Razer Blade (R2) Gaming Laptop Review
Starting with the build quality and design of the new Razer Blade we have a system which has taken the Ultrabook concept and built a gaming system around it. This of course means a significant change in size to accommodate the large 17" display but also allows a much more flexible choice of components.
The overall build quality of the Blade is very good with the metal chassis finished nicely. The screen is bright, has good viewing angles and the speakers decent enough for a mobile system… though we would recommend grabbing a decent headset as with most laptops. We also like that there are no ports on the back of the system though splitting the USBs so one was on the right would be beneficial in creating some space for larger plugs (e.g. headsets with USB soundcards). We also feel that the audio should be split into two ports rather than a combo as that makes headset compatibility more of a problem than it should be. At the very least a Y cable combining audio/mic should be bundled for users.
Key to the Blade design is of course the Switchblade UI and it works very well, other than one aspect… it took quite some getting used to that the touch pad was off at the right. We lost count of how many times we touched the centre of the palm wrest expecting to move the pointer or bring the system out of sleep. Maybe Razer should have added a small capacitive panel here just for that purpose…
Once we got our head around the location of the touchpad the Switchblade UI really worked well though. There is no impact on sensitivity compared to traditional models, in fact this tracks very well, and the ability to change the display and even check the web and more importantly email/social media on the mini-screen is a nice bonus. For gaming though it really excels, offering unrivalled game features in a decent selection of key games. Each is tailored for the particular game and very much beneficial in managing our time and abilities.
When it comes to performance the Ivy Bridge i7 CPU in the new Razer Blade performs very well, it is one of the best chips available for mobile systems and in a different league to most Ultrabooks. The NVIDIA GPU too is good, though not quite at the level of some gaming notebooks due to the thermal/power restrictions of the compact form factor used here. That said we can still play all of the latest games, it is just a case of balancing our resolution/detail settings in each. At worst we play at 1280×720 (e.g. Crysis 3 and Hitman Absolution) but elsewhere (Battlefield 3 and StarCraft 2 HOTS) its 1920×1080 and Ultra detail all the way.
Wi-Fi performance is good, no surprise due to the dual band adapter installed in the system and we were pleased to see USB 3.0 (which all ports are) was also performing well. If there was any component in the system which we would change, it would probably be the M4 SSD. The higher capacity M4 drives are awesome, and we get that Crucial have good reliability but the architecture of this model limits the write speeds somewhat on the 64GB version. That said there was no issue with responsiveness and read operations performed well. It was also good to see Razer using a 7200RPM drive for the mechanical model as some manufacturers cheap out on 5400RPM drives.
That brings us to value where the Blade retails, in its single configuration, for $2499. Without doubt it is a lot of money for a mobile system and yes there are some more powerful gaming notebooks for less money but Razer are not looking to directly compete with them. Instead of power mixed with bulk the new Blade looks to offer a balance of performance, style and high end design. At a similar RRP to the original used for Apples 17" Macbook Pro the Blade doesn’t feel overpriced and no other laptop can offer the same gamer features provided by the Switchblade UI.