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Razer Blade

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Summary

Hands-on with the Razer Blade

Razer has just launched three new gaming laptops in Europe – all with very similar names – so confusion is justified. For clarity, the Razer Blade (2016) is the mid-tier option of the trio (that also includes the Blade Stealth and Blade Pro), and will probably be the most popular choice for gamers

For starters, the Razer Blade is the only new Razer laptop that I can honestly describe as offering portable gaming. It’s got Nvidia’s mid-range GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card tucked away inside, giving it a leg up over the cheaper Razer Blade Stealth, which depends on an external GPU enclosure. But although it’s not as powerful as the pricer Razer Blade Pro, which features Nvidia’s flagship GeForce GTX 1080 board, it’s nowhere near as big or heavy. A portable laptop, the Blade Pro ain’t.

Excitingly, the Razer Blade boasts the full-fat GTX 1060, with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM, rather than the less powerful 3GB variant, which has slower clock speeds and fewer CUDA cores. In our review, we gave the GTX 1060 a 4/5 score, praising its excellent Full HD and 1440p performance, quiet running, and incredibly low power consumption. It’s also VR-ready, to boot.

Razer Blade

If you owned the old Razer Blade, then you’re probably super-excited right now. The previous model featured a mobile-class Nvidia 970M chip, which is significantly less powerful than the GTX 1060. We haven’t had a chance to run our own benchmarks with the Blade, but Razer says it managed to hit a 9,115 score on the Fire Strike benchmark, compared to the old Blade’s 6,478 score.

But while performance has improved significantly, not much has changed about the Blade’s design compared to previous iterations. It’s still thin, light and encased in Razer’s quintessentially black unibody chassis, made from hardy CNC aluminium. It weighs in at a mere 1.89kg, which is lighter than an Apple MacBook Pro (2.06kg). And with a height of just 17.9mm, it’s only marginally beefier than a MacBook Air’s thickest point (17mm). Even when holding it, you feel genuinely surprised that there’s a desktop-class GPU on board, thanks to its svelte, MacBook-rivalling form factor.

“We were the first to do thin and powerful. Lots of folks have followed but none have yet been able to keep up. Still, Razer Blade is the best portable gaming laptop out there,” Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan tells TrustedReviews. And he’s probably not wrong.

All Razer Blade models feature a 14-inch display, but the hardware specifics vary. The cheapest option is a matte IPS panel with a Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution. But big spenders may want to consider the IGZO QHD+ screen, which is fully capacitive (multi-touch) and features a 3,200 x 1,800 pixel resolution. During my brief time with the Razer Blade, I was impressed by the screen’s brightness, sharpness, and bold colours – I’ll have to wait for a full review sample before giving a real verdict, however.

All variants ship with Intel’s 6th-generation Core i7-6700HQ quad-core processor, which comes clocked at 2.6GHz, but is boostable to a lofty 3.5GHz. You’ll also get a respectable 16GB of 2,133MHz DDR4 RAM, and PCIe SSD storage options ranging between 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB – that should be plenty for even the most media-hungry gamers. And if you want to plug in peripheral devices, you’ve got the following connectivity options: Thunderbolt 3, USB-C, three USB 3.0 ports, a HDMI 2.0 video and audio output, and (unlike the iPhone 7) a 3.5mm audio jack.

The keyboard is a standard chiclet affair, but comes with full Chroma support. That’s great news, as every key is individually backlit, which means you can take advantage of cool lighting options like ‘Reactive’ mode, which causes keys to glow for a few seconds after being pressed. Better still, because Chroma works using Razer’s Synapse software suite, you can have your Razer Blade keyboard glowing in sync with any other Chroma-friendly devices you own.

The Razer Blade is available to pre-order right now at Razer’s online store in the UK, US, Germany, and France, and should start shipping “within a couple of weeks”. But it’ll set you back a hefty £1,749, €1,999 or $1,799. On the bright side, it comes with a free Razer Mamba Tournament Edition mouse and a Razer Mercenary Backpack, which would otherwise cost you about €199.

First Impressions

Of the three new Razer laptops, the Razer Blade is probably my favourite. It’s the best option for someone who needs a good laptop for work, a good laptop for gaming, and doesn’t want to compromise in either direction. It’s expensive, sure – but all thin, light and powerful laptops are. And with a slick design, it’s hard to fault the new Blade.

But you need to consider whether the Razer Blade suits your needs. If you don’t play games or edit video footage on the go, you’re arguably far better off getting the Razer Blade Stealth, with its integrated graphics and external graphics enclosure – all for a cheaper £1,318.

Likewise, if you’re only going to play games at home, and you’ve got serious money to burn, the far more expensive Razer Blade Pro (£3,399) is probably the best option. That, or a desktop PC.

The only other niggle I have is heat-management. I’m not entirely convinced that the Razer Blade will be able to keep its cool during hardcore gaming sessions, but I won’t be able to say for sure until I get my hands on a review model. Sticking a GTX 1060 in a 14-inch laptop is a bold move, especially when the chassis is so thin. I hope Razer has cracked the thermals, but stay tuned for a full review.

Until then, I’ll say that I’m very impressed with the Razer Blade on paper, so I have high hopes for equally exciting real-world performance.

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