Razer Blade 15 (2019) Review: Ray tracing arrives on the gaming laptop king

Nvidia's RTX graphics cards give the Razer Blade 15 a cutting-edge refresh

Verdict

The Razer Blade 15 may offer ray tracing and one of the best performances found in a gaming laptop, but the lack of DLSS support, G-Sync and 1TB storage make that sky-high price difficult to justify.

Pros

  • 60fps in Full HD for almost every video game
  • Ray tracing support
  • Premium design

Cons

  • Ludicrously expensive
  • DLSS doesn't work without external monitor
  • No G-Sync
  • Storage is stingy for the price

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £2849.99
  • 1080p and 4K screen options
  • Nvidia GTX 1060 and RTX 2060/2070/2080 GPU options
  • 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8750H
  • 80Wh battery

What is the Razer Blade 15 (2019)?

The 2019 edition of the Razer Blade 15 isn’t too different to last year’s awarding-winning gaming laptop. It features the same design, same display options and even the same 8th-Gen Intel Core processor. The major difference here is the introduction of Nvidia’s new RTX graphics cards, which brings with it a meaty frame rate boost as well as ray tracing capabilities to really enhance those visuals.

This new-fangled technology comes at a cost though – £2850 to be precise, at least for the RTX 2080 edition I’m reviewing here. That’s a hell of a lot of dosh considering you can buy gaming laptops with Nvidia 10-Series cards for at least a grand cheaper.

So are the performance boost and RTX features worth the massive hike in price? Personally, I’m not convinced, despite Razer continuing its fine form of producing classy, premium gaming laptops.

Related: Best Gaming Laptops 2019

Razer Blade 15 (2019) – Design

Why alter perfection? This was clearly Razer’s thinking since it hasn’t changed a single thing about the physical appearance of this gaming laptop. It still has the same ultra-thin black aluminum chassis and iconic illuminated green logo on the lid. In fact, it’s best to think of the 2019 iteration of the Razer Blade 15 as an additional model rather than an entirely new entry to the Razer lineup.

You needn’t be concerned about this design stagnating in 2019, with the impossibly thin screen bezel remaining as trendy as Fortnite and avocados. The top bezel is still slightly bulky in comparison, but that’s to accommodate the 1-megapixel webcam – not that you’d want to use the built-in webcam since its video quality is a fuzzy, pixelated horror. 

Razer Blade 15 2019

The webcam is so poor that you really won’t want to use it for your Twitch streams

Two up-firing speakers sandwich the keyboard. As always with Razer laptops, audio quality is impressive. You can crank volume up a fair way, while the drivers have sufficient boom for all your grenade explosions. I’d still recommend some gaming headphones instead though.

The same ports make a comeback too, including Thunderbolt (Type-C), USB 3 and HDMI mini-DisplayPort. Don’t worry, there’s also a headphone jack, so you won’t be forced to make the jump to Bluetooth cans just yet.

Razer Blade 15 2019

The new Razer Blade 15 has all the trimmings needed to hook up some gaming peripherals

The only real physical difference between each model is the dimensions. The base GTX model is slightly thicker than the RTX range, with the former sizing up at 19.9mm and the latter being 17.8mm thin. The difference in size is likely due to the base model’s dual-storage SSD, giving you 1TB of more space to store your game collection.

With an untweaked design, the Advanced Model also brings back a couple of flaws, mainly the fingerprint-magnet surface. Carry the Blade 15 for a few seconds and you’ll notice fingerprint marks smudged all the casing, leaving the laptop looking grotesquely grimy. 

Related: Best Ultrabooks 2019

Razer Blade 15 (2019) – Keyboard and trackpad

A gaming laptop’s keyboard is never going to compare to the crunchy feel of a mechanical keyboard, but I still expect some sort of tactile feel when I’m spending over £2000 on a portable. Unfortunately, you don’t get that with the Razer Blade 15.

Razer Blade 15 2019

The keys could do with more travel and feedback, but they put on a pretty RGB light show

If the Razer Blade 15 was an ultrabook I could forgive its shallow keys, but as a high-end gaming laptop, I just don’t think there’s enough travel or feedback here to happily hammer the WASD keys during a first-person shooter. Razer argues you’ll probably just buy an external gaming keyboard anyway, and while that’s true, it’s not a good solution for when you’re on the go.

You can also customise the RGB keyboard lighting, which looks real snazzy without being overbearing. Thanks to Razer Synapse 3 you can even sync up the light show to your Razer peripherals, so your gaming mouse and headset can all glow in satisfying union.

