Gaming laptops tend to push garish, over-the-top designs these days; the second-generation Razer Blade throws these clichéd conventions out the window. The result is a 16.8x10.9x.88-inch minimalist laptop that resembles a large matte-black MacBook Pro. This doesn't mean the Blade looks plain, however. Its alluring green LEDs coupled with its slick LCD trackpad give this Blade a killer edge.
Featuring a 17.3-inch screen, the laptop is massive. But, while the Blade certainly sports a large footprint, it’s sexy-slim at .88 inches. While the laptop doesn't feel light, with a carry weight of seven pounds, seven ounces, it’s much lighter than most competitors in its class. Heck, our 15-inch MSI GT60 zero-point was noticeably heavier at 10 pounds.
The laptop's unique LCD trackpad can be customized for a variety of different games and programs.
The brain behind the beauty is Intel's 2.2GHz Core i7-3632QM quad-core CPU, which clocks up to 3.2GHz with Turbo Boost. Discrete graphics come courtesy of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 660M GPU with 2GB of GDDR5 video memory. Unlike the MSI’s GTX 670M, which uses the older 40nm Fermi architecture, the Blade's GeForce is based on the 28nm Kepler chipset. Regardless of the new architecture, the Blade's 660 couldn't match MSI's 670 GPU, losing to the latter by double-digit percentages in both our STALKER: Call of Pripyat and 3DMark 11 benchmarks.
In our more CPU-intensive tests, the laptops traded blows. The GT60's 100MHz-faster 2.3GHz Core i7-3610QM processor performed slightly better in our Stitch.Efx 2.0 and ProShow Producer 5 tests, but lost to the Blade's newer Intel CPU in our x264 benchmark by a slightly wider margin. In terms of battery life, the Blade didn't fare quite as well. Looping an HD movie off the hard drive, the Blade's 60-watt-hour battery lasted two hours and 44 minutes, compared to our zero-point’s three-plus hours. Of course, machines of this size generally don’t travel far from a power outlet.
Check out our hands-on impressions of the Razer Blade gaming laptop
We’re more disappointed by the Blade's storage offering, which primarily consists of a 500GB HDD (that’s half what the far-cheaper GT60 offers). But what the Blade lacks in capacity, it makes up for in speed. Along with its 7,200rpm hard drive, the Blade features a 64GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD. As a result, the laptop booted to Windows in 24 seconds. Our zero-point took more than twice as long.
As for the screen, the laptop's 1920x1080 LED-backlit LCD looks great if you're viewing it head-on, but it does have the characteristic TN shimmer when you view it off axis. What really sets the laptop apart is its multitouch LCD trackpad. The mini panel looks slick and plays games surprisingly well. It's certainly not as quick and precise as a real mouse, but it's about on par with an Xbox 360 controller for shooters. The 4-inch LCD screen also acts as a secondary 800x480-resolution monitor that’s aided by 10 programmable LCD buttons, allowing you to, say, watch YouTube videos, check your Facebook page, or surf the web between loading screens. The worst thing about the trackpad is its placement on the right side of the keyboard; because we’ve been conditioned to using a trackpad below the keyboard, having it on the right felt extremely counterintuitive and definitely took getting used to—but the placement does work better for gaming once you get acclimated to it.
While the keyboard isn't quite as unique, its green LED-backlit keys look gorgeous and we loved the quiet and responsive feel of the buttons. One thing we didn't like about the keyboard—and the whole chassis, for that matter—is its affinity for fingerprints. On the audio front, the speakers are adequate—they're loud and don't distort at full volume—but these run-of-the-mill laptop speakers aren't going to impress audiophiles.
Although the Blade is by no means weak, for a $2,500 gaming notebook, a better GPU would have been nice. Our zero-point GT60, which is cheaper by $1,000, outperformed Razer's laptop in several benchmarks but is admittedly far bulkier and heavier. What you're actually paying for here is the design and portability. Luckily, the Blade delivers on both fronts.
Note: This review was taken from the Holiday issue of the magazine.
Beautiful design; useful, customizable gaming trackpad; large screen.
Expensive; price tag suggests beefier components.
2.2GHz Intel Core i7-3632QM
Nvidia GeForce GTX 660M with Optimus Technology
17.3-inch, 1920x1080 LCD
64GB SATA III SSD, 500GB hard drive (7,200rpm)
Ethernet, HDMI, 3x USB 3.0, headphone, mic, 2MP webcam, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11a/g/n
Lap / Carry
6 lbs, 11 oz / 7 lbs, 7.2 oz
Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)
ProShow Producer 5 (sec)
x264 HD 5.0 (fps)
STALKER: CoP (fps)
3DMark 11 Perf
Battery Life (min)
Our zero-point notebook is an MSI GT60 with a 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM, 12GB DDR3/1600, two 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drives, a GeForce GTX 670M, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. STALKER CoP tested at 1920x1080 with Ultra settings, Tessellation, and contact hardening.