Razer Blade (2018)

In 2018, Razer has made a huge effort to revolutionize the Razer Blade, already one of the best gaming laptops. This time around, Razer has dropped the 14-inch model for, well, another 14-inch Razer Blade, technically speaking.

With the Razer Blade 15, the fabled gaming manufacturer integrated a 15.6-inch display into a 14-inch frame, like what some of the best Ultrabooks have been doing for a while now – creating the smallest 15.6-inch gaming laptop ever made, at least if you ask Razer. The new Razer Blade has been completely redesigned from the ground up, and we have to admit – we’re impressed.

However, the new Razer Blade has arrived in a gaming laptop scene that’s changed so much over the last year. In the span of a year, the competition has created a wealth of gaming laptops similar to this one, making it hard for the Razer Blade 2018 to stand out. So, how does the Razer Blade 15 fare? Well, let’s find out.

Price and availability

Razer has priced the latest Blade similarly to its previous laptops – somewhat exorbitantly. The 2018 Razer Blade starts at $1,899 (£1,699, AU$2,899), which gets you a full HD (1,920 x 1,080) display at 60Hz powered by the same processor as the other versions, though paired with an Nvidia GTX 1060 and 256GB of storage.

To get the model you see listed to the right, that will cost you a whopping $2,599 (£2,329, AU$3,999). In between that is a model with the 144Hz display, the GTX 1060 and 512GB of storage for $2,199 (£1,979, AU$3,299), and one with everything you see to the right with half the storage for $2,399 (£2,149, AU$3,699).

Comparatively, the most expensive version of the Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501 goes for $2,899 (about £2,199, AU$3,919), which gets you a stronger GTX 1080 inside as well as an Nvidia G-Sync display – all else being equal. The entry-level version goes for $2,299 (about £1,749, AU$3,109), giving you a GTX 1070 behind a 120Hz display. To get the same graphics card in the Razer, that will cost you another 100 bucks or quid.

The MSI GS65 Stealth, meanwhile, comes in at its entry level at just $1,799 (about £1,369, AU$2,439), offering up the same processors as the Razer’s starting configuration, but with a faster 144Hz display. At the highest end, this laptop offers twice as much storage and memory for $2,999 (about £2,279, AU$4,059).

So, even though Black Friday 2018 deals will likely reveal some low prices for the Razer Blade 15, its value proposition lies in the unique design – you can get the same hardware for less cash elsewhere. It’s really not enough for this editor to cough up the extra cash, but we’re not everyone.

Design

Speaking of which, the Razer Blade 15 is the best looking gaming laptop Razer has made yet. Still clad in an all black, unibody aluminum shell, the Blade adopts a far more angular shape this time around, while toning down the lighting to just the keyboard and Razer logo on the lid.

At the same time, great efforts have been made in shrinking down the Razer Blade’s profile, with the manufacturer claiming to have made the ‘world’s smallest 15.6-inch gaming laptop’ at 0.66 inches (16.76mm) thin on the GTX 1060 model, which is tenths of an inch thinner than its aforementioned rivals. It also comes in at under 14 inches (355mm) wide, thanks to a new, thinner screen bezel. 

Fortunately – and other laptop makers, listen up – the Razer Blade keeps the webcam to its proper position above the screen while implementing narrow bezels.

However, despite the Razer Blade’s small size and thinness, it’s also rather dense, weighing half a pound heavier than MSI’s latest 15-inch gaming laptop. While Razer has also managed to reduce the size of its charging brick, it’s still heavier overall than other thin and light gaming laptops, and heavier than we would expect.

Beyond an intense streamlining, the Razer Blade design is much of what was found before, only larger. Of course, the keyboard feels fantastic, offering some of the punchiest feedback and smooth travel we’ve experienced on an island-style keyboard.

However, the key layout is somewhat baffling, with the ‘up’ arrow key sitting between the Shift and ‘?’ keys. This has made typing out questions a major pain, as we constantly hit the up arrow in haste, adding a question mark to the line above where we are typing. We would handily take shrunken arrow keys if it meant a more sensible layout otherwise.

The trackpad finds itself in a similarly unfortunate situation. While we’re celebrating the fact that Razer has finally implemented a clickpad design, dropping those flimsy buttons like a bad habit, the tracking surface is perhaps a bit too wide. We often find ourselves accidentally moving the cursor when typing. Otherwise, it’s a smooth and accurate Microsoft Precision tracking surface.

