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Hands-On: Razer Blades Are Looking Sharp

Nobody has embraced RGB quite like Razer. They’ve thrown their particular brand of bling on everything from mousepads to...coffee mugs. Yes, really.

Razer's a company that inspires strong reactions, but there’s no denying they have a hard-working design team, and their latest Blade gaming laptops are ample evidence of that. We just got two of Razer’s brand new fourteen-inch Blades in the studio, and it looks like Razer’s focus on aesthetics has paid off again.

The HD version of the Blade is $2,100, while the 4K, touchscreen version comes in at $2,400. They aren’t cheap, but the Blades are thinner than much of the competition, have full RGB keyboards, and a design flair that sets them apart in the market.

Looking Sharp, Razer

These two laptops are identical other than the display panel and storage. Both have all-black, machined CNC aluminum bodies, both are .7 inches thick and weigh under 4.5 pounds. The metal chassis adds a little bit of weight, but also make the Blades feel super durable despite how thin they are.

Gaming laptops often have a focus on either durability like the EVGA SC15, or portability, like the GIGABYTE Aero 15. These Blades, with their metal bodies and small form factor are trying to accomplish both, which might help to explain the higher price point.

The one break in the smooth black finish of the Blade is the rather large, backlit Razer logo on the back. Logos on gaming machines are certainly nothing new, but other than this bright green triple snake the Blades have almost no branding whatsoever.

That being said, it does break up the otherwise elegant design of these laptops. You can disable the LED with Synapse, but the logo is still prominent. You could cover it up with a case I suppose, but that kind of defeats the point of having a fancy laptop.

Still though, the design of the Blade is second to none as far as gaming laptops go. The metal chassis has a classy, premium look and feel, and the full RGB keyboard is top notch for a laptop. The trackpad and mouse switches are some of the best I’ve ever used on a portable PC, despite the small size of the buttons.

It still bothers me that you’re forced to create an account to use Synapse, Razer’s RGB software. Once it’s running though, it’s super easy to use, syncing multiple devices works great, and there are some really awesome lighting options.

The Blade is a beautifully engineered laptop, and it’s priced accordingly.

On Display

The only noticeable difference between the two Razer Blades we received was the display panel. The top-of-the-line fourteen inch Blade has a 60Hz 4K UHD display that pumps out 8.29 million pixels at 314 pixels per inch. It also has capacitive multi-touch, so you can poke around if that’s how you roll.

Or, if 4K feels like overkill given the size of the screen, you can stick to a full HD IPS screen without multi-touch. It’s also 60Hz, which is far from the highest we've seen; I’m personally getting mighty used to 144Hz when it comes to 1920x1080.

Specs and Performance

At the core of the 4K Razer Blade is a 7th Gen 7700HQ (hopefully the next round of Blades will be 8th Gen), 16GB of RAM, and a 500GB PCIe NVMe SSD. The HD display model comes with a 256 GB SSD. The lack of an HDD is a little surprising; that 256GB will go quick when you start installing games. Given the thin profile it’s forgivable though, and Thunderbolt 3 support means external hard drives are a feasible solution.

Of course, it wouldn't be a gaming laptop without a dedicated GPU. Both of the Razer Blades are rockin notebook versions of the 6GB GTX 1060.

We ran some simple 3DMark benchmarks, and the Blades held their own. The 4K Razer posted a 9,415 in Firestrike, and was getting roughly 140 FPS in Overwatch in 1080, and around 80 FPS in 4K.

Overwatch is a well optimized, not particularly graphically demanding game, so don’t think you’re going to be running something like Ghost Recon: Wildlands at 4K with these Blades. Still though, there’s a lot of power hiding in the diminutive frame.

Both laptops have an HDMI 2.0 port and two USB ports, but no ethernet or SD card reader. The lack of a port for wired internet is a bit of a letdown, but the Killer Wireless-AC 1535 helps. It’s also nice to see Thunderbolt 3 support for those of us who like external monitors and daisy chained storage backups.

Cooling

The downside of the high-performance GPU is the noise. When the GPU is under full load the Razer Blade gets LOUD, due to the two small fans spinning underneath. The metal chassis certainly helps to dissipate heat, but even with that, those little fans need to work hard to keep the GPU cool, and that means lots of noise. You’re going to want to keep headphones handy, especially if you’re playing in 4K.

It gets hot too, though not unusable. You won’t be able to comfortably keep it on your lap if you keep that GPU running for extended periods, but an external keyboard and mouse should mitigate that issue.

GPU temps never got over 76C, even during 4K, so it looks like those screaming fans are getting the job done.

Battery

The battery life is surprisingly decent for a gaming laptop. Between the 7th Gen CPU and the lack of G-Sync, this 70Whr battery can get you several hours of light use. Razer claims five, and though we didn’t last quite that long, it did better than a lot of gaming laptops we’ve tested. Of course you can’t expect hours of gameplay when the GPU is at full burn, but that’s the nature of powerful components. They’re power hungry.

Another intriguing feature of the Blade is the power cord and brick. They're quite small for a gaming laptop, another example of Razer’s dedication to portability.

Blade At The Ready

So who is the Razer Blade for?

It’s for those who are willing to pay a premium for top-of-the-line design, for those on the lookout for a durable little powerhouse that can get some pretty serious gaming done (all while looking sharp, of course). 

As long as you don’t mind the large audio footprint of the fans and the less-than-subtle branding, the Razer Blade line is a compelling option in the premium gaming laptop market.