Razer Blade review: Razer Blade

The Blade comes in a single fixed configuration: 2.8GHz Core i7-2640M processor, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, GeForce GT 555M graphics, and a 256GB SSD. Though a solid-state drive (SSD) rather than a larger-capacity hard drive means faster boot times and zippier performance, gamers with large libraries could find 256GB limiting. It depends on your priorities.

Of more concern is the Razer Blade's uninspiring graphics card. I played a variety of games on the Razer Blade, from Skyrim to Star Wars: The Old Republic to Battlefield 3. The Blade was able to run each title with acceptable frame rates, but I had to lower the graphics quality on some of the more demanding games. The overall performance and image quality never felt like what I would expect from a $2,800 computer.

The Nvidia GeForce GT 555M is a decent graphics card, but it's a midrange chip from Nvidia's soon-to-be-replaced 500-series. Street Fighter IV running at native 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution and 2x AA ran at 60.1 frames per second, so the Blade is at least competent, but the more graphically intensive Metro 2033 ran at 8.7fps in 1080p, with graphics settings at High, DX11 turned on, 4x anti-aliasing, and 16x AF.

Comparatively, the Origin PC Eon17-S, which we reviewed last year and which featured a far more robust Nvidia GeForce GTX 580M GPU, handled that same Metro 2033 test at 39fps. The Origin weighed 8.5 pounds and cost $3,599, but that was in summer of 2011. Today, you can configure a 17-inch laptop from Alienware or Origin with that same GTX 580 chip and come in under $2,500. It's reasonable that Razer would charge a premium for the Blade's portability and its unique UI, but without the gaming performance of its competitors, it feels overpriced.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Metro 2033 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,366x768, High, DX11, AAA, 4X AF  
1,920x1,080, High, DX11, 4X AA, 16X AF  
Origin Eon17-S
49 
39 
Alienware M18x
46.7 
29.7 
Asus G74SX-A2
24.7 
20.3 
Razer Blade
17.3 
8.7 

Another issue with the Blade's configuration is the timing of its release. Its December 2011 on-sale date was just three months prior to the debut of Nvidia's new GeForce 600-series graphics cards, and four months before that of Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge CPUs. Razer has not commented on whether it will adopt those components in a future iteration of the Blade. If it doesn't, the Blade will be out-of-date very soon. If Razer does issue an update, owners of this model would be right to feel disappointed.

Juice box
Razer Blade Avg watts/hour
Off (60%) 5.67
Sleep (10%) 6.03
Idle (25%) 19.95
Load (05%) 68.78
Raw kWh number 151.68
Annual power consumption cost $17.22

Annual power consumption cost
Asus G74SX-A2
$14.64 
Razer Blade
$17.22 
Origin Eon17-S
$18.08 
Alienware M18x
$23.79 

The integrated battery on the Razer Blade lasted 3 hours and 17 minutes in CNET's continuous video-playback battery drain test. That's better than most gaming laptops, especially considering the large, bright screen. In comparison, the Origin Eon17-S, a far larger laptop, only lasted 2 hours and 19 minutes. The Blade won't let you play games for the entire duration of a cross-country flight, but I welcome any improvement in high-end laptop battery life.

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The Razer Blade comes with a one-year limited warranty, which you can extend to two years for an additional $299 at the time of purchase on Razer's Web site. Razer promises more hands-on customer service than some larger companies, and the customer care phone number (855-877-BLADE) is prominently displayed. All of that is great, but I still wish it came with more thorough documentation for the Switchblade UI.

The Razer Blade is a living concept laptop of sorts, a thinner and more portable design that shows Razer, as a company, can build a laptop of quality. However, its compromises in onboard graphics, the high cost of the system, and the embryonic nature of the Switchblade UI make the Razer Blade a collector's item; I wouldn't recommend it as a high-end gaming laptop.

System configurations

Razer Blade
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-2640M; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 555M / 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 3000; Lite-On IT 256GB SSD

Toshiba Qosmio X775-3DV78
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M; HDD #1: 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm + HDD #2: 750GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Alienware M18x
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-2920XM; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; (SLi) 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 580M (x2) + 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 750GB Seagate 7,200rpm (x2)

Asus G74SX-A2
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 3GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M; HDD #1: 160GB Intel SSD + HDD #2: 750GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Origin Eon17-S
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-2920XM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 580M; HDD #1: 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm + HDD #2: C300-CTFDDAC 128GB SSD

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