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Razer Blade Stealth review: A fully equipped, great-looking laptop for less than you'd think

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The Good The Razer Blade Stealth includes a Core i7 processor and high-res touchscreen even in its lowest-end configuration; it has more ports than other 12-inch laptops and a fun Chroma backlit keyboard.

The Bad It's bigger and heavier than 12-inch laptops from Apple, Asus and others. The thick bezel around the screen feels dated and configuration options are limited.

The Bottom Line The Razer Blade Stealth offers better specs for less money than the competition, and includes features others lack, such as a high-res touch screen and full-size USB ports. The design is slick, the price is right, but it's not as slim and portable as other 12-inch laptops.

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8.5 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 8

Review Sections

One of the unexpected surprises from earlier this year was the Razer Blade Stealth, a high-end 12.5-inch ultrabook from Razer that represented a major shift for that PC and accessory maker. Rather than another highly designed gaming laptop, the Stealth was a pure ultrabook. It lacked the gaming graphics of other Razer PCs, but included the company's signature Chroma backlit keyboard, an under-the-fingers lightshow unmatched by anyone else. It was a well-made, slick-looking laptop, and some configurations represented a really notable value, starting at $999 in the US and £1,000 in the UK.

Less than one year later, we have a modest update to the Stealth, with a new low-voltage Core i7 processor (part of Intel's seventh-generation of Core i-series chips, and optimized for high-res and 4K video playback) and claims of better battery life. But, we also have increased competition, from the excellent second generation of Apple's 12-inch MacBook, as well as similarly equipped Windows laptops such as the new Asus ZenBook 3.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Despite the more competitive landscape, the Razer is still the price king when it comes to premium ultrabooks. The $999 base model costs the same as the frankly outdated 13-inch MacBook Air, but offers specs far beyond that system, including a new Intel Core i7 CPU and a 2,560x1,440-pixel touch display. Other $999 laptops drop the screen resolution and touch support, and knock the processor down to a Core i5.

The Razer Blade Stealth is now available in the UK direct from Razer, with several models going up to £1,950. In Australia, the Stealth starts at AU$1,480, but that's for the previous model, with an older CPU.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The version we tested isn't the $999 entry point. This is the $1,249 step-up model, with 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, double that of the base model, but the same display and processor. It's still a good value, but only if you know you'll need the extra storage space, which is not always a certainty in this era of cloud-based services.

$1,599 bumps it up to a 512GB SSD and a 4K display, but in our testing of the original Razer Blade Stealth, we found the 4K screen had a big impact on battery life (also true of other 4K laptops). While I was very happy with the performance and value of this specific configuration, that $999 base model is still the best representation of the great value Razer is offering.

Razer Blade Stealth

Price as reviewed $1,249
Display size/resolution 12.5-inch 2,560x,1,440-pixel touchscreen
PC CPU 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U
PC Memory 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1866MHz
Graphics 128MB Intel HD Graphics 620
Storage 256GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

From the outside, this looks and feels like the same Razer Blade Stealth we tested early in 2016. It has the same matte black finish over an aluminum body. Only the neon green intertwined snakes logo gives away that this laptop comes from a company with a gamer-centric pedigree. The minimalist interior feels like that of a MacBook Pro, but again in all matte black. Besides the keyboard and large touchpad, there's only a small power button, centered above the Function key row.

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The 12.5-inch Asus ZenBook 3 next to the Razer Blade Stealth.

Sarah Tew/CNET

While the Stealth has a great overall look, the body is also one of the compromises. At 2.9 pounds (1.32 kg), it weighs as much as a 13-inch MacBook Air, and nearly a full pound more than the 12.5-inch Asus ZenBook 3. The 2,560x1,440 display is bright and clear, if overly glossy, but it's surrounded by a thick black bezel that's three-quarters of an inch wide in some places. Some PC makers brag that they can squeeze a larger laptop's screen into a smaller laptop's body, but this is a 12.5-inch screen in what looks and feels like a 13.3-inch laptop body.

A keyboard that demands your attention

One of the unique extra features is Razer's Chroma keyboard. It's a backlit keyboard that can display millions of color combinations in a wide variety of patterns. It's highly customizable, thanks to the included control software, which can also control power, trackpad and other system settings.

There's a great deal more detail about the Chroma keyboard and how it operates in our previous Razer Blade Stealth review. But in general, it's a fun little show-off feature that other slim laptops lack (although you can find similar features in some gaming laptops or standalone desktop PC keyboards). The preset patterns are fun to play with, and I especially liked "spectrum cycling," where the keys fade new colors in and out in unison, just slowly enough to not be overly distracting. "Reactive" leaves a trail of lit keys in your wake as you type, like a fading echo. "Ripple" sends a burst of a single color expanding outward, away from each individual key press.

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