Razer's Blade Laptop Gets a Much-Needed Overhaul; Still a Luxury Item

Razer's Blade represents a much better value the second time around, costing $300 less while receiving a significant boost from the new GTX 660M GPU.


Portable gaming laptops are gradually becoming thinner and lighter, but none has surpassed Razer's Blade in this regard. Even at 17 inches, the narrow 0.88-inch profile and meager weight of 6.6 pounds puts Razer's design miles ahead of the competition. The first model shipped with a modest CPU/GPU combo that, in light of the retail price of $2,800, left much to be desired from a performance standpoint. Thankfully, things are much better this time around. The lower price point of $2,500, with the increase in power, makes the Blade a much more accessible gaming machine.

The most notable change to the Blade's internals is the new Kepler-based GPU, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 660M with 2GB of DDR5. The new system also uses Intel's latest HM77 chipset, featuring a third-generation IvyBridge Core i7-3632QM CPU, clocked at 2.2GHz (3.2GHz turbo). Razer replaced the 256GB SSD with a hybrid solution, composed of a 500GB 7200rpm physical drive, coupled with a 64GB SSD utilized as a cache drive.

These specs aren't unique among gaming laptops, but the fact that the same hardware exists within the diminutive Blade is reason for Razer to celebrate. True, other manufactures like Alienware and Origin PC cram similar power into larger chassis for around $2,000, but you obviously lose out on portability. Razer has cornered the market for high-end, portable gaming, but it's only a matter of time until other manufacturers come up with rival hardware in a similar form factor. The Blade was never intended to be the one gaming laptop to rule them all, at least in terms of raw power, but you can count on it to run any modern game in a reasonable fashion. Realistically, most games will have to scale back antialiasing and DirectX 11 effects. Metro 2033 is a perfect example. Benchmarking the game on the highest possible settings didn't achieve desirable frame rates.

Metro 2033 - Very High, DirectX 11


Settings: Resolution: 1920x1080; DirectX: DirectX 11; Quality: Very High; Antialiasing: MSAA 4X; Texture Filtering: AF 16X; Advanced PhysX: Enabled; Tesselation: Enabled; DOF: Enabled

  • Total Frames: 521, Total Time: 59.58s
  • Average Frame Rate: 8.85
  • Max. Frame Rate: 70.72
  • Min. Frame Rate: 1.83


In order to get the demanding Metro 2033 to achieve decent results, we had to scale down the resolution to 1600x900, ditch DirectX 11 in favor of DirectX 9, and scale back the settings to "medium," rather than "very high."

Metro 2033 - Medium, DirectX 9


Settings: Resolution: 1600x900; DirectX: DirectX 9; Quality: Medium; Antialiasing: AAA; Texture Filtering: AF 4X; Advanced PhysX: Disabled; Tesselation: Not Supported; DOF: Not Supported

  • Total Frames: 2587, Total Time: 59.55s
  • Average Frame Rate: 43.54
  • Max. Frame Rate: 97.34
  • Min. Frame Rate: 6.61

Far Cry 2, on the other hand, performed very well with settings on Ultra.


Far Cry 2 - Ultra, DirectX 10


Settings: Demo (Ranch Small), 1920x1080 (60Hz), D3D10, Fixed Time Step (Yes), Disable Artificial Intelligence (No), Full Screen, Antialiasing (8x), VSync (No), Overall Quality (Ultra High), Vegetation (Very High), Shading (Ultra High), Terrain (Ultra High), Geometry (Ultra High), Post FX (High), Texture (Ultra High), Shadow (Ultra High), Ambient (High), Hdr (Yes), Bloom (Yes), Fire (Very High), Physics (Very High), RealTrees (Very High)

  • Total Frames: 2243, Total Time: 51.00s
  • Average Frame Rate: 43.98
  • Max. Frame Rate: 63.51
  • Min. Frame Rate: 35.19

The 17.3-inch screen's resolution maxes out at 1920x1080 and features outstanding contrast, producing bright whites and deep blacks. It thankfully comes in a matte finish, so glare shouldn't be too much of an issue unless you are in direct sunlight.

