Razer Core shows what Apple could do for gamers with Thunderbolt

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2016
Gaming hardware maker Razer has unveiled something that Mac users have sought after for years -- a Thunderbolt-connected external module that lets gamers take advantage of desktop-class graphics hardware at home while keeping their laptop thin and light on the go.




The Razer Core, announced at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, isn't technologically novel. It connects to the company's new Blade Stealth ultrabook via Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C, and functions primarily as a really big Thunderbolt dock -- one that happens to include a PCIe slot.

That slot can handle any standard double-width, full-length PCI Express x16 graphics card. Gamers can slip in a GTX 970 or Radeon R9 380, connect the Core to the Stealth, and play Crysis without melting the Stealth's integrated Intel graphics chip.

When they're done, they can unplug the Core -- without rebooting -- and take the MacBook Air-sized stealth to the coffee shop.

Gamers who prefer Apple's laptops have been searching for a solution like this for years. Interest has only intensified since Thunderbolt's introduction, but Apple has ignored their cries.




There are unofficial workarounds, of course, using some of the infrastructure Apple has built to support external PCIe devices for professionals.

It's not easy though. It requires some nontrivial hacking -- in the oldest sense of the word -- to enable Thunderbolt GPU drivers, and doesn't gracefully handle hotplugging the way Razer's solution does.

The adoption of Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C gives Apple an excellent opportunity to make this work in a user-friendly way, but history suggests that they almost certainly won't.

Why does Apple seem so ambivalent toward desktop gaming? Maybe the Halo debacle -- when Microsoft snatched Bungie up for the Xbox and subsequently killed the originally planned Mac release -- scarred Apple for life, or perhaps they've simply chosen to put their weight behind iOS as the gaming platform of the future.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 37
    adrayvenadrayven Posts: 460member
    I do wonder if the Razer Core would actually work with a Macbook Air or Pro when they get updated to Thunderbolt 3 USB-C form factor. We know it's coming. I'm honestly not seeing why it wouldn't short of missing drivers. Will be something to watch for.
    edited January 2016
  • Reply 2 of 37
    I've wanted this option on all Macs since Thunderbolt was introduced, expansion chassis with all sorts of variations including extra graphics cards, extra CPUs, extra PCIe slots, extra USB ports, etc. Make laptops feel like desktops, make desktops even faster....
  • Reply 3 of 37
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 1,970member
    " Interest has only intensified since Thunderbolt's introduction, but Apple has ignored their cries." Considering that you need TB3 for this to work, you can't blame Apple for not releasing it yet.
    edited January 2016
  • Reply 4 of 37
    That is one of the ugliest boxes I've ever seen.  Even if it were beauti-ugli-ful I think Apple's approach to design, and to products, would preclude them from ever arriving at something remotely like this.
  • Reply 5 of 37
    crowleycrowley Posts: 6,017member
    " Interest has only intensified since Thunderbolt's introduction, but Apple has ignored their cries." Considering that you need TB3 for this to work, you can't blame Apple for not releasing it yet.
    This kind of product has been speculated about since TB1, it's only Razor's box that requires TB3.
  • Reply 6 of 37
    crowleycrowley Posts: 6,017member

    That is one of the ugliest boxes I've ever seen.  Even if it were beauti-ugli-ful I think Apple's approach to design, and to products, would preclude them from ever arriving at something remotely like this.
    It's not a million miles away from the design of the old Mac Pro.  Hardly ugly.  The green lighting is obviously overkill and Apple would never do anything like that, but it's part of Razer's brand aesthetic.
    nolamacguycornchip
  • Reply 7 of 37
    Bungie, not Bungee. 

    Thunderbolt 3 is really the first time this has been practical, but yeah, it's doubtful Apple will support this. 
    cornchipSpamSandwich
  • Reply 8 of 37
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    The iPad Pro is Apple's idea of high-end gaming.
    macmichiel
  • Reply 9 of 37
    "Halo debacle?!?" Jobs turned his back on Bungee. Only Mac users that were gamers thought it was a debacle. Apple seems to have gone out of it's way to make Macs that are borderline useless for cutting edge games. iOS accounts for about 75% of their revenue. I don't think there will ever be good Mac only game again. Ports of PC games on Steam are the only real option.
  • Reply 10 of 37
    Gaming hardware maker Razer has unveiled something that Mac users have sought after for years -- a Thunderbolt-connected external module that lets gamers take advantage of desktop-class graphics hardware at home while keeping their laptop thin and light on the go.




    The Razer Core, announced at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, isn't technologically novel. It connects to the company's new Blade Stealth ultrabook via Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C, and functions primarily as a really big Thunderbolt dock -- one that happens to include a PCIe slot.

