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Lifewire / Andrew Hayward
Serious gaming power
Colorful keyboard lighting
Nicely minimal design
Hearty, durable build
Weak battery life
Sightly dim screen
No biometric security
Pricier than competition
Assuming you don’t mind being tethered to a wall outlet most of the time, the Razer Blade 15 provides impressive gaming experiences in an appealing, portable form factor.
Razer is a company completely focused on high-performance gaming, from its well-regarded keyboards and mice to its flashy Razer Phone handsets. The Razer Blade is another extension of that ethos. It’s a laptop built for top-end gaming, ensuring that you don’t have to significantly sacrifice quality even when you’re not in front of a desktop—and it looks the part, thanks to its flashy, multicolored keyboard lights.
Granted, portable power isn’t cheap, and even the entry-level 2019 Razer Blade 15 costs a pretty penny—with much pricier upgrade options for those willing to pay for added perks and/or performance. Still, aside from a couple of notable niggles, this is an impressive notebook that can keep you in the game anytime and pretty much anywhere… well, anywhere near a power outlet, at least. I tested the base model Razer Blade 15 for more than 40 hours, playing a variety of games, streaming video, and using it as my everyday work computer as well.
Gaming laptops come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, many with a garish, overly-stylized “gamer” aesthetic intact. The Razer Blade 15 thankfully opts for a more subdued look: it’s a hefty black brick of gaming prowess. Razer’s trademark light-up twisty green snake logo is the only real indication that you’re wielding a gaming laptop, otherwise, it’s pretty much matte black all around.
At 4.63 pounds and dimensions of 13.98 x 9.25 x 0.78 inches (HWD), the Razer Blade 15 is very much large and in charge. Razer calls it the “world’s smallest gaming laptop,” which says more about the competition than the Razer Blade 15 itself—but that’s no surprise, really. It’s much heavier than a MacBook Pro or any other premium, mainstream laptop, but a gaming notebook needs the extra heft for the discrete graphics card, a sizable PSU, and an array of ports. That’s the trade-off. At least the unibody aluminum shell feels reassuringly sturdy.
Open up the lid and you get a clearer indication of its gaming allure. While it’s still matte black on the inside, the keyboard lighting pulses with a gorgeous rainbow of colors—and you can even tweak the color settings and animation cycles via Razer’s included Chroma Studio and Visualizer apps within Razer Synapse. It’s billed as single-zone RGB lighting, but play around with Visualizer and you can actually enable multiple zones of color across the keys. Note that the pricier Razer Blade Advanced model has individual per-key lighting if you’re looking for more nuanced control over the color effects.
While it’s still matte black on the inside, the keyboard lighting pulses with a gorgeous rainbow of colors—and you can even tweak the color settings and animation cycles.
There’s minimal bezel around the screen, letting the large 15.6-inch panel shine, while the keyboard is bookended on either side by speakers. The rectangular power button atop the right speaker looks like a ripe size and position for a fingerprint sensor, but it’s just a button. Likewise, the camera doesn’t pack Windows Hello capabilities, which means there’s no biometric security option on the base Razer Blade 15. That’s a disappointment, given how many other high-end laptops have such a feature today.
Aside from lighting up, the keys also have a nice springy sensation despite a pretty small amount of travel. Note, however, that they’re smaller keys than you’ll find on many laptops, although they are thankfully not overly cramped together. It took a bit of time to get used to the shorter and narrower keys coming from other laptops. The touchpad, meanwhile, is very large and responsive. My only complaint about that bottom part of the laptop is that the black matte finish is a smudge magnet.
The Razer Blade 15 doesn’t skimp on ports, with a trio of full-sized USB 3.1 ports (two on the left, one on the right), a USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port on the left, an Ethernet port for wired internet, an HDMI port, a Mini DisplayPort, and a 3.5mm headphone port. It also has a specialized port on the left for the power adapter—a hulking 200w charger with a fabric-wrapped cord and what looks like a full-sized rubber watch strap to help bundle up the cord for travel.
Storage-wise, the Razer Blade 15 comes with a 128GB SSD and a 1TB HDD, providing plenty of space for keeping a library of games. Other configurations offer additional SSD and/or HDD space, if desired, or even an SSD with an empty 2.5-inch SATA slot for your own secondary drive of choice.
With Windows 10 onboard, getting the Razer Blade 15 up and running doesn’t take much hassle. Just follow the on-screen prompts to select from various options and log into a Microsoft account, and you should be to the desktop within about 15 minutes. From there, you can play around with the keyboard lighting within Razer Synapse, if you please.
The 15.6-inch 1920x1080 LCD panel is large and detailed, giving you a clear view into the world or battlefield of your game of choice, plus providing plenty of space for documents, media, and whatever else you might use the Razer Blade 15 for. The base model has a standard 60Hz refresh rate, but you can pay extra for a 144Hz model, as some players prefer the added refresh speed. While the matte screen mostly impresses, it is, unfortunately, a little bit dim—I really expected something brighter and punchier to match the colorful allure of the keys below.
