Slim Blade: Razer’s 14 inch Blade gaming laptop reviewed
Gamers have special needs. They need power and grunt from their computers, but this also comes with big sizes and heavy machines. But not all computers are created equal, and in the Blade 14, Razer is showing gamers that it can make a slim, sexy, and surprising computer all gamers will want.
Designed for gamers, the Razer Blade 14 isn’t your regular computer, packing in more guts than most and aimed at people who don’t necessarily need battery life, but rather would prefer the ability to play PC games without scaling back on graphics.
To make that happen, the Blade 14 packs in the specs, with a fourth-generation Intel Core i7 quad-core processor clocked at 2.2GHz (4702HQ), 8GB RAM, a 256GB solid-state drive, and a high-end video chipset made for gamers, with the NVidia GeForce GTX870M working alongside 3GB video RAM.
Wireless options are catered for with Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11a/b/g/n and even ac (802.11ac), with wired options taken care of through three bright green USB 3.0 ports, a lone HDMI, and a 3.5mm headset jack for plugging those headphones into.
All of this can be found under a 14 inch Quad HD (QHD) screen, showing the resolution of 3200×1800 and supporting touch. With a 14 inch 3200×1800 display, Razer has provided a display showing off 262 pixels per inch, 40 pixels per inch higher than the Retina-grade screens on Apple’s MacBook Pro with Retina.
A trackpad mouse is also included, as is a keyboard with green backlighting.
The casing for the Razer Blade 14 is made from metal, with several types gracing it, including aluminium, magnesium, and steel.
No optical drive or SD card slot can be found on the Razer Blade 14.
Next-generation consoles like the Microsoft Xbox One and the Sony PlayStation 4 may well be selling like mad, but ask any gamer how the PC market is going and they’ll say there’s a resurgence.
Head online, and you’ll see it too: Valve’s online store “Steam” sells digitally downloaded gams by the truckload, with plenty of raw gaming goodness being made available through Good Old Games (GOG), Humble Bundle, and plenty of other places, too.
Yes, PC gaming is on its way back, and you can thank platform dependencies of the console world (being forced to buy games for specific platforms) and the more impressive hardware that laptops and tablets now have, making it possible for anyone to take games — both hardcore and not-so-hardcore — where ever they go, not just playing them on the massive computer tower we used to have to use late at night.
Peripheral maker Razer is getting in on that action with a computer of its own, bringing its gaming accessory making expertise to an accessory of a different kind: the accessory that lets you play the whole game, not just controlling the input of said game.
In the Blade 14, Razer has taken its understanding of solid equipment and applied it to a different beast: the computer.’
Take hold of the Razer Blade 14 and you’ll find a machine that is very reminiscent of another top of the line metal computer, the Apple MacBook Pro, with a metallic body with relatively soft edges and a good amount of heft to the machine, too, bringing it closer to Apple’s thin pro-grade machine.
It’s a design few PC manufacturers would attempt simply because of how much metal there is, and it’s one that has paid off, because the Blade 14 is strong. We’re not just talking durable across the design of its body; it’s also the hinge, which is so firm, the screen won’t move as we tried shaking the laptop to simulate the movement of a bus or train.
They may not be places you’d normally take a gaming laptop, but with the Razer Blade 14, you might reconsider it, given how the screen manages to stay in a mostly upright position.
Get to using the Blade 14 and you’ll see a computer literally made for gamers, switching on in seven seconds, and letting you peruse Windows 8 with either the common use that a trackpad mouse delivers, or the ease of use a touchscreen brings.
Razer’s 14 inch screen helps a great deal here, thanks to the aforementioned touchscreen, which means Windows 8 is nice and responsive when you need to touch it, swiping around the menus as and when. Most of the time, you’ll find the mouse will be better off, especially since the hinge on the screen has been built so that the display can’t swing all the way around and turn into a tablet, but it’s nice to have a touchscreen all the same, making those Windows 8 commands just that much easier to accomplish.
Windows, however, will boot into the desktop all the same, ready for you to load games using either the web or the USB ports, since there’s no optical drive or SD card slot to speak of.
For the modern gamer, this won’t pose a problem at all, but if you haven’t moved to the world of Steam or played with downloadable games, be aware that you’ll want to grab an external optical drive to load games this way.