    That slot can handle any standard double-width, full-length PCI Express x16 graphics card. Gamers can slip in a GTX 970 or Radeon R9 380, connect the Core to the Stealth, and play Crysis without melting the Stealth's integrated Intel graphics chip.

    When they're done, they can unplug the Core -- without rebooting -- and take the MacBook Air-sized stealth to the coffee shop.

    Gamers who prefer Apple's laptops have been searching for a solution like this for years. Interest has only intensified since Thunderbolt's introduction, but Apple has ignored their cries.




    There are unofficial workarounds, of course, using some of the infrastructure Apple has built to support external PCIe devices for professionals.

    It's not easy though. It requires some nontrivial hacking -- in the oldest sense of the word -- to enable Thunderbolt GPU drivers, and doesn't gracefully handle hotplugging the way Razer's solution does.

    The adoption of Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C gives Apple an excellent opportunity to make this work in a user-friendly way, but history suggests that they almost certainly won't.

    Why does Apple seem so ambivalent toward desktop gaming? Maybe the Halo debacle -- when Microsoft snatched Bungee up for the Xbox and subsequently killed the originally planned Mac release -- scarred Apple for life, or perhaps they've simply chosen to put their weight behind iOS as the gaming platform of the future.
    It’s nice to see someone finally step up to the plate and make a graphics card adapter/enlcosure which includes a Power Supply Unit. And if you can’t wait for this, or if you’ve got Thunderbolt 1 or 2 (like me), you can use the Akitio Thunder2, though it’s difficult to connect a Power Supply Unit if you’re using a card which requires more than 75 watts.
    rezwits
  • Reply 11 of 37
    j1334j1334 Posts: 4member
    Gamers and... video professionals have needed more options for upgrading GPU's for many years now. There are already some third party Thunderbolt breakout boxes available (Sonnet Technologies Echo Express III-D) but Apple doesn't write the necessary software to make this configuration work for graphic cards. A hack was recently created by the people at macvidcards.com. But this only came out Q4-2015 and it's too soon to know if it works well enough to make the investment. It would be so easy for Apple to make this happen (and it would make a lot of people super happy). Why they don't, who knows?
  • Reply 12 of 37
     ... Why does Apple seem so ambivalent toward desktop gaming? ...
    The real answer here (the one no gamer wants to hear or will ever believe) is that it's because it's a small-ish and very niche market.  

    They already pour money down the drain just to keep the Mac Pro in their lineup and pretend that they are relevant in the high end desktop market.  This market is even smaller and likely to give even less return on the research dollar.  

    Anyone who has the ability to step back and look at the computer industry, and the way it's developed over the last two decades, as a whole, can see that this kind of desktop gaming is a fading segment of that whole.  It's time has passed.  It's peak was probably a few years after the first Halo came out and it's been sliding down ever since. 
  • Reply 13 of 37
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,744member
    Why does Apple seem so ambivalent toward desktop gaming?

    Because it doesn't matter. It's neither where the future is, nor where the money is. Same reason they don't make an x-mac, or whatever some folks called that nonsense years ago when they were moaning about it. Apple's end-to-end experience, of which Macs are a part, carries a price tag already. Shoving the latest "gaming" class hardware in there would only see the costs passed on to the consumer. It's obviously (and according to Apple's success with Macs so far) better to focus on integration, build quality, ease of use, and a support infrastructure to back it all up, rather than to deliver bleeding edge gaming hardware of whatever is nearest to it. And there's no point in wasting time and money on maybe churning out one or two machines dedicated to that.

    Not enough demand for it in the first place.

    Apple brought us viable, and now widely popular, mobile gaming. No one has to personally like it, but look at the ecosystem of which it is a key part, and then look at Apple's numbers. Seems pretty clear that Apple's focusing on all the right things at the right time, which has been par for the course for them ever since Jobs' return, and now under Tim Cook. The unparalleled success story continues. 
  • Reply 14 of 37

    GRPeng said:
    "Halo debacle?!?" Jobs turned his back on Bungee. Only Mac users that were gamers thought it was a debacle. ...
    Nah, you're attempting to rewrite history here.  Bungee jumped ship for more money.  Jobs had nothing to do with it. 

    Bungee betrayed Apple by leaving for Microsoft after giving multiple assurances that they wouldn't.  Jobs would never have included them in the keynote if they weren't considered "locked in" already.  
  • Reply 15 of 37
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,138member
    With USB3-c with thunderbolt 3 strapped in why don't they just start making monitors with GPU's built in?


    tobian
  • Reply 16 of 37
    I love this approach. It is the future of gaming. This type of device could be combined with Apple TV, an iPhone for that matter...talking int the future of course. I have an Alienware 17 laptop and use the graphic amplifier with a Titan X. Even thought the Alienware isn't a super portable laptop it is the same concept. It works great.
  • Reply 17 of 37
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,849member
    One of the things about modern apple is it just doesn't seem to follow through.

