Razer Blade (2015, QHD+) review:

A gaming laptop in a class by itself

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Razer Blade (2015, QHD+)

(Part #: RZ09-01301E21-R3U1)
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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars 1 user review

The Good The Razer Blade is an impressive laptop thanks to its gorgeous display, responsive keyboard and touchpad, and excellent gaming performance for its size. It looks good, too.

The Bad It comes with the territory, but the bottom back of the Blade can get very hot, and the fans can get quite loud trying to cool it down. This kind of performance in a thin-and-light body doesn't come cheap.

The Bottom Line Whether it's for gaming, multimedia enjoyment, work or all of the above, the Razer Blade is a fantastic choice if you need high performance but don't want to sacrifice mobility to get it.

8.5 Overall
  • Design 9.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 9.0
  • Battery 7.0

Razer's Blade remains one of the thinnest, lightest gaming systems you can get. Clad in black aluminum like the 2014 version, the 14-inch notebook weighs just south of 4.5 pounds (2kg) and measures 0.7 inch thick (17.9mm).

Inside its 13.6-inch-wide-by-9.3-inch-deep frame (345 by 235mm), you'll find a high-performance Intel mobile processor backed by 16GB of memory, Nvidia's GeForce GTX 970M with 3GB of its own memory and your choice of a 128GB, 256GB or 512GB solid-state drive (our review laptop had a 256GB LiteOn L9G series).

The processor and graphics are the updates here, and Razer doubled the RAM for the same $2,399 it charged for last year's model . In the UK, it sells via resellers for around £2,200, and in Australia for AU$3,700. Dropping to a 128GB SSD shaves $200 off that price (£2,000; AU$3,500), while jumping to a 512GB SSD brings your total up to $2,700, £2,430 or AU$3,900.

Razer Blade (2015)

Price as reviewed $2,399, £2,200, AU$3,700
Display size/resolution 14-inch, 3,200x1,800 touchscreen
PC CPU 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 4720HQ
PC Memory 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz
Graphics 3GB (dedicated) Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M
Storage 256GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 8.1 (64-bit)

While those components alone might not seem worth the premium price, when you consider the whole package, the Blade is fairly priced. And that includes one of the nicest displays I've seen on a Windows 8.1 laptop.

Design and features

In a sea of silver aluminum laptops, the Blade's matte-black chassis emblazoned with the company's glowing green triple-snake logo definitely stands out. That boomslang green continues on the inside to the backlit keyboard and even to the tabs in its three USB 3.0 ports. It's just enough flash without crossing over into aggressive garishness.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The keyboard is easily one of the best you'll find on a system this thin: responsive with good travel and well placed keys. Even the font choice is pretty cool. After a little use, I had no problem finding keys without taking my eyes off the screen and I didn't experience any issues with multiple key combos.

Though you might not use it much for gaming, the Synaptics touchpad is excellent as well. You can fine-tune its performance to your liking, including turning the palm-check option all the way up, which prevented cursor jumpiness while typing. My only gripe is with the half-height mouse buttons Razer used, which my thumb had trouble finding.

Flanking the keyboard are some great-sounding stereo speakers that will play loudly without distortion. You'll probably want to wear headphones to block out the cooling fans when the system is really cranking, but otherwise they deliver full sound for movies, music and games.

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Razer switched to a 3,200x1,800-pixel resolution touchscreen for the 2014 Blade, and that's what you get here, too. It's a bright, color-accurate display that's not only very nice to game on, but great for entertainment and video and photo work as well. The IPS panel gives you wide viewing angles without a significant drop-off in color or contrast, regardless of the angle you're viewing it from.

However, though the screen gets pretty bright, the glare from the glossy screen is tough to overcome. Working on this screen in a well-lit office or outdoors will have you fighting reflections. If don't see the value of having a glossy UHD+ touchscreen for your needs, Razer does offer an excellent alternative in the form of a full HD non-touch IPS display with a matte finish at a lower cost.

Rounding things out are 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.0, a full-size HDMI output with 7.1-channel audio support and a headphone/mic jack. There's also a 2-megapixel webcam with a dual-array mic to help suppress background noise. There's no Ethernet jack, though, so you might want to invest in an Ethernet-to-USB 3.0 dongle for one of its three ports.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance and battery life

Again, there are no configuration options beyond selecting storage capacity, and even that's limited to just three choices for its single SATA M.2 slot. The hardware here does deliver smooth gameplay -- even at full resolution -- but it's something you'll have to test on a game-by-game basis.

For example, Metro: Last Light, even though it's a couple years old, is still a challenge. With the resolution set to 3,200x1,800 pixels, quality set to high, texture filtering at AF 16x, Advanced PhysX and SSAA enabled, tesselation on high and motion blur on normal, the Blade hit just 14.3 frames per second. Dropping only the resolution setting down to 1080p, though, gets you a playable 34fps.

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