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Razer Blade (2018) review: The sharp-looking Blade rides the knife edge between gaming and work

The newly upgraded Razer Blade is the perfect laptop for undercover gaming.

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Dan Ackerman
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Dan Ackerman

Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a semi-regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times

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4 min read

There are really only two features on the new Razer Blade laptop that betray its origins as a gaming machine: The keyboard still lights up, with each key capable of displaying more than 1 million colors across several patterns; and there's a glowing intertwined snake logo on the back of the lid.

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8.6

Razer Blade (2018)

The Good

Great overall redesign, with a larger screen, smaller bezels and bigger touchpad. Includes either an Nvidia 1060 or 1070 GPU, which is enough for almost any laptop gamer. 144Hz display option. Cool keyboard lights, if that's your bag.

The Bad

Painfully expensive considering Nvidia 1060 laptops can be found for under $1,000. The 4K touchscreen option isn't available yet.

The Bottom Line

The redesigned Razer Blade moves the bar on slim gaming laptops, with better hardware and a bigger screen, but you'll need a bigger budget for it, too.

To further masquerade as a nongamer, you can turn the keyboard backlight off, or set it to a mellow single color. The backlit glowing snake logo (which always remind me of this iconic film design) can likewise be turned off. It's still there, and green, but at least it's not glowing.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Or, you can choose to embrace your inner gamer and crank the keyboard lights up to full thermonuclear blast (they really do get pretty bright) with swirling or swooping patterns in a rainbow of colors. The green Razer logo can likewise "breathe," fading in and out. Take it another step and add Razer accessories like the Hyperflux mousepad or the Chroma stand, all of which can be synced together in one glorious light show.

But, none of that matters if this isn't a great gaming laptop. And at $1,899 to start and $2,599 with all the current upgrades, it had better really deliver. The starting price is £1,699 in the UK and AU$2,899 in Australia.

Razer Blade (2018)

Price as reviewed $2,599
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 @144Hz display
CPU 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H
Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz
Graphics 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design
Storage 512GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth
Operating system Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Fortunately, this new version takes some pretty big leaps past the previous gaming laptop calling itself the Razer Blade. We've always really liked the previous 14-inch Blade for its subtle design, multicolored backlit keyboard and general gaming chops. But the display had a thick bezel that felt a little dated, and the GPU topped out at an Nvidia GTX 1060 -- fine for mainstream gaming, but not exactly top-of-the-line.

For the new version of Razer's flagship laptop, the 14-inch display in the Blade gets an upgrade to a 15-inch screen, while keeping roughly the same footprint. In fact, Razer says this is the "world's smallest 15.6-inch gaming laptop."

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The biggest difference is the much thinner bezel around the screen, which gives the new Blade a more modern look. If you compare the older and newer models side by side, you'll see it's also moved from the traditional rounded corners to a more modern-looking squared-off look with sharper edges.

The screen comes in 60Hz or 144Hz 1,920x1,080 versions, and the body is milled from a single piece of aluminum, much like a MacBook, and fitted with a much larger touchpad than previous models. 

A 4K 60Hz screen is also going to be an option, but it's not available yet (and 4K in a gaming laptop is an absolute battery killer, so think carefully before making that leap).  

The components inside get updated as well, to an eighth-gen Core i7-8750H and your choice of Nvidia 1060 or 1070 GPUs. To keep things cool, it has a vapor chamber for cooling, which is a kind of sealed liquid-cooling heat pipe.

Guts for gaming

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Vampyr, a very cool new game from Focus

Sarah Tew/CNET

Slim gaming laptops with decent specs are still rare, but not as rare as they used to be. Still, the Razer Blade outdoes much of the competition in terms of packing the most gaming power into the least conspicuous chassis. The Asus Zephyrus is a similarly slim gaming laptop with similar parts, but requires a giant air vent to open up when in use. MSI comes close with its Stealth series laptops, as does this extra-thin Origin PC model.

In this configuration, we have the Max-Q version of the Nvidia 1070 GPU and a 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H CPU, plus 16GB of RAM. The performance slotted in as expected, usually between bulkier laptops with the non-Max-Q version of the 1070 and laptops with the more mainstream Nvidia 1060.

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Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, a new take an on old-school RPG 

Sarah Tew/CNET

In hands-on testing I tried a variety of games, including new ones like the expansive RPG Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire and the new gothic vampire game, Vampyr. Those and others all ran smoothly at high detail settings and the full 1080p resolution.

Battery life was a nice surprise, lasting 7 hours, 53 minutes in our video playback battery drain test. That's longer than most gaming laptops we've tested, but keep in mind playing a game, rather than streaming video, will cut that life span down considerably.

The best new gaming laptops, ranked

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The Razer and Blade model

After a couple of years of mostly static designs, this is a very pleasing reworking of the Razer Blade. The bigger screen and touchpad and other aesthetic improvements all add up to a very modern-feeling laptop.

My only real concern is that it's a major investment, even for a gaming laptop. A laptop with an Nvidia 1060 GPU can be easily found for under $1,000, although with a slower CPU, less RAM and storage, and none of the bells and whistles found here. But like Apple, Razer has never catered to the budget end of the market, and so far it's working. And if the company is looking for a new challenge, now I want to see a GPU in the 13-inch Razer Blade Stealth

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Computers for creatives: The very best new laptops, tablets and desktops for creatives.

Great games for your nongaming laptop: No GPU? No problem. The best games to sneak onto your work laptop. 

Geekbench 4 (Multi-core)

Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018) 20,442Razer Blade (2018) 18,015Origin PC Evo 15-S (2017) 14,347Alienware 15 R3 (2017) 14,060Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017) 10,611
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 CPU (Multi-core)

Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018) 1135Razer Blade (2018) 926Alienware 15 R3 (2017) 746Origin PC Evo 15-S (2017) 722Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017) 510
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming video playback battery drain test

Razer Blade (2018) 473Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017) 362Alienware 15 R3 (2017) 236Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018) 225Origin PC Evo 15-S (2017) 216
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Alienware 15 R3 (2017) 4,054Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018) 3,954Razer Blade (2018) 3,431Origin PC Evo 15-S (2017) 3,180Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017) 1,871
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided gaming test

Alienware 15 R3 (2017) 82.1Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018) 79.2Origin PC Evo 15-S (2017) 72.7Razer Blade (2018) 72.2Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017) 50.2
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

System configurations

Razer Blade (2018) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design; 512GB SSD
Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018) Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1070; 512GB SSD
Alienware 15 R3 (2017) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070; 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7300HQ; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 with Max-Q Design; 256GB SSD
Origin PC Evo 15-S (2017) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 with Max-Q-Design; 512GB SSD
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8.6

Razer Blade (2018)

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 9Performance 8Battery 7