One of the downsides to an external graphics box is that there is usually a performance hit associated with feeding data through a Thunderbolt port, versus a GPU that is plugged directly into the motherboard. Startup company Exklim claims that is not the case for its eX Core, a sleek and portable GPU dock for laptops.
The eX Core is on Kickstarter where it has already surpassed its funding goal with still 21 days to go. According to the listing, it's the "world's smallest portable GPU for laptops," though as TomsHardware points out, Lenovo sells a similarly sized graphics dock.
Both solutions are powered by a GeForce GTX 1050 GPU. That's a relatively tame graphics solution, though compared to most integrated graphics solutions, it's a sizeable leap in performance.
Where things get interesting is looking at the performance claims. Have a look at one of the graphs Exklim assembled based on its own internal benchmarking:
Notice that the eX Core is shown to outperform a regular GeForce GTX 1050 installed in a desktop PC. How can that be? In the comments section, Exklim explains that it added a pre-renderer mode and special controller that "can help minimize bandwidth gaps by pre-rendering frames before being displayed." The company also suggest that there is overclocking going on.
"So expect full framerate[s] on both ways. Since we are using an optimized GTX 1050 4GB GDDR5, performance loss is minimal. Impossible to notice," Exklim says.
In the launch video, Exklim also makes the claim that eX Core runs quiet and will never throttle. Color us skeptical of the entire pitch, though we're also intrigued.
However performance shakes out, it's nice to see a portable solution, one that you can hold in the palm of your hand (and more importantly, tuck inside a bag without taking up a ton of room).
There is a Super Early Bird tier with a few units still available, priced at CA$499 (~US$397). Head to the Kickstarter page to view all the details.