Razer Blade review

Thin is in with Razer's new gaming laptop

Razer Blade
Razer Blade

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As tested, the Razer Blade we tested was configured in the following manner:

  • 2.2GHz Intel quad-core Core i7 4702HQ CPU
  • 8GB RAM
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M
  • 256GB mSATA Solid State Drive
  • Killer Wireless-N 1202 (802.11a/b/g/n)
  • 3 USB 3.0 ports
  • 1 HDMI 1.4 out
  • 1 audio out
  • Bluetooth 4.0 adapter
  • 70Wh battery

Of the above configuration, only the hard drive is adjustable—you can buy the Razer Blade with a 128GB ($1,799), 256GB ($1,999), or 512GB ($2,299) SSD.

The star components, of course are the next-generation mobile CPU and graphics processor. Let's get into it.

The Core i7 4702HQ is based on Intel's new Haswell architecture. It's a fairly high-end quad-core mobile CPU, and is manufactured on a 22nm process that runs at 2.2GHz in standard operations. It also is capable of running in burst modes up to 2.9GHz when all four cores are active, 3.1GHz Turbo Boost clock speeds with two cores active, and 3.2GHz clock speeds with a single active core. Hyperthreading provides 4 additional virtual threads for a grand total of 8 processing threads.

Also important: The 4702HQ has a TDP (Thermal Design Power) of only 37 watts, meaning it politely sips power while running. A 37 TDP rating is low enough that it also means we'll likely see this CPU in much smaller form-factors.

The Haswell processor integrates Intel's new HD Graphics 4600. Recognizing gamers' needs, Razer also built in Nvidia's GeForce GTX 765m discrete graphics part.

The GTX 765m is a DirectX 11, Kepler-based high-mid-range mobile graphics adapter. It has 768 cores running at 850 MHz, and 2GB of DDR5 VRAM. The chip uses Nvidia's Optimus technology, which allows the system to save power by automatically toggling between the CPU's integrated graphics and this dedicated chip based on the type of application you're running.

Network performance junkies, be warned: the Razer Blade has no Ethernet port. It does have three USB 3.0 ports, however.

The Razer Blade's performance lives up to the specs

Cinebench: 22,273 (single CPU: 5,918)

3DMark06: 19,232

3DMark11 : 10,646 / 2,344 (Cloud Gate /Fire Strike)

Metro Last Light: 22.67 fps

Battery Eater 05: 1:24:00

Boot time: 12.8 seconds

As you've probably already noticed, we've added a few new benchmarks to our suite for gaming laptops. We got so excited about the Razer Blade's specifications we decided to beef up our tests a little bit in order to properly flex (and stress) its muscles.

How did that work out? Quite well. In Cinebench 10, which is designed to hammer all the cores in a system's processor, the Razer Blade put up the highest score we've seen from a laptop to date, outpacing even Lenovo's powerful 15.5-inch Y500 gaming laptop by almost 5%.

Even though the Razer Blade's Core i7 4702HQ proc runs 0.2GHz slower than the Y500's 2.4GHz Core i7 3630QM, it still puts up slightly stronger numbers, and with increased power efficiency. This accomplishment becomes even more impressive when you consider that this newer CPU is built for much smaller systems.

Advanced benchmarking

Moving on to our graphics-oriented suite of tests...the Razer Blade aced those across the board also.

In the 2011 version of 3DMark, the Razer Blade Pro put up a score of 10,646 for the Cloud Gate test, which is a notebook-oriented DX11 test that's heavy on geometry, post-processing, volumetrick illumination and physics.

In the much tougher Fire Strike 3DMark11 test, which was built for high-end gaming systems, the Razer Blade struggled a bit, throwing up a 2,344.

Finally in the Metro: Last Light test, which pushes a system's graphics and CPU processing in ways that many tests cannot, we saw an average frame rate of 22.67 frames per second at a resolution of 1600 x 900 with all details turned up. That's impressive for a laptop this thin.

At test time, we hadn't previously run 3DMark11 or the benchmark built into Metro: Last Light on any other gaming laptops that have crossed TechRadar's reviews desk. So, in order to create a baseline of comparison, we decided to run them on Lenovo's Y500 gaming laptop. The system aced our tests earlier this year because it has a last-gen mid-high-end Intel Core i7 3602HQ, but it also has two Nvidia GeForce GTX 650Ms running in SLI mode.

The comparison went surprisingly well for the Razer Blade. The Y500 put up an average frame rate of 21.33 frames per second in Metro Last Light, and scores of 12,783 for 3DMark11's CloudGate test as well as a score of 2,428 for the taxing Fire Strike benchmark. Not bad, right?

To be fair to Lenovo, the Y500 is a massive 15.6-inch desktop replacement with a massive screen that costs $750 less than this system. But still, the fact that the Razer Blade's single graphics part allowed it to essentially hold its own against two 650Ms in SLI is no small feat.

In real-world gaming, we consistently found ourselves surprised with the Razer Blade's performance. In Metro, for example, we were able to play full screen (1600 x 900) with medium levels of detail at acceptable frame rates. On most older games, such as the first Call of Duty: Black Ops, we were able to play at 1080 resolution on a connected HDTV with a high level of detail at very satisfying frame rates.

The bottom line is that this system is gaming-ready, making it a great choice for road warriors who like to play games while travelling.

Our battery life test, which uses Battery Eater 05 to fully saturate all of a laptop's systems, was somewhat surprising in that the battery only lasted 84 minutes. We were expecting a lot more, but the lower number is likely because the test forces the Razer Blade to switch on Nvidia's discrete graphics processor.

After using the laptop for a full week in more real-world modes, we can say this: In a more normal operating mode—meaning work or lighter sessions of video that don't frequently utilize the discrete graphics adapter—the battery lasts a lot longer than most systems we've seen.

One final note on performance: The stereo sound coming from the speakers on either side of the keyboard is top-notch, providing gratifying bass booms and surprisingly effective high-end effects in both games and music.