Razer Blade review: A proper portable gaming laptop, now with Kaby Lake

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Gaming laptops can be a bit of a hard sell. On the one hand, you’ve got the super slim kind, which typically sacrifices performance for portability (the HP Omen 15, for example); on the other hand, there are machines like the Scan 3XS Carbon G-Sync with top performance but which can barely be called laptops they’re so bulky. Razer changes this polarisation with the Razer Blade, a 15in gaming laptop that packs one hell of a punch but doesn’t sacrifice portability in the slightest.

Let’s get that slender frame out of the way first. It’s incredibly light for a gaming laptop. In fact, at a mere 1.95kg, it’s among the lightest 15in laptops of any genre that has passed through our doors recently and considering the impressive innards packed inside, it’s remarkably slim, too, at only 17.9mm from top to base.

It looks good, too. As with the Razer Blade Stealth – the firm’s other more compact and significantly less expensive ultraportable – the finish is all-black aluminium. It’s a simple enough design, with two vertical lines indented on the lid, emblazoned with a backlit, bright green Razer logo in the centre. It’s just as wonderful to hold as the Stealth, too, if a smidge chunkier. That matte aluminium finish is wonderfully smooth to the touch.

Despite its slim frame, the Blade has more than enough ports to keep you going. On the left you’ll find two USB 3 ports and a 3.5mm headset jack, while on the right, are another USB 3 port and a single USB Type-C port as well as full-size HDMI 2 port. As for wireless connectivity-wise, you get 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.1.

UPDATE: Razer has refreshed its Razer Blade offering with an up-to-date Kaby Lake processor upgrade. I’ve spent some time with it (and it’s even better), and have included the updated benchmarking scores, below.

Buy the Razer Blade from Razer now

Razer Blade review: Performance and battery life

With prices starting at £1,750 for the Full HD model packed with a 2.6GHz quad-core i7-6700HQ processor, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, you’re getting plenty for your money. That’s the same price as the cheapest of Apple’s Touch Bar MacBook Pro models, which offers a slower i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a smaller 13in display. There’s also a Kaby Lake-upgraded model, equipped with an i7-7700HQ, too.

The particular configuration I have here is not the cheapest one, however. In fact, it’s the top-end model, with a costly 1TB SSD plonked inside and the top-end QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) display, all for £2,650, which while not quite as expensive, is closer in price to the Touch Bar 15in MacBook Pro. If you have the money for it (not that I’m jealous or anything), you can expect blisteringly fast boot times and game load times, with plenty of storage space to back that up. That Kaby Lake equipped model – which has all the same bells and whistles as the Skylake version – starts at £1,800.

The results speak for themselves. With an overall score of 112 in our demanding 4K benchmark tests the Razer Blade almost doubles the 13in MacBook Pro’s score of 55. And all but matches the MacBook Pro 15’s score of 113. It can’t quite beat the current reigning champion – the Scan 3XS Carbon G-Sync and its stonking score of 128 – but it’s impressive nonetheless. The Kaby Lake model sees quite the performance upgrade, with that power CPU helping to reach an overall score of 127. That’s just 1 point away from that Carbon G-Sync.

Unlike the Razer Blade Stealth, the Blade is built for gaming. And when I say gaming, I don’t mean casual gaming or detail-compromised desktop games from years ago. The Razer Blade instead delivers the full-fat gaming experience, including a discrete desktop-level Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU, complete with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM. It’s a winning combination that’s capable of running any modern game without kicking up a fuss.

Metro: Last Light Redux, a title notorious for its demanding graphics-heavy visuals, ran near-flawlessly with a 75fps average at 1080p at Ultra settings with SSAO turned off. Whack up the settings to native resolution on the QHD+ screen and the frame rate does dip, but it never stooped below 30fps. The same can be said for 2016’s Doom, netting a stable 100fps on the Ultra preset at 2,048 x 1,152 resolution, with QHD+ resolution never once dipping below 40fps.

