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Exklim's CEO answers community questions about the eX Core external GPU during interview with NotebookCheck

The Exklim eX Core. (Source: Exklim)
The Exklim eX Core. (Source: Exklim)
There has been a growing wave of people in the community calling the Exklim eX Core a scam. Some feel that the eX Core fills a new niche, some think that it can't achieve the claimed performance, while others believe it doesn't exist at all. We haven't seen any working products and we don't endorse the eX Core, but we did feel it was important to give Edgar the chance to answer some of the communities questions.

In light of concerns brought up by our readers in our news article about the Exklim eX Core Kickstarter campaign, and the community over at egpu.io regarding evidence that the eX Core could be a scam, we sat down for an impromptu Skype interview with Edgar Eliseo, CEO of Exklim.

During the interview, Edgar was quick to point out that he can’t discuss certain product specifics due to NDAs agreed with hardware partners and likened the lack of initial information to be similar to when the Oculus Rift launched on Kickstarter. He says that both products faced similar initial criticism due to the perception that the goals of these products were unachievable.

In the case of Exklim, this criticism is partially self-inflicted. The Kickstarter campaign launched with a lack of detailed information which lead people to doubt the validity of the product. Promotional material mixed AC-powered performance results with imagery of the eX Core running solely from the Thunderbolt port. When people asked for more details, they were often treated with suspicion. Edgar believes that the detail they’ve provided is no different to what you see during the release of a new iPhone; a few details about basic specifications, some pictures, and marketing statements. The difference here is that Apple isn’t funding each iPhone release via Kickstarter, they are a multi-billion dollar company with a proven track record who are paying entirely for their production. Being transparent to financial backers can be make-or-break for a new company selling their first product.

When faced with this information, Edgar was positive about the future “Yes, our funding goal has been reached so production will happen, but it would happen even without Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a marketing tool for us and a way to gauge interest. We had investors before going on Kickstarter and I’ve also put a lot of money into this.” Here he refers to some previously obtained funding from an angel investor and his own money that has been poured into the company. This investor is the patent lawyer who was contacted by a member of egpu.io and who confirmed they had seen the eX Core working.

We unofficially borrowed some questions put together by 'Yukikaze' on egpu.io and ran these passed Edgar. Since this was an audio interview we’ve presented an edited version of his answers below. ‘Blank’ means that the question either wasn’t answered or contained information that couldn’t yet be made public.

Have a read through the interview published here, and then read through the egpu.io thread (link at the bottom) and then form your opinion on the product. Remember that this is a Kickstarter product and there are risks associated with this. Funding a product isn't a guarantee that it will get made — although Edgar has said that it will be produced even without Kickstarter funding so you can err on the side of caution and know that you can still buy it after it releases.  For the answers given below, we have not validated any of these claims, and we aren't advocating for the eX Core. There is compelling evidence creating doubt over the eX Core, but we believed it was important to allow Exklim to share their side of the story.

  1. How many prototype units do you have on hand? Have you negotiated a manufacturing deal? Where will units be manufactured? You claim a delivery to customers in July 2018, so this is a relevant question as to the feasibility of your development cycle.

    1. If you plan to ship in July 2018: When will you be able to provide a unit for independent testing by theitsage (or say, notebookcheck, or Techpowerup, or better yet, all three)? It would seem that late June should be doable, and would settle a lot of questions. Influencers (oh how I detest this word) and other non-independent entities are of zero interest to the informed consumer.

      1. We currently have three prototypes, one of which is with our manufacturing partner in Taiwan. We should be able to share a pre-release unit with a site such as NotebookCheck with the understanding that it is a prototype unit and may still have bugs to work out. Otherwise review units will be available after launch. We have also been talking to Linus Tech Tips, Dave2D, and Unboxtherapy — who are all based in Canada — to check out review units.
      2. We had negotiated agreements with manufacturing partners before going on Kickstarter, so we will still hit the July 2018 target.

  2. Is the device capable of operating off bus power alone (no other power cords of any sort connected to the eGPU, just the TB3 cable to the host)? If yes, at which clock speeds does it operate when bus powered?

    1. Yes. Because TB3 output from a laptop can only provide 15 watts of power we throttle the GPU core and memory frequency to a point where it only draws 10 watts of power and leaves 5 watts for the controller (which requires 3.7 watts) and any other internal power draw. We have a low power state in the vBIOS preconfigured for this purpose. Performance on Thunderbolt3 bus-only mode is around 45% of the eX Core’s performance when using the power adaptor, which is comparatively good against other low TDP GPUs because of the higher number of ROPs.

