Razer first introduced its Blade five years back, and it came closer than any machine to the then-fantastic ideal of a slender and attractive gaming laptop. In a group plagued by bulky designs and garish aesthetics, the Blade set the bar: fast, flexible and good-looking. Industry caught up with Nvidia’s Max-Q graphics technology, but Razer is changing the game again. The 2018 Blade (starts at $1,899.99; $2,599.99 as tested) runs on the Max-Q-based design, and while it’s a spendthrift, it executes the idea better than any contender. The Blade combines top performance, supported by way of a GeForce GTX 1070 graphics chip and an eight-generation Intel six-core processor, but now with a bigger screen (15.6 inches, up from 14 inches) and thin bezels. It’s the best superthin gaming laptop today in terms of both performance and aesthetics, and it won our Editors’ Choice award.
Refinement of classic design
The 2018 Blade retains the exact same sleek, machined aluminum chassis that first turned on its debut, all black with a green “Razer snakes” logo on the lid. But unlike many recent Razer laptop updates that have dedicated to internal improvements, Razer has made some major design changes now around.
The Blade ditched its thicker bezels and 14-inch display for thin screen bezels and a much roomier 15.6-inch screen. Despite the larger display, the general size of the notebook has not changed much. (It’s only trivially wider.) That’s because the larger screen fit was made possible, mostly by cropping the bezel.
The notebook measures 0.68 x 13.98 x 9.25 inches (HWD), which is truly a hair thinner than the 2017 14-inch model’s dimensions of 0.7 x 13.6 x 9.3 inches. The newest internals do then add weight (4.63 pounds, up from 4.16 pounds), but the Blade continues to be among the thinnest and most portable gaming laptops around. The Blade used to be almost the only thin gaming laptop available, but Nvidia’s Max-Q initiative changed that.
The Max-Q design in summary allows slightly tuned versions of high-end graphics chips to match into smaller laptops without overheating, allowing manufacturers to construct slimmer gaming machines. The very best options of its kind range from the Origin PC EVO15-S ($1,615.00 base configuration at ORIGIN PC) (opens in a brand new window) and the Asus ROG Zephyrus, and while their arrival on the scene has made the Blade a little less special, Razer has embraced the Max -Q for additional benefits. On the main one hand, as a result of Max-Q, this year’s thinner chassis can accommodate a GeForce GTX 1070 chip; the 2017 model topped out at a GTX 1060. (Note that the GTX 1060 continues to be an selection for the 2018 Blade if you wish to spend less.)
Razer is offering several configurations for the Blade 2018 at launch, with a couple of more options launching when they’re ready later this month. The test unit PCMag received could be the $2,599 configuration, gives you a 1080p (1,920 x 1,080-pixel) display with a 144Hz refresh rate, a Max-Q-enhanced Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070, and a 512GB SSD (SSD). You are able to tick the storage on this unit to 256GB, bringing the full total price of the configuration down to $2,399.
A bit further down the list is a $2,199 model with the exact same screen but a GeForce GTX 1060 and 512GB of storage. The 2 configurations coming soon could be the cheapest and most expensive at launch: The very first would have been a $1,899 model with a 60Hz 1080p screen, a GeForce GTX 1060 and a 256GB SSD, the next would have been a 4K touchscreen for $2,899. model with GeForce GTX 1070 and 512GB SSD.
These options provide enough variety for a number of budgets, but even the $1,899 entry level is pretty steep, and you’re paying reasonably limited for a slender, high-quality build. You will get a GeForce GTX 1060 gaming laptop for around $1,000 less than the $2,199 Blade, so to pay very much for a GTX 1060, you’d better make sure you want and need the super-portable part of the Blade.
Our $2,599 model is slightly more reasonable given its GeForce GTX 1070 chip, and either way, the 512GB of SSD storage definitely increases the cost. But overall, with the Blade, you’re investing in more than the sum of the components. That’s generally true of any laptop that favors thinness—the Origin EVO15-S can be expensive—so at the least the Blade offers you best-in-class design for the extra money.
Primo screen, amazing keys
Are you aware that quality of the display itself — well, it’s a beauty. It has a flat to matte finish and offers exceptional viewing angles for offsides. I notice virtually no deterioration in image quality when viewing wide. Colors are vibrant and the image is sharp, even though matte finish is less eye-catching than the glossy glass display.
Keeping the resolution at 1080p but offering a 144Hz refresh rate is a smart gamer-focused move that may please the performance-obsessed. This less demanding resolution will keep frame rates high, while the larger refresh rate (standard screens are 60Hz) will make game animations and effects look smoother than average and allow you to make the most of frame rates above 60 frames per second (fps).
The newest 15.6-inch panel size also makes a big difference, as the 14-inch size of previous Blades was always somewhat off. A 15.6-inch screen is already too small for many customers buying gaming laptops, which explains why 17-inchers are popular. So boosting the Blade to a typical screen size (and again without making the laptop much greater than its 14-inch ancestor) was an excellent move.
The keyboard features Razer’s signature Chroma backlighting, that is customizable with an incredible number of colors and a number of effects. The Synapse software for changing these settings is one of the very intuitive such programs from any manufacturer. (Of course, it will help that Razer is also an original leading manufacturer of desktop gaming gear.) The most recent version of Synapse is installed on the Blade, and with some tutorials and clearly labeled parts, changing effects is straightforward to understand. You are able to apply a different color and effect to each key if you’d like, or select from different presets (and change them further as well).
