Razer Blade Review

razer_logo_01In the latest episode of New Game Plus, Shane and I shared our thoughts on Razer’s new gaming laptop the “Blade”. While our main points were covered in the show I believe it deserves a closer look. When it comes  to gaming laptops, they have never been very portable with their weight and Razer is looking to change that, but has it been able to give both power and portability?

THE DEVICE

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The Blade itself is a very sleek looking device with the base being only as thick as an ethernet port and weighing in at under 3kg. However with its reduced thickness, heat re-distribution can be an issue as most of the venting occurs underneath the device making it quite hot under load but when it comes to anything using the integrated graphics its cool to the touch. Also something to note is we tried 5 different routers and found that the Blade does not get along well with 2.4GHz routers, so 5GHz or a wired connection is a must. Specs wise, the Blade is running an  i7 3632QM (2.2GHz base/3.2GHz turbo), 64GB SSD, 500GB HDD, 8GB 1600MHz RAM and a NVIDIA GTX 660M.  There were some strange omissions from the device though with no disk drive (yes I own retail PC games) and only an inbuilt mic with no 3.5mm mic input. Along with the 17” 1080p screen, this is what you will generally find in top end gaming laptops around the $2500 mark. However if you are looking at a Blade it will set you back $2999, so it’s quite a bit more to pay for portability but there is more to the Blade than just its dimensions.

THE SWITCHBLADE UI

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The switchblade UI has shown its face in many forms in the last couple of years and it has real promise on a device like this. The trackpad is a 4” LCD screen which can be utilised as more than just a trackpad. There are applets such as youtube that you could use to look up a guide while playing a full screen game or some applets for games such as the SWTOR displaying extra information and game timers. Unfortunately, beyond the official applets there hasn’t been as much coming out from the free SDK razer provided for homebrewers to create awesome stuff like they did for the logitech G15 but basic customisation is great through Synapse 2.0. I have a fantastic profille set up for WoW where I had not all the moves I needed bound to the 10 customisable LCD keys along with the move’s icon which would load up automatically whenever I ran warcraft’s executable. I feel it only works for games that can be played without a mouse though as your left hand will be hovering over WSAD and right on a mouse you have most likely plugged in and then the keys become unusable unless you take your hand off either.

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PERFORMANCE

When it comes to performance outside general gaming the Blade does some pretty smart things. The Blade uses a “Hybrid Drive” to RAID the SSD and HDD to give some solid boot speeds and general application performance. Though its common on most laptops its worth mentioning that the onboard intel graphics handle all general applications to conserve battery and the 660M only fires up when doing something resource intensive and you can go one step further by setting low profile games to only use the onboard to save more battery life. While it may not get the framrates you get on a SLI 680 desktop, the 660M handled everything really well. Here are a few averages (other games I wanted to benchmark I was unable to install due to no disk drive).

Borderlands 2 High(est) 4xAA PhysX-low: 36FPS

Borderlands 2 High(est) 16xAA PhysX-high: 23FPS

Battlefield 3 Medium Preset: 37FPS (High): 30FPS (Ultra): 20FPS

Diablo 3 High(est): 54FPS

Starcraft 2 High(est): 73FPS

I like a lot about this laptop but there are a few issues that make me question its price point. If I was a travelling man this would be the perfect portable WoW device for me and have the power to play any new games that I wanted as well. For now I play the majority of my games on my desktop and only a few on my smaller, heavier and less powerful laptop so I’m probably not the intended market. After using the Blade extensively, I can see why people like having a beasty gaming laptop, and the Blade certainly has the power of a gaming rig and the portability of a laptop.

If you haven’t watched the video review in episode 37, go there to see more of the device as well as Shane’s thoughts. If you were looking for even more info, you can find it at www.razerzone.com