Razer Blade (2018) review

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

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Shocking no one, the latest Razer Blade is a beast when it comes to both computing and graphical performance. Frankly, we would expect as much out of a machine that costs this much, just as we would of its rivals. However, we find the laptop a bit lacking when it comes to heat management – despite Razer’s best efforts – and battery life.

Benchmarks

Here is how the Razer Blade 2018 fared in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark Sky Diver: 29,951; Fire Strike: 13,412; Time Spy: 4,863
Geekbench 4: 4,955 (single-core); 20,365 (multi-core)
Cinebench CPU: 1,013 points; Graphics: 117 fps
PCMark 8 Home: 3,942
PCMark 8 Battery Life: 2 hours and 5 minutes
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 2 hours and 46 minutes
Total War: Warhammer II (1080p, Ultra): 60 fps; (1080p, Low): 122 fps
ME: Shadow of War (1080p, Ultra): 71 fps; (1080p, Low): 131 fps

The Blade managed to maintain parity in performance test results with the GS65 Stealth, even managing to outpace it by a few frames per second (fps) in each graphics benchmark. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to test the Zephyrus laptop using the same game, but its GTX 1080 handily outclassed the 1070 within our Blade in the 3DMark tests – expectedly.

Expect to be able to complete pretty much any computing task on this laptop short of ultra-high detailed gaming. With plenty of RAM and Intel’s latest Coffee Lake processor, you should be able to go from rendering 4K video to playing some rounds of Overwatch without a fuss.

However, for all of Razer’s (seriously impressive) efforts to better cool its thinner and lighter gaming laptop, we find the laptop gets rather unbearably hot on either side of the base just beneath the hinge after just a few minutes of gameplay. Unfortunately, it appears that even Razer’s new vapor chamber cooling system can’t compete with the combination of additional processing and graphics power – and therefore more heat generated – and a smaller space through which it can pass.

Protip: take caution before you decide to, say, play a PC game on this laptop on your lap with a controller. Also, probably don’t overclock this laptop (more on that in a moment) while it’s on your lap either.

Battery life

This laptop’s longevity also leaves a lot to be desired, lasting only about an hour longer than the Zephyrus laptop in either test, and coming up short of the GS65 Stealth by about as much. We’ve been used to gaming laptop’s posting poor battery numbers for a long time, but times have changed.

It’s much more common now to see gaming laptops produce battery life numbers beyond five hours, so the game has gotten well ahead of Razer’s latest. You’d be lucky to get through most short flights using this laptop without an outlet.

At this price range, we would like to get at least four hours out of this laptop in either scenario. Given how Razer is increasingly positioning its laptops as ideal for mixed use, this is a factor worth seriously considering.

Software and features

The only piece of pre-loaded software you’ll find on the Razer Blade – which, without subsidies beyond an Intel sticker on the base, could explain its pricing a bit – is Razer Synapse. This is the company’s app for controlling the laptop’s various RGB lighting settings, but it has a new purpose this time around: even more performance.

With this rendition of the software, you can now activate a gaming mode that boosts the graphics chip’s processor and video memory frequency by 100MHz and 300MHz, respectively. That will undoubtedly give you an extra few fps from your games, but would likely only increase the heat put out by the device, so that should be considered before you overclock on the go.

Final verdict

Razer has crafted its most attractive and alluring laptop yet with the latest Blade, but unfortunately still suffers from some basic, common flaws seen in both other gaming laptops as well as Razer’s own previous efforts. This gaming laptop will get you farther than most in terms of fps and smoothness, with its overclocking mode and 144Hz display.

However, lackluster battery life and some seriously hot temperatures, not to mention the omission of Windows Hello support and a mildly goofy keyboard layout give us pause. That’s especially considering the expectedly lofty price tag.

What you have here, then, is an incredibly stylish and good-feeling laptop – one that this editor would even consider paying a premium for – that is 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.