Related: Best laptop

Razer Blade 15 2019

The glass trackpad here is one of my all-time favourite in a gaming laptop

The glass touchpad makes a return. I’m a big fan of it, being super smooth and ultra responsive. You’ll likely want more accuracy for first-person shooters, so buying a gaming mouse is a good idea. But compared to rival gaming laptops, this is probably my favourite trackpad.

Razer Blade 15 (2019) – Display

Every RTX Blade 15 laptop is available with a Full HD display with a 144Hz refresh rate, ensuring a super-smooth experience for any game you load up. As a bonus, there’s also the option of a 4K display with a 60Hz refresh rate for the RTX 2070 model, just in case you want to fill your screen with as many eye-pleasing pixels as possible. Note that will cost you a whopping £2750.

Disappointingly, there’s no option of an RTX laptop with a Full HD 60Hz display. This would have been an incredibly useful option for those who fancy feasting their eyes on the new ray tracing technology, but aren’t prepared to cough up the extra cash for all the other premium trimmings.

Razer Blade 15 2019

The 144Hz refresh rate here ensures a super-smooth display which is vital for fast-paced shooters

Even more disappointing, not one of the RTX Blade 15 laptops have Nvidia’s G-Sync. For those unfamiliar, this technology syncs up the GPU’s frame rates to the display’s refresh rate in order to prevent screen tearing.

I noticed this ugly effect a few times in both Battlefield 5 and Metro Exodus with the Razer Blade. Significantly cheaper gaming laptops can be forgiven for not including G-Sync or FreeSync, but since we’re talking about laptops costing over £2000, this omission is a real let down.

How does the display actually look? Solid. The Razer screensaver immediately catches the eye with a rainbow-spectrum of colours, giving the impression the Blade 15 has one of the best gamut coverage in the business. That’s not true though. The sRGB score of 89.2% is high, but I expected it to be a little better considering the price.

This is still a perfectly adequate gamut coverage for gaming though, although designers should stay clear, especially if they want to edit photos and photography since the Razer Blade 15 posts low Adobe RGB and DCI P3 scores of 62% and 64.5% respectively.

Razer Blade 15 2019

The Razer has a lovely colour rich display that’s great for both gaming and Netflix

The rest of the colorimeter readings are fairly average. The best of them was screen brightness, reporting a figure of 349 nits which surpasses the 300-nit average by a respectable margin. The visual colour temperature is also impressive, with the 6883K result showing the Blade’s display is very close to neutral, edging ever so slightly into a cooler temperature.

Black levels are a little poor too at 0.37 nits, so you’re not going to get super-dark colours when creeping through caves in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Contrast is also just below average (1000:1) at 949:1.

Overall then, the Razer Blade display isn’t spectacular, but should still be decent enough for a great gaming visual experience. But at such an extravagant price, missing features such as G-Sync is really difficult to forgive.

Related: Best Gaming Monitors 2019 

Razer Blade 15 (2019) – Specification

Ignoring the varying storage options, there are five configurations of the Razer Blade 15. The cheapest packs a GTX 1060 under its hood and a Full HD, 60Hz display for just £1480. The most expensive laptop, meanwhile, boasts a super-powerful RTX 2080 Max-Q Design GPU and a Full HD panel with a 144Hz refresh rate. That will set you back a bank-depleting £2850.

The difference between these two laptops totals up to a mighty £1370. Of course, there are plenty more options sitting between these two configurations. The whole range can be seen in the table below.

Option 1 Option 2 Option 3 Option 4 Option 5
Display 15.6-inch Full HD, 60Hz 15.6-inch Full HD, 144Hz 15.6-inch Full HD, 144Hz 15.6-inch 4K, 60Hz 15.6-inch Full HD, 144Hz
CPU 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8750H 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8750H 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8750H 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8750H 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8750H
GPU Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q
RAM 16GB dual-channel SO-DIMM (DDR4, 2667MHz), expandable to 32GB 16GB dual-channel SO-DIMM (DDR4, 2667MHz), expandable to 32GB 16GB dual-channel SO-DIMM (DDR4, 2667MHz), expandable to 32GB 16GB dual-channel SO-DIMM (DDR4, 2667MHz), expandable to 32GB 16GB dual-channel SO-DIMM (DDR4, 2667MHz), expandable to 32GB
Storage 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD

or

256GB SSD + 2TB HDD

512GB SSD 256GB SSD

or

512GB SSD

512GB SSD 512GB SSD
Price From £1479.99 £2199.99 From £2299.99 £2749.99 £2849.99

Related: Best Graphics Cards 2019

Razer Blade 15 (2019) – Performance

Costing just shy of £3000, you’d really expect the RTX 2080 model of the Razer Blade 15 to have a monster of a performance. Both the GPU and CPU deliver, posting some of the best results I’ve ever seen in gaming laptop.

