Razer Blade Review: Beautiful Black Sheep
This simplicity in the Blade’s design is a crucial point, but this does take a toll on accessibility. The Blade comes with a bare minimum of I/O: three USB ports, HDMI out, one audio/mic combo port, and AC power is all you get. There’s no SD card slot or Ethernet jack in sight, features found on any other gaming machine you would buy today. The silver lining? All three USB ports are 3.0, so speed certainly isn’t a problem. A 1.3 MP webcam is found in the usual spot above the display.
Audio on the new Blade is a definite improvement over the last generation, but it’s still a lightweight 2.0 setup. There’s no integrated subwoofer, so the two speaker strips (one on each side of the keyboard) are doing all the work. YouTube videos and most music will sound okay, but “bring the bass” these speakers do not.
The Blade’s keyboard is a pleasant surprise. While I wouldn’t put the layout in the Hall of Fame with Lenovo’s offerings, it certainly didn’t hinder my gaming and typing experiences. There’s a nice bounceback on the spacious keys, and the function row works without any hiccups. Toggling brightness for the keyboard and the display are a snap. The trackpad is about par for the course when it comes to Windows 8 devices: awkward and finicky at times, but it gets the job done. Only the diehard gesture freaks should take pause, but scrolling around in Windows 8 wasn’t a challenge.
Speaking of Windows 8, you really have to applaud Razer for skipping out on the bloatware. When I started the Blade for the first time, the only icons on the traditional Desktop were the Recycle Bin, a Razer Comms shortcut, and a PDF how-to for the aforementioned Razer Comms program. The total RAM usage sat at 1.4 GB (after I installed Origin and Steam), so the software package on the Blade is lean and mean, without a doubt.
The biggest chink in the Blade’s armor is the LED-backlit display. For starters, it’s not a touchscreen, which is a hard fact to swallow when dealing with a $1,800-plus Windows 8 device. “No touching” aside, the viewing angles from above and below are downright unacceptable on a high-end device like the Blade. This is the one aspect of the Blade that absolutely needs to be addressed, be it now or on the presumed next-generation Blade. The resolution – 1600 x 900 – might not be in the same league as the Retina Display from Apple, but unlike the viewing angles, this aspect isn’t a dealbreaker. Playing PC games with respectable framerates on a 14-inch laptop screen with a 2560×1600 resolution sounds fantastic, but it’s a pipe dream at the moment.
The rest of the hardware is a different story, thankfully, and mobile gamers the world ’round should be envious of the Blade’s innards. The brain is an Intel Core i7-4702HQ quad-core CPU, which runs at 2.2 GHz, supports Hyper-Threading, and can Turbo up to 3.2 GHz on a single core. The GPU is an incredibly fast 1.5 GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 765, which pairs up with the integrated Intel HD4600 graphics via Nvidia’s Optimus graphics-switching tech. Pair this duo with 8 GB of DDR3-1600 memory, and your choice of SSD (128, 256, or 512 GB), and it’s no wonder the Blade can offer up admirable framerates in even the most demanding titles (more on that later).
The CPU and GPU do take a toll on the battery, although it’s more the latter than the new 4th-gen Haswell CPU. The 70-Watt-hour battery in the Blade is smaller than power pack in the 13-inch Macbook Pro (74Wh). This, coupled with the more demanding Nvidia graphics hardware, means your cordless gaming should last for roughly 2.5 to 3 hours, with a max battery life of about five hours. It’s hard to consider this anything but the norm, especially when the Biology textbook-sized competition can’t do any better.