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Razer Blade 14 review:

Slim gaming powerhouse brings great battery life

According to Razer, the storage is user-upgradable, although that voids the warranty. Actually, the Blade 14 has two drive bays, one of which sits unused. That 8GB of RAM, however, can't be upgraded at all.

Specs: A step above the typical thin laptop
Under the hood, the 14-inch Blade has very impressive horsepower indeed. A fourth-gen quad-core 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-4702HQ offers significantly better performance than the average laptop; even better, it's accompanied by an Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M GPU with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. For the moment, this makes the Blade 14 one of the most powerful slim Haswell laptops we've seen. As mentioned above, the system comes with 8GB of 1,600MHz DDR3L RAM.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Ports are limited: three USB 3.0, one HDMI, and that's it. No SD card slot, no Ethernet, and no optical drive. I can live without an optical drive, but Ethernet would have been helpful considering how download-heavy game services such as Steam can get.

A 1.3-megapixel Webcam is good enough for good-looking chats. Better is the array microphone, intended for in-game chat. Razer recently released in-game VoIP software, too, although I didn't spend much time testing it. The Blade is 802.11 b/g/n-compatible with its Qualcomm Killer Wireless-N network adapter, and has Bluetooth 4.0.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Gaming performance
How do games perform on the new Blade? Pretty damn well. BioShock Infinite ran at 36 frames per second at 1,600x900-pixel resolution with graphics settings high and Ultra DX11, plenty fast for everyday fun. With graphics settings at medium, it buzzed at a perfect 62 frames per second. And a seriously rigorous game, Metro: Last Light, ran at 15 frames per second with high graphics settings and 1600x900-pixel native resolution, not bad for a high-intensity benchmark -- the actual game played more smoothly than that.

Of course, the lower-res display helped frame rates somewhat, but outputting to a 1080p display still produced good results: 27fps for BioShock Infinite on high, and 11.3fps for Metro: Last Light. Other games on Steam were equally fun to play on the Blade 14; it handled them all well.

The Edge gaming tablet made compromises to shrink down PC gaming, while the Blade 14 handles games a lot more like the full-fledged 17-inch Blade from last year. Our gaming benchmarks have changed since then, but we ran similar tests for comparison: the Edge Pro tablet ran BioShock Infinite's benchmark at 1,920x1,080 and medium graphics settings at 24fps, while the Blade 14 ran the same resolution/settings benchmark at 54.5fps. Meanwhile, the 17-inch October 2012 Blade ran Metro 2033's challenging high-end benchmark at 1,920x1,080 at 13.3fps, while this year's Blade 14 did it at 14.7fps. Higher-resolution tests than the native screen resolution of the laptop/tablet were done via HDMI on an external monitor.

The Razer Blade 14 is a robust, serious laptop. It's not as fast as a bleeding-edge dual graphics-card behemoth, but it's the best in its weight class by a mile, and better than any mainstream gaming laptop we've seen so far.

Battery life
Gaming laptops usually suffer when it comes to battery, but the Blade 14 pulls off a bit of a coup: we were able to get 7 hours and 46 minutes of video playback in our test. Fourth-gen Haswell chips do a very good job at video playback efficiency, but this exceeds anything I would have expected. Really, it's good enough to use as an everyday machine and not worry too much about recharging. But, be advised that gaming will drain that battery a lot faster. Nvidia Optimus graphics switch automatically to the Intel HD 4600 integrated GPU when not in use.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Perfect size?
The new Razer Blade is more of a mainstream commodity product than anything Razer has previously produced, but it's still an expensive machine; the entry-level configuration costs a pretty high $1,800. That's hard to swallow, but the upside here is that this Blade looks like a laptop you'd actually want to carry around with you and make your everyday computer.

What I love most about the Blade 14 is its fearless no-gimmick approach to making a really usable and very slim gaming laptop. This is a laptop you'd gladly make your main computer and not feel saddled by.

What I don't like is the screen: non-IPS, only 1,600x900-pixel resolution, and simply subpar compared with alternatives. When immersed in a game it becomes more acceptable than when staring at text or static high-res images, but at this price, you'd expect a higher-end option.

If the Blade had a display like its 17-inch cousin, this would be an Editors' Choice laptop. Without it, it's still a unique and rather excellent product if you care about a thinner, far less bulky gaming laptop alternative. Razer's on to something here. And it just might be the sexiest nontouch Windows 8 laptop I've ever seen.

Just be forewarned: you're not going to love that screen. But I bet that's the only thing about the Blade 14 you won't like.

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

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

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
iTunes and HandBrake  
Razer Blade 14

BioShock Infinite (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Razer Blade 14

Metro: Last Light (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Razer Blade 14

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

System configurations

Razer Blade 14
Windows 8 (64-bit); Intel Core i7-4702HQ; 8GB DDR3L SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M; 128GB Samsung SSD

Sony Vaio Pro 13
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,659MB (Shared) Intel HD Graphics 4400; 128GB Samsung SSD

Toshiba Qosmio X875-Q7390
Windows 8 (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-3630QM; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; Nvidia GeForce GTX 670 3,072MB (Dedicated) HDD#1 1TB Hybrid Toshiba 5,400rpm HDD#2 1TB 5,400rpm Toshiba

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch w/Retina Display (June 2012)
OS X 10.7.4 Lion; 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 650M + 512MB Intel HD 4000; 256GB Apple SSD

What you'll pay

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