  3. How do you explain the discrepancy in clocks and the rated TDP of the GTX1050 parts you've listed as your source compared to the one you advertise for your product? The source specifies a TDP of 50W, and clocks of 1354Mhz and makes no mention of this being a lower-power part. Even if you were to modify the vBIOS settings, how exactly will you guarantee the performance you advertise since your supplier is providing parts rated for the above, not some better figures. Do you plan to do in-house binning of the MXM cards and select ones that are capable of performing with lower power?

    1. When plugged in using the 90 watt adaptor provided in the box, the GTX 1050 4 GB will draw 33 watts or 55 watts for itself (Based on Battery W/H charge demand i.e. 33 watts when the laptop is charging and 55 watts when fully charged), leaving the rest to keep the laptop powered and charged. Our specifications when looking for partners were that they had to provide top quality components giving better performance per watt and lower power consumption, similar to what Nvidia does for Max-Q. Our vBIOS factory overclocks the eX Core (33 watts allows up to 1680mhz Dynamic Turbo clock, while 55 watts allows 1680mhz Turbo clock at all times, no throttling). These are desktop GPUs on MXM form factors. 

  4. Do you support any interfaces besides Thunderbolt3? If yes, which ones? Which adapters are required to make this work? Are they provided to backers?

    1. We support Thunderbolt 2 and Thunderbolt 3. Thunderbolt 3 is preferable from a performance point of view and is also a requirement if you want to power the eX Core from just the bus power. Thunderbolt 2 will require you to use the 90-watt power pack at all times (no Thunderbolt bus power support).

  5. Which operating systems are natively supported? Modified drivers are not "native", so answer carefully. If you plan to provide a workaround for OS X support, do you guarantee that you will keep developing them for every OS X version that will follow, so that OS X users can keep up with all security updates in OS X? Do you guarantee a timeframe after a new OS X version drops (and breaks your workaround) by which you will provide the new workaround so not to leave our users unable to use your device? Until which date do you guarantee to support the 1st generation eX Core?

    1. The eX Core runs on Windows (with appropriate Nvidia drivers). Support for MacOS is done via modded drivers and Nvidia beta drivers (links in our Kickstarter Q&A). The eX Core works well with MacBook Pro’s running Windows 10 via Bootcamp (with appropriate Nvidia drivers).

  6. Is your device an Intel-certified Thunderbolt3 peripheral? When will certification be completed? If you ship in July 2018, the date should be quite close.

    1. Blank

  7. Why is your marketing using all sorts of misleading information? And why is your user communication so inconsistent? 

    1.  Communication inconsistencies:

      1. Replies from Exklim are handled by multiple staff under the one account. We have several Koreans and Chinese on the team and they’re allowed to reply to questions. If they don’t know the answer then they ask [Edgar].

    2. Your Kickstarter still advertises OS X support: "We suggest updating to the most recent MacOS update as this includes Plug & Play compatibility for the eX Core" - Why haven't you removed this bit of information now that you mention "working on" modded drivers?

      1. Blank

    3. You claim the "world's smallest GPU", but you are using an off-the-shelf commercially available SKU, so is it fair to say there is nothing new here from you with regards to the GPU itself in use?

      1. The eX Core is the world’s smallest eGPU including enclosure.

    4. Why did you backtrack on OS X native support in the Kickstarter comments? Why did you back off from TB1 and TB2 support in Kickstarter comments? Why did you back off USB3.0 and non-Thunderbolt USB support? If you only now realized that these are difficult or impossible, why did you make the initial misleading statements to backers? Or is this simple incompetence on the part of your team?

      1. We didn’t backtrack on MacOS support, we just didn’t go into the full details because they currently involve non-final drivers and we thought this might confuse people. There were a few problems with mistakes on our initial Kickstarter listing and we’ve fixed that now.

  8. Please provide the complete information about the benchmarks you claim in your press kit (attached below), this includes:

    1. The eGPU system in use:

      1. Make and model.

        1. Razer Blade Stealth 2016 (12-inch)

      2. CPU.

        1. Intel i5-6200u

      3. Built-in Discrete GPU, if any.

        1. None. Intel HD620 integrated graphics

      4. Amount of RAM.

        1. 8 GB DDR3L

      5. Type of storage device (SSD/HDD/NVMe).

        1. 512 GB NVMe

      6. The benchmark settings used.

        1. 3D Mark11 default settings

    2. Whether an internal or external display was used.

      1. While the eX Core does have an HDMI port, the benchmarks shown are with the internal display.

    3. Was the device bus or externally powered during the benchmarking run.

      1. Running using the AC adaptor for the figures in the benchmark graphs

    4. The comparison desktop system:

      1. Maker and model of all major components (or, if OEM system, the make and model).

        1. Hardware from quality brands

      2. CPU.

        1. Intel i5-6300

      3. Amount of RAM.

        1. 8 GB

      4. The PCIe slot used for the GTX1050 (was it connected to the CPU? To the PCH? Was it x16? x8? x4? x1?)

        1. Blank

      5. Type of storage device (SSD/HDD/NVMe).

        1. Blank

      6. The exact model of GTX1050 you used for testing.

        1. Blank

      7. How was the monitor connected to the GPU?

        1. Blank

      8. The case you used for housing the system.

        1. Blank

      9. The benchmarks settings used.

        1. 3D Mark11 default settings

  9. What is the actual innovation you claim to provide in this product? I will make it easy by providing a set of questions that require Yes/No answers:

