The New Razer Blade Review

February 25, 2017

 

The New Razer Blade is Razer's 14" high-end, portable, VR-ready,  gaming laptop that became available for purchase in October of 2016. It's powered by Intel's 6th Generation Core i7-6700HQ Quad-Core Processor (2.6GHz / 3.5GHz) with Hyper-Threading and NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 1060 GPU(6GB GDDR5 VRAM) based on the Pascal Architecture. The laptop contains 16GB of dual-channel system memory(2133 MHz) and a PCIe-based SSD with options of 256GB, 512GB and 1TB. It has a Unibody Aluminum Chassis that's 0.70" thick and weighs about 4.16lbs. It includes Killer Wireless 802.11ac communication and Bluetooth 4.1. It charges off of a 165W compact power adapter and comes with a one-year warranty.

 

Design/Chassis: A lot of work went into the design of The New Razer Blade and its design will impress virtually anybody, this is one sleek looking laptop.  The smooth CNC aircraft grade aluminum chassis is light and highly durable; it's denseness, matte black finish with rounded edges and signature glowing Razer symbol on the top give the laptop a high-end, expensive look.  Even though It's marketed as a "gaming laptop", to those who just want a high-powered laptop to do some video, sound or photo editing, it could easily pass for an alternative to the MacBook Air. It sets the standard for how a modern, portable gaming laptop should look: attractive and sophisticated, without drawing too much attention to itself.

The hinge of the laptop feels strong and the lid rotates on the fulcrum smoothly without juddering or any abnormal noises. The lid snaps shut securely but since it sits flush with the bottom half of the chassis it's somewhat difficult to open the lid from the sides but there is an indentation on the front of the laptop to allow you to easily open the lid.

It's very light and comfortable to hold and carry around. It feels like an expensive machine just holding it but one thing you'll notice soon enough after picking it up are the fingerprints.. It's not uncommon to metal laptops but if you're like me and can't stand the site of them, you'll be cleaning the Razer Blade quite often. It also has two 11" long rubber seats that run along the bottom side of the laptop.

It seems to be scratch resistant as well. Before anybody cringes, of course I haven't tried to purposely scratch the paint of a $2K laptop but once or twice over the course of two months, something accidently fell onto or scrapped the laptop and it left no visible marks—to my relief, as you would imagine.

 

 

Display: The 14" screen for the Full HD model of The New Razer Blade(which I'm reviewing here) is a 1920x1080 matte/non-glossy display and does not have touch screen capability. In comparison, the QHD+ version of the New Razer Blade sports a 3200x1800 glossy IGZO(Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide) capacitive touch-screen display.

For this 14" screen, the 1080p resolution is more than sufficient, the screen looks gorgeous. Spending the extra amount for the same 14" but at a higher resolution isn't necessary. The non-reflective screen for this Full HD version makes it more suitable for use in both the sunlight outside and dark environments; I used this New Razer Blade outside in the sun a number of times and while not 100% perfectly readable, the glare on a matte screen is much less a problem compared to a glossy screen. Images appear very crisp and bright, the screen responds quickly, reading a large amount of text is comfortable on the eyes and the screen is easily viewable from either side angle—which is one of its best features and a great attribute if friends are gathered around watching you game or your playing a video. I streamed a handful of movies such as Casino Royal, Iron Man and Finding Dory and each one of them looked great. The blacks are deep and the colors are bright and vibrant without looking washed. In the end, it's a stunning IPS display for the New Razer Blade.

 

 

Audio/Sound: It's more than likely that you will be using your own set of external speakers or headphones on the laptop but the quality of the internal stereo speakers is only decent.  While I haven't noticed any distortion from the speakers—even with the volume very loud—and higher pitched sound effects come through clearly,  the lower end is certainly lacking(bass, explosions and so forth). Compared to say, my four year old Dell XPS L502x laptop that contains a small 12 watt JBL subwoofer on the bottom. The sound from the Razer Blade speakers isn't going to be the best you've ever heard but they're adequate for on the go multimedia and can get quite loud. The Razer Blade does come with Dolby Digital Plus Software with presets for gaming, movies, ect. But don't expect them to enhance the quality all that much.

 

 

Keyboard & Touchpad: The keyboard  is a solid design and one of the best I've ever used. The keys have short, punchy travel and bouncy return. The keys are slightly noisier than my Dell XPS laptop but quieter than an average desktop keyboard and there no flex or bend to the panel when typing, It's structurally sound.

 

The keys are powered by Razer Chroma, which is Razer's individual key backlighting software that's available on numerous Razer products such as Laptops, Razor Core, Mice and Desktop Keyboards. Each key is capable of reproducing 16.8 million colors. The default setting for the backlit keys is "Breathing" mode, which alternates seamlessly from one color to the next every few seconds but there are seven other effect settings that are fun to play around with. There are some like the Fire and Starlight presets that are very cool to use and look at while others like the Wave.. Well, It's a bit chaotic. There is also a fair amount of personal customization available; you can change the duration, brightness, which color you would like to use with the chosen effect or you could choose a select number of keys for individual back lighting(such as common keys W,A,S,D, used for gaming) and leave the remaining keys without a back light effect.  At first, I thought this feature would be a bit distracting but after using this laptop for a while now, It's a neat feature that I ended up enjoying. It's not only useful for typing in the dark, the effects are a fun thing to show off to friends.

