Razer Blade Review (2017)
Razer is marketing its latest 14-inch Blade gaming laptop as “Powerful. Portable. Perfect.” After going hands-on with it over the past few days, our responses are: kind of, yes, and definitely no. Razer’s laptop will appeal to users who want a small, sexy notebook, but it makes glaring compromises in the name of portability.
Table of Contents
- Game Benchmarks
- 3DMark Time Spy Benchmark
- VR Benchmark
- SSD Benchmark
- CPU Benchmarks
- Battery Test
Razer’s 2017 Blade is very thin at .7 inches thick. Its unibody aluminum chassis feels exceptionally well-made, and doesn’t flex like cheaper notebooks we’ve seen. Its 0.7x13.6x9.3-inch frame and 4.1 pound weight make it extremely portable, which is perhaps its key-selling feature. Overall, the matte black laptop looks sleek. It helps that the power brick is also quite diminutive for a gaming laptop, measuring 5.9x2.3x0.8 inches.
While Razer sells a 4K variant, our unit came with a 1080p panel. It’s a really good one, though, and offers a bright 350-nit IPS solution that offers vivid, accurate colors with wide viewing angles.
The Blade has one of the best keyboards we’ve seen in a laptop. While it may not be mechanical, it does feel tactile and clicky. The keys are also individually backlit and support Razer’s Chroma RGB lighting software that provides up to 16.8 million colors. There are also different color options that pulsate, do the wave, and more.
There are two speakers on both sides of the keyboard that sound clear and crisp. They’re also relatively powerful despite the laptop’s small size. The Synaptics trackpad beneath the keyboard also works well and supports two-finger swiping gestures, and we like the fact that it has discrete left and right click buttons.
One area where the laptop is lacking is in the ports. The Blade offers an HDMI port, three USB 3.0 ports, a hybrid analog headphone jack, and a Thunderbolt 3 connection. While the Thunderbolt 3 port--with its superfast 40Gb/s transfer speed capability--is appreciated, we don’t like how the Blade omits an SD card slot and Ethernet port; the latter is crucial for any serious gaming laptop.
Razer Blade Specs
Intel Core i7-7700HQ
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB)
16GB 2400MHz Dual Channel DDR4 Memory
14-inch 1920x1080 IPS
1x Thunderbolt 3 (Type-C), 3xUSB 3.0, 1xHDMI, 1x headphone,
Beneath the chassis, the Razer Blade is equipped with an Intel Core i7-7700HQ mobile quad-core CPU that turbos up to 3.8GHz. It’s supplemented with 16GB of DDR4 RAM clocked at 2,400MHz in a dual-channel configuration. For its graphics card, it’s armed with Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060 equipped with 6GB of VRAM, which pairs sensibly well with the Blade’s 1080p monitor. Those specs are also good enough to make it VR-ready. Where our specs fall extremely short is in the storage department. While there are 512GB and 1TB versions, that retail for $2,099 and $2,499.99, respectively, our $1,899.99 unit simply came with a 256GB SSD. This means there’s no hard drive for mass storage here.
Considering there are modern games like Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare that need over 100GB of space, a 256GB solution feels really out of place for a gaming laptop in 2017. Frankly, a 256GB-only SKU shouldn’t exist in this day and age. The Blade didn’t even have enough storage to fit all of our benchmarks. We may be slightly more forgiving here if it came with an ultra-fast NVMe SSD, but it doesn’t, which makes this aspect pretty inexcusable.
To give you a point of comparison for performance, we’re going to benchmark the Razer Blade against the Origin PC Evo15-S we reviewed back in May. While that laptop is slightly bigger with its 15.6-inch frame, both notebooks sport the same CPU, GPU, and RAM configurations.
For our game benchmarks, we ran all titles at their respective max settings at 1080p to really stress test the GPUs.
While both laptops are similarly-spec’d, as you can see from the gaming benchmarks above, Razer’s notebook lags behind a handful of frames in each test. This is most likely due to the Blade’s smaller size, which prevents it from dissipating heat as effectively as Origin PC’s slightly larger solution.
The Blade mustered playable framerates with all of the games maxed out with the exception of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, which is arguably the most graphically demanding PC game out on the market. The laptop was able to run the benchmark at a playable 43 average FPS when we disabled anti-aliasing and lowered the game to its high preset, though.
3DMark Time Spy
3DMark Time Spy is a synthetic DirectX 12 graphics benchmark that produces a score. Here, the Blade scored a 3553, which is three percent worse than the Evo15-S.
SteamVR is Valve’s virtual reality benchmark. While the Evo15-S largely outperforms the Blade, it’s a bit debatable here. Razer’s notebook was able to generate two percent more frames, which is a good thing in this test, but SteamVR awarded the Origin PC laptop a higher 7 rating, compared to the Blade’s 6.4 equivalent.
CrystalDiskMark is a storage speedtest. We ran the benchmark’s sequential read and write tests, which measures a drive’s ability to transfer large files. Razer’s PCIe solution is faster than most traditional SATA-based SSDs with respective read and write speeds of 1,640 and 310.3MB/s. It is significantly slower than Origin PC’s superior NVMe solution, however.
Cinebench is a CPU benchmark that offers single-core and multi-core workloads. The Origin PC laptop bested Razer’s solution by 11 percent when it came to the single-core test. In the multi-core benchmark that leverages all cores and threads, the Blade scored a 725, which is two percent lower than the Evo15-S.
For our battery test, we looped Unigine Valley’s synthetic graphics benchmark until both laptops keeled over. This represents a really grueling gaming scenario. The Blade, with its 70Wh lithium-ion battery, lasted 70 minutes. While that may not sound great, that’s actually 19 percent better than the Evo15-S.
The Razer Blade laptop gets pretty warm. When we ran the Unigine Valley benchmark, GPU temperatures hovered around the mid 60 degrees C (roughly 149 degrees F), but it was our CPU temperatures that really got hot, hitting the high 80s (roughly 190 degrees F).
Perhaps more annoying than the heat, however, is the notebook’s fan noise. It gets really loud when you’re gaming. The laptop can also inexplicably get loud just sitting in the OS.
In terms of form factor and build quality, the Razer Blade really kills it. Unfortunately, its svelte design makes sacrifices when it comes to storage space, ports, and thermals. If all you play is one or two games and don’t care about those shortcomings, you should keep the Razer Blade in mind. To everyone else, it’s one of the nicest devices that we can’t recommend.