One of the most popular gaming laptops on the market continues to be the Razer Blade. New for 2018, Razer has refined the design and improved the internal hardware to make it even better than before.
With the 2018 Blade, Razer is fully on board with the thin bezel revolution. Previous models included 14-inch displays with fat bezels and it was a look that frustrated a lot of people. I mean why couldn’t they have just put a larger screen in the same chassis? With more competition from devices like the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin and Gigabyte Aero 15X, using the same design from the last few years just wasn’t going to cut it this time.
Clearly Razer’s engineers have been thinking the same thing, because the new Blade features a 15.6-inch display in a body that’s essentially the same size. The result? Bezels on either side of the display that are just 5mm thin, and it looks a whole lot better because of it.
There’s no nostril-vision camera here either, which is good news. The bezel along the top of the display is slightly larger than the sides, allowing the webcam to be positioned above the display, just like with the MSI GS65. You’re not quite getting that Dell XPS bezel look, but it’s close enough and still significantly better than Razer’s previous design.
The rest of the chassis has been redesigned slightly with a more squared-off look, as opposed to the rounded corners of the previous-gen Blade, and that gives it a more modern look while still delivering Razer’s signature high-quality all-metal build. I loved the design of the old Blade but this new look is even better; it’s just that touch sleeker.
Plus the black metal unibody is almost unrivalled in the gaming laptop space in terms of build quality. There’s more competition these days, but Razer still does it best and in fact comparing the Blade to other laptops in general, you’ll really only get this sort of build from a MacBook Pro. And we know how the latest MacBook Pros sacrifice some performance in order to maintain a thin profile (we’ll see how the Blade fares a bit later).
Razer positions the Blade as a dual-purpose laptop suitable for both gamers and professionals, so there’s plenty of ports on this laptop. Three USB 3.1 Type-A ports, a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port, full-sized HDMI 2.0, mini-DisplayPort 1.4, a 3.5mm audio jack and a proprietary charging port of course due to the high power draw charger. That’s pretty much everything you’d want on a laptop of this size, perhaps an SD card slot would have been nice but I’m glad there’s plenty of other full sized ports.
In terms of thickness, the Blade is very impressive, at just 16.8mm thick despite packing a six-core Intel Coffee Lake processor and up to GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q graphics. The size of the laptop relative to its internal hardware is one of the best on the market, if not the best, though its weight of a touch over 2kg (~4.6 lbs) isn’t as class-leading though that’s down to the solid metal construction.
The minimalist base of this laptop only has three elements: the keyboard, trackpad, and speakers. There’s no numpad on this 15-inch laptop, with Razer opting for large speaker grills on either side. The speakers' output is not that impressive, certainly not as impressive as the large grilles would suggest.
The keyboard is very good however. The travel distance to each key is ultrabook-class, but that’s not a bad thing as the response is solid and reasonably clicky for a non-mechanical design. Typing up a few documents and gaming on the new Blade is a decent experience and of course you also get to enjoy the bright per-key RGB backlighting. Razer still hasn’t managed to illuminate the keyboard’s symbols, though, which is a bit frustrating for night-time users.
As for the trackpad, it’s massive and extremely responsive; the perfect companion for productivity tasks on the go. There’s no Windows Hello integration on this laptop though, so no fingerprint reader or facial recognition support, a bit of a disappointment considering several other gaming laptops of this class have begun integrating those handy features.
The display is one of the big areas that’s received an upgrade, not only is it now larger than the 14-inch panel used in previous Blades, it’s also high refresh in some models. The main display that most people will be buying is a 15.6-inch 1080p IPS LCD with a 144Hz refresh rate, so quite similar to most other gaming laptops out there. Companies can only use the panels available to them, so it’s great to see Razer keeping up and using the best mobile gaming laptop display out there right now.
There is also a 60 Hz 1080p option for the entry-level Blade and a 4K 60 Hz option available at the high-end. I’d only recommend the 4K touchscreen if you are primarily going to be using this laptop for productivity tasks like video editing. For gaming, the 1080p 144Hz panel is a much better choice.
Razer is factory calibrating every screen across their Blade 2018 line-up, so even if you get the 1080p 144Hz panels, it will be color accurate to the sRGB gamut, and the 4K options even support 100% Adobe RGB coverage. In my testing, the Blade 2018 is on par with the Gigabyte Aero 15X when it comes to color accuracy, with deltaEs right on that 2.0 mark across greyscale, saturation and ColorChecker tests. White balance is very good as well, with an average CCT very close to 6500K.
It’s not a perfect display, but for content creators the screen is accurate enough from the factory to not have to worry about further calibration. However Razer is still limited by the characteristics of this panel, so its brightness of 285 nits and contrast ratio below 1000:1 isn’t fantastic, and uniformity is only okay for this display size. For gamers, though, you’ll love the high refresh rate, even if there’s no G-Sync support.