The biggest downside of investing in any gaming laptop is the limited viability as a gaming machine, primarily due to the lack of upgrade possibilities. At some point, your gaming potential will hit its limit. The Blade may not be able to run contemporary games with max settings, but it's more than capable of achieving decent frame rates with modest graphical settings. The GTX 660M is leaps and bounds better than the GTX 555M included in the original model, but it is possible to purchase a laptop equipped with the 680M (thus extending the performance/life span of the laptop) for $2,500 from other manufacturers.


One feature that will likely never be paralleled by Razer's competition is the Switchblade UI. We reviewed the Star Wars: The Old Republic keyboard from Razer earlier this year and found the Switchblade UI ill-fitting for a stand-alone keyboard priced at $250. Razer has had ample time to improve the software and usability of the touch screen, and though most of the interface and functionality remain the same, the latest iteration of the UI is a notable improvement. The Synapse configuration software is snappier this time around, as is the activation of profiles. Bugs found in the Star Wars-themed Switchblade UI keyboard have been ironed out, it seems, but occasional crashes of the built-in apps required hard reboots to restore functionality.

There are a handful of "tools" developed by EA and Valve that interface with a select list of games, including Star Wars: The Old Republic, Battlefield 3, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Team Fortress 2. "Tools" is in quotes because only one of them, the SWTOR Battle Log Parser, is anything but a preset background and key configuration. Considering these inclusions are optional and don't impact the cost of the laptop, it's not necessarily a problem worth griping about. The SWTOR Parser is handy, doling out statistical readouts relative to your recent battle performance and skill selections, but it's not a deal maker in the grand scheme of the Blade.

The rest of the built-in Switchblade software does an adequate job of fulfilling expectations, including the calculator, Web browser, YouTube, FaceBook, Twitter, Gmail, and the clock/timer. They all function as promised, but the performance ceiling of the Web-enabled apps falls victim to the faux mobile browser in the Switchblade UI. It lacks support for JavaScript, and some sites don't accurately register the screen's resolution and are rendered at full scale, resulting in tiny page elements that can be accurately viewed only after numerous pinch zooms. This is due to the User Agent ID of the Switchblade's browser, which falls under the IEMobile 7.0 designation. If Razer were to change this ID to something that mimics smartphone browsers, a greater majority of sites would render correctly relative to the screen's dimensions.

This brings up the question of the need for something like the Switchblade UI. The value of the screen and the customizable keys is difficult to measure. True, it provides a secondary display capable of presenting information that would otherwise exist in a window behind your game, or perhaps on another monitor, but have users ever requested a device that supplants a traditional monitor? It's not an evil insomuch that it tarnishes the Blade's identity as a slim, capable gaming laptop, but it's not enough to be the de facto killer feature either.

The main keyboard is composed of chiclet keys with quite shallow actuation, but they are easy to get used to. In place of the number pad is the Switchblade UI, with the touch screen acting as the mousepad. Placing the mousepad and the Switchblade on the right-hand side solves the problem of gaming on a laptop without an external mouse, but anyone accustomed to the touchpad existing beneath the space bar will have to adjust to the new location.

The speaker bar inlaid above the power button is an improvement over the original's, but there's still room for Razer to improve. There's plenty to like about the volume range, but the minor bass distortion at full blast may deter most from pushing the decibels. At the front of the left-hand side sits the combo headphone/microphone port. The HDMI port also supports Digital 7.1 Dolby Surround Sound, allowing you to easily integrate the Blade into a home theater setup.

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome when developing a portable gaming laptop is reducing the size of the power brick. Impressively, Razer managed to ditch the brick and design an adapter closer in size to a wide candy bar, maintaining the air of portability set by the incredibly thin 0.88-inch profile of the laptop proper. It's a blessing that the power adapter is so small, because the battery won't last long while gaming on the Blade. You can expect five to six hours of uptime during normal use (Wi-Fi, Web browsing, Word editing, playing music), but after almost an hour of pushing the Blade to its limit, the battery eventually took its final breath. For the most part, the Blade maintains a cool exterior, only heating up when charging or gaming. When it's running at full throttle, a lot of its heat transfers through the casing near the left-hand side of the wrist rest. After a solid week of use, however, there were only a handful of occasions when the temperature peaked above "warm."

The original Blade was deeply rooted in its portability, unfortunately at the cost of performance. The new revision represents a step in the right direction, and though it still qualifies as a luxury product, the improved hardware and lower MSRP are great signs for the future of the Blade line. The Switchblade interface isn't a feature that will lure customers toward the Blade, since it's usefulness beyond standard macro keys is entirely subjective. While Razer could benefit from selling a sub-$2,000 15-inch Blade, without the Switchblade UI, the current model is still one of the best gaming laptops on the market. It has the right mix of design and functionality that a lot of people will gladly pay $2,500 for, and it's by far the most portable 17.3-inch gaming laptop available. If you need to game on the go, have some extra cash to spend, and don't require that every game perform on the most demanding settings, Razer's Blade should be at the top of your shopping list.

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Discussion

0 comments
NoodleFighter
NoodleFighter

To be fair no other gaming laptop has OLED keys and OLED touchpad

blakeney
blakeney

Honestly, i dont get the "Oh you dont get the point" or "This is for serious Lan gamers"... If you THAT serious about lan gaming, lugging your powerhouse Desktop from LAN party to LAN party should'nt be an issue..... just like lugging all their instruments to the practise room on a week/daily basis isn't an issue to a SERIOUS band.

 

If pro gamers wern't sponsored and supplyed with their gear... i wonder if they would use some shitty branded "gaming" laptop, or their power house that they use at home...?

jallu2
jallu2

Has nobody here heard of Clevo based laptops like Sager, XoticPC or Prostar.  Super powerful custom laptops in simple extremely well built chassis....   seriously

 

CincoToes
CincoToes

If you read an article about an expensive gaming laptop and then proceed to tell tales about how much better it would be to get a desktop, you are a simpleton.

PuNksterHD
PuNksterHD

It has to look and feel great for lan parties. Still, I use my MacBook Pro for CG with Maya, MudBox, Zbrush, Final Cut Studio and exclusive plugins even from Adobe. My Wacom work's better with the Mac platform but still games are better on the Windows platform and has better support. 3 thousand for it but it feeds be everyday. But for a real and only gaming portable rig like this one it's just a matter of time.

 

I'm waiting for Steam to release the client for the Linux platform and see price drops on purchases from manufacturers since they won't have to pay nothing to Microsoft.This Razer beast should deserve a better version later with a more higher processor and a Linux distro Like Ubuntu and get rid of the licensing terms from Microsoft. Looking forward to it.

 

Someday everyone will understand and every platform serves for each purpose especially, don't look searching for jobs in the Computer Animation or Filming World if you don't know how to use a Macintosh computer because you'll fail has well with Network Administration because if one thing is true it's that Linux dominates in that area.

 

 

The real world where IT like myself live on.

 

( I remember those day when 3Dfx used to rule with those Voodoo GPU's)

Daian
Daian

This is like Macs but for gaming, seriously overpriced. I feel bad for people that pay so much for brands instead of actual superior power.

boixwunder
boixwunder

Maybe someday I will be able to justify spending that much on a laptop.  Mobile gaming just is not for me right now.

kelt321
kelt321

For that kind of money, I can buy all consoles and tons of games to keep playing for a long time.

eddieham13
eddieham13

The benchmarks suck for the price. No thanks, I think I'll stick with my PC that cost less than 1000 and can play Metro on max.

megakick
megakick

Cost more you get a smaller SDD.

donmega1
donmega1

too much to play games. and too much for normal computing...

shivR
shivR

For $2,500 I'd either buy an Alienware M17x or a good gaming desktop. Either way for a few extra pounds and that price I'd go with something more powerful. This is a super luxury item because its usage is so specific lightweight mobile hardcore gaming isn't really needed in the marketplace. Believe me if I had the money I'd have one. But I'd also have a Falcon NW Tiki, Sony HX850 HDTV, Alienware M17x, and a DigitalStorm Online desktop first. 