The Razer Blade 15 has an Intel Core i7-8750H aided by 16GB of dual-channel RAM. Thanks to this double whammy, the Blade 15 managed a PCMark 10 score of 5132 only the Asus ROG GL504 Scar II (5630) can boast a better performance. The Geekbench 4 multi-score score is equally as impressive with a stonking 18,553 result. 

Razer Blade 15 (2080) Razer Blade 15 (2070) Asus ROG GL504 Scar II Alienware m15
Geekbench
single core
4946 4783 4664 4930
Geekbench
multi score
18,533 16,786 17,092 22,521
PCMark 10 5132 4975 5630 5053
3D Mark
Fire Strike
14,047 15,365 14,413 13,608

What do these numbers actually prove though? They correctly suggest that the Razer Blade 15 will blitz through multi-tasking jobs. There’s easily enough processing power here to plough through any video game. I never saw the Blade 15 struggle with multiple tabs, while CPU-intensive titles like Civilization VI will really benefit.

It’s the GPU performance that makes the Razer Blade 15 one of the most powerful gaming laptops currently available, showcasing a 3DMark Fire Strike result of 14,047. But fascinatingly, the Asus ROG GL504 Scar II once again triumphs over the Blade with a result of 14,413 despite only rocking an older GTX 1070 GPU.

I also used multiple in-game benchmarks to showcase the graphical grunt of the Razer Blade 15. The three titles I chose were Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Ghost Recon Wildlands and Dirt Rally. I decided on the former two because they’re some of the most GPU-demanding titles available, while Dirt Rally is an excellent example of less intensive games released a few years ago.

The Razer Blade 15 posted excellent performance results, edging out the Asus ROG GL504 Scar II and Alienware m15 which had previously offered the best frame rates in a gaming laptop.

With all of the graphics settings maxed out and resolution set to 1920 x 1080, the Razer Blade 15 managed a stonking 82fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, beating the Alienware m15 by 10fps. A similar pattern was seen with both Wildlands and Dirt Rally too.

But while the 10fps improvement over the Alienware m15 is substantial, I’m not convinced this GPU boost is enough to merit the extra £800 you have to cough up for the Razer Blade 15 RTX 2080 model. Razer’s argument here will be that as well as a frame rate boost, you also get ray tracing capabilities thrown in with the Blade 15.

It’s not a massive surprise the Razer Blade 15 makes a fair bit of noise when running video games. It’s not loud enough to become audible over the booms and blasts of your favourite shooter, but it’s still mildly annoying during quiet cut scenes and loading screens.

More concerning is the heat generated by the Blade 15. It doesn’t get hot enough to become uncomfortable to touch or make you worried it’s about to explode like a boiled egg in a microwave, but it’s still alarming to think all those pricey components are getting a roasting.

Razer Blade 15 (2019) – Ray tracing

The RTX graphics cards bring along a slew of special features, with ray tracing being the most significant. Nvidia’s new technology enables more realistic light and reflection rendering.

In Metro Exodus, I could see the reflection of derelict skyscrapers in the murky puddles of the trenches. Light also seemed more atmospheric, as it seeped through the gloomy clouds above. All of these improvements are subtle and difficult to notice without being aware of them beforehand. At the very least ray tracing offers an exciting glimpse into the future for video game visuals, but I’m concerned there’s more negative points than positives in its current state.

Razer Blade 15

Metro Exodus is one of the few games to support ray tracing. (Note that ray tracing isn’t activated in this image.)

Firstly, there’s only two games that offer support for ray tracing: Battlefield 5 and Metro Exodus. Plenty more games will offer support in the future once the required software patches arrives, including Shadow of the Tomb Raider and potentially Anthem, but that’s arguably not enough to justify shelling out £2850 on a gaming laptop.

The second issue is a doozy too. The magical visuals of ray tracing brings a sizeable hit to performance. In Metro Exodus’ case, the activation of ray tracing knocks the 80fps performance down to 65fps. The good news is Nvidia’s DLSS technology is supposed to remedy this by using AI to help alleviate the rendering workload of the GPU and in turn, boosting the frame rates. The bad news? DLSS doesn’t work with this model of the Razer Blade 15.

