Razer Blade (2018) review

At the top of its game, but the game has changed

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Our Verdict

The 2018 Razer Blade is an incredibly slick and good-feeling laptop, but it’s held back by some flaws that are tough to ignore. Razer is clearly at the top of its game with the latest Blade, but the rest of the gaming laptop world is clearly catching up.

For

  • Beautiful new design
  • Excellent screen
  • Fantastic performance

Against

  • Heats up under pressure
  • Poor battery life
  • Surprisingly dense
  • No Windows Hello

Razer has made a huge effort to completely transform the Razer Blade, already one of the best gaming laptops. This time, Razer has dropped the 14-inch model for, well, another 14-inch model, at least technically.

Razer has managed to shove a 15.6-inch display into a 14-inch frame with the Razer Blade 2018, similar to some of the best Ultrabooks, and has managed to craft the smallest 15.6-inch gaming laptop ever, at least according to Razer. The Razer Blade 2018 has been completely redesigned, and we’re impressed with the results.

However, even since the Razer Blade 2017, Razer’s competitors have been hard at work on similar laptops, leaving less room for the Razer Blade in the spotlight. Here’s how the Razer Blade 2018 does against its sudden competition.

Spec Sheet

Here is the 2018 Razer Blade configuration sent to TechRadar for review:

CPU: 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H (hexa-core, up to 4.1GHz with Turbo Boost)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 (8GB GDDR5 VRAM; Max-Q); Intel UHD 630
RAM: 16GB DDR4 (dual-channel, 2,667MHz)
Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) matte display (144Hz; IPS; 100% sRGB)
Storage: 512GB M.2 SSD (NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4)
Ports: 1 x Thunderbolt 3; 3 x USB 3.1; 1 x mini DisplayPort 1.4; 1 x HDMI 2.0
Connectivity: Intel Wireless AC 9260 (802.11ac; Bluetooth 5.0)
Camera: 1MP built-in webcam (720p)
Weight: 4.63 pounds (2.10kg)
Size: 13.98 x 9.25 x 0.68 inches (35.5 x 23.5 x 1.73cm; W x D x H)

Price and availability

Razer has priced the latest Blade similarly to its previous laptops – somewhat exorbitantly. The 2018 Razer Blade starts at $1,899 (£1,699, AU$2,899), which gets you a full HD (1,920 x 1,080) display at 60Hz powered by the same processor as the other versions, though paired with an Nvidia GTX 1060 and 256GB of storage.

To get the model you see listed to the right, that will cost you a whopping $2,599 (£2,329, AU$3,999). In between that is a model with the 144Hz display, the GTX 1060 and 512GB of storage for $2,199 (£1,979, AU$3,299), and one with everything you see to the right with half the storage for $2,399 (£2,149, AU$3,699).

Comparatively, the most expensive version of the Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501 goes for $2,899 (about £2,199, AU$3,919), which gets you a stronger GTX 1080 inside as well as an Nvidia G-Sync display – all else being equal. The entry-level version goes for $2,299 (about £1,749, AU$3,109), giving you a GTX 1070 behind a 120Hz display. To get the same graphics card in the Razer, that will cost you another 100 bucks or quid.

The MSI GS65 Stealth, meanwhile, comes in at its entry level at just $1,799 (about £1,369, AU$2,439), offering up the same processors as the Razer’s starting configuration, but with a faster 144Hz display. At the highest end, this laptop offers twice as much storage and memory for $2,999 (about £2,279, AU$4,059).

In the end, much of the new Razer Blade’s value proposition lies in its seemingly inimitable design, as many rivaling options can get you the same performance for a little less cash. It’s certainly enough for this editor to drop the extra money, but we’re not everyone.

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Design

Speaking of which, this model is by far the best looking Razer Blade crafted to date. Still clad in an all-black, unibody aluminum shell, the Blade adopts a far more angular shape this time around, while toning down the lighting to just the keyboard and Razer logo on the lid.

Meanwhile, Razer make great strides in shrinking down the Blade’s profile, claiming to have made the ‘world’s smallest 15.6-inch gaming laptop’ at 0.66 inches (16.76mm) thin on the GTX 1060 model, which is tenths of an inch thinner than these aforementioned rivals. It’s also just under 14 inches (355mm) wide, thanks to new, thinner screen bezels.

Luckily – and other laptop makers, take note – Razer was able to keep the webcam to its proper position above the screen while implementing narrow bezels. 

However, despite its small size and thinness, it’s also rather dense, weighing half a pound heavier than MSI’s latest 15-inch gaming laptop. While Razer also managed to reduce the size of its laptop’s charging brick, this still altogether makes for a heavier weight on your back than other thin-and-light gaming laptops, and heftier than we expected.

Beyond an intense streamlining, the Razer Blade design is much of what was found before, only larger. Of course, the keyboard feels fantastic, offering some of the punchiest feedback and smooth travel we’ve experienced on an island-style keyboard.

However, the key layout is somewhat baffling, with the ‘up’ arrow key sitting between the Shift and ‘?’ keys. This has made typing out questions a major pain, as we constantly hit the up arrow in haste, adding a question mark to the line above where we are typing. We would handily take shrunken arrow keys if it meant a more sensible layout otherwise.

The trackpad finds itself in a similarly unfortunate situation. While we’re celebrating the fact that Razer has finally implemented a clickpad design, dropping those flimsy buttons like a bad habit, the tracking surface is perhaps a bit too wide. We often find ourselves accidentally moving the cursor when typing. Otherwise, it’s a smooth and accurate Microsoft Precision tracking surface.

Finally, while we appreciate the top-firing speakers for their much fuller sound than most other notebooks, we’re a little puzzled by the lack of Windows Hello secure login options. Razer even included the perfect placement: a rectangular power button now rests atop the right speaker and feels smooth to the touch. At this price, secure login should be a shoo-in.

Display

As for the screen, Razer knocked it out of the park this go around. With a matte coating that does well at deflecting light glare, this panel may only be 1080p but it looks simply gorgeous.

A lot of that is likely thanks to the 144Hz refresh rate, which makes games look especially smooth as the refresh rate outpaces the frame rate of most games ran on the device. This allows the laptop to shore up minor potential shortcomings of the GTX 1060 or 1070 in producing consistent frame rates at high detail settings.

Plus, the 100% sRGB color gamut helps the display just pop with a massive variety of colors supported at impressive accuracy. The factory screen calibration that Razer gives to all of these laptops certainly helps a lot here, too.