The keys may also be satisfying to type on—not mechanical, like those on the more expensive Razer Blade Pro ($1,299.99 at Amazon ) (opens in a fresh window), but responsive, smooth, and quiet. The glass-top touchpad feels good to make use of, very tuned in to scrolling and pressing, and quite roomy.
There’s an audio grille on either side of the keyboard. I have a problem with the speakers, but it’s not about their sound quality. In my tests, the maximum volume was loud, and even though sound lacks plenty of bass, the speakers are perfectly usable. I really do mind the visual design, while the speaker grille bars look somewhat dated and out of place with the sleek, modern design of the remaining laptop.
I’ve held this view on the last few iterations of the Blade and Blade Stealth, and it seems to be particularly pronounced with this thin, thin-bezeled machine. Whenever a colleague made a similar comment while reviewing the Blade, I knew it wasn’t just me. It’s nothing, obviously, nonetheless it borders on a catch for a normally sharp-looking laptop.
You don’t get a huge amount of ports on the system, but you’ve got the basics covered with the Blade. The chassis has three USB 3.1 ports, one USB Type-C port (with Thunderbolt 3 support), a 3.5mm combo audio jack (microphone/headphones), and mini-DisplayPort and HDMI outputs. Using the latter outputs and Thunderbolt, it is possible to get in touch around three external displays and thus get many more screens at home.
The leadership of packaging
The await the new Blade paid down, as Razer surely could equip its flagship device with the most recent Intel processors that have just started arriving in the usually suspect notebook lines.
The eighth-generation Core i7-8750H in this laptop, along with 16GB of memory and a GeForce GTX 1070, really sang in our benchmark tests, as you will see in PCMag’s productivity tests and media…
Its PCMark 8 score is the greatest among the Origin EVO15-S, Falcon Northwest TLX, Asus ROG Zephyrus, and MSI GS65 Stealth Thin ($1,999.00 at Amazon) (opens in a fresh window).The story was the exact same in the multimedia tests, with the Blade coming out on top with an especially impressive Cinebench score. Write it to the processor.
The Core i7-8750H is a six-core, 12-thread beast which was recently introduced and probably will beat all the previous generation models in tests that work with a high core/thread count. (It even beat MSI’s model with the exact same chip, suggesting potentially better thermal management in the Blade.) Summary: This new processor is effective at general and media use and is significantly better compared to the previous generation.
The Max-Q version of the GeForce GTX 1070 isn’t as powerful as the conventional version (we’ve seen an apparent drop in performance on other systems), but it’s still a strong card, as evidenced by PCMag’s graphics tests…
The 3DMark Cloud Gate and Fire Strike Extreme scores are in line with the rest of this competitive set, which mostly plumped for the exact same graphics chip. Standard GTX 1070 chips were generally able to score in the 7,000-point range on Fire Strike Extreme—not really a huge gap, but a notable difference.
The Heaven and Valley benchmarks give you an idea of the framerate you can expect when playing games. With this specific set to ultra-quality, the Blade averaged 93 frames per second (fps) and 100 frames per second. That’s well above the goal 60 frames per second, and the more space you’ve, the better. It means the absolute most demanding games aren’t prone to drop below 60fps at max settings during particularly frenetic moments, and it’s set you up for a long time as titles get progressively more demanding. The only real system that performed better compared to the Blade in 3D tests is the Asus ROG Zephyrus, a $3,000 laptop with a Max-Q GTX 1080.
The Max-Q GTX 1070 is more than adequate for 1080p gaming, and because you can’t push the resolution higher (unless you select the upcoming 4K model), it’s a great fit. Perhaps the performance discount from the stock GTX 1070 for an even more portable form factor is worthwhile depends on your own use case and budget, but you’ll definitely want to ponder over it when shopping.
While I wasn’t able to check the GTX 1060 model, I’m sure from my testing experience that choosing one of the cheaper GTX 1060 configurations will provide you with not as leeway to keep up the ideal 60fps target and in some cases will need you to turn down a couple of graphics settings , to keep above him.
Battery life on the Blade is above average for a gambling laptop, as we’ve come to anticipate from Razer systems. It lasted 7 hours and 36 minutes in our video playback test, the best of any Max-Q notebook to date. MSI’s GS65 Stealth Thin previously made a large improvement for the category at 7:14, as, as before, the Falcon Northwest TLX achieved 5:13, the EVO15-S at 4:27 and the ROG Zephyrus just 2:31.
The Blade’s battery may not come close to that of many non-gaming ultraportables, some of which easily reach double-digit hours, but it’s long enough to trust it without a charger while commuting, working away from your desk, or even on a flight.
The Blade: Back to the beginning
The Razer Blade 2018 represents a further refinement of one of the best gaming laptops, both in terms of design and performance. It is lightweight, durable, powerful and attractive, all factors that allow it to rule the pack.
Its Max-Q GeForce GTX 1070 makes fewer performance concessions than some of the competition, while the new six-core processor is extremely fast. The Origin EVO15-S offers more storage with a whopping 2TB drive and SSD, and is a bit cheaper for the configurations adopted for our testing. That said, the Blade delivers superior performance, a better screen, Thunderbolt 3 support, and a nicer build.
That last point – appearance – is of course the most subjective. But we would lean towards the all-metal Blade and its high-quality touchpad, keyboard and keyboard backlight. It’s a close race, and the Blade will cost you, but it gives our editors a highly portable high-end gaming laptop.