PC gaming has traditionally only conjured up images of huge tower PCs with monstrous processing power, gigabytes of RAM, cooling systems that would rival a nuclear power plant, and graphics cards that would rival the cost of an entire PC around five years back. PC enthusiasts have long held fast to the notion that if you want a complete and true gaming experience, you need to invest in top of the range hardware that can render ever frame flawlessly. But with continuing advancements in technology resulting in smaller yet powerful components, a surprising contender has entered the gaming arena – the gaming laptop. We’ve seen quite a few popular brands come out with laptops that can quite adequately run PC games, and for many people who want a gaming experience on the go, this worked just fine. But what about gamers who want the best possible gaming experience without adding bulk or weight to their laptop? The answer lies in the new Razer Blade gaming laptop.
Build quality & design
When Razer first announced the Blade, it made huge waves in the gaming world, not only because it was from a company that had long been associated with gamers, but the Blade brought a sleek and streamlined look to the gaming laptop scene. Gaming laptops we’ve seen so far have been quite bulky, and the Razer Blade is the first of its kind to pack as much power as possible into a much lighter frame.
The Blade is a complete attention-grabber. Its matte design crowned by the bright green Razer logo will make people stop and do a double-take, or if you’re using it on the Metro like I did, it’s sure to garner a few curious glances. The Razer Blade measures 34.5 x 23.5 x 1.68 cm, making it a bit bigger than a 13″ Macbook Pro (1.8 cm x 31.4 cm x 21.9 cm), as well as possibly sharing a few design cues. There’s a nice deep lip at the front of the laptop which makes it easy to open, revealing a spacious keyboard and smooth trackpad. Around the device you’ve got a full sized HDMI port and three USB 3.0 ports. It’s a bit unfortunate that the Blade doesn’t have an Ethernet port, which would come in handy for LAN games over at a friend’s house. It’s certainly a beautifully designed device, so props to Razer for coming out with such an elegant looking laptop.
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Benchmarks & Performance
Before diving into the benchmarks, it’s important to remember the limitations of the hardware you can cram into a laptop. So while running a game on medium or high settings may be trivial for a PC gaming rig, for a laptop this would actually be a significant achievement, given the much smaller footprint and hardware restrictions of the device. Having said that, benchmarking the Razer Blade was straightforward enough, with a mixture of our regular benchmark software and third-party gaming titles.
Overall the Razer Blade performed very well in our tests, handling most games at medium to high settings without skipping a beat, including Borderlands 2, Bioshock Infinite, Neverwinter, and Call of Duty: Ghosts. Keeping in mind the form factor of the Blade, the results are extremely promising. Borderlands 2 with full physics effects and all visuals turned up to High ran exceptionally well, so much so that for a moment I forgot that I was actually running the game on a laptop.
While the Blade may be able to pack a punch, it does fall a bit short with its screen. The 14” display has a resolution of 1600 x 900, which may be decent for most applications, but the quality of the screen itself can be debated. The narrow viewing angles means that it may be a bit tricky to run two-player games on the Blade, and quite often games with a lot of black or dark tones were a bit difficult to make out, such as in Call of Duty. It’s a real pity that the screen is one of the Blade’s downfalls in what is otherwise a rather premium product. The screen isn’t touchscreen which is a mixed blessing, as sometimes I tapped or swiped the screen accidentally when navigating around Windows 8.1.
Keyboard and Trackpad
The keyboard on the Blade is quite responsive, and certainly looks like it can withstand the frantic keyboard-bashing of an avid gamer. Keys could have been spaced out just a fraction further apart, but overall typing or gaming on the keyboard is quite good. The green backlit keys give the Blade a very distinct look, and the brightness can easily be adjusted to gaming in darker environments.
The trackpad is also similarly responsive and spacious, though any avid gamer will use an external mouse or gamepad to play games, as using a trackpad might not be the easiest option when playing certain multiplayer games. There were a few times where the trackpad didn’t register my swipes or scroll gestures, but otherwise it’s quite clicky and responsive.
If you’re playing a game with settings at medium-high quality, you’re looking at about three and a half hours of battery life on the Blade. For a gaming laptop that’s actually quite good, and less intensive games or applications will certainly yield a longer battery life. However just for kicks I fired up Borderlands 2 with the laptop fully charged and the game running at max resolution and max settings. I was able to get about fifty-seven minutes of flawless gameplay before the game quit and the laptop went into hibernate. So it’s worth playing around with your game settings a bit if you’re running on battery, to ensure that you get the most when you’re unplugged and gaming on the move.
Heat and Noise levels
This is my second quip about the Razer Blade. I currently own an Alienware M11x R1, and one of the biggest issues it has is how unbearably hot it becomes after about forty minutes of gaming. A similar issues resides with the Blade – all of that graphic and processing power crammed into such a thin body means that the heat generated needs to go somewhere, and usually it’s through the bottom of the device. The keyboard and palm rest get quite warm after a while, but it’s not uncomfortable. However don’t even think about using the Blade on your lap, unless you’re wearing heatproof trousers. Though a redeeming quality of the Blade is how quiet it is – while other gaming laptops (and desktops) seem to roar when playing certain games, the Blade never got very loud at all, managing just a fraction louder than a gentle hum at times.
The Razer Blade is certainly a great looking device that packs a significant punch for a gaming laptop. But it’s held back by an average screen and heating issues, which may not make it the most appealing purchase to some people. Not to mention that it’s priced considerably higher than other gaming laptops we’ve seen, so for the premium price you’d expect that everything is above and beyond the norm. Having said that, the Razer Blade still delivers incredible gaming performance in a sleek chassis, so anyone who’s got the cash to spare and is looking to game on the go, then this is the one for you.