Mark 2014 as a year to remember on your calendar, your Facebook page, your brand new Twitter profile page that you still haven’t quite figured out. Because you won’t remember what made this year great until someone on Reddit writes about it ten or twenty years from now and you think to yourself, “Oh yeah, that’s when laptops became awesome.” Finally.
In my nearly eight years of writing about technology and 20+ revolutions around our little sun playing with tech, this is the first time when mobile computing hasn’t sucked. In fact, it’s a joy! And the new Razer Blade is the epitome of excellence in mobile computing: kickass desktop-level performance, over six hours of battery life, a gorgeous display, all in a thin clamshell design that's lick-worthy. Come and get it.
Refinement, minus the screen
If you think the Blade looks a lot like the MacBook Pro Retina, you're right. Last year's model was a success, and aside from some fine tuning, almost nothing has changed. The keyboard is tighter with excellent low-profile keys; the trackpad is smooth and for some reason still includes two physical buttons and no multi-touch right click; and the speakers produce soft, high-quality audio for movies, music, and of course, games.
The big update is a vastly improved 3K monitor. This Blade has a 3,200 x 1,800 pixel resolution displayThe big update is a vastly improved 3K monitor. This Blade has a 3,200 x 1,800 pixel resolution display, the highest I’ve ever seen on any monitor less than double the size. And that’s a problem.
4K (3,840 x 2,160) content may be all the rage nowadays, but unless you're watching House of Cards, there's no content. 3K? It doesn't even exist, and it never will. 1080p video content doesn't fit right, and neither does 4K. The only exception is games, which can almost always fit to the screen's native resolution. Windows doesn't even look good on it; everything's too small.
Yet the display is so gorgeous, so well made, that almost anything looks spectacular on it. 720p video content is fuzzy, but 1080p video looks great, and if you set the screen for other high resolutions like 2,048 x 1,152, the video quality is still excellent. This is one of the best laptop monitors I’ve ever tested, one that produces excellent color and light contrast, is bright enough for outdoor use even with a glossy display, and it’s a touchscreen to boot. It looks so good at other resolutions that even if you never use the native 3K, every other widescreen resolution looks great.
Performance? Let slip the dogs of war
For a 14-inch laptop, the Blade is the fastest, highest-performance machine I’ve ever tested of its size. It boasts some incredible specs: a quad-core 2.2GHz Intel Core i7 4702HQ, 8GB of RAM, and the all new NVIDIA GTX 870M with 3GB of video RAM. The Blade supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi, the fastest wireless technology, and the whole thing ships with 128/256/512GB of memory. The pre-production test unit Razer provided shipped with 128GB and retails for $2,200.
This machine was built for speed, and every part pushes the envelope. It doesn’t matter if you’re just browsing the web or playing Metro: Last Light in its native Russian, the Blade gets the job done fast. And it’ll last over six hours on the battery when word processing or web browsing. Gaming battery life isn't so hot, lasting just about an hour.
The Blade gets hot and while it’ll run many games extremely well when plugged in, it does throttle performance when on the battery. That means what’ll typically run at a steady 30 frames per second when plugged in will be unplayable on the battery, though with the right settings the Blade will run just about any of today’s top games and still look stunning.
Still, this laptop barely lasts over an hour for Batman: Origins and Crysis 3 while maintaining a solid 30 fps. Plug it in, and you’ll get noticeably better performance, and no longer fear losing another game save.
UltraHD gaming is the future... and it’s not ready for mobile
There’s only one place the Blade slips, and that’s at high resolution. Throw any game up at 3K and everything slows down. Adding more pixels on the screen is the most punishing task for the graphics processor, and it shows. The Blade can play every single game I threw at it at 1,600 x 900 with every graphical option set to maximum. At 3K, everything must be cut in half, and even then performance is always noticeably worse.
So yes, 3K gaming is possible on the Blade, but it isn’t worth it. That’s not to say that ultra-high-definition gaming isn’t better, because it absolutely is. Photorealistic games like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag look ridiculously good at higher resolutions, but not if you have to turn off all of the settings that make it look so damn pretty.
As powerful as the Blade is, it cannot handle 4K/UltraHD gaming. Not in the way anyone would want to play, and certainly not in a reasonable way for a laptop. And if you thought 3K performance had limitations, 4K is just even harder to stomach. I tested the Blade with the Samsung U28D590D Ultra-HD 4K monitor and every single game ran better than on MSI’s GS60 Ghost, but not enough to warrant using those extra pixels.
The Razer Blade isn’t a desktop replacement — it’s a mobile desktop. If I owned one, I’d replace my desktop for it because it’s so damn powerful, and it just so happens to fit very comfortably in practically any bag. Every other computer you can own is secondary.
The Blade is a refined, beautiful laptop that is an absolute joy to useThe Blade is a refined, beautiful laptop that is an absolute joy to use for everything from typing this review to hours of gaming.
As great as the Blade is, it’s a bit too ambitious. The 3K display produces excellent picture quality and is very bright, but it’s more than the laptop can handle. And all that power comes at a high price. $2,200 is expensive, and that’s for just 128GB of memory, barely enough for a few games. It’s not worthwhile without at least 256GB, which costs $2,400; 512GB sells for $2,700. The Blade is a machine that’ll be powerful for years, but that’s still a heavy cost.
When it comes to laptops however, nothing else compares. The Blade is the thinnest, lightest gaming laptop on the market. It’s sleek and badass and you’ll love every second of it. There are more powerful laptops out there, and I would get the Blade over all of them every time.
Razer Blade (2014)
Desktop-grade performance in a tiny clamshell frame • Good battery life • Slick design •Gorgeous 3K display...
...but you’ll never need 3K resolution • Expensive
The Bottom Line
The Razer Blade is the best gaming laptop you can buy.
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