Razer Blade (2013) review

Pros

  • Gaming on the go
  • Good performance levels
  • More than 6 hours of battery life

Cons

  • No Ethernet or optical drive

Razer, a company which was once known solely for its mice and keyboards, has earned a reputation of late as one of the few companies bringing real innovation to gaming PCs. The new Razer Blade (2013) is just another in a steady stream of gaming PCs, with a new 14in form-factor and extra-long battery life.

This isn't the first gaming laptop to try blending gaming prowess with portability, but it's definitely one of the best, maxing out all the potential afforded by today's wafer-thin, battery-efficient components to offer a gaming laptop that you can actually take with you on the go.

Design

Plenty of ultraportable laptops can be described as sleek, but few can also be called intimidating. The Blade, however, manages to pull off both descriptions at once with a slim aluminium chassis that has all the minimalist appeal of a MacBook Pro while being unapologetically gamer-oriented with a jet black finish sporting glowing green snakes on the lid. The aluminium chassis of the Blade measures only 345 x 235 x 17mm (WxDxH) and weighs just 1.85kg, making it even more portable than last year's 17in Razer Blade.

The slim and portable design does require losing a couple features, most notably an optical drive. That won't be an issue for the gamer who relies on Steam or similar online game services, but it will be a problem should you want to purchase a game on a disc, or load up an older game, or if you need an optical drive to use software or enjoy movies on a disc. You'll need an external USB drive for those situations.

Also, you won't find Razer's Switchblade UI here. The embedded touchscreen has been omitted to reduce the size of the 14in model.

The keyboard is rather good, with chiclet keys, a glowing green backlight, and good key-travel for such a slim system. One added touch you won't find on other laptops: The keyboard has anti-ghosting. This is the same tech seen in Razer's peripheral keyboards, which allows multiple keys to be pressed simultaneously – a necessity for anyone who has ever found themselves pounding out commands as fast as their fingers can press. Stereo speakers on either side of the keyboard offer very good sound for such a slim laptop, with audible (if not thumping) bass and decent treble.

The touchpad is also gamer-friendly, though most users will opt for a USB mouse. All of the standard multi-touch gestures are supported, and worked without issue during our testing. The trackpad surface is extremely smooth and responsive, with the right and left mouse buttons separate – there’s no clickpad for this laptop. The buttons offer just enough resistance to prevent unwanted button presses, but they’re light enough for rapid-fire clicking.

The 14in display looks good, but some may scratch their head over the fact that it only offers 1,600 x 900 resolution. A conscious decision by Razer's designers, the slightly lower resolution is still high enough to look crisp on the smaller laptop screen, but it’s low enough to mean you get a smoother stutter-free graphics performance from the laptop’s hardware. Essentially, given a choice between resolution and frame rates, Razer went with frame rates, allowing better gameplay on the go. It's also not an unusual choice for a 14in laptop – the Alienware m14x R2 also sports a 1,600 x 900 resolution.

Features

The Razer Blade may be slim, but it has the features that matter: Three USB 3.0 ports (all in Razer's distinctive bright green colour), a combination stereo headset jack, and one HDMI port, complete with 7.1 surround sound output. Above the laptop display is a 1.3-megapixel webcam, and your wireless connectivity needs are taken care of by the system's Killer Wireless N 1202 networking card, which provides both 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

The Razer Blade we reviewed was outfitted with a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD), though configurations are available with 128GB and 512GB drive options (at $1,800 and $2,300, that’s £1,160 and £1,480 respectively). The drive comes preinstalled with Windows 8 and Razer's Synapse 2.0 software, but otherwise, the SSD is unencumbered with any unwanted programs. Razer covers the 14in Blade with a one year warranty and free online tech support.

Performance

In order to squeeze as much gaming prowess as possible into the Blade's 14in chassis, Razer has equipped it with a 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-4702HQ fourth-generation quad-core processor, paired with 8GB of RAM, along with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M discrete graphics card. Both CPU and GPU represent a significant step up from the hardware used in the previous Blade, and the results were seen in every test we ran.

In processing performance tasks, the new Blade trounced last year's gaming ultraportables, with a PCMark 7 score of 5,904 points – the closest competitor was the previous Blade (2012) with 4,557 points. In Cinebench the new Blade scored 6.23 points, nearly tying the Alienware m14x R2’s 6.26 points and blowing past the rest. This raw performance especially shone through in multimedia tests, where the new Blade completed Handbrake in 37 seconds, and Photoshop in 4 minutes flat, leading the category by a large margin.

But the most important bump in performance was seen in graphics capability, where Razer has replaced last year's mobile Nvidia GTX 660M graphics with a more powerful GeForce GTX 765M. The result was better graphics performance, with 3DMark 11 scores of 6,364 points (Entry settings) and 1,248 (Extreme settings). The real proof is in the gaming, where the new Blade pumped out 26 frames per second (Alien vs. Predator) and 25 fps (Heaven) both at 1,600 x 900 resolution with high-detail settings. Dial back the detail just a bit, and you'll be playing any current game stutter-free, even on the go.

Perhaps the most significant performance improvement wasn't in gaming, however. Thanks to the dramatic efficiency gains offered by Intel's Haswell processors, the Razer Blade lasted 6 hours and 52 minutes in our battery rundown test, literally hours longer than any competitor equipped with the third-generation Core processors.

Verdict

From its lightweight, portable design to its significantly improved performance, better graphics, and much longer battery life, it's clear that the 2013 Razer Blade is the laptop to buy if you want PC gaming on the go.

Compared to the bulk and weight of other gaming PCs – even portable systems like the Alienware m14x R2 – the 14in Razer Blade (2013) is something different. This is a clear improvement over last year’s Blade, and a top notch ultraportable gaming PC – although, of course, you do pay for this performance.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

Razer Blade (2013)

Processor Name

Intel Core i7-4702HQ

Operating System

Microsoft Windows 8

Weight

1.85kg

Graphics Card

Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M

Screen Type

Widescreen

Notebook Type

Gaming, Ultraportable

RAM

8GB

Networking Options

802.11n

2nd Graphics Card

Intel HD Graphics 4600

Processor Speed

2.2GHz

Primary Optical Drive

External

Screen Size

14in

Storage Capacity

256GB SSD