One thing I wish that was back-lit are the top symbol keys. When you hold down the "fn" key the entire keyboard goes dark except for the F1-12 keys at the top but the brightness, volume, and other symbols that share the same keys are not backlit. So, if you're in the dark(unless you have the keys memorized) it's hard to see where the symbols are.

 

The touchpad tracks your finger smoothly, it's sturdy and easy to use but I wish that the right and left select buttons below the touchpad were slightly larger. When I'm using the touchpad and I go to press down on the left button to select—without looking down at the touchpad—I have to search for the button with my finger because the thing's so darn small that most of the time you reach over it or not far enough. I've had no problem with the functionality of the touchpad—as with the keyboard—it's also one of the best ones I've used but the small buttons are annoying(especially if you have bigger hands). I know most laptops do not have this but I think that the laptop would benefit if there were some illumination, just a small LED around or below the buttons make them easier to select in the dark

 

 

Ports:  The New Razer Blade has 3 USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI out, a 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack and a single Thunderbolt 3(USB-C) port. There are no ports on the rear or front of the laptop(keeping with the clean look), only the left and right sides.

There is no SD card slot, which is a bit of a disappointment. You'll have to pick up an external card reader if that's something you will be using often.

 

Razer Software:  There is virtually no unnecessary pre-installed bloat-ware(thankfully). There's the GeForce Experience, which is Nvida's home software to: optimize game performance, keep drivers up-to-date, provide an in-game overlay to capture video game footage and screenshots, and to live stream gameplay sessions to Youtube, Twitch and Facebook. I've only used the GeForce experience a handful of times for livestreaming(I use an alternate method) but It was either hit or miss for me. Sometimes streams would work fine, other times it would drop out a few minutes in and would prompt me to lower the quality but streaming by other means works fine for me so it could possibly be a bug of some sort.  The video capture program(called Shadow) works very well from the times I've used it, you press "Alt-Z" to bring up the GeForce menu bar and from there you are able to change the screen capture resolution from 360P up to 2160P(4K) and change the frames-per-second from 30-60.

There is free voice chat gaming message software called RAZER COMMS pre-installed as well. I haven't used it much but from what I've read, you can invite friends to watch your private game stream, share screenshots and there are some Esports features. And I've already touched on the built-in Razer Synapse software for controlling the keyboard illumination sequences.

 

Performance: And here's the main reason you would be purchasing The New Razer Blade and I'm happy to say that It performs just as a high-end gaming laptop should. I've played a variety of games from the more simple(Costume Quest, Castle of Illusion, ABZU) to more demanding(Metro: Last Light, DOOM, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided) and each one of them played well and kept a consistent frame-rate at 1920x1080 resolution with all of the bells and whistles turned on very high or ultra settings.

For those unaware, the laptop automatically caps at 30fps if you're playing games on while unplugged from the charger and running on the battery. The balanced setting while unplugged is obviously to conserve battery life while attempting to maintain a consistent frame-rate

 

Now to the good stuff. While playing DOOM(2016) with every advanced video option turned to Ultra settings at 1920x1080 the New Razer Blade is able to maintain a steady playable range of 48-55fps with a minimum of 29fps.

 

  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided  with all settings on turned up to Very High/Ultra at 1920x1080 it was able to maintain an average of 53fps during the missions I played; in heavy firefights the frame rate is usually between 44-48fps with a rare dip down to 36fps. Which correlates with the built-in Benchmark Test available in the options menu that I also ran.

 

  • Batman: Arkham Knight  displays a bar in the graphics options showing how much video memory is available depending on which options are selected and with every  Nvidia Game Works setting selected, 4669mb is being used of the available 6084mb from the 1060GTX. The benchmark test and gameplay yielded the same results: 1920x1800, 50fps average and 33fps minimum.

  • Metro: The Last Light Redux  turned out to be the most challenging game I tested for the New Razer Blade, with the video options on Very High the frames-per-second end up in the low 20s(I was getting from 20-24fps), so you'll have to drop Texture Filtering down to AF 4X and SSAA down to 2X in order to maintain a solid 50-60fps. I also ran the 3DMark Fire Strike test(which scored a 9,038) and Time Spy test(which scored a 3,100).  For a comparison, I ran Fire Strike on my Windows 7 desktop PC with a GeForce 1080FTW Edition and it scored 15,737. Not a direct comparison, I know but that's impressive that this ultra-slim Razer Blade notebook was able to score so close to the 10K mark with a mobile 1060GTX.