naruto0187
naruto0187

I don't have the money for this, and I don't think I'll ever have the money for this. Ever. Convert $2,500 to the currency in my country, and it'll turn out to be more than PhP100,000. I'd have to rob banks just to get that kind of money. But, dang, I want it.

andrewwittmaier
andrewwittmaier

Very nice.  If I had the money I'd buy it in a heartbeat.  I'd be worried about that GTX 660 down the road, but as it stands, it's a damn good gaming laptop with portability.  You can't beat that!  

 

Also, nice article, Peter!  

jazilla
jazilla

i think about the desktop setup i can get for $2500 and would never get this laptop.

dono14
dono14

Lol you can spend between $600-$800 less and get a laptop with a GTX 680m.

CreMax90
CreMax90

Please people, leave that "a desktop is more affordable and better than laptop". We know, we get it. Desktop is always performs better but not all people game at their home all the time and don't have the time to upgrade their motherboard every 2 or 3 years, so they can upgrade their CPU or GPU. There are affordable decent gaming laptop if you know where to look. I bought a Dell XPS 17 for $1300, second gen i7 2.2Ghz - 8gb ram, GeForce Gt 555M, 1 TB physical drive (PC elites are probably laughing), and I still get to run most games around high to ultra settings with range of 40fps - 120fps. Thats decent enough for me plus I get to take it with me where ever I go and when I'm home, I plug my HDMI to my monitor and plug my external keyboard to it and viola, I get a desktop-laptop hybrid. Remember, you can't compare gaming laptops to gaming desktops, just as you can't compare handheld gaming to console gaming.

flipsthebird
flipsthebird

Lenovo offers the same GPU in laptops priced under 1k. The RB is hardly value priced as it cost more than my Alienware with a 680m and 3D screen.

1234ritchie
1234ritchie

The point is that this is for people who like to game on the go as well as/ instead of a gaming rig which would be too big to take over to friends houses, going away on business etc.

 

Besides aren't Macs like the same sort of price? And doesn't this have better specs for gaming?

mohamedmounem
mohamedmounem

so high price ..not worthy the money ...with 700$ u can build a decent gaming case 

Ezmai_RauteZ
Ezmai_RauteZ

I find these gaming laptops a very valuable piece for when i work away, which is most of the year staying in motel rooms and such, id rather cart around a laptop than a desktop pc. I own an alienware laptop and although very pricy, pays off in the end because it keeps me away from pubs hahaha

gamefreak215jd
gamefreak215jd

Not at all worth 2,500$.I would rather purchase a desktop and upgrade it  with around 1TB harddisc and 6 or 8gB RAM and a graphic card (either NVidia or ATI) of 3GB.I,am sure it will cost much less when compared to this.The Dell XPS 17z has around 6GB of RAM, an i7 processor ,around 600 GB of harddisc and an NVidia graphic drive of 2GB and it costs around 945$.The only advantage Razor Blade has is lighter weight and the touch pad.

dpac712
dpac712

2,500$ for a laptop?!?!

LucasArts-
LucasArts-

But I love the touchpad place : P

LucasArts-
LucasArts-

I bought ASUS G75VW caust me  $1900 from Malaysia 

Graphic card : NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 670M with 2GB/3GB GDDR5 VRAM ( BETTER )

Processor : Intel 3rd generation Core™ i7 3720QM Processor ( also BETTER )

Display : 17.3" HD with EWV (1366 x 768) / FHD 3D LED Backlight ( I prefer bigger screens for gaming )

 

multi touchpad , 3D Glasses I just love it .. i'm playing SWTOR  , Batman Arkham City  on the highest graphics

 

 $2800  too expensive and ASUS is better and so much cheaper !!! is it  just because of the BRAND name !!!!

