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Lifewire / Jonno Hill
1650 Max-Q in a 13-inch laptop
Surprisingly good speakers
Great customization options
Good port options
Frustrating keyboard layout
So-so battery life
The Razer Blade Stealth 13 is an incredibly ambitious ultrabook that doubles as a gaming rig, but it comes just a few feet short of greatness due to design flaws.
The Razer Blade Stealth 13 is, on paper, the laptop that I’ve been waiting for my whole life. I’m more of a desktop workstation type of person most of the time, because the majority of my work involves video editing, design, and motion graphics. And when I’m not using my computer for work, I’m probably using it for games. All this to say, it’s not really feasible for me to forego a desktop entirely in favor of a laptop, so my ideal laptop finds a happy medium between portability and performance.
When I heard about the Razer Blade Stealth 13, my ears perked up immediately. A lightweight, portable ultrabook that still manages to fit an Intel Core i7 and a more competitive discrete graphics card such as the Nvidia GTX 1650 under the hood sounds like exactly what I want in a laptop.
Unfortunately, in an effort to check every box Razer thinks consumers want, they missed the bigger picture, and created a bit of an ergonomic nightmare. The Razer Blade Stealth 13 is a one-of-a-kind, high-performance ultrabook that’s awkward and painful to actually use in practice. Let’s take a look at Razer’s successes and failures in this pint-sized powerhouse.
Razer has become very good at making solid, appealing laptops and the Stealth 13 is no exception. The Razer Blade Stealth 13 is a beautiful ultrabook, crafted from a unibody aluminum frame with an anodized finish. Even down to the unboxing is very satisfying, with minimal packaging and thoughtful packaging design for the power brick and braided USB-C cable.
Looks are of course subjective, but the Razer Blade Stealth 13 is, to my eyes, the best-looking laptop in its category. But despite how good the laptop looks when you taking it out of the box, it’s not going to stay that way for too long, because this device absorbs enough fingerprints to make the FBI jealous.
The Razer Blade Stealth 13 is a beautiful ultrabook, crafted from a unibody aluminum frame with an anodized finish.
The left side of the device features a Thunderbolt USB-C port, a USB 3.1 Type-A port, and a headphone jack. The right side features a non-Thunderbolt USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 port and a second USB 3.1 Type-A port. This is an incredibly generous assortment of ports to find on a 13-inch ultrabook today, many of which are down to just two USB-C ports. I have to give credit to Razer for this more sensible layout.
The version of the laptop I tested (with the GTX 1650) weighs in at 3.13 pounds—not exactly featherweight for its size, but light enough to never really make portability an issue. Asking for a lighter laptop would probably mean sacrificing the graphics card or using cheaper materials, so I’d much prefer to keep things as they are.
Opening up the laptop reveals a matte 16:9, 1920x1080 display featuring incredibly small bezels on the left, right, and top, but an incredibly large area of dead-space beneath the display itself. I wonder if a 16:10 display could have been squeezed into this extra space, expanding the productivity capabilities just a hair.
Opposite this, you’ll find a quite cramped keyboard with single-zone RGB lighting and stereo speakers on either side. The keys themselves have fairly shallow action but are easy enough to get used to. The keyboard layout, on the other hand, is pretty miserable, and one of my biggest gripes with the laptop overall. I’ll explore this in greater detail in the productivity section later on. Finally, the touchpad requires a little bit more force than average to depress. I don’t love it, and found it to take a little too much effort.
The Razer Blade Stealth 13 is a one-of-a-kind, high-performance ultrabook that’s awkward and painful to actually use in practice.
The last note I want to make about the design is that unless you have tiny hands that rest entirely on the body of this diminutive laptop, your wrists will inevitably hang slightly over the edge when typing. On most laptops, this is fine, on the Razer Blade Stealth 13, this edge is like resting your wrists on a freshly sharpened meat cleaver. I made it a point to type the entirety of every laptop review on the device itself, and the unconscionable, abject pain that I subjected my wrists to during this process has changed me as a person.
The 13.3-inch, matte FHD 1920x1080 display on the Razer Blade Stealth 13 is definitely one of the stronger points of the laptop. It may not be the sharpest display in existence due to the resolution, but the colors are fantastic and it’s alarmingly bright on the highest setting without losing much contrast. Off-angle performance is also brilliant—the laptop looks wonderful from the sides, top, and bottom, without losing too much brightness or exhibiting any unsightly color-shift.
The 13.3-inch, matte FHD 1920x1080 display on the Razer Blade Stealth 13 is definitely one of the stronger points of the laptop.
A 4K touchscreen version of the laptop is also available at a $200 premium, but if you plan on using the Stealth for gaming, I wouldn’t even recommend it. 1080p gaming is totally feasible on the Razer Blade Stealth 13, but 4K gaming is well out of reach of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q graphics card. Perhaps If you were only after the extra graphics power purely for creative applications and don’t do any gaming, it might be a worthwhile upgrade.
The Razer Blade Stealth 13 that I tested featured a 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and the Nvidia GTX GeForce 1650 Max-Q discrete graphics card. This is an exciting array of components to find in such a small laptop, and the performance of the laptop more or less lived up to my expectations for it.
The laptop managed a score of 4,208 in the productivity-focused benchmarking suite PCMark 10, and 2,898 in Time Spy, a test found in the synthetic graphics benchmarking suite 3DMark. This is well above what you might find on a laptop lacking discrete graphics, or even one with entry-level cards like Nvidia’s MX150.