    1. Are you the world's smallest eGPU?

      1. Yes

    2. Are you the world's only/first bus-powered eGPU?

      1. Yes

    3. Do you have any better driver support in OS X than other devices by other companies?

      1. No

    4. Are you using any parts that are not off-the-shelf, beyond the obvious: Your in-house PCB design, your in-house cooler and the in-house external shell? I am not asking for specifics, just Yes or No.

      1. No

    5. Do you claim to provide better performance than a desktop GTX1050 card (of comparable clocks) used in a different eGPU enclosure?

      1. By using high-quality components and 4 GB GDDR5, the eX Core clocks higher and outperforms the desktop GTX 1050.

    6. Are you using any open source SW components packaged with the device? Such as any enabling scripts developed by the community? Answer carefully here.

      1. No

    7. Do you claim compatibility with any TB3 system?

      1. Yes, as long as the manufacturer has enabled external graphics functionality on their hardware

    8. Do you claim compatibility with any non-TB3 interfaces? Specifically, please answer for each one:

      1. USB2.0?

        1. Blank

      2. USB3.0?

        1. Blank

      3. USB3.1?

        1. Blank

      4. non-TB3 USB-C?

        1. Blank

      5. TB1?

        1. Blank

      6. TB2?

        1. Blank

      7. ExpressCard?

        1. Blank

      8. mPCIe?

        1. Blank

      9. m.2?

        1. Blank

  10. What is your stance regarding the fact that Apple specifically states that NVidia cards are not supported as eGPUs?

    1. Blank

  11. What other products does your company manufacture or has manufactured before? In any market (consumer retail, direct-to-OEM, etc). Please link to data sheets, product pages, or any sales listings.

    1. Other products to come in the future.

  12. Please link to any granted patents in the US patent office database that the company has ownership to. I am not asking about any pending patents, but ones already in the public domain.

    1. We have a patent pending on the eX Core. The patent has been approved but won’t appear in the public domain until it is fully granted (up to one year).

  13. Why are your English communications so poor? If your company is as large as you claim to be (20+ people), it would be expected in the professional world to hire someone with a good grasp of English to do the external communications, especially if you are based in North America.

    1. The mix of staff languages was mentioned earlier in the interview, and our staff handle communications.

  14. Have you used any stock or unlicensed photos/images in your marketing materials, or do you claim original creation of all pictures you've provided?

    1. Blank

  15. Closing notes from Exklim

    1. When bus powered: 3.7 watt Thunderbolt 3 board + 10 watt MXM with dynamic clock. Max turbo of 1680mhz (depending on the task) but expect a sustained clock speed of 1017mhz core and 2700mhz vRAM at full load. This gives a total less than 15 watts so no  (LP3 STATE). Expect 2:30 to 3:00 hours of gameplay when running on notebook battery.
    2. ROP counts, so please do not calculate performance per-clock per-watt OR compare it to lower-end cards other than similar. i.e. a higher spec’d card that has been downclocked will outperform a lower spec’d card at the same clock speed.
    3. When running on the 90 watt AC adapter it allows 55 watt for the MXM video card. In this state you get full performance with no throttling, and you can expect 1680mhz core and 7000mhz vRAM. 35 watts are left to charge ultrabook battery (P1 STATE).
    4. If the battery requires more than 50 watts to increase charge then firmware will auto switch to provide 60 watts from the 90 watt AC adapter to charge the laptop. The remaining 30 watts are available for the eX Core. Under these conditions it has a theoretical max turbo of 1680mhz. Under sustained use expect 1390mhz core and 7000mhz vRAM at full load (P2 STATE).

Source(s)

egpu.io

Edgar Eliseo (Exklim CEO)

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2018 04 > Exklim's CEO answers community questions about the eX Core external GPU during interview with NotebookCheck
Craig Ward, 2018-04-30 (Update: 2018-05- 1)
Craig Ward
Craig Ward - News Editor
I grew up in a family surrounded by technology, starting with my father loading up games for me on a Commodore 64, and later on a 486. In the late 90's and early 00's I started learning how to tinker with Windows, while also playing around with Linux distributions, both of which gave me an interest for learning how to make software do what you want it to do, and modifying settings that aren't normally user accessible. After this I started building my own computers, and tearing laptops apart, which gave me an insight into hardware and how it works in a complete system. Now keeping up with the latest in hardware and software news is a passion of mine.