The load times are virtually no problem at all, thanks to the 512GB PCIe M.2 SSD. The cold boot-up time from the push of the power button to the Windows 10 sign-in screen is 10.38 seconds and transferring files, processing videos or just launching programs is extremely fast.

I have not tried out the VR capabilities of this laptop as I do not currently own a device but if one of us pick one up in the near future I'll update the review to add the results.

I tried to take a my time with this review as I wanted to give the laptop time to see if I would start experiencing blue-screens or crashes after hours of gaming and numerous updates but I'm glad to say that at this point, I haven't had any issues running whichever game I chose(hopefully I didn't jinx that..)

 

Battery: The Battery life for this 70Wh battery is pretty decent. While performing numerous tasks such as: Watching TV Shows/Movies, Browsing Sites, Listening to Music or Streaming Videos on Youtube the battery will last just about 5 hours on a full charge. After I fully charged the battery again,  I played a few games on very high/ultra settings to see how long the battery could last.

I played DOOM and then Deus Ex:HR non-stop for about just over two hours and the battery life remaining was 18%. So, I'd say you would roughly get about 2 hours and 15 minutes of straight game time until the battery would be fully depleted.

The Charger itself does get very warm, just the other night after gaming for an hour or so, I clocked the temperature of the charger at 148F. Wherever you place the charger, just keep that in mind. There is also a small green light on the front of the charger to indicated that plugged into a power source but I wish it would change color depending on the state of charge.

 

 

Heat/Temperature: This is probably the biggest complaint I have with The New Razer Blade, It does get hot and the fans do get quite loud at full speed—which is anytime you run a visually demanding game—but keep in mind, it is a very thin gaming laptop so it shouldn't exactly be surprising to anyone that these fans can get loud at times. You can still hear the sound from the stereo laptop speakers when the fans are whirring but most of the time you'll want to be using headphones or external speakers so you won't have a problem hearing the game you're playing or somebody overhearing the fans during a voice chat. Since it is a gaming laptop and it's being pushed to run high-end games, It's to be expected that it would throw some heat and the fans would be a little loud but on the positive side I've never had it get to the point though where a game crashed because the temperature was too high.

At idle or just doing low to mid-level load tasks such as browsing the web or streaming videos, the blade's fans are virtually silent(which I was glad to.. not hear).

 

Underneath the laptop can get quite warm under stressful applications. After running benchmark tests, I temp tested the underside of the body using an infrared thermometer and pegged temp at 113F, the keyboard at 109F, the touchpad at 87F and the screen at 90F. The keys closer to the touchpad are obviously cooler, while the keys closer to the screen are warmer. Part of the reason is because of the hinge placement being open to the bottom, when the fans are blowing full-speed you can feel some of the warm up being blown up from below. I remember when I was first using the keyboard and thinking, where's this warm air coming out of? Since those rubber strips on the bottom don't lift the laptop much off of the surface, the Razer Blade needs to be placed on a hard flat surface in order to dissipate the heat properly.

 

 

Webcam/Camera: There is a built-in 2MP web cam on the front that records from 1280x720P/15 fps up to 1920x1080/30 fps. It's not the most impressive webcam(especially in dim lighting) but it works for being portable. I tend to use my own external web cam with a higher resolution.

 

 

 

External Display:  This is actually how I tend to use this laptop the most, when I'm gaming in the living room on the couch or in my bedroom on my chair. For those of you that don't typically game on an external display, it performs seamlessly on this laptop. It's as simple as plugging in a HDMI cable and a controller, sitting back and playing(who would have thought?). It only takes three seconds for the laptop to connect to the TV once the HDMI cord is plugged in and I'm glad to say it feels like a tight/secure connection—a problem I had with a past laptop—and there no noticeable drop in frame-rate from running a game on both screens. Unless I'm out on the go, the main way I use the Razer Blade is externally with a controller, so I'm glad to say the function I use the most has no issues thus far.

 

 

 

Price: The price varies depending on the model you select. The QHD+ model is $300 more than the Full HD model with the equivalent hard drive - for example, the 512B Full HD is $1,999.99 and the 512GB QHD+ is $2,299.99.  The price is on the higher-end of the spectrum but is on par with the equivalent New Alienware 13 and GIGABYTE Aero laptops but is a couple hundred more than the Asus ROG Strix GL502. Each of these laptops sport a Geforce GTX 1060(6GB GDDR5 VRAM) and have a screen size of 13.3" to 15.6" to put them in the same ball-park as The New Razer Blade's screen and specifications.

 

Overall Thoughts:  The New Razer Blade is one of the more expensive ultra-slim gaming laptops out there and it runs a little on the hot side but It's also one of the fastest, slimmest and best looking.  During the two months or so I've been using it, it's also proved durable and reliable - there's nothing worse than finally purchasing a big-ticket item only to have it riddled with issues and make you regret your purchase. To sum it all up; If you want a machine that can run virtually any game out there, that has decent battery life, that has a bright and stunning display, and that stands-out, not just as a gaming laptop but as a sleek ultra-portable then this is a purchase you won't regret.

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