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Razer’s Blade 15 is damn close to a perfect gaming laptop

Huge screen with slim bezels • VR-ready NVIDIA GTX 1060 or 1070 graphics • Comfy • bouncy keys • Comes with tons of ports • Top-notch performance
Heats up badly when pushed to its max • Awful arrow key layout • Pretty expensive
Razer’s Blade 15 (2018) is damn close to being the perfect gaming laptop with powerful performance, great battery life, and an amazing display.

Mashable Score4.0

If your gaming laptop looks like a Transformer reject, you’re stuck in the past.

I kid — there’s nothing wrong if you prefer gaming laptops with sharp edges and an excessive amount of RGB lighting. 

But I prefer mine like the new Razer Blade 15: clean, powerful, and my oh my, just look at its gorgeous screen with slim bezels!

Since the original Blade gaming laptop hit the scene in 2011, Razer’s experimented with a number of display sizes over the years, some of which were too similar in size to others.

So it’s good to see Razer simplify its product line. The new Blade 15 replaces the old 14-inch Blade. Now, the Blade family consists of three laptops: the 13.3-inch Blade Stealth, the 15.6-inch Blade 15, and the 17.3-inch Blade Pro.

The Blade 15 isn’t just a larger display with an updated processor — it’s a top-to-bottom redesign revamp — fitting of modern laptop trends.

Boxier design

Razer’s Blade laptops have always been sweet-looing, but their design is hardly original. Anyone who isn’t blind could see the laptops took heavy inspiration from Apple’s MacBook Pros. They’re great laptops to imitate, but for a company that prides itself on industrial design, it just felt lazy.

The Blade 15 is the first time we’re seeing an original construction. The laptop’s still made out of aluminum so it’s sturdy and mostly flex-free (there’s still some give on the lid, but you won’t notice it unless you’re deliberately flexing it).

Don't like the glowing Razer logo? Not to worry, you can turn the backlighting off.

Don’t like the glowing Razer logo? Not to worry, you can turn the backlighting off.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

The large rounded corners are gone, replaced with smaller, less curvy ones. The Blade 15 has a boxier design than any Razer laptop before it — it feels a bit like a reference design — which felt a little generic at first, but I quickly became smitten by its lack of gaudy gamer trims.

The dimensions are roughly the same as a current-gen 15-inch MacBook Pro. The Blade 15 is a little thicker (0.66 inch vs. 0.61 inch) and a half-pound heavier (4.5 pounds vs. 4.05 pounds). I thought the extra half pound might make the Blade 15 less portable, but that wasn’t the case. I was able to comfortably carry the laptop from work to home and vice versa without feeling like my backpack was being excessively weighed down.

The Blade 15 is boxy alright.

The Blade 15 is boxy alright.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

What I didn’t enjoy tossing in my bag was the power adapter. The 230-watt adapter is big and heavy — twice the size of the 15-inch MacBook Pro’s 87-watt power adapter. But I suppose if you compare the power adapter to those from other gaming laptops in this class, they’re similarly sized. 

I’m also not a fan of the adapter’s proprietary plug. Though some people will appreciate that the plug is fortified in an L-shaped plastic enclosure, I found it annoying and, frankly, ugly. It’s also weird how the power adapter’s cable is half-braided on one side and not on the other. Bottom line, I hated dragging the power adapter around.

Features for today

All laptops, gaming or not, should have thin bezels.

All laptops, gaming or not, should have thin bezels.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

One of the Blade 15’s marquee features is its display. Although the laptop’s dimensions are similar to the now discontinued 14-inch Blade, the screen is larger.

To cram in a larger 15.6-inch screen, Razer shrank the bezels around it — they’re only 4.9mm (0.19 inch) on the left and right of the display — to achieve a screen-to-body ratio of almost 85 percent. 

The Dell XPS 13 only has an 80.7 percent screen-to-body ratio. The only laptop I can think of with a higher percentage than the Blade 15 is Huawei’s MateBook X Pro, which boasts a whopping 91 percent screen-to-body ratio.

The full HD versions of the Blade 15 have matte screens.

The full HD versions of the Blade 15 have matte screens.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

There’s still a large bezel below the display and a bezel on the top to house the webcam, but I’m fine with that. I’d much rather have a thicker top bezel so the webcam’s not aimed up my nose like on the Dell XPS 13 or MateBook X Pro. It’s unfortunate the webcam is mediocre and doesn’t support Windows Hello, though.