With games installed, though, the Razer Blade 14 is a beast, and we say that in a good way. Quite possibly, the best way.
Testing it with two titles that always grab our attention — “Portal 2” and “Bioshock Infinite” — we found we were able to max out the screen resolution, with plenty of detail offered at the 3200×1800 resolution. Running at this end of the spectrum, which is greater than the Full HD 1920×1080 offered by many a gaming laptop, the combination of the Intel Core i7 and NVidia GeForce GTX 870M churned out the triangles, heating up the entire system and producing fluid detail that impressed us.
For Portal 2, the system ran as a dream, which is hardly surprising given the title’s age. In comparison, the newer Bioshock Infinite struggled at the highest level of detail when action was on scene, an issue that was easily corrected by bringing the detail level down to medium, which fixed all of this right up.
One area that doesn’t deal with the immense amount of power inside the machine is the battery life, which caters to around four to five hours with basic things — web surfing, emails, writing things (like this review), and so on — but drops to around a maximum of an hour when the guts of the system kick in.
That difference is evident thanks to the parts at work, with the Intel 4000 graphics working away when you don’t need much power, and the GeForce kicking in when you do, with the overall shift reducing battery thanks to the extra power at play.
Basically, if you fancy some mobile gaming with Bioshock or the like, you’ll have roughly an hour to spend, and sometimes less depending on how much of the system is working to provide you a best in class experience.
If you do decide to play, however, you won’t just notice a drop in battery life, you’ll feel the heat, as well.
We didn’t take a proper temperature check, but what we can tell you is the Razer Blade 14 became mighty toasty on your lap, reducing the battery life while the hardware worked over time to deliver this grunt. The more you push it, the more the system heats up, with the vents near the hinge becoming very warm. With jeans on, we didn’t feel it as badly, but place your fingers near this edge and you most certainly will.
Also of note for us was the black finish which is a total fingerprint magnet. Whether it’s the lid, the base, or the keyboard, keeping it clear of fingerprint marks is going to be difficult, because while the Blade 14 adopts a matte finish, it will pick up on your slightly oily fingers, no matter how long ago you just cleaned them.
Showing that more than ever is the keyboard, which lights up in green thanks to some backlighting, and Razer has provided a few levels of backlight control for those who desire who want to change that brightness. They’re not overly bright, but rather bright enough, and should suit most purposes, but don’t expect lots of light-up colourful schemes like the war Dell’s Alienware laptops work, because it’s just green for the lighting scheme on the Blade 14.
From a travel perspective, the keys can take a fair amount of pounding, unsurprising given the quality of keyboards Razer spends its time producing, though we found the travel was acceptable, with a not too shallow, not too deep responsiveness from the keys, and few errors as we wrote on the Razer Blade 14’s island key keyboard.
In fact, the entire body takes the abuse your frantic fingers can dish out, with the rubber stoppers on the bottom of the laptop next to impossible to move when the laptop is sitting on a desk, keeping the machine firmly where you need it without sliding.
One area, though, where Razer totally misses the mark is the mouse, with is big and spacious, but lacks a button underneath it’s rectangle, providing instead two very thin rectangular buttons that have minimal clicking action and generally feel poor in comparison to the rest of the package.
We suppose most gamers will probably plug an external mouse in instead, especially since gamers generally use the mouse on the right side of the keyboard, not underneath it as most laptops demand, but it’s still surprising to see such a poor effort used at the mouse level in an otherwise excellent package.
It’s hard not to be impressed with what Razer has made in the Blade 14, it really is.
Rather than make a big and clunky powerhouse of a computer, Razer — a company known for its high-end gaming accessories — has crafted something truly staggering, with a powerhouse machine inside the body of something thinner and sexier.
Indeed, Razer appears to have made the gamer equivalent of the MacBook Pro, with a black and thin aluminium king that glows in the dark and offers an excellent screen, fantastic performance, and a toasty heater for your lap when the cooler months roll in, perfect when you want to play games when the mercury drops.
It’s expensive though, that much we have to acknowledge, especially at $3499, but you are paying for something that is offering some of the best performance this side of the portable PC gaming world, and that’s something.
If you’ve checked out the competition for gaming computers and aren’t impressed, it’s time to see what Razer has to offer, because while it’s not cheap, the Razer Blade 14 is very, very impressive.