Hands on: Razer Blade 2018 review

Razer’s slick new gaming laptop does the Blade line proud

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Our Early Verdict

With a revised angular design and strong internal options, this year’s Razer Blade update is looking strong.

For

  • Sharp design
  • Great screen

Against

  • Touchscreen only available at the top of the range

With the Razer brand amassing a cult-like following, the company has spent the first half of this year focusing on some unexplored avenues, namely the impressive Razer Phone, while continuing to push its Chroma range of LED-lit peripherals.

At its heart, though, it’s still all about the PC gamer, and this year’s Razer Blade laptop lineup seems set to be another impressive offering for those hunting down a premium gaming-focused machine.

Pricing and availability

There will be five different 15.6-inch models in total, starting at $1,899 (close to £1,400 when directly converted, AU$2,999) for a version armed with a Full HD 60Hz display, Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU and 256GB SSD, and going up to $2,899 (£2,140) in the US and UK for one equipped with a 4K touch screen, GTX 1070 and 512GB SSD. All make use of an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 6-core processor, and pack in 16GB of upgradable RAM. Note that the 4K touchscreen version will be exclusive to the US, Canada, the UK and Germany with the rest of the world's range topping out at the Full HD 144Hz display, GTX 1070 GPU and 512GB SSD unit that costs $2,599 (£1,947, AU$3,999). 

The Razer Blade 2018 models are on sale now in the US, the UK, Canada, France, Germany and China, with global availability in early June and UK layout systems rolling out in mid-June 2018.

Design

If you’ve seen the Razer Phone, you’ll notice that some of its design language has now made its way into Razer’s laptop styling too. Gone are the curved sides and clamshell top, replaced with a sharper, angular look. There’s still that matte-black-with-neon-green-highlights thing going on, but there’s a refinement here that shows Razer wants this Blade to mean business as well as pleasure.

An aluminum chassis gives some weight to this Blade ( around 2kg, give or take, depending on the build you choose), but it’s still more than light enough to carry around in a rucksack without too much effort.

Depending on whether or not you opt for a GTX 1060 or GTX 1070 GPU, you’re looking at a thickness of either 16.8mm or 17.3mm, the former of which dimensions Razer claims makes this the ‘world’s smallest’ 15.6-inch gaming laptop on the market.

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Razer is calling the screen of the 15.6-inch model an edge-to-edge display, which doesn’t quite make sense considering it’s surrounded by a 4.9mm bezel, but it’s a great screen nonetheless – we were impressed with the contrast quality and viewing angles on the Full HD, 144Hz panel we briefly tested.

If you’ve turned your nose up at Apple’s recent insistence on going all-in with USB-C ports on its MacBooks, you’ll be pleased to hear that there are ample connections on the 2018 Razer Blade. You’ve got two USB 3.1 ports on the left-hand side of the laptop, and one on the right, which are joined by a single USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port, a HDMI port and a miniDisplayPort. There’s also a Kensington Lock notch if you want to keep thieving hands off your new gaming baby.

Features

A few changes made to the Razer Blade 2018 over previous models are noted and welcome. While you’ve still got an RGB-backlit Chroma keyboard, the arrow keys are now sensibly all of a uniform size, reducing the overall footprint. The large trackpad makes use of Microsoft’s Precision Drivers, allowing for more accurate in-game swipes and turns as well as a full suite of gesture controls.

Another space-saving measure is found with the power button, which now sits recessed into the left-hand speaker grille that runs along either side of the keys. The stereo speakers are also equipped with Dolby Atmos output capabilities, although you’re really going to need to hook the laptop up to a souped-up home cinema system to enjoy the full benefits of the overhead sound simulation it provides.

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Gaming laptops get particularly hot under load, but Razer has made use of a new cooling system in an attempt to keep the heat – and associated fan noise – from becoming overbearing. A large vapor chamber and high-performance thermal blockers are employed, with a dual-fan system keeping air flowing through a generous venting system.

The blade design is also thinner than in previous models, which Razer claims should keep the fan whirs to a minimum. This will also be aided by Razer’s Synapse performance-monitoring software, enabling you to ramp the fan speed up or down depending on the load you’re intending to put the machine under.

Performance

Although our time with the Razer Blade 2018 was brief, a quick run through a couple of stages of Doom’s arcade mode suggested that this will be a machine to reckon with. 

The silky-smooth refresh rate, running alongside the GTX 1070 GPU, made the denizens of hell a pleasure to tear apart, with not a stutter to be seen even as the onscreen action became increasingly intense. We were playing on a souped-up model, so it’s hard to tell how this performance will hold up lower down the line, but in terms of comfort, all models will share the sharp and rich screen, comfortably large trackpad and excellent key travel.

Early verdict

As with previous models, the 2018 Razer Blade commands a premium price, but the attention to detail in the design, paired with the powerful spec options, sees it earn its price tag, and for the Razer diehards out there, of which there are many, this will likely be shooting straight to top of their wishlist. We’re looking forward to putting it under the microscope for a full review shortly, so check back soon for our final verdict.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.