We'll admit to being initially skeptical about the Switchblade touchpad, but after spending a considerable amount of time playing games and operating on it, we came away impressed.
For gamers, the ability to program the 10 soft keys to access items and call up various powers and abilities is a game-changer. More importantly, the right-hand position of the touchpad (which we were initially bothered by) and the high responsiveness of it make it fairly intuitive to game on this system without an external mouse. We were even able to play Borderlands 2 on this thing.
However, it's not perfect. While the touchpad itself is remarkable, its location on the right-hand side of the keyboard will take some getting used to for mundane tasks.
After several days of pounding away, we still found ourselves trying to apply our thumbs and right forefinger to the inches of empty space beneath the keyboard, only to remember that the touchpad is in the odd and unique position of the right-hand side of the laptop.
To be fair to Razer, the touchpad has to be there in order to fulfill the promise of being an authentic gaming laptop. A bigger problem is that the left and right mouse buttons, which are positioned right below the touchpad, feel almost like an afterthought and are poorly suited for gaming. In addition to having poor travel when pressed, these buttons are so thin that it's easy to miss them.
Furthermore, the positioning of the Razer-function button is also in an awkward position. It's close enough to the cursor keys that we found ourselves frequently mistaking it for the right-cursor button. The good news is that there's no harm done when you hit. And that you'll get used to it. Remember hitting the Windows key on the first keyboard/laptop that had one of those? (Yes, we're old. But along with that age comes gobs of experience, right?)
Finally, we consistently found ourselves wishing that we could somehow use the touchpad to continue to navigate Windows while simultaneously using it to watch Gangnam style on Youtube. That's a pipedream, we know, but the beauty of the Switchblade platform that it will be upgraded over time. Maybe some day?
For now, this feature is way ahead of its time. In coming months and years, we fully expect to see more and more keyboards with embedded second (and even third) screens.
All this said, if you're not a hardcore gamer, you'll probably find the Switchblade UI superfluous. Truthfully, if you're not a hardcore gamer, you're probably not thinking about spending $2,500 for a laptop.
Let's wrap this review up.
The best thing we can say about the Razer Blade is that it is very fast indeed. The third-gen Ivy Bridge Intel CPU is a real workhorse in terms of performance and power consumption. And we like the decision to eschew Nvidia's highest-end mobile gaming part in favor of a more modest (but still powerful) high-mid-range 3D adapter for the same power-performance reasons.
The second best thing we can say about the Razer Blade is that it's easily one of the coolest-looking gaming laptop TechRadar has ever seen or tested. It's the kind of system you can show your wife or girlfriend and actually elicit some oohs and ahhs. That counts for something, right?
It would be easy to write off the Switchblade touchpad UI as a gimmick, until you see it in action. Not only is it a boon for gamers, but its customizable nature should allow for some fantastically unique uses in the future. We're excited to see if and how this evolves.
This is clearly a UI platform to build on, and the fact that the Switchblade is based on your log-in information means that if you upgrade laptops in the future, you won't have to set everything up again from scratch.
Even the audio quality—delivered via a soundbar in the center of the laptop—is ideally suited for gaming, delivering crisp highs and a surprising amount of thump at the low-end.
Finding things to dislike about the Razer Blade is fairly difficult. It's easy to get grumpy over the $2500.00 price tag. But if you're searching for portable power in a chassis that won't make you feel like you're breaking your back, this is the high point. And the high point always costs a premium.
Other negatives include the keyboard, which feels a little too stiff for our tastes, and the mouse buttons, which lack the responsiveness we like for gaming. The first complaint is fairly subjective—a stiff keyboard isn't the worst for gaming. And because it's highly likely you'll be playing games with an attached mouse the second point may not be that relevant. (Using the touchpad itself for mouse-clicks during standard computing is perfectly fine.)
Perhaps the most noticeable shortcoming is that it does take some time to get used to the location of the touchpad during normal day-to-day computing tasks if you aren't using an external mouse.
Even four days after beginning to use the Razer Blade, we found ourselves twiddling our thumbs below the keyboard in vain to move the cursor around.
This said, the position of the Switchblade touchpad is important because it enables laptop gaming in a way that most systems—Toshiba's lightning-fast Qosmio X870 included—do not.
We're very much impressed. From top to bottom, the Razer Blade is a very well-thought out design, and is a joy to use on a day-to-day basis.
Given the brooding chassis, evil-green glowing lights, and raw power, we couldn't help but think of this rig as the anti-MacBook.
It's hard to imagine porting around a 17-inch laptop, but at only a little under 7 pounds all-in and with surprisingly stellar battery life, the previously unthinkable is perfectly reasonable here. The notion that you could sit in a café and play Borderlands 2 on this thing pleases us.
The hardest-core gamers will marvel at the quick key effects the customizable Switchblade UI permits. Everyone else will marvel at how cool it is.