Razer CEO: 'I pray we would never design something like the Acer Predator 21 X'

Razer has revamped its 17.3-inch Blade Pro laptop, and it's a beast. The no-compromise gaming machine features Nvidia's top of the line GTX 1080 GPU, which offers the most frame-shifting power available today in a laptop.

According to the company's CEO and co-founder Min-Liang Tan, it's a full-on desktop replacement that maxes out just about every component - from its 32GB of dual-channel memory to a 4K G-Sync display with 100% Adobe RGB color saturation and a 2TB PCIe SSD for storage.

At less than one inch thick, it's one of, if not the slimmest machine to pack Nvidia's top-class desktop GPU. Tan says that the company was able to create the machine's svelte aluminum body thanks to a completely redesigned vapor chamber cooling system, which allows the Blade Pro to run at lower temperatures without throttling the GPU inside.

TechRadar caught up with Tan to find out more about how the company's desktop replacement came to be, the future of its Project Christine modular gaming desktop, and why he hopes that Razer never invents a "Frankenstein" laptop like the Acer Predator 21 X.

TechRadar: Who do you think will buy the new Razer Blade Pro?

Min-Liang Tan: Anybody who wants a gaming laptop with a lot of power, but doesn't necessarily need it to be very ultra-portable. It's kind of a misnomer in a sense, as there are a lot of laptops out there heavier and thicker than this one but are called ultra-portable. There are GTX 1060 gaming laptops out there that are thicker than this.

What is special about the system's thermal capabilities?

It has the thinnest vapor chamber for use in a laptop on the planet right now. I can say that because we invented It - it's unique to the Blade Pro and Razer. It's leaps and bounds better in terms of thermal dissipation compared to anything else out there at this point. The benefit is that there's no throttling on the GPU side. You'll probably see it in another gaming laptop made by somebody else in 18 months - they'll be the ones purchasing the machine first. 

Why are people more inclined to spend more money on a gaming machine than they used to be?

I don't think attitudes have changed much in recent years, but I think that the Razer customer really focuses on the best tech and design. Usually when they purchase something from us, they know what they're going to get. We don't do, for example, aluminum case designs with mag-alloy cores - we completely CNC the Blade Pro from a block of aluminum. And we're not apologetic about it. We cater to the user or the gamer who wants something truly innovative, and not a copycat, with the very best experience.

Did you use the same manufacturing lines for the Blade Pro's mechanical keyboard that you used for your mechanical iPad keyboard case?

To be candid, we had this ready a long time ago but we wanted to ship it in a product first. We put it in the iPad keyboard which did phenomenally well, then we put it inside the Razer Blade Pro. It's a little cheeky of us, I know, but we thought it was a good way to get some real-world manufacturing going and then include it in a laptop.

Razer doesn't have a commercial business-focused workstation range. Does this machine fill that void?

That's a great question. We don't think so though. To be clear, we design to the user, and I believe that there's a phenomenal use case still for desktops. There's a user who wants to be stationary, and that's a desktop user. If we tried to put modularity in a laptop then it would make absolutely no sense at all because you sacrifice the portability. Modularity is a phenomenal way of creating a true desktop, however. You will have to wait until we complete our designs for Project Christine, which we think will completely change the entire industry. You will have to wait a little bit for that, but hopefully not five years.

Do you think there's still hunger for a modular gaming desktop?

I think there is hunger for a relevant innovation. Again, you know how the entire industry tends to like to wait for us to launch something, if you see all the thin-and-light gaming laptops, many are based on our early thermal designs. Why? We custom make every single thing. I mean, there is no reason why Razer should be leading the entire PC industry. But we tend not to like to talk about future products because usually we like to upend entire industries, and Project Christine will be ready when it's ready.

A concept design of Project Christine

A concept design of Project Christine

How tempted were you to bring back the previous Razer Blade Pro's SwitchBlade UI? 

We were very tempted to bring it back, but ultimately right now we're focused on the fact that we need as much space as possible to consider the thermal management and for us, when we design, there's always a pecking order of what we want to put in. Right now, I think our real entire focus was to bring the best amount of performance into as thin a form factor as possible, so we've kept a very minimalist approach to everything else. 

What do you think to Acer's Predator 21 X? Would you ever create a similarly all-out machine?

To put it elegantly, I don't think we'd ever design anything like that. Take the Razer Blade Pro's mechanical keyboard, for example - it had to be super thin and designed for purpose. Putting a full-sized mechanical keyboard on there would have made it a Frankenstein of a laptop. Somebody posted the 21 X on my Facebook page and I said that I prayed we would never design anything like that. Is doing something like that a challenge? I guess it is, but it's like... is it a challenge to put 10 GPUs in a laptop? I guess so. But why would you do it?

Acer's unconventional Predator 21 X

Acer's unconventional Predator 21 X

For the display, did you consider 21:9 as an alternative to 4K?

I think the problem there is the availability of good panels. The panel on the Razer Blade Pro is one that we're very happy with - it's 4K and beautiful to look at. We get flack about the Razer Blade Stealth's display bezel size. We could've used a thinner bezel on a good quality panel, versus an insanely great panel with a bigger bezel size. We decided to go for the latter. We focus on function over form. Do we upgrade form? Absolutely, but function is still incredibly important to us.

What trackpad is featured in the Razer Blade Pro?

It's a clickable trackpad made by Synaptics that we have in there. I think we were the first to really focus on the whole trackpad experience. We write our own firmware and bios code, so our trackpads are optimized for our systems. Could we do an even better job if we controlled the OS? Yes - but we don't. I daresay we make the best trackpads in the PC industry. Does Apple do a better job than us? Yes, because they control macOS. But PC-to-PC, we are leaps and bounds ahead of everybody else because we spend a lot of time optimizing the trackpad up and down.

Kane Fulton
Kane has been fascinated by the endless possibilities of computers since first getting his hands on an Amiga 500+ back in 1991. These days he mostly lives in realm of VR, where he's working his way into the world Paddleball rankings in Rec Room.