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.
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.