The Razer Blade 15 packs a wallop even with the base model, which features a 9th-gen hexa-core Intel Core i7-9750H processor and 16GB RAM alongside, plus an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU with 6GB VRAM. That’s plenty of power for any everyday computing needs and provides strong gaming performance, including the ability to support VR headsets. Razer offers graphics card upgrades at a price, however, with the GeForce RTX 2060 available on the Razer Blade 15 and additional options offered on the Advanced model.
In benchmark testing, my base model scored 3,465 via the PCMark 10 benchmark, a slight dip from the 10th-gen Intel Core i7 chip seen in the MSI Prestige 15 (which scored 3,830). However, the Cinebench benchmark score was higher at 1,869 on the Razer Blade 15 compared to 1,508 on the MSI Prestige 15.
Games like Rocket League and Fortnite ran without a hitch on high settings, delivering crisp details and steady frame rates while the more demanding Assassin’s Creed Odyssey still pulled off 64 frames per second in the benchmark test on Very High graphical settings. It’s a beast of a laptop that should be well primed to keep you gaming at high levels for a couple more years, as it can easily handle what’s available today.
It’s a beast of a laptop that should be well primed to keep you gaming at high levels for a couple more years, as it can easily handle what’s available today.
The Razer Blade 15’s top-firing stereo speakers do a solid job of delivering game and media audio, as well as music. They’re clear and thankfully stay that way pretty high into the volume settings, and the Razer Blade can get pretty loud. That said, the playback doesn’t sound quite as wide or voluminous as on some other premium laptops, such as the recent MacBook Pro models.
With both Wi-Fi and wired Ethernet capabilities, you can choose the connection that works best in each scenario. The Razer Blade 15 can connect to 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz networks with ease, and I recorded home Wi-Fi download speeds of 83Mbps and upload speeds around 5Mbps via Speedtest.net—within the normal range for me. Wired internet provides a steadier connection that’s ideal for gaming, and it’s worth being tethered to a wall to ensure you aren’t hampered by lag while competing.
Battery life is one notable concern of the Razer Blade 15. While the laptop provides portable gaming prowess, it’s not going to keep you playing for long when away from a wall outlet. The 65Wh battery dropped down to 21 percent after one hour of playing Rocket League at full brightness, for example. The Razer Blade also gets very warm while gaming, whether you’re plugged in or not.
You’ll get better results with other computing tasks, but the Razer Blade 15 quickly shows why it’s not an ideal option for out-and-about productivity. With my normal everyday work routine of typing up documents, surfing the web, chatting on Slack, and streaming a bit of music, the Razer Blade typically delivered just over three hours of uptime at full brightness.
Our battery rundown test, meanwhile, which has a movie playing continuously on Netflix at full brightness, lasted for 3 hours, 54 minutes before shutdown. You won’t be able to use the Razer Blade for a good chunk of a day without plugging into an outlet or cutting down significantly on brightness.
You won’t be able to use the Razer Blade for a good chunk of a day without plugging into an outlet or cutting down significantly on brightness.
Razer thankfully keeps Windows 10 pretty clean here, aside from the aforementioned Razer Synapse app, which is a helpful way to customize the keyboard lighting and gaming settings for the laptop. There are also NVIDIA apps tied into the GPU and its settings, but otherwise, you can add whichever apps and games you please from the internet. Gaming storefronts like Steam and the Epic Games Store are just a few clicks away, and offer access to a seemingly endless collective trove of gaming experiences.
At a $1,599 starting price that rises significantly with each optional GPU, screen, or storage option, the Razer Blade 15 is an expensive endeavor. There are cheaper gaming laptops from the likes of MSI and Acer that can save you hundreds of dollars in the process, although you may not get quite the same mix of quality build and components or nearly as nice of a design and lighting effects. The Razer Blade 15 is a strong gaming option, but it’s not a cheap one at all.
If you can live with a slight step down in graphics prowess, the MSI Prestige 15 (view on Amazon) is worth considering. It has a newer 10th-generation Intel Core i7 chip with a less-powerful GTX 1650 (Max-Q) GPU inside, which still handles games like Rocket League and Fortnite with ease, but settled for 46 frames per second with Medium settings in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. It has benefits otherwise, however, with a lighter build, longer-lasting battery, and generous 512GB SSD inside. The MSI Prestige also starts at $1,399, and it’s a better all-around device for everyday usage while the Razer Blade 15 mainly excels at gaming.
A Blade worth wielding.
As a gaming laptop, the Razer Blade 15 certainly impresses: it’s very powerful, has an attractive design with eye-catching flourishes within, and has responsive inputs within a durable build. The battery life isn’t great, which means you’ll need your charging brick in tow, plus the screen could stand to get a notch or two brighter. And given the limited battery uptime, this isn’t the ideal choice for an out-and-about productivity laptop. Still, if you need a portable PC primarily for high-end gaming and don’t mind being tethered to a wall most of the time, the Razer Blade 15 is one of your top options today.