The Bottom Line
Jul 18 2012 - Razer made a huge splash with the Blade at CES 2012 thanks to its extremely thin profile, fancy LCD backlit keys and trackpad and promise of high gaming performance. For the most part, this system does deliever as being the thinnest 17-inch on the market with its unique trackpad and programmable buttons. The system is capable as a mobile gaming platform but I wouldn't call it a super gaming platform as the space restricted the graphics processor. In addition to this, the extremely high price tag makes this a less than stellar option especially since Apple's release of the MacBook Pro 15 with Retina that offers just about more of everything for less but without the special backlit trackpad or programmable keys.
- Excellent Styling
- Extremely Thin For 17-inch Laptop
- Customizable LCD Keys
- Very Expensive
- 3D Performance Not As High As Desired For A True Gaming Laptop
- Lacks Optical Drive
- Intel Core i7-2640M Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 8GB PC3-10600 DDR3 Memory
- 256GB Solid State Drive
- 17.3" WUXGA (1920x1080) Display With 2.0 Megapixel Webcam
- NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M Dedicated Graphics With 2GB Memory
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- One USB 3.0, Two USB 2.0, HDMI
- 16.8" x 10.9" x .9" @ 6.4 lbs.
- Windows 7 Home Premium
Review - Razer Blade
Jul 18 2012 - At first glance, many would probably assume that the Razer Blade is a black version of the recently discontinued Apple MacBook Pro 17. The dimensions are very similar albeit slightly thinner but wider and they both feature an aluminum chassis design. The overall construction is superb and offers a very premium feel to the sturdiness of such a thin profile. They also have very high price tags although the Razer is the higher priced model with a starting price of $2800. This makes it something that most people will look at but probably avoid.
Since the Razer Blade was developed and released before Intel's Ivy Bridge made it to market, it is based on the older Sandy Bridge processors. In particular, it uses the Intel Core i7-2640M dual core processor. With just two cores, it isn't going to offer the same level of performance that the older i7-2760QM could achieve in very demanding tasks like desktop video but this laptop is built for gaming. In this sense, the dual core processor makes sense as most games don't take advantage of more than two processor cores anyways. With 8GB of DDR3 memory, it offers a very smooth overall experience with Windows 7 and games.
With such a thin profile and the emphasis on performance, storage features are quite different for the Razer Blade. Rather than using a traditional hard drive, a very sizable 256GB solid state drive is used to offer a very quick boot and load times for Windows, applications and games. The downside here is that the SSD drive offers roughly one third of the storage space for applications and data that is found in a traditional hard drive based. Thankfully, there is a single USB 3.0 port for use with high speed external storage devices. This is less than is found on many newer Ivy Bridge laptops but storage is the only real peripheral to take true advantage of the speeds yet. Surprisingly, there is no room within the system for an optical drive. This isn't as much of an issue in the era of digital software distribution. It may make it harder to load some older games though and it would have been nice at this price for Razer it include a slim external USB DVD drive for those that still need the media option.
This is a gaming laptop first and the display and graphics are key components for such a laptop. The 17.3-inch display is the prime reason for the laptops large width and offers a very compelling anti-glare coating with bright and vibrant colors. This is clearly a step up from traditional gaming displays and is even a nice step away from the glossy coating of the Apple MacBook Pro 17. Viewing angles were quite good as well and of course the native resolution is 1920x1080 for full 1080p video support. The graphics are a bit more disappointing for a gaming system though. Due to the size of the system and the heat constraints on it, Razer uses the NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M graphics processor. This isn't even a GTX class processor found on the majority of gaming specific 17-inch laptops. Specifically, the graphics may have issues running some modern games at the full native resolution of the display without suffering frame rates problems. In addition, you can forget trying to use any filters like anti-aliasing. This makes it less of a major mobile gaming platform and more of an adequate one for the gamer that really wants a more compact platform while traveling.
Where the Razer Blade really differs from other laptops is the keybaord and trackpad. First, most 17-inch laptops tend to feature a full keyboard layout with a numeric keypad. In the case of the blade, the numeric keypad space is instead occupied by a set of programmable keys and trackpad all with LCD display backlighting. Using the included Synapse software, the buttons can be programmed to specific tasks or applications. In addition, the trackpad surface can also double as a secondary mini display for a browser mode to view specific pages. It is unique but more novel feature as the trackpad display isn't too useful with many games right now. The keyboard itself is a fairly typical isolated keyboard design that is sunken slightly into the deck that offers an accurate enough experience.
Finally, we get to battery life. Razer has put a 60WHr internal battery pack into the Blade system. This is a bit smaller than you will find in a typical gaming laptop and is certainly much smaller than what Apple did. In video playback tests, the Blade is able to run for roughly three hours before going into standby mode. Of course, PC gaming is much more demanding that a video loop so gaming times would be much lower than this. It certainly isn't going to be anywhere near what the HP Pavilion dv7 can achieve with nearly twice the capacity battery but isn't a gaming laptop either.
As mentioned before, the big problem plaguing the system is the cost. At $2800, this is certainly a very premium system that only a few will even considering purchase. At this price point, many could buy a dedicated 17-inch gaming laptop and a ultrabook for when they travel but don't want to play games. The bigger issue now is the release of the Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display. Starting at $2200, it is less expensive, smaller, lighter, a higher resolution display and even faster graphics. Sure, if you wanted to game on it, you would have to use Boot Camp and buy a copy of Windows 7 to install but even then it is much less expensive. It you want to spend a lot less but still want a relatively compact system, the MSI GE70 is roughly have the cost with higher graphics performance as well.