Finally, while we appreciate the top-firing speakers for their much fuller sound than most other notebooks, we’re a little puzzled by the lack of Windows Hello secure login options. Razer even included the perfect placement: a rectangular power button now rests atop the right speaker and feels smooth to the touch. At this price, secure login should be a shoo-in.

Display

Razer knocked it out of the park when it comes to the Razer Blade’s display. With a matte coating that does well at deflecting light clare, this panel may only be 1080p, but it’s simply gorgeous.

A lot of that comes down to the 144Hz refresh rate, which makes games look extremely smooth as the refresh rate outpaces the frame rate of most games ran on the device. This allows the Razer Blade to shore up potential shortcomings of the GTX 1060 or 1070 in producing consistent frame rates at high detail settings.

The 100% sRGB color gamut also helps the display just pop with a wide variety of colors supported at impressive accuracy. The factory screen calibration that Razer gives to all of these laptops goes a long way, too.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Razer Blade 2018 is a beast when it comes to both computing and graphics performance. Frankly, we would expect as much out of a machine that costs this much, juas as we would of its rivals. However, we find the laptop a bit lacking when it comes to heat management – despite Razer’s best efforts – and short battery life. 

The Blade managed to maintain parity in performance test results with the GS65 Stealth, even managing to outpace it by a few frames per second (fps) in each graphics benchmark. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to test the Zephyrus laptop using the same game, but its GTX 1080 handily outclassed the 1070 within our Blade in the 3DMark tests – expectedly.

Expect to be able to complete pretty much any computing task on this laptop short of ultra-high detailed gaming. With plenty of RAM and Intel’s latest Coffee Lake processor, you should be able to go from rendering 4K video to playing some rounds of Overwatch without a fuss.

However, for all of Razer’s (seriously impressive) efforts to better cool its thinner and lighter gaming laptop, we find the laptop gets rather unbearably hot on either side of the base just beneath the hinge after just a few minutes of gameplay. Unfortunately, it appears that even Razer’s new vapor chamber cooling system can’t compete with the combination of additional processing and graphics power – and therefore more heat generated – and a smaller space through which it can pass.

Protip: take caution before you decide to, say, play a PC game on this laptop on your lap with a controller. Also, probably don’t overclock this laptop (more on that in a moment) while it’s on your lap either.

Battery life

This laptop’s longevity also leaves a lot to be desired, lasting only about an hour longer than the Zephyrus laptop in either test, and coming up short of the GS65 Stealth by about as much. We’ve been used to gaming laptop’s posting poor battery numbers for a long time, but times have changed.

It’s much more common now to see gaming laptops produce battery life numbers beyond five hours, so the game has gotten well ahead of Razer’s latest. You’d be lucky to get through most short flights using this laptop without an outlet.

At this price range, we would like to get at least four hours out of this laptop in either scenario. Given how Razer is increasingly positioning its laptops as ideal for mixed use, this is a factor worth seriously considering.

Software and features

The only piece of pre-loaded software you’ll find on the Razer Blade – which, without subsidies beyond an Intel sticker on the base, could explain its pricing a bit – is Razer Synapse. This is the company’s app for controlling the laptop’s various RGB lighting settings, but it has a new purpose this time around: even more performance.

With the version of the software found on the Razer Blade, you can now activate a gaming mode that boosts the graphics chip’s processor and video memory frequency by 100MHz and 300MHz, respectively. This will surely give you a healthy fps boost in games, but will only increase the heat put out by the device, so that should be considered before you overclock on the go.

Final verdict

Razer has crafted its most attractive and alluring laptop yet with the latest Blade, but unfortunately still suffers from some basic, common flaws seen in both other gaming laptops as well as Razer’s own previous efforts. This gaming laptop will get you farther than most in terms of fps and smoothness, with its overclocking mode and 144Hz display.

However, lackluster battery life and some seriously hot temperatures, not to mention the omission of Windows Hello support and a mildly goofy keyboard layout give us pause. That’s especially considering the expectedly lofty price tag.

What you have here, then, is an incredibly stylish and good-feeling laptop – one that this editor would even consider paying a premium for – that is held back by some flaws that are tough to ignore. Razer is clearly at the top of its game with the latest Blade, but the rest of the gaming laptop world is clearly catching up.



from TechRadar - Technology Reviews http://www.techradar.com/reviews/razer-blade-2018