Upon opening the box, you'd almost think Apple started making black MacBook Pros, if it weren't for the three fluorescent green snakes on the lid. The lid is a single piece of black aluminium that doesn't collect too many fingerprints or dust. In other words, the new Razer Blade is much more stylish than your average gaming laptop.
The 14-inch Razer Blade has a nice chiclet keyboard that's good for both typing and gaming on, with light resistance and responsive rebound. The font used on the keys won't be to everyone's liking, but it's different and original, you have to give them that. The keys have Razer-green backlighting that can be set to one of five levels of intensity.
The spacious touchpad (10.5 x 6.4 cm) recognises all the standard commands such as zoom, scroll and rotate, as well as the Windows 8 touch gestures. At the bottom are left- and right-clicks that don't appear to be that well integrated into their slots, and you can feel a certain amount of play in them. A clickpad would have been better.
The Razer Blade has a pretty good amount of connectivity, despite its thin frame. It has three USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI out and a headphone/microphone combo jack. However, there's no Ethernet port or SD card reader, most likely for lack of space.
Images captured using a Fluke Ti25 thermal imaging camera
I don't know why we were expecting otherwise... Just as we feared from a chassis this thin, the Razer Blade overheats big time when you stress the components. Up to nearly 56°C in places (133°F). And since the hot air comes out through the bottom of the chassis, it gets really hot on your lap. A better place to expel the heat would have been along the edge between the chassis and the screen.
But the fan stays quiet at all times, peaking at 35 dB(A).
The audio is one the Blade's strong points. The combo jack offers high volume and clean sound with low distortion and perfect dynamics.
The display is one of the Blade's weaknesses, which is a shame for a gaming laptop... The matte 14-inch TN screen has 1600 x 900-pixel resolution and up to 395 cd/m² of brightness, which would normally make the screen easy to view outdoors, but with a ridiculously low contrast ratio of 100:1, you can forget about using this computer anywhere other than in the confines of your apartment. By comparison, the 15" MacBook Pro with Retina Display and Asus Republic of Gamers G750 are closer to 1,000:1. Just to overstate the point, that's ten times less contrast! Here, with a game like Metro: Last Light, it's hard to make out many of the details in the darker scenes.
For a computer that's made specifically for video games—where the image is somewhat of a key component—the 14-inch Razer Blade's Delta E of 5.8 is high, and means that colours don't look quite the way they're supposed to. And the cold colour temperature of 8,700 K only makes it worse. The Asus Republic of Gamers G750 has a Delta E of 3.6 (where the closer to three or below, the better) and a colour temperature of 7,900 K (where the closer to 6,500 K, the better).
Then again, we've also seen worse: the Alienware 17, for example, has a Delta E of 10.2 and an ice-cold colour temperature of 25,000 K. Ultimately, in the colour department, the Razer Blade 14" falls at just about average. It's just that at this price, most people expect more than average...
The Razer Blade 14" has an Intel Core i7-4702HQ processor, which can handle any task at ultra fast speeds, although it's a slight step down from the Core i7-4700HQ found in the Asus RoG G750. In detail: the Razer took 196 seconds to export a batch of photos the RoG took 185 seconds to export and the Razer took 151 seconds to compress files the RoG took 139 seconds to compress; however, the Razer encoded video quicker than the RoG: 63 seconds compared to 230 seconds, respectively.
The solid-state drive allows the Razer Blade to start up in a swift 10 seconds and shut down in just 6 seconds.
The Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M isn't the absolute best video card on the market, but it's very, very good. You can run any game on it in the screen's native resolution (1600 x 900 pixels), and on most games you can put the quality settings on max without losing any fluidity. Only a few of the most demanding games, such as Max Payne 3 or Crysis 3, will require you to lower the details to medium.
There are laptops out there with more powerful graphics cards than this (Nvidia GeForce GTX 780M, AMD Radeon HD 7970M...), but Razer doesn't use these on any of its machines.
Battery life is never one of the strengths on gaming laptops, which tend to be big, heavy and cumbersome (the RoG weighs 5 kg and is 5 cm thick!), but the 14-inch Blade does a decent job with four hours of video playback (in airplane mode with headphones plugged in, the keyboard backlighting turned off and the screen brightness at 100 cd/m²). That's better than the G750 and the Alienware 17, but, of course, it trails behind the big daddy of battery life, the MacBook Pro, which gets six hours in the same conditions.
- Much thinner and lighter than competing gaming laptops
- Performance (CPU and GPU)
- Acceptable onscreen colours
- Quiet fan
- Sound quality
- Contrast ratio of 100:1 (shame!)
- Overheats up to 56°C
- No SD card reader
The 14" Razer Blade is a poorly executed great idea. It's thinner and lighter than the competing gaming laptops and has just as good processing and gaming capabilities as the best of them. Unfortunately, it overheats like crazy and has ridiculously low screen contrast, bringing down the overall experience.