The Razer Blade Stealth 13 is definitely capable of AAA gaming, albeit at sub-60fps in many titles. Still, the 1650 Max-Q in this laptop means being able to have a playable experience on most gaming titles on the market today at all, and that’s a pretty big deal. Buyers seeking to get as much performance as they can squeeze in this form factor will have trouble finding a better option.
The biggest strike against the Razer Blade Stealth’s productivity became evident when I opened the lid and started typing. The Razer Blade Stealth 13 features one of the most uncomfortable, unintuitive keyboard layouts I’ve ever laid eyes on. This tiny keyboard is crammed in between two stereo speakers on either side, leading to all kinds of frustrating compromises in the keyboard layout, with undersized, squeezed keys all over the place that make typing a chore.
The biggest sin here is the left Shift key, which shares half of its would-be real estate with the Up Arrow, leaving me with a tiny sad chiclet of a Shift key. This led to a tremendous amount of frustration when trying to type. Eventually, I adapted to it somewhat, but not before accidentally moving up a line using the up arrow and screwing up whatever document I was working on hundreds of times.
I made it a point to type the entirety of every laptop review on the device itself, and the unconscionable, abject pain that I subjected my wrists to during this process has changed me as a person.
Also worth noting, the (forgive me) razor-sharp edge mentioned in the design section is a real thorn in the Razer Blade Stealth’s side. It’s hard to be productive for long periods of time when it feels like the laptop is trying to torture you. I wish this were hyperbole—I even found myself thinking about buying fingerless gloves to wear when writing this review. It’s that bad.
The sound on the Razer Blade Stealth 13 was a very welcome surprise on a laptop this size. Despite a predictable lack of bass, the four upward-firing stereo speakers produce very wonderful (and if you want, very loud) sound, without the usual grating, tinniness of ultrabook speakers.
Beyond this, the Dolby Atmos audio produces a really immersive 3D sound-stage that is far more convincing than anything I’ve heard out of a laptop this size. I was extremely taken aback the first time I listened to it—the effect is almost like wearing headphones.
I would consider the sound on the Razer Blade Stealth 13 an absolute win, if it weren’t directly competing with the keyboard for much need real estate on its tiny frame. Nonetheless, if you value audio quality on a laptop, even one of this size, Razer is sure to impress you here.
The Intel Wi-Fi 6 Wireless-AX 201 on the Razer Blade Stealth 13 worked like a charm. I never ran into any problems using the Wi-Fi, whether at home or in crowded coffee shops across the city. There is no Ethernet port on this laptop, to no one’s surprise I’m sure, so if hardwired internet is a must you’ll need to look into an adapter.
The Razer Blade Stealth 13 features a 720p camera—more or less what we’re used to finding on laptops these days. It performed well enough to be able to handle videoconferencing without any real issues, and that’s what matters. The camera focuses fast enough, and handled the dimly lit coffee shop I tested it in without introducing an obscene amount of noise into the image.
The Windows Hello compliant infrared camera did a wonderful job detecting my face and logging me in under any lighting condition I could possibly throw at it. The Razer Blade Stealth 13 is definitely above average in this regard.
The Razer Blade Stealth 13 features an appropriately-sized 53Wh battery, but it’s capable of chewing through it pretty quickly depending upon the usage. I averaged just 6 hours of use while using Wi-Fi and browsing the web, at roughly 50 percent screen brightness.
These figures took a sharp nose-dive when gaming. I could manage just over an hour when playing the somewhat undemanding game Slay the Spire, but needed to reach for the power cord after just 40 minutes playing The Witcher 3.
Needless to say, power drain is definitely a frequent complaint of the Razer Blade Stealth 13. Thankfully, the 100W USB-C charger is more than up to the task, bringing me to a full charge in less than an hour and a half while still using the laptop the entire time.
The Razer Blade Stealth 13 comes preinstalled with Razer Synapse—designed to handle customization across every piece of hardware that Razer makes. On this particular laptop, that means controlling the keyboard backlighting (with an almost troubling amount of options), tweaking performance modes and fan speeds, and even customizing the full button layout of the keyboard.
To test out this functionality, I funneled all my pure, unbridled rage into the Up Arrow, rebinding it to what should have been there the entire time—the right Shift key. Sure, now I no longer had an Up Arrow, but it was a small price to pay to right this agonizing misdeed. I have to say, as much grief as I give Razer about their decisions around the keyboard, the customization control does at least earn them some goodwill.
At an MSRP of $1,800, the model I tested is a far cry from being inexpensive, but it feels like a fair price to pay for all this power in such a miniscule ultrabook. I’ll be honest, the Razer Blade Stealth 13 would not be a good deal if it were a 15-inch laptop, but seeing as you simply cannot buy a 13-inch laptop with a more powerful graphics card today, I can’t fault them for the price premium.
If and/or when another manufacturer releases an ultrabook with a 1650 Max-Q or better, we’ll have to re-evalute, but for now, the price makes sense.
If you decide at some point that you don’t really need a laptop quite as small as the Razer Blade Stealth 13, you will undoubtedly find a better value in the Razer Blade 15. For the same $1,800 that the configuration of the Stealth 13 costs, you can afford a Blade 15 with a GTX 2060 and a 144Hz screen, a massive improvement over the 1650 Max-Q.
A bold offering in need of refinement.
The Razer Blade Stealth 13 is an imperfect laptop that I’m impressed they managed to make at all. Quite simply, it’s the most power you can get in a laptop of this size, and that’s something to celebrate. It is not, however, a flawless product. There are drawbacks serious enough that potential buyers should give it a good think before they pull the trigger.