pro running Windows! (See updated graphs.) Of course, to accomplish this feat requires the Razer Blade Stealth, Razer Core, GTX 980 Ti, and Dell 5K display. Total investment? $4500.
It could be argued that if you want a fast gaming laptop that does not require a GPU expander or external display, get one with a fast, discrete GPU. Case in point is the Blade Stealth's sibling, the Quad-Core Razer Blade gaming laptop with a GTX 970M (6GB GDDR5). Or get crazier and order the ASUS ROG GX700VO, the world's first liquid-cooled gaming laptop with GTX 980 (pictured below).
NOTE: Many thanks to MacVidCards for the loan of the EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti.
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WHERE TO BUY RAZER CORE AND RAZER BLADE STEALTH
Order direct from the RazerZone or from B&H Photo/Video.
WHERE TO ORDER DESKTOP GPUs
Order the new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 from B&H Photo/Video,