Despite a few niggling flaws, the 14 inch Razer Blade stands alone among gaming laptops

Despite a few niggling flaws, the 14 inch Razer Blade stands alone among gaming laptops

I’ve spent time with the 14 inch Razer Blade gaming laptop. Like, a whole bunch of time. I’ve had my review unit for the past few months, I’ve gamed on it extensively, and it even traveled with me to Australia to use in giving people Oculus Rift demos. I’ve put the thing through its paces in a number of settings, and I’ve only just now sent it back home. I’m sad to see it go.

It put it bluntly, Razer has created one of the only gaming laptops that is powerful enough to run the games you want to play, without looking embarrassing. It’s also incredibly thin and comfortable, although there are a few niggling issues that keep me from giving it a perfect thumbs up.

Let’s take a look.

What's under the hood

While most laptops designed for gaming are huge, ugly, and often feature garish graphics and colors, the 14 inch Blade is sleek and thin, with a green backlit keyboard, green highlights on the ports, and an understated logo on the lid. It’s a laptop designed for gamers that won’t make you feel like a child if used in a business setting.

At .66 inches thick it doesn’t put the Macbook Air to shame, but it is light, easy to pack and carry, and much less bulky than other gaming laptops. It looks classy, and serious, and well constructed. Even the power brick is small and aesthetically pleasing.

Here are the relevant specs:

    Intel® Core™ i7-4702HQ Quad Core
    Processor with Hyper Threading
    2.2GHz / 3.2GHz (Base/Turbo)

    Mobile Intel® PCHM 8
    series chipset, HM87

    8GB onboard memory

Graphics and Video
    Intel® HD4600
    NVIDIA® GeForce®
    GTX 765M (2GB GDDR5
    VRAM, Optimus™ Technology)

The rest of the details can be found on the system's official page if you really want to dig in, and the base unit comes with a 128GB SSD and costs $1,799.99, with the 512GB model coming in at $2,299.99. Yes, it's expensive. Yes, this is a premium product. No, there is nothing really competing with it in terms of power, fit, and finish.

Razer has a history of bringing weird, expensive, yet often delightful PC gaming products to market, and this is no different. No other company seems to think there's a market for this sort of ultra-premium portable gaming solution, and I'm not sure if that market exists. If it does, Razer has it more or less all to itself.

How does it game?

The screen offers a native resolution of 1600 by 900, and I had trouble finding modern games that gave the system any issues running at the resolution while maintaining a high frame rate. I played Black Ops 2, I played Crysis 2, I played some Bioshock Infinite, and I cranked up the details. It all looked wonderful, and ran like a dream.

You may have to make some sacrifices to get up to 60fps on the more demanding games, but the Blade handled everything I threw at it with surprising ease, including some of the more demanding Oculus Rift demos.

The keyboard also great when typing or gaming, with the chiclet-style keys well spaced and featuring great action. It's a satisfying laptop to use, although one of my early review units had issues with the track pad (a Razer representative told me I was using a preproduction model, and the second production unit they sent was an improvement, although the trackpad remained somewhat finicky).

It worked fine for normal computing, with a few moments here or there when movement wasn't quite as precise as I could have liked, but most gamers will attach their own gaming mice anyway.

One issue that's harder to ignore is the screen. At 14 inches and with a 1600 by 900 resolution it's a good compromise between easy to see and portable, but the viewing angles on the matte display are shockingly limited.

This isn't a big deal when you're sitting in front of the screen and playing a game, but others may have problems watching over your shoulder and, considering how great this machine works as a LAN box, that's a little bit of a problem. The screen makes it very hard to game socially, or to share a game with someone else in the room.

The system itself also puts out a fair bit of heat when you're really cranking the graphics. The system itself seemed to deal with this well, but expect it to be uncomfortable on your lap. The battery life also suffers when doing heavy gaming, and you'll be lucky to get to three hours while playing demanding titles, but so what?

Five to six hours of battery life is easy to achieve during standard computing tasks, and you'll want to plug in if you're sitting down to game for longer sessions anyway. The HDMI port will also drive an external display up to 1920 by 1080, although you'll of course take a hit in the framerate department.

Standing alone

Three USB ports, a headphone jack, and an HDMI port should handle most of your connectivity needs, although personally I always like to have an SDCard slot in my laptops. But that's mostly so my wife can do photo editing without a peripheral, and even a small feature like that makes it easier to justify what amounts to a very expensive toy.

Razer, are you listening? Make the significant others happy, and you'll have a much easier time getting us to play Battlefield on the road.

It's easy to point to the systems faults. The trackpad could be better, and that screen needs work. But that doesn't take away from the fact that every other gaming laptop that provides this amount of power looks like a prop from Big Bang Theory instead of a serious piece of equipiment. You'll pay for the privilege of all that style, these aren't cheap systems, but they don't look like shit, they're easy to transport, and they play everything you'll likely be interested in playing. I can't think of any competing products that come close.

I've used this as a LAN box, as a way of gaming while traveling, and playing big-kid PC games with the graphical settings on the higher, if not the highest, settings in hotel rooms has been great. It's going to be hard to go back to seeing what can play on my Macbook Air now that I've returned the system but hey, I can always get out the credit card.

And after testing the Razer Blade for so long, I'm very tempted.