Razer Blade (2016)

Improvements Make It a Great But Expensive Portable Gaming Laptop

New Razer Blade 2016 14-inch Gaming Laptop
Razer Blade (2016). ©Razer Inc.

The Bottom Line

Jun 20 2016 - Razer's Blade laptop has come a long way from when it was first introduced. The latest version continues to improve on many of the flaws that kept it from being a great laptop for those that want to game on the go. The system offers some great power in a portable package but the price is still quite high. With a little more tweaking, Razer could end up with a truly spectacular laptop.

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Pros

  • Strong Gaming Performance
  • Thin and Light Profile
  • Thunderbolt 3 for Potential External Graphics Option

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Higher Resolution Touchscreen Display is More Than Needed
  • System is Loud and Hot Under Load

Description

  • Intel Core i7-6700HQ Quad Core Mobile Processor
  • 16GB PC4-17000 (2133MHz) DDR4 Memory
  • 256GB M.2 PCIe Solid State Drive
  • 14" QHD+ (3200x1800) Multitouch Display with 2.0 Megapixel Webcam
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M 6GB GDDR5 Graphics
  • 802.11AC Wireless, Bluetooth
  • Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type C), Three USB 3.0, HDMI
  • 13.6" x 9.3" x .70" @ 4.25 lbs.
  • Windows 10

Review - Razer Blade (2016)

Jun 20 2016 - Gaming laptops have typically been large and heavy in order to fit all the high powered components and the required batteries. Razer was one of the first companies to introduce a truly thin and light gaming laptop with the original Blade but it had a number of issues that made it less than perfect.

The company has refined the system helping to reduce its size and refine its performance which leads to the new 2016 version of the Razer Blade. It is certainly one of the thinnest on the market at just .7-inches thick but there are a few options that are lighter than its four and a quarter pound weight.

The aluminum clad exterior and frame offer a premium overall feel that is still quite sturdy.

Powering the new Razer Blade system is the latest Intel Core i7-6700HQ quad core mobile processor. This features a large amount of performance that means that the system can double as a desktop replacement when it comes to doing no gaming tasks. The processor and motherboard also have the advantage of being able to use the latest DDR4 memory which is new to laptops but provides a greater bandwidth while consuming less power. Overall, this system provides more than enough for serious computing tasks like desktop video or CAD applications. The one downside here is that when the system performance is pushed, the cooling fans can quickly spin up producing a fair amount of noise not to mention heat across the system.

Storage has also being improved. It still uses solid state drives like past models but now it uses the M.2 interfaces with PCIe interface. This allows for much higher bandwidth that should let the system load applications quickly. The downside here is that there is limited storage on the system. The base model comes with just 256GB of space while the upgraded version features 512GB.

There is no space for any additional SSD drives or hard drives like larger 15-inch gaming laptops meaning you will need to be happy with what you get when you buy it. There are three USB 3.0 ports making it fairly easy to add in an external hard drive if you need to. Sadly, there is no slot for SD cards, a standard on most other laptops.

One of the big updates to the latest version of the Blade is the Thunderbolt 3 interface. This new high speed interface uses the USB Type C interface that was introduced by USB 3.1 and gives it one major advantage over many other laptops in that it can use the Razer Core external graphics dock. This peripheral allows the use of a full size desktop graphics card allow the system to offer a full gaming experience as a desktop. Of course you can only use this at a desk as the dock is not portable. The other issue is the cost. The dock is likely going to cost almost as much as a low cost desktop system and that is without the additional cost of a graphics card. Combine the two and you can easily be adding another $1000 to the cost of the laptop.

The display for the 2016 Razer Blade is a mixed bag. The 14-inch display panels offers a really high 3200x1800 resolution that offers some great image definition. It even features a capacitive multitouch for use with the Windows operating system. These are both great but overkill when it comes to a gaming laptop especially with a not quite top of the line NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M. This is because unless you have the latest NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 desktop graphics card, you are going to have trouble keeping the frame rates smooth on any games. It would have been nice to see them stick with 1920x1080 or maybe go with a 2560x1440 display and remove the touchscreen interface to help reduce the overall cost.

Battery life is typically one of the biggest issues for gaming laptops. They high end graphics and processors can quickly drain even the largest batteries. Razer has a sizable 70Wh battery fitted into the system. This is larger than the average system but smaller than some of the massive gaming laptops on the market. In digital video playback tests, the system produces roughly five hours which is quite good but falls short of what non-gaming systems can achieve. Of course, if you intended to game on it away from power, you will get less than two hours.

Inevitably, the Razer Blade is compared to the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch model. Apple's system offers a larger display but in an equally light platform. The big difference is that Apple has not been updating the hardware so it lacks much of the performance of the Razer, especially when it comes to the graphics systems. The other system that compares most favorably with the Razer Blade is the MSI GS40 Phatom. It also uses a 14-inch display but costs hundreds less because it has just a 1920x1080 display. It is not as thin but actually lighter than the Razer system as well.

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