Razer Blade 15 review: Hands-on
Razer is back with a new Blade and a bold claim, describing the 2018 model as the ‘world’s smallest 15.6in gaming laptop’. It comes with an improved design, 8th-gen Intel and Nvidia Max-Q and a 114Hz refresh rate. We’ve taken a close look in our Razer Blade 15 hands-on review.
In brief, what Razer has done here is taken the classic Blade design and squeezed in a larger screen without making the laptop any bigger – well not by much anyway. There’s more to it though, with a number of upgrades and refinements throughout.
This puts it in direct competition with the new Gigabyte Aero 15X and although there are cheaper 15in gaming laptops, like the Alienware 15 R3 and Acer Aspire VX 15, they are much less sleek and portable.
Although the laptop starts at under £2k, you can spend a chunk more if you opt for the most expensive model since it will set you back £2,549.
Here's a breakdown of the Razer Blade 15 prices:
- FHD(60Hz), GTX 1060, 256GB - £1,699 - $1,899 - €1,949
- FHD(144Hz), GTX 1060, 512GB - £1,979 - $2,199 - €2,249
- FHD(144Hz), GTX 1070, 256GB - £2,149 - $2,399 - €2,449
- FHD(144Hz), GTX 1070, 512GB - £2,329 - $2,599 - €2,649
- 4K(Touch), GTX 1070, 512GB - £2,549 - $2,899 - €2,899
The Razer Blade 15 is available from the official store today (22 May) and will be on sale with retail partners in June.
Design and build
As you can see, there’s no big departure here from Razer’s design that, over the years, has become iconic in the gaming market. The Blade 15 offers that black and green sleek style that many adore.
We’ve always liked Razer’s style and it’s great to see the firm making all the enhancements it can.
The headline design element here is that the Blade 15 manages to offer a full-size 15.6in display inside a chassis that appears to be no bigger than well-known 14in Razer Blade.
In fact, in some ways, the new model is smaller!
So, the Blade 15 is 13.98in in width, which is a small increase from the 13.6in you might be used to. Fitting that larger screen in is largely down to it being ‘edge-to-