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Razer laptops have always looked like gaming machines, even when they haven't been. The Razer Blade and Blade Pro include high-end graphics cards from Nvidia, and match that with matte black designs accented by a neon green triple-snake-head logo and a highly customizable multicolored keyboard lighting system.
In other words, typical gaming laptops.
The same aesthetic extended to the Razer Blade Stealth, a slim MacBook-like Windows laptop that skipped the gaming components, but kept the ready-to-frag look. If you didn't dig the Razer design, it was a shame, as the Blade Stealth was a well-made, premium-feeling laptop that managed to offer high-end components, like a Core i7 CPU and large SSD hard drive, at a pretty reasonable price.
The latest version of the Stealth takes a couple of big steps forward (and maybe one step back). The 2017 update to the Razer Blade Stealth now comes in an understated matte gray, and even the snake-head logo has been rendered in a subtle tone-on-tone contrast with the gray lid. No more neon green. Lost in the transition, however, is the multicolored lighting system, replaced by a simple white keyboard backlight.
The screen also gets a boost from 12.5 to 13.3 inches. The resolution on the new touch display actually drops from 4K (3,840x2,160) to a mere 3,200x1,800 pixels, which is more than enough for a 13-inch laptop and should help battery life.
The gray Stealth starts at $1,399, £1,349 or AU$2,199 for a seventh-gen Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. A 13-inch MacBook Pro with the same specs, minus the touchscreen, comes out to $1,999, £1,899 or AU$2,999. Larger hard drives are the only step-up options offered and the configuration tested here had a 512GB SSD for a total of $1,599, £1,549 or AU$2,499.
And if you just absolutely, completely can't live without the classic Razer multicolored Chroma keyboard, there's some good news. You can get the same specs for the same price in the old black-and-green color scheme, with the full million-plus-color keyboard backlighting system. (Another option -- a couple of configurations of last year's 12.5-inch, 4K version are also for sale at a slight discount right now.)
|Price as reviewed (US, UK, Australia)||$1,599, £1,549, AU$2,499|
|Display size/resolution||13-inch, 3,200x1,800 touch display|
|CPU||2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U|
|Memory||16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz|
|Graphics||128MB Intel HD Graphics 620|
|Networking||802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.1|
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit)|
The backlit keyboard was one of the most notable features of the Razer laptop line. Taking much of its DNA from the Chroma light features built into many of the company's keyboards and other accessories, it offered a dazzling array of color options, taking millions of possible colors and arranging them in a series of patterns, from cool to distracting to just plain trippy.
And you can still get that rainbow effect in the black version of this laptop, but the more serious-looking gray version has only a white backlight. The intensity of the light is adjustable, as are parameters for turning it off or on depending on wall versus battery power, or when the laptop hits a certain percentage of battery life.
At its brightest, the white backlight is nearly blinding. This is probably the brightest backlit keyboard I've ever tested. Knocking the brightness back a bit makes it more manageable, and will help battery life.
It's all part of the tradeoff for this newly subtle, sophisticated design. You can go with the black body and neon green snake logo, and still get a "Laser Floyd" light show of keyboard color options, or try the new gray version and lose the party tricks. I'm torn. The gray design is a great step forward, but it's also less fun. That said, the new, slightly more conservative look got high marks all around from people passing through the CNET Labs.
To control the keyboard backlight and many other system options, you have to use Razer's preloaded Synapse software. It's similar to mission control apps from Alienware and Lenovo, but I couldn't figure out how to access it without first signing up for an account with my email address. You can do cool stuff like track input and upload custom configurations to a cloud server for use on other Razer PCs, but the forced registration feels intrusive.
I'm shocked that some laptop makers can still find a way to fit actual ports on slim laptops like this, even as much of the competition goes USB-C-only. Here, you get a USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port for data and power, plus two full-size USB ports and an HDMI output. Someday everything will be USB-C, but we're not there yet.
As this laptop is running on a seventh-gen Intel Core i7 CPU (the only option available), performance is impressive, even compared to a similarly priced 2016 MacBook Pro (which had only a Core i5 CPU). Battery life in the 12.5-inch 4K version we tested last year was unimpressive, just 3 hours, 12 minutes on our streaming video playback test. This 13-inch model, with a newer CPU and lower resolution fared much better, at 8 hours, 2 minutes. Not the best 13-inch laptop life we've seen, but well within acceptable limits.
The Razer Blade Stealth is still a premium-priced laptop, no doubt. But I like the overall value it offers, with a premium-feeling all-metal body, Core i7 CPU, 16GB RAM and 256GB SSD combo. You can actually get started with a new 13-inch MacBook Pro for $100 less, but that base model has a slower Core i5 CPU and half the RAM. Matching the specs here would be much more expensive.
With a newly serious look, bigger screen and thinner bezel, the Stealth takes its place alongside systems like the Dell XPS 13 and HP Spectre as great, stylish all-purpose 13-inch Windows laptops. I just wish this buttoned-down version could loosen up a bit and get its colored keyboard mojo back.
|Razer Blade Stealth (13-inch, 2017)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD|
|Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016)||Apple macOS Sierra 10.12.1; 2GHz Intel Core i5-6360U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 1,536MB Intel Iris Graphics 540; 256GB SSD|
|Microsoft Surface Laptop||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD|
|Dell XPS 13 (2016, touch)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD|
|Asus ZenBook 3 (UX490)||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD|