Razer's Challenging Pursuit of the Core + Ultrabook

By Published January 09, 2017 at 8:30 am
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At CES 2016, Razer introduced what they touted as the long-awaited solution for laptop users that wanted desktop power gaming: the Razer Blade Stealth and the Razer Core. Razer promised UltraBook lightweight portability combined with PNP conversion to desktop GPU performance; however, like many products at CES, only part of the solution was ready. The UltraBook and external GPU enclosure combination was demonstrated at that CES and, to Razer’s credit, PNP worked … mostly.

While on the show floor, we were permitted to disconnect and reconnect the Core from the Stealth multiple times to watch the PNP in action. During the process, the engineers that we worked with explained the many difficulties involved with making real-time driver switching across Thunderbolt 3 (brand new, at that point) work. Asking a Microsoft OS to disconnect and reconnect display drivers from 3 different vendors (AMD, Intel, nVidia) was challenging. So, as we watched Windows change the display drivers in real time through Device Manager, we were impressed to see it working even if it wasn’t the fully polished end product. Soon after the show, Razer began delivering Stealths with 6th generation Core i7 CPUs, 2560x1440 QHD or 4K touch screens, 8GB of DDR3 DRAM, and up to 512GB PCIe based SSDs. The only slightly disappointing specification was the 45 WHr battery which provided around 9 hours of use.

Then, after months of waiting and at least two additional delays, the Core was finally delivered to many Razer fans in late May. Some user issues popped-up in the Razer forums throughout June. Other problems revolving around getting familiar with Thunderbolt 3 and Core recognition on the host system were also discussed and somewhat resolved by Reddit users. By late July, there wasn’t much traffic relating to Core/Stealth pairing problems, indicating a relatively successful delivery on Razer’s promise.

Fast forward a few more months to September of 2016 and the announcement of Kaby Lake.

At this point, Razer has decided that the Stealth can be improved in the battery department to address the major complaint from users, adding a few ounces of weight in the process. The New Razer Blade Stealth was equipped with a 53.6 WHr Lithium Ion battery, and could be configured with a 7th generation Core i7 (an option for a Core i5-7200U was also added), 16GB of DDR3 DRAM, and now a 1TB PCIe SSD. The price tag of the fully equipped option was staggering, but to their credit, the low-end option was now less expensive than before.

CES 2017, the Razer Stealth and Core are sitting in the Razer booth in relative anonymity, hiding in the shadow of the wildly popular concept Project Valerie. Things are mostly quiet on the web in terms of driver switching issues, and true to their word Razer, with the help of AMD, nVidia, and MS has produced a properly functioning, PNP, external GPU enclosure. We’re still not convinced that the Core is the answer for laptop gamers (see coverage on GTX 1050/1050 Ti laptops), but Razer has proven that they have the skill and manpower to make concept ideas come to fruition. While we’re also not convinced that Project Valerie is a great idea we’ll at least give the tip of the hat if and when they pull it off.

- Patrick “Mocalcium” Stone

Last modified on January 08, 2017 at 8:30 am

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