While DLSS is technically supported by every RTX-enabled laptop, Nvidia has made the bizarre decision to block DLSS from working on an RTX 2080 graphics card when hooked up to a Full HD display.

Nvidia’s logic for this is that frame rates are already beyond 60fps, so you don’t really need an additional performance boost. However, this means, thanks to the magic frame rate-boosting powers of DLSS, the RTX 2070 Razer Blade 15 actually offers a superior ray tracing performance than the RTX 2080 version. 

Razer Blade 15 Metro Exodus ray tracing results

There’s a possibility that hooking the Razer Blade 15 to an external Quad HD or 4K monitor may fix this issue and allow DLSS to be activated. However, as I had limited time with the laptop I was unable to test this for myself. 

While it’s embarrassing for the RTX 2080 Razer Blade 15 that its cheaper sibling offers a superior ray tracing performance out of the box, the lack of DLSS may not necessarily be as damning as you may think. Many have reported that while DLSS certainly offers a frame rate boost, it also reportedly makes the image more fuzzy and less detailed. I haven’t noticed this myself yet, but will conduct more tests to see whether these reports are accurate.

Related: What is ray tracing?

Razer Blade 15 (2019) – Storage

The RTX 2080 configuration of the Razer Blade 15 only has one storage option: 512GB. That’s pretty stingy. With GTA V taking up 70GB alone, it won’t take many AAA games to clog up the Blade’s storage.

Razer Blade 15 2019

I’d love the option of an RTX Razer Blade 15 with 1TB storage, although that potential price would be frightening

While a 512GB hard drive is forgivable for a laptop costing under £2000, it’s less excusable when it costs near-to £3000. And even if Razer’s reasoning is it doesn’t want to drive up the price further, it would at least be nice to at have the option to upgrade to a 1TB model.

Onto more positive news, the RTX 2080 model of the Razer Blade 15 showcases excellent read and write speeds at 3280.8 MB/s and 1859.6 MB/s respectively. I haven’t seen any other gaming laptop match these scores in the past six months. This means the Razer Blade 15 will be seriously nippy when saving or loading files stored in the laptop.

Related: Best SSD 2019

Razer Blade 15 (2019) – Battery Life

With such a sleek form and ultra-strong components, the Razer Blade 15 was never going to have a long-lasting battery life. I’ve found gaming laptops to only last 5 hours on average anyway.

However, I was still dismayed to find the Razer Blade 15 could only just about muster 4 hours with casual browsing and video playback simulated via the benchmark software Powermark. While I didn’t get time to test the battery for gaming, expect it to be significantly shorter than the 4-hour figure, especially if playing a AAA game like Far Cry or Metro Exodus.

I’ve found with other Razer laptops that switching off the RGB lighting on the keyboard can boost the battery life by another hour or two sometimes, but I don’t really see much value to this considering this is one of the key features that transforms the Blade 15 from a slab of aluminium to a seriously good-looking gaming laptop.

Why buy the Razer Blade 15 (2019)?

I’m a big fan of Razer laptops. They always boast a quality and stylish design, while offering a performance that can outgun the majority of the competition. The new RTX Razer Blade 15 gaming portables are no different. However, the added cost of the RTX graphics card may just be too much to forgive this time around.

Ray tracing is certainly a fantastic feature, providing an extra polish to stunning environments in the likes of Metro Exodus and Battlefield 5. But since ray tracing is currently limited to two games, negatively impacts frame rates without DLSS and is at times too subtle an effect to justify such a massive price hike, I’m not convinced the technology is ready to be a major selling point just yet.

Razer Blade 15 2019

While it’s certainly no ultrabook, the new Razer Blade 15 is light enough that it doesn’t cause too much issue on the commute

The fact DLSS doesn’t even work with the RTX 2080 model without using an external monitor is a major issue too – this is one of the standout features of the RTX graphics cards, after all. It also means the cheaper RTX 2070 model of the Razer Blade 15 offers a better ray tracing performance, which is very strange.

If you’re happy to fling your money about and fancy one of the most powerful gaming laptops on the market, the Razer Blade 15 will at least give you a performance to brag about. But if you’re looking for  value with your gaming laptop purchase, there are many better alternatives on offer.

Verdict

The Razer Blade 15 may offer ray tracing and one of the best performances currently found in a gaming laptop, but the lack of DLSS support, G-Sync and 1TB storage make that sky-high price difficult to justify.

Score