Razer Blade 15 Review — A Technical Marvel
The Razer Blade 15 is 2018's greatest gaming laptop, thanks to sleek design, souped-up tech, and a brilliant display that drives it to the top.
I’m old enough that I (almost fondly) remember the origins of gaming laptops. Huge, loud, hot, and (typically) under-performing compared to their tower counterparts. And that was mainly how gaming laptops stayed — that is, until Razer nearly single-handedly changed the landscape offering a high-performing, attractive option under a reputable brand. Five years after their first launch of the Razer Blade, the Razer Blade 15 is on the market and is unequivocally the best gaming laptop of 2018.
To start things off, Razer is known for excellent design choices, and that carries over with the Razer Blade 15. An all-around upgrade to the stylish Razer Blade 14, the powerhouse seems like it is looking less like a beefed-up MacBook Pro thanks to more angular housing that comes off as sleek. The frame is solid and comfortably heavy, coming in just shy of five pounds (4.63 if we are being exact).
Bezel continues to be the big word of 2018, and the Razer Blade 15 manages to fit in a ton of screen into the real estate. The 15.6-inch display is surrounded by a 4.9mm bezel that makes the screen pop, thanks in part to the Full HD display.
Speaking more to the hardware itself, the Razer Blade 15 will have you covered in nearly every port that you need for gaming. Specifically, you will find three USB-A ports, one USB-C Thunderbolt 3, HDMI, mini DisplayPort, 3.5mm combo audio jack. Short of a dedicated Ethernet port, I’ve got no complaints with the makeup — just like pockets on dresses, any laptop with an Ethernet solution gets an automatic nod. Though one of the new base models does include that, albeit at the sacrifice of having a thicker base and slower refresh rates.
While I’m a huge fan of the unibody design that the Razer Blade 15 is going far, I have my qualms about the keyboard size — especially when it came to muscle memory. Compared to most other laptops (for instance, the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin) the Razer Blade 15’s keyboard is notably small.
Compacted due to a larger touchpad at the bottom of the rig and speakers on either side of the keyboard, playing League or Smite threw me for a loop. All of my muscle memory was slightly out of line, which isn’t typically a noticeable issue when switching to a new keyboard. On the other end, this is meant to become a dedicated system; at worst, expect only a few days of slight confusion and then you may glean some gameplay benefit over the shorter distance between keystrokes.
But speaking of the touchpad and speakers, you’ll have no qualms from me. In fact, the mild initial discomfort is (dare I say) worth it for the quality of the speakers and the large real estate you manage to draw from the touchpad. If you are buying Razer, there is a good chance you are already part of the Razer ecosystem with the desktop-based Nommo Chroma Speakers or the terrific Razer Nari Ultimate. Even still, I wouldn’t hesitate to play directly from the laptop than deal with wires because there isn’t a significant sacrifice in quality for general gaming purposes.
There are more than a few different variations you can buy the Razer Blade 15 in, with the base model (Full HD 60Hz GeForce GTX 1060) clocking in at just under $1,600. Meanwhile, the more souped-up 4K 60Hz GeForce GTX 1070 will land you as much as $2,800 when it comes back in stock, and is more in-line for the seasoned video editor or artistic soul. From a sheer gaming perspective, best bang for your buck is going to be the Full HD 144Hz GeForce GTX 1070 at $2,199 — though currently out of stock for the holiday season. However, it hits the best deal when it comes to cost, display quality/refresh rate, and graphics card for the more robust gaming experience.
All that power in such a thin, .68″ frame does come with its sacrifices. Specifically, heat dissipation. The Razer website advertises an “innovative vapor chamber cooling system,” but it came up well short of the goal. During my regular graphics testing on Kingdom Come Deliverance, the system got so hot that I had to move it from my lap to a dedicated cooling dock. Even on that, you can feel the heat on your palms. But on the plus side, not once did the laptop overheat, so the system is undoubtedly getting the cooling done… just not in a way that goes unnoticed.
When not under massive strain, there isn’t a ton of sound behind the fans — you can expect to listen to your K-POP (or whatever it is you pull up on Spotify) without hearing the roar of a jet engine behind it. Google Chrome would occasionally set it off, but everyday tasks will be easily navigated by the Razer Blade 15 with cold and fast precision.
Now the meat of the matter: gaming. The great news is everything big in 2018 runs fantastically on the Razer Blade 15. Whether I was putting on single-player stalwarts like Kingdom Come Deliverance or the new Just Cause 4, or I was venturing into multiplayer territory with Battlefield V, the Razer Blade 15 could run the game smooth like butter. While there is a lot to be said on how the tech specs speak to this, so too does the Razer Synapse software that notably improves performance in Gaming Mode. It’s a tinkering tool and unnecessary to most anyone… but for all of us that like to min-max our gaming experiences, this isn’t something be ignored.
Outside of gaming software, I have to give Razer props for not stocking the Razer Blade 15 up with a ton of bloatware. While I’ve had more than a fair share of gaming PC’s that come with mobile games and ancillary programs that slow down the system on day one, the Razer Blade 15 ships barebones and perfect with just Synapse being the main add-on. And thankfully, Synapse is useful and localized to that one tool — you won’t have to be shifting through multiple applications to change up your RGB backlight.
While you are always going to want to plug in when playing some high-intensity games, simple tasks like answering email and watching some Netflix seemed to hit around five hours of battery (if not a bit over). I was wowed by that number — my MSI GS65 Stealth hits slightly under that, though my day-to-day MacBook Pro hits well above that at around 8 hours. Though if you are buying a gaming PC for basic tasks like web surfing and streaming, you aren’t getting the benefit of the hardware to begin with.
We are likely decades away from the perfect gaming PC, but the Razer Blade 15 is the closest to perfect we’ve seen so far. Despite some small sacrifices for both style and comfort, the Razer Blade 15 shows that a company as big as Razer isn’t resting on their laurels — in fact, they still provide the heaviest competition for any brand big or small on the market.
If you aren’t planning on building your own PC anytime soon or are just looking for gaming on the go, Razer Balde 15 is the best that money can buy (even if it is a lot of money). While anyone grabbing the hardware for anything but gaming is missing the main draw, it is a dollar well spent for any novice or experienced PC gamer and will be difficult for them to top on their next revision.