    It introduces new tech, which is potentially ground breaking, then doesn't give it the use case that drives wide adoption. The new tech just sort of sits there.

    Thunderbolt is a clear example (and firewire, and probably lightning before it).  Apple leads its introduction, then drag out the TB3/USB-c adoption.  Doesn't bother come up with a product that drives the uptake of the new port, like this example. If third parties aren't doing it, Apple should.  You can't tell me they haven't explored just that before they decided to adopt the port.  There is no killer combination of a mac with a laser printer that comes up these days.  

    Another example is home kit.  Why didn't the apple tv be specifically set up to be a hub for home kit? The tech is sort of just pushed out and then left to sink or swim, relying on adoption by others.  In fact the apple TV needs a lot of work when you think about it, especially considering its price.  It could be a media server too, and a back up device.  ti could be so much more than it is.  

    I could keep going of course.  



    edited January 2016
  • Reply 18 of 37
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
     ... Why does Apple seem so ambivalent toward desktop gaming? ...
    Anyone who has the ability to step back and look at the computer industry, and the way it's developed over the last two decades, as a whole, can see that this kind of desktop gaming is a fading segment of that whole.  It's time has passed.  It's peak was probably a few years after the first Halo came out and it's been sliding down ever since. 
    and yet, OR-supported game Star Citizen crowdfunded $105MM from customers just to play this game in VR on desktop machines. this was in fact the highest crowdfunding project in history:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Citizen
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_highest_funded_crowdfunding_projects
    edited January 2016
  • Reply 19 of 37
     ... Why does Apple seem so ambivalent toward desktop gaming? ...
    The real answer here (the one no gamer wants to hear or will ever believe) is that it's because it's a small-ish and very niche market.  

    They already pour money down the drain just to keep the Mac Pro in their lineup and pretend that they are relevant in the high end desktop market.  This market is even smaller and likely to give even less return on the research dollar.  

    Anyone who has the ability to step back and look at the computer industry, and the way it's developed over the last two decades, as a whole, can see that this kind of desktop gaming is a fading segment of that whole.  It's time has passed.  It's peak was probably a few years after the first Halo came out and it's been sliding down ever since. 
    Why does Apple seem so ambivalent toward desktop gaming?

    Because it doesn't matter. It's neither where the future is, nor where the money is. Same reason they don't make an x-mac, or whatever some folks called that nonsense years ago when they were moaning about it. Apple's end-to-end experience, of which Macs are a part, carries a price tag already. Shoving the latest "gaming" class hardware in there would only see the costs passed on to the consumer. It's obviously (and according to Apple's success with Macs so far) better to focus on integration, build quality, ease of use, and a support infrastructure to back it all up, rather than to deliver bleeding edge gaming hardware of whatever is nearest to it. And there's no point in wasting time and money on maybe churning out one or two machines dedicated to that.

    Not enough demand for it in the first place.

    Apple brought us viable, and now widely popular, mobile gaming. No one has to personally like it, but look at the ecosystem of which it is a key part, and then look at Apple's numbers. Seems pretty clear that Apple's focusing on all the right things at the right time, which has been par for the course for them ever since Jobs' return, and now under Tim Cook. The unparalleled success story continues. 
    I respectfully disagree.

    Doing a search for "PC gaming revenue" or similar searches shows that PC game sales revenue has now surpassed all consoles combined. 

    PC gaming is quite healthy and isn't dying at all. Quite the opposite, it is far from small-ish or niche or not mattering. 

    Thankfully the world is a big place and there is plenty of room for PC gaming, console gaming, phone/tablet gaming, and dedicated handheld gaming to all coexist and make good money with a good product.
  • Reply 20 of 37
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,949member
    The price of that brick is missing and rather important determination of how many people might give it a shot. Performance is a very important question too. Thunderbolt is how many PCIe lane's worth of bandwidth? 2? 4? And you want to run games on an Ultrabook? Even a fast Ultrabook chip, that's asking a lot to expect near-desktop class performance even with what looks like a very expensive side car. Thunderbolt may be a fast protocol, but compared to a full length PCIe slot, I bet it's like feeding data through a straw.

    I think a separate computer is your best bet. Shoehorning or sidecaring a desktop card to an Ultrabook just doesn't sound like a dollar-effective way to get game performance.
    edited January 2016
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