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

In 2018, Razer has made a huge effort to revolutionize the Razer Blade, already one of the best gaming laptops. This time around, Razer has dropped the 14-inch model for, well, another 14-inch Razer Blade, technically speaking.

With the new Razer Blade, Razer has shoved a 15.6-inch display into a 14-inch frame, like what some of the best Ultrabooks have been doing for a few years now – creating the smallest 15.6-inch gaming laptop ever made, at least if you ask Razer. The new Razer Blade has been completely redesigned from the ground up, and we have to admit – it’s impressive.

However, the gaming laptop scene has changed so much, even since last year’s Razer Blade. In such a short amount of time Razer’s competition has created plenty of similar gaming laptops, making it hard for the Razer Blade to stand its ground. So, how does the new Razer Blade compare to the others? Let’s find out.

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).

Basically, the Razer Blade 15’s value proposition lies in its unique design, as many rivaling options can get you the same hardware for less cash. It’s definitely not enough for this editor to fork over the extra cash, but we’re not everyone.

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Design

Speaking of which, the Razer Blade 15 is the best looking gaming laptop Razer has made yet. 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.

At the same time, great efforts have been made in shrinking down the Razer Blade’s profile, with the manufacturer 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 its aforementioned rivals. It also comes in at under 14 inches (355mm) wide, thanks to a new, thinner screen bezel. 

Fortunately – and other laptop makers, listen up – the Razer Blade keeps the webcam to its proper position above the screen while implementing narrow bezels.

However, despite the Razer Blade’s small size and thinness, it’s also rather dense, weighing half a pound heavier than MSI’s latest 15-inch gaming laptop. While Razer has also managed to reduce the size of its charging brick, it’s still heavier overall than other thin and light gaming laptops, and heavier than we would expect.

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

Razer knocked it out of the park when it comes to the Razer Blade’s display. With a matte coating that does well at deflecting light clare, this panel may only be 1080p, but it’s simply gorgeous.

A lot of that comes down to the 144Hz refresh rate, which makes games look extremely smooth as the refresh rate outpaces the frame rate of most games ran on the device. This allows the Razer Blade to shore up potential shortcomings of the GTX 1060 or 1070 in producing consistent frame rates at high detail settings.

The 100% sRGB color gamut also helps the display just pop with a wide variety of colors supported at impressive accuracy. The factory screen calibration that Razer gives to all of these laptops goes a long way, too.