 

Fowsed
Fowsed

wasn't razer publishing a 300$ headset... And now a 2500$ laptop that's 50% more expensive because it has the Razer sign on it.. this is bullshit

zneno
zneno

If you thinks the price is ridiculous then obviously your not the target market for this... As the title of the article implies-- its really a luxury item. The Desktop arguments are just silly; your paying for mobility not "getting from A to B" (ie. Playing the same games at good settings)

jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

@blakeney I got my lan case, monitor, kb, mouse, headphones down to a science - all will fit in a large duffel bag if filled right.

CincoToes
CincoToes

 @Daian I was about to ask why you would feel sorry for someone who gets something they want, but then I realized you're lying. You don't feel sorry for them, you feel superior to them. Sometimes I'm slow.

eddieham13
eddieham13

 @donmega1 Your under-evaluating the power that you hold when you have a computer my friend.

NooDLES-666
NooDLES-666

 @shivR I have an MSi GT70 gaming laptop with GTX675m 4gb VRAM, 16bg of ram, i7-3610QM, 2 raided 64gb SSDs (120gb) and a 750gb hard drive. The thing plays Metro 2033 on High settings with 30-40 fps. Big upgrade from my 2010 macbook. I am beyond pleased. Never had a PC or anything as fast as this. 

LucasArts-
LucasArts-

 @dono14 there is no laptop with this price has GTX 680m

Unless if you are talking about the graphic card piece : p

aryanbrar
aryanbrar

 @CreMax90 

while i agree with you, all gaming laptops are messed up by one thing.

heat, these laptops overheat in no time. coolingpad is a must

ESPM400
ESPM400

 @CreMax90 I'm in agreement with you here. I live in Edmonton, AB, but do a lot of work north in the oil sands, most of the time while staying in camps. Personally, I'm an ASUS GXX faithful, and with the exception of the G73 I bought several years back with the thermal paste issue (major piss off), I've never had any issues. They tend to run any game I throw at them at decent frame rates at full or near full graphics. However, what this article is trying to show is more the size of the rig, not that it's the king of the proverbial gaming hill. Couple it's size and weight and it makes it much more portable for everyday use than something like what I've got. Hell, my backpack when loaded up with my G74, two externals, power bar, etc., weighs in at roughly 30 - 35 lbs.

Savior4Life
Savior4Life

 @1234ritchie

 my 2008 Vaio AW series still has better specs then modern macs for gaming, lol!

Tremblay343
Tremblay343

 @jallu2 Probably one of the ugliest modern laptops I've ever seen.  Not that it really matters from a practical standpoint.

Tremblay343
Tremblay343

 @CincoToes  @Daian No anyone who buys something this expensive for a name is wasting their money.  You could absolutely find a better gaming laptop for less than $2500.  I don't think paying less for more grants people a feeling of superiority.

dono14
dono14

 @LucasArts- Yes there is. The MSI GT60 0NE is $1900 and comes with the GTX 680m, I own it. You can also get a barebones version of the GT60 for under 1600 that also comes with the GTX 680m

CincoToes
CincoToes

 @Tremblay343  1. Who cares if they wasted their money? It's theirs to spend how they please. 2. If you're buying something for its name shouldn't it be a name the average person knows? 3. I didn't imply you couldn't find cheaper and better, so way to make a non-point. 4.  I don't think paying less for more grants people a feeling of superiority either. I think condescending to feel sorry for others based on their consumer choices shows that they feel superior, as opposed to their intended veil of magnanimity.

dono14
dono14

 @LucasArts-  @NooDLES-666 Dude not it doesn't. The MSI GE60 has the GTX 660m and it cost $1200. I'm not sure what country you live in but in Canada and the US that's the price for the GE60. I BOUGHT the GT60 0NE with GTX 680m and it cost $1900, (in Canada and the U.S.).

LucasArts-
LucasArts-

@NooDLES-666@dono14

MSI GT60 has GTX 660 and yah with $ 1900

MSI GT70 as NooDLS-666 said that it has GTX 675m and it's with $ 2400 Price these days

 

if U want a laptop with GTX 675m the best deal is Samsung Series 7 Gamer  it coast $ 2000 now a days