Battery life, unfortunately, took a hit: last year's Blade lasted an impressive 7 hours, 46 minutes in our video playback battery drain test. This year's version only lasted 4 hours, 27 minutes. That's no different than most other gaming laptops, but the Blade's big advantage of last year is gone, traded for different advantages in display and gaming graphics. Playing games at different settings on battery power gave us between 1 hour and 90 minutes of life, really no better than an oversize gaming desktop replacement.
Configurations vs. the competition
The Razer Blade's lone configuration variable is solid-state drive (SSD) storage: you can choose a 128, 256, or 512GB solid-state drive. The three cost $2,199, $2,399, and $2,699, respectively. (Availability and pricing outside the US will be announced later this year.) The smaller 128GB is really not enough for a laptop that's this expensive and high-end, especially if you plan to download full-size games via Steam, Gog, or Origin. Our review configuration, the 256GB $2,399 version, seems like the one I'd pick, although if you're in for this much money, maybe you'd just want to go whole hog since game downloads aren't small.
This is an expensive laptop, and a nonconfigurable one, but it's not that bad a deal compared with others on the market. A recent 15-inch MSI GE60 and the latest Maingear Pulse 14 both cost around $1,000 less, but they drop the GPU a few steps to the GeForce 860M and 850M and downgrade the display to a 1080p non-touch screen.
You're paying for style and and a thin profile with the Razer Blade, as well as the better-than-HD touchscreen, higher-end GPU, and expensive SSD storage.
"If the Blade had a display like its 17-inch cousin, this would be an Editors' Choice laptop." That's what I said last year about the Razer Blade 14. This Blade definitely offers up the fantastic display I dreamed of, but it doesn't have the same great battery life -- and it's more expensive.
But this Blade is a near-perfect balance of all the great things you'd want in a dream thin gaming machine. It's the best Blade yet, even if it's a bit of a compromise, especially on battery life. You can't always have everything, but this Blade comes close. While I'd love to see a lower-priced model with a standard 1080p touchscreen and better battery life, there's still nothing cooler happening in gaming laptops anywhere else right now.
Razer Blade 14 RZ09-0116 (2014)
Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-4702HQ; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz, 3GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 870; 256GB SSD
MSI GE60 Apache Pro-003
Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700HQ; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M; 1TB 7,200rpm HGST hard drive
Razer Blade 14 (2013)
Windows 8 (64-bit); Intel Core i7-4702HQ; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M; 128GB Samsung SSD
Maingear Pulse 14 (2014)
Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-4702MQ; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 850M; 500GB 5,400rpm Seagate hard drive
Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700HQ; 32GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 4GB Nvidia Geforce GTX 880M;(2) 256GB SSD RAID 0 1TB 7,200rpm HGST hard drive