The downside, and a disappointment given the Blade’s ultra-portable chassis, is that it isn’t the most power efficient of machines. In fact, in our simple video playback battery test, the Razer Blade ran for only 2hrs 43mins before it needed to be plugged in again. That’s half-an-hour longer than Scan’s Carbon G-Sync managed, but not a patch on the MacBook Pro’s near nine-hour runtime. If you need a dual-purpose machine for work and play, it would seem this isn’t it. The Kaby Lake-equipped model had a far more impressive runtime, lasting 5hrs 52mins. That’s much better.

Razer Blade review: Keyboard and touchpad

Everything else about this laptop is spot on. I’m a big fan of the eye-catching Chroma keyboard, which I first came across on the Razer Blade Stealth. It may be a little gimmicky what with its flourish of rainbow colours, but I found myself giggling like a schoolgirl playing with Razer’s Synapse software, customising the keyboard’s colour and animated display patterns.

It’s a slightly nicer keyboard to type on, too, with keys that are raised ever-so-slightly higher than those on its Stealth counterpart, resulting in more travel when typing. Each key is nicely spaced, with the keyboard nestled within the dual speakers at the sides, and is great to use whether you’re pounding the WASD cluster or using it for the less adrenaline-pumping task of writing an email.

Where the keyboard is very similar to the Stealth, however, its touchpad is very different. It’s topped with a similarly smooth and luxurious glass finish but it isn’t clickable. Instead, you get dedicated left and right mouse buttons that sit immediately below the touch surface. This takes a bit of getting used to (I’m used to integrated buttons these days), and the buttons are a little thin for my liking, but I prefer separate buttons to integrated ones, and you can always set up the touchpad to register taps if you want.

Razer Blade review: Display

No prizes for guessing the resolution of the display here – the clue’s in the name (it’s 3,200 x 1,800 in case you hadn’t guessed already). What you can’t tell from the numbers is just how good this IPS IGZO panel is. While I can’t speak for the 1080p model, the QHD+ version is a treat, with a wonderfully colourful image, sharp details and cracking contrast.

The Blade’s display produces 95.4% of the sRGB colour gamut, easily besting the Carbon G-Sync’s 80.5%, but lags slightly behind the Blade Stealth’s 96.9%. Its brightness is a little on the low side at 343cd/m2, but is perfectly suited for indoor use. Unless you’re in the mood to play Deus Ex outside in the winter sun, you shouldn’t have any problems.

The downside is that there is visible motion blur in fast-moving scenes, but this is something that’s common to all IPS panels. You’d have to sacrifice the pristine image quality and superb viewing angles this screen brings with it and move to a TN panel to get rid of that.

Razer Blade review: Verdict

The Blade Stealth’s reasonably meagre battery life lets it down a little, but as long as you’re always near a wall socket it’s faultless in every other aspect. Build quality is unmatched among gaming laptops and the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 is a stonking performer.

In short, if you’re after top-tier gaming performance in a wonderfully compact package, look no further. If you’re already preparing for 2017’s long list of PC game releases, I’d recommend always having the Razer Blade by your side.

Core specs
Processor Quad-core 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ
RAM 16GB
Memory slots (free) 1 (0)
Max memory 16GB
Dimensions 17.9x345x235mm
Weight 1.95Kg
Sound Realtek HD Audio (3.5mm headset port)
Pointing device Touchpad
Display
Screen size 14in
Screen resolution 3,200 x 1,800
Touchscreen Yes
Graphics adaptor Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060
Graphics outputs 1 x HDMI2, 1 x USB-C
Graphics memory 6GB
Storage
Total storage 1TB SSD
Optical drive type N/A
Ports and expansion
USB ports 3 x USB3, 1 x USB-C
Bluetooth 4.1
Networking 802.11a/c wireless
Memory card reader N/A
Other ports N/A
Miscellaneous
Operating system Windows 10 Home
Operating system restore option Restore partition
Buying information
Parts and labour warranty One year RTB
Price inc VAT £2,650
Details www.razerzone.com
Supplier www.razerzone.com
Part number RZ09-0195

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