My review unit came with a full HD (1,920 x 1,080 resolution) matte display with a 144Hz refresh rate and no touchscreen. But you can buy it with a 60Hz screen as well. There will also be a version with a 4K touchscreen (3,840 x 2,160 resolution) and 60Hz refresh rate, which’ll be available later.

Practically all screen.

Practically all screen.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Hardcore gamers will probably pick a faster refresh rate over more pixels and a touchscreen. It would have been great to get a model with both a 4K touchscreen and 144Hz, though. I realize that not everyone (especially gamers) cares about a touchscreen, but once you’re used to having it, it’s really hard to go back.

My unit is tuned with 100 percent sRGB color accuracy, and Razer says the 4K model has 100 percent Adobe RGB. In non-geek speak, it basically means the screen on the Blade 15 great if you do anything that requires accurate colors, like making prints.

Since I only used the computer for work and gaming, color accuracy wasn’t a priority. As far as my colleagues and I could tell, the screen looks fantastic. The 1080p resolution means it’s not the sharpest on a laptop, but it’s bright, viewing angles are great, and colors in games, photos and videos are vibrant.

Dat full-sized USB tho.

Dat full-sized USB tho.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Full array of ports at your disposal.

Full array of ports at your disposal.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Unlike other laptops, the Blade 15 isn’t lacking in ports. It doesn’t promise to be any laptop of the future embracing USB-C, forcing you into dongle hell. It’s got virtually all the ports you need today: three USB 3.1, one USB-C (Thunderbolt 3), one HDMI, one Mini DisplayPort 1.4, a Kensington lock port, and a headphone jack. 

The only thing missing is an SD card slot — a port that’s becoming increasingly rare on laptops. I guess you could argue gamers don’t need an SD card slot, but for creative professionals, like video editors and photographers, who are constantly downloading their footage for editing, it’s a bummer.

Tons of power

The Blade 15 is a gaming laptop and that means only one thing: It’s a freakin’ beast.

Besides the display’s fast refresh rate, the Blade 15 is powered by beefy specs: eighth-generation six-core Intel Core i7 8750H processor, either NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 or GTX 1070 Max-Q Design graphics, 16GB of RAM (user expandable up to 32GB), and 256GB or 512GB of super fast PCIe SSD storage.

The cheapest Blade starts at $1,899. My test model, which came with the more powerful GTX 1070 graphics and 512GB SSD, sells for $2,599.

Do you even Fortnite?

Do you even Fortnite?

Image: raymond wong/mashable

I was able to play popular games like Fornite on “epic” settings without seeing any hit to graphics performance. Similarly, other games I played like PUBG, Overwatch, and Destiny 2 ran well with proper tweaks to the settings. 

The GTX 1070 graphics chip is powerful enough to run VR as well. I hooked a HTC Vive Pro up and was able to reliably play Beat Saber and Super Hot. I noticed the occasional frame drop during VR sessions, but that’s to be expected of any GPU that’s less than a GTX 1080.

There is one side effect to all this power when gaming: heat dispersion. When pushed to its fullest, the Blade 15 got pretty warm and the fans kicked up. But that’s what you get when you cram so much processing and graphics performance into such a thin machine.

The bottom of the Blade 15 has rubber bumpers that raise the laptop up to help with heat dispersion.

The bottom of the Blade 15 has rubber bumpers that raise the laptop up to help with heat dispersion.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Otherwise, the Blade 15 remained cool for most other tasks. 4K video streaming on YouTube? Cool. Chrome with 50 tabs open? Cool. Typing out this review? Cool to the touch.

Battery life was also rock-solid. I got anywhere between 4.5-6 hours of battery life — less while gaming and more for work stuff and continuous video streaming. For gaming, you’ll want to keep the Blade 15 plugged in most of the time or else you’ll only get maybe 3 hours of battery max.

Keyboard and trackpad

The keyboard and trackpad are excellent.

The keyboard and trackpad are excellent.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

I’ve reviewed a number of Razer Blade laptops over the years and the keyboards have always been a delight to type on.

The Blade 15’s keys are every bit as springy and comfortable for furiously pounding out thousands of words for an article as they are for rapid-tapping for gaming.

And, of course, the keyboard’s Chroma lighting is configurable to glow in any of 16.8 million colors using the Razer Synapse app.

It’s almost the perfect keyboard, except for one change Razer made: the arrow keys. On the old Blades, the keyboard had full-sized left and right arrow keys and half-sized up and down arrow keys. I’m not saying the old arrow keys were perfect, but their half-sized keys were manageable.

Razer clearly didn’t feel the same because it changed the keyboard so that the up and down keys are full-sized. In theory, this sounds like a good idea, but by shifting the arrow keys one button to the left, it’s made messed with my muscle memory. 

The arrow keys are the worst.

The arrow keys are the worst.

Image: Raymond wong/mashable

Even after a few days of using the Blade 15 as my main computer, I kept hitting the function key, which now sits to the right of the right arrow key instead of the right arrow key itself. It drove me mad every single time. I’m all for full-size keys for all four arrow buttons, but messing with an already-established layout really throws the balance of the keyboard off. An easy fix would have been to maybe include little bumps (like the ones often used to mark the “F” and “J” keys) on the arrow keys so that you can easily feel them.

I’ve always liked the trackpads on Blade laptops and I mostly liked the one on the Blade 15. It’s larger and supports a number of multi-finger gestures, which is great. However, I found the default sensitivity settings just a bit too sensitive; dialing them down from high to medium settings made less likely to accidentally trigger them.

Beauty and power come at a price

Nothing but clean Windows 10 Pro, baby.

Nothing but clean Windows 10 Pro, baby.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Razer’s Blade 15 (2018) is a monster of a gaming laptop, but of course it is — it’s a Razer Blade.

There are few things about the laptop that hold it back from perfection. Namely, the arrow-key layout is awfully hard to get used to, and the computer runs hot when it’s under heavy loads and games at ultra settings.

But if these complaints aren’t deal-breakers for you’ll find a lot to love in the Blade 15. The display’s fantastic (144Hz is a must if you’re a serious gamer), performance is tops, there are tons of ports, and it’s relatively light (for a gaming laptop).

You can for sure find alternative gaming laptops with similar specs, but none of them come in the same pretty package as the Blade 15. 

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Now there’s a space cat emoji, but it’s only available on one OS

Choices, choices. What to do when there there are few conceivable reasons to want a device with a Windows 10 operating system — but Windows 10 is the only OS that has introduced possibly the greatest emoji of all … the ASTRO CAT emoji!!

Emojipedia introduced Astro Cat on Thursday. You make it by combining the the 🐱 Cat Face and 🚀 Rocket emojis, joining them using the “zero width joiner.” That’s an invisible character used in emoji sequences to create a new character — such as Astro Cat.

And boy is she beautiful.

The drawback is that that cute lil’ space kitty only shows up on Windows 10. Sad!

But, considering how tech companies tend to follow each other’s lead, in order to create consistency, it might not be long until Astro Cat comes to a keyboard near you.

To meow-finity and beyond!

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Microsoft’s $399 Surface Go is here to nuke Apple’s iPad

Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. Microsoft’s new Surface Go really is a shrunken version of its popular Surface Pro.

The 10-inch Surface Go is Microsoft’s smallest, thinnest, and lightest Surface tablet to date. And with a starting price of $399, the Go is also the cheapest Surface as well.

A Surface RT (remember that disastrous tablet?) the Go is not. This mini Surface runs Windows 10 in its entirety and all x86 apps.

My first thought after a Microsoft executive pulled the Go out of her purse wasn’t, “Oh, that’s really small” but “Why?” Why would anyone need a mini Surface Pro? And it really is a smaller version of the 2-in-1 — hinge, keyboard cover, stylus, and all.

Microsoft didn’t really answer my question. I was told many Surface device users (Pro, Laptop, Book, etc.) used their devices primarily for work and they wanted something personal that would still work with all of their existing Surface work accessories, (i.e. dock and magnetic charger) and could easily be carried around.

I was also told there was a huge price range to fulfill — the $500-and-under premium tablet category, which is dominated by the iPad. This makes a lot more sense. Apple’s increasingly adding more productivity-friendly features to the iPad (the $329 iPad got Apple Pencil support this year), and the iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard, running iOS 11, has made doing work on the machine more realistic.

With the iPads encroaching on Surface Pro territory, it’s only logical to fight them head-on with the similarly-priced Surface Go, which arguably does more with Windows 10.

It’s a baby Surface

Much like how new iPads are unmistakably iPads, the Surface Go is unmistakably a Surface. It’s smaller — only 8.3mm (0.33 inch) thick and 1.15 pounds — and the corners and edges are rounder and softer, but the build quality is still top-notch.

Look at how small the Surface Go (center) is compared to the Surface Pro (left) and Surface Laptop (right).

Look at how small the Surface Go (center) is compared to the Surface Pro (left) and Surface Laptop (right).

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

The body’s still the same smooth and sturdy magnesium alloy as the Surface Pro. The screen is the same 3:2 aspect ratio as well. The 10-inch PixelSense Display’s got fewer pixels (1,800 x 1,200) than the Pro, but it still looks sharp and supports multi-touch with up to 10 fingers. The bezels are a little thick for a modern tablet, but on the plus side, there are two front-firing speakers built into them.

The 10-inch screen is small, but it can still open two apps side-by-side.

The 10-inch screen is small, but it can still open two apps side-by-side.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Like the Surface Pro, the Go has an excellent kickstand. It doesn’t click into place at certain angles, though. Instead, it’s just one smooth tilt as far back as 165 degrees. From what I could tell, it’s very well-built. 

The Go’s port selection is a bit limited, though. There are just three on the right side: the magnetic Surface port, one USB-C 3.1 port, and a headphone jack. A microSD card slot is hidden underneath the hinge.

You get a Surface port, one USB-C, a headphone jack, and a microSD card slot (behind hinge).

You get a Surface port, one USB-C, a headphone jack, and a microSD card slot (behind hinge).

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

The front-firing stereo speakers support Dolby Audio Premium.

The front-firing stereo speakers support Dolby Audio Premium.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

On the front is a 5-megapixel HD camera and on the back is an 8-megapixel shooter. The cameras are okay — you’re not really gonna be taking selfies or Instagram photos with them — and are more  for Skype calls and scanning documents than serious photography. So they should be more than adequate. Oh, and the Surface Go supports Windows Hello face log-in. 

On the back's a 8-megapixel camera.

On the back’s a 8-megapixel camera.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

So that’s a rundown of the Go’s external hardware. But what about its guts? What corners did Microsoft have to cut in order to get the Go down to a $399 starting price? 

For starters, the processor’s not as beefy as the Surface Pro’s. The Go comes with seventh-generation Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y processor (yeah, Pentium chips still exist) and Intel HD Graphics 615. These chips, I’m told, are just a step below Intel’s Core M chips. The Go’s also fanless, which means it runs silent.

According to Microsoft’s benchmarks, though, the Go’s no slouch. It has 33 percent faster graphics than a Surface Pro 3 with an Intel Core i5 chip and 20 percent faster graphics performance than a Pro 3 with Core i7 chip. I didn’t get a whole lot of hands-on time with the Go, but Windows 10 ran smoothly on a demo unit. 

The kickstand tilts back up to 165 degrees.

The kickstand tilts back up to 165 degrees.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Go configurations come with either 4GB or 8GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of internal storage. 

Microsoft says the Go gets up to 9 hours of battery life for continuous video playback. I’m skeptical since an iPad gets up to 10 hours of battery life, and Windows 10 is more of a power hog than iOS. But if the Go really does get up to 9 hours of battery, I’ll be really impressed.

Keyboard and stylus cost extra

The $100 keyboard has the same felt-like Alcantara material as the Surface Pro's.

The $100 keyboard has the same felt-like Alcantara material as the Surface Pro’s.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

As with the Surface Pro, the Go supports its own Microsoft Type Cover keyboard and all existing Surface Pens.

These two essential accessories (at least, I consider them to be) are sold separately. $100 for the keyboard and $100 for the stylus. 

That means the cost of a Surface Go is really +$100-200. I grilled Microsoft on why they didn’t bundle the keyboard together and got your typical canned response: They want to give people choice.

I just don’t understand why companies keep doing this — like the Surface Pro, the Go is clearly designed to work best with a keyboard cover. So why not bundle them together to make the device truly irresistible?

On the bright side, the Go retains the Surface Pro’s magnetic edge so you can clip the Surface Pen to it. 

The keyboard is a joy to type on.

The keyboard is a joy to type on.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

The touchscreen is every bit as responsive as the Surface Pro's.

The touchscreen is every bit as responsive as the Surface Pro’s.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Both of these accessories are precision-made and work to the caliber you’d expect from Microsoft. The keyboard has keys with great travel, unlike the ultra-flat ones on Apple’s MacBooks. And the trackpad is very responsive.

Likewise, the touchscreen is fantastic. To better suit the smaller screen, Microsoft says it’s optimized Windows 10 with ever-so-slightly larger touch elements. 

All hail the iPad killer?

Microsoft's also got a $40 new wireless mouse and Touch Cover Keyboards in a number of colors.

Microsoft’s also got a $40 new wireless mouse and Touch Cover Keyboards in a number of colors.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

It’s hard to say if Microsoft’s Surface Go is better or worse than an iPad or iPad Pro. Can the Intel Pentium Gold processor keep up with the demands of Windows 10? (Note: The Go ships with Windows 10 in S Mode, but you can switch it to Windows 10 Pro with a one-way setting.) Will the battery life hold up?

There are a lot of unanswered questions that will only be answered once we’ve tested the Go. But, first impressions: I liked what I saw. 

The value also seems to be much better than an 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which starts at $650 without keyboard. For the same price, you can get a Surface Go with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage ($550), and a keyboard.

The Surface Go will be available on Aug. 2 from Microsoft and select retailers. Microsoft’s also going to sell an LTE version for an $130 extra later this year.

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Microsoft Office is getter a simpler, cleaner look

Microsoft Office is getting a cleaner look.

The company announced Wednesday it will begin rolling out subtle changes to the Office.com and Office 365 app designs in order to make them look simpler and less cluttered. 

The biggest change by far is coming to Microsoft Word, where the toolbar at the top of the screen (officially dubbed “the ribbon”) will be pared down to just one line. Fans of the classic design will be able to expand it back to the larger ribbon if they choose.

The changes fit in with Microsoft’s overarching Fluent Design language, which can be found across most parts of Windows 10. The updated ribbon will also include new animations, icons, and a few small color changes.

Image: microsoft

Microsoft is delaying the rollout of the simplified ribbon to desktop by a few months. The company appears to be testing the new designs with the online apps and will take a look at feedback to see if any other changes should be made for the desktop versions.

Image: microsoft

Microsoft is also making Search more powerful by adding artificial intelligence to the backend. Following the new update, the Search field in Office 365 apps will begin recommending results based on what it thinks you’re looking for. This will theoretically make it way easier to find things in apps such as Outlook.

The update will also include a ton of small changes that people might not immediately notice, such as cleaner, more modern icons in the toolbars. The icons, like all other parts of the update, will first appear in the web versions of the apps before rolling out to desktop.

Microsoft’s big update to Office is long overdue, considering that Windows 10 has been a major success and has generally been well-received among its users. It was really only a matter of time before we started seeing some of the apps take on greater parody with the operating system. While this certainly isn’t the biggest news coming out of Microsoft these days, it should be a welcome update the the products for anyone that uses them on a daily basis.

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HoloLens 2 will reportedly address the biggest criticism of the first model

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Back in 2016 Microsoft entered the augmented-reality game with HoloLens, a headset that delivered a true mixed reality, combining the real world with virtual images on a transparent display.

Developers and early adopters quickly realized that, while HoloLens was promising, it was being held back by its small field of view. However, this will reportedly change with the second generation of the hardware.

The Verge reports Microsoft is planning to unveil HoloLens 2 by the end of the year. Codenamed Sydney (a name first revealed by Thurrott), the new model will apparently address the biggest criticism of the current HoloLens: its limited field of view. HoloLens 2 will improve things, the report says, but it’s unclear by how much. 

HoloLens 2 should have the latest Kinect sensor onboard as well as a proprietary artificial intelligence chip. Both of these should improve the visuals and latency, creating a more immersive mixed-reality experience.

While details are still scarce, the second-generation headset will be built around an ARM-based processor (the current model uses a discontinued Intel chip), which could bring better battery life, allowing users to be in the mixed reality for a longer period of time. 

There will likely be a larger focus on consumers with the new model. So far HoloLens has mostly been a developer and enterprise play, and it carries a high price tag ($3,000 for the developer edition, $5,000 for the commercial “suite”). Hopefully the second generation will be more affordable, bringing the tech to a new class of customers.

Microsoft is expected to unveil HoloLens 2 by the end of the year, but don’t expect to your hands on one until 2019.

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