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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 colorful Chroma keyboard in action.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The "hey, look at this!" setting is "Wave," where a wide rainbow of colors moves quickly across the keyboard from left to right. It's the kind of thing you'll turn on to show your friends, but the more in-your-face presets are way too distracting if you're actually trying to get any work done. Thankfully, you can opt for a single static color or just turn the backlight off. The effects can also be set to turn off when using battery power or when the battery level falls below a certain percentage.

Enough connections to make your MacBook jealous

Other 12-inch laptops have embraced the enforced minimalism of a single USB-C port. The Apple MacBook, Asus ZenBook 3 and others all rely on that still-new port to provide access to USB accessories, wired mice, video output, power and anything else that requires a physical wire, usually with the help of a USB-C adaptor. Asus at least includes a mini-dock in the box with its new ZenBook 3 -- Apple charges $80 for essentially the same thing.

This is a case where the Razer's larger body works to your benefit, as it can accommodate two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI output and even a USB-C port, which is used for power and as a Thunderbolt connection.

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This system shares a common CPU with the Asus ZenBook 3 (which is why we keep comparing the two), which is an updated version of the low-voltage Core i7 chips found in other slim laptops, such as the Dell XPS 13 or the HP Spectre. In our benchmark tests, these laptops performed similarly, as expected. All are very well-suited for office tasks, multi-tab web browsing, HD video streaming or even basic photo and video editing. The only real slowpoke in the group was the 12-inch MacBook from Apple, which uses a slower (but more power-efficient) Core m3 processor, but even that feels fine for everyday use.

The previous Razer Blade Stealth was held back in the battery department by its ambitious 4K-resolution display. This time we tested a version with a 2,560x1,440 resolution (sometimes called QHD), which gave us a much better 6 hours 54 minutes of battery life in our streaming video test. The 4K version from earlier this year ran for about 3 hours. This QHD Razer, the Asus ZenBook 3 and the HP Spectre all ran for about the same amount of time, but keep in mind the Razer has a higher-resolution touchscreen, while those other two laptops have 1,920x1,080 non-touch displays. Even so, the 12-inch MacBook dusts them all, at just over 10 hours.

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Conclusion

The Razer Blade Stealth remains one of the best deals around if you're looking for 12 or 13-inch laptop and want to spend around $1,000 or £1,000 (probably around AU$1,800). Adding a bit more for double the RAM and hard drive space makes sense, but skip the optional 4K display, which is both expensive and a major drag on battery life. The fun Chroma keyboard is amusing, but not a huge factor in my strong recommendation for this system.

Other 12-inch laptops are slimmer and lighter, but many lack a touchscreen and are limited to a single USB-C port. On the other hand, the Stealth looks and feels like a 13.3-inch laptop, despite having only a 12.5-inch display.

One extra note, if you're interested in doing some gaming on this laptop, Razer sells an external box called the Razer Core, which holds a (sold-separately) desktop graphics card and connects via Thunderbolt. The Core is $500 and a good graphics card will run you another $500. We haven't had a chance to test the Core out yet, but it sounds interesting, especially if you want to use a virtual reality headset with your laptop.

Multimedia Multitasking test 3.0

Dell XPS 13 (Gold Edition)
466
Razer Blade Stealth
482
Asus ZenBook 3 UX390U
522
HP Spectre
563
Apple MacBook (12-inch, 2016)
702

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Geekbench 3 (Multi-Core)

Asus ZenBook 3 UX390U
8018
Razer Blade Stealth
7704
Dell XPS 13 (Gold Edition)
7236
HP Spectre
7003
Apple MacBook (12-inch, 2016)
5879

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming video playback battery drain test

Apple MacBook (12-inch, 2016)
608
HP Spectre
430
Asus ZenBook 3 UX390U
420
Razer Blade Stealth
416
Dell XPS 13 (Gold Edition)
311

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

System Configurations

Asus ZenBook 3 UX390U Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD
Apple MacBook (12-inch, 2016) Apple El Capitan OSX 10.11.4; 1.2GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 1536MB Intel HD Graphics 515; 512GB SSD
Razer Blade Stealth (2016) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
Dell XPS 13 (Gold Edition) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2HGz Intel Core i7-6560U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel Iris Graphics 540; 256GB SSD
HP Spectre Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5HGz Intel Core i7-6500U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520; 256GB SSD

Update, November 8: Added official UK pricing.

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