Shopping for a gaming notebook can be tough, especially if you’re looking to supplement a beefy desktop machine. On one hand, you can go all out with a massive system that rivals your trusty desktop but then again, who wants to haul around a 10+ pound brick all day? Conversely, there are plenty of slim notebooks to choose from but finding one that’s even halfway decent at gaming is a challenge.
With Razer’s refreshed Blade notebook, the gaming peripheral specialist aims to strike a blend of portability and power in a chassis that anyone would be proud to own. It’s not the fastest gaming notebook on the planet but at just 4.5 pounds with a profile that’s thinner than a dime standing on its side, you’ll have no trouble tossing it in your backpack as you walk out the door.
The 2016 Razer Blade ships with a 14.0-inch IGZO QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800 resolution, 16:9 ratio) LED backlit display with capacitive multi-touch. In my opinion, multi-touch on a traditional notebook – one that can’t transform into a tablet – is just as worthless as a multi-touch on a full-size AIO.
The panel looks incredible although given its high resolution, you’ll almost certainly want to scale it up a bit unless you have a penchant for tiny text. This is incredibly easy to do in Windows 10 by simply right-clicking on the desktop and selecting “display settings.” Here, you can adjust the scaling on-the-fly by dragging a slider. I tried a couple of different settings before settling on 175 percent.
Perhaps the only thing not to like about the screen is that it’s glossy and has a high reflection factor.
Powering the new Razer Blade is Intel’s sixth generation Skylake Core i7-6700HQ processor with Intel HD Graphics 530, a quad-core, eight-thread chip that runs at 2.6GHz (Turbo up to 3.5GHz). It’s paired with 16GB of dual-channel DDR4 (2133MHz) that’s soldered to the motherboard, Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M graphics with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM and 256GB or 512GB of PCIe M.2 solid state storage.
Nvidia’s Optimus technology switches between integrated and discrete graphics based on application demand. In my experience, it does a fine job at it although you can always go in into the Nvidia Control Panel and assign a specific GPU to handle individual programs as you see fit.
If you’re familiar with Razer’s Blade line of notebooks, you’ll feel right at home. In terms of design and styling, the Blade is more or less a larger version of the Blade Stealth we looked at a few months ago. Along the right edge of the system, you’ll find a Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) port, a traditional USB 3.0 port, an HDMI 1.4b port and Kensington Lock slot. On the opposite side is the AC charging port, two additional USB 3.0 ports and a combination audio jack with a single activity LED along the front edge. Under the hood, you’ve got a Killer Wireless-AC 1535 NIC (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac + Bluetooth 4.1).
The inclusion of a Thunderbolt 3 port is a welcome one. If you’re unfamiliar, this versatile port offers 40Gbps of bandwidth (twice as much as Thunderbolt 2) but what’s most impressive here is that it utilizes the USB Type-C interface and can do many things at once. With a single reversible cable, for example, you can drive two 4K monitors, recharge the system and transfer data all at the same time. It makes single-cable docking for workstations a reality and truly is the “one cable to rule them all.”
On the bottom of the Blade are two anti-skid pads that run the length of the system, two vents hiding intake fans and 10 screws which hold the cover in place. By using long strips of anti-skid pads rather than the typical four small feet, the Blade has an incredible grip and won't skate around on your desk.
Since the RAM is soldered in place and the battery is of the integrated type, the only reason you’d ever need to get inside would be to replace or upgrade the solid state drive.
Speaking of, the Blade ships with a 70Wh rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery that Razer says is good for up to five hours in their testing. Included with the system is a 165 watt power adapter measuring 5.9 x 2.36 x 0.87 inches that shouldn’t take up too much space in your travel bag.
Razer has positioned its familiar snake logo in the center of the lid. I did notice that if you push down on or around the backlit logo, there’s a lot of flex which is a bit concerning. Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to affect the display on the other side, even when a good deal of force is applied.
Opening the lid, you’ll find the 14.0-inch QHD+ display framed by a moderately thick bezel, both of which sit behind the display’s glass. This gives the illusion that the bezel isn’t as wide as it really is and is more aesthetically pleasing than a solid, separate bezel. Atop the display is a 2.0-megapixel webcam with dual microphone array should you want to some Skyping.
The full-size anti-ghosting keyboard is slightly recessed and comes alive courtesy of Razer’s Chroma backlighting system which features individually lit multi-color keys. With it, you get access to 16.8 million colors per key as well as several different lighting effects like breathing, reactive, wave, static and so on.
You can create multiple profiles for different moods and even different game types with the ability to go online and download specific profiles for games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch. If you’re into custom lighting, Chroma will be right up your alley and if not, you can simply disable the backlighting or set it to a static, single color and call it a day.
The keyboard itself is more than adequate for a gaming notebook and the layout leaves nothing to be desired. That’s worth some merit as it’s surprisingly easy to screw up a keyboard by simply rearranging a couple of keys. There’s virtually zero flex in the board so it doesn’t feel like you’re typing on mushy Jell-O. If I had to single out one shortcoming, it would be that the key travel is a tiny bit shallow, though this likely stems from my love of mechanical keyboards and Razer's desire to produce a thin machine.
At four and 1/8 inches wide, the touchpad is plenty large for a system of this size. Rather than integrate the mouse click buttons directly into the touchpad, Razer went with physical click buttons, a practice that isn’t nearly as common as it used to be. This will ultimately come down to personal preference although considering its intended target, I suspect most serious gamers will rely primarily on a standalone mouse or maybe even a gamepad.
A set of stereo speakers covered by pinhole grills flank the keyboard with the power button located centrally above the keyboard. The wrist rest area is spacious and only gets lukewarm during intense gaming sessions. This is due in part to Razer’s dual-fan cooling system -- more on that in a bit.
The new Blade packs a lot of technology into a slim and lightweight chassis measuring 0.70 (height) x 13.6 (width) x 9.3 (depth) inches and 4.5 pounds. Our price as configured here today is $1,999. Should you opt for the larger 512GB SSD, expect to pay $2,199.
Read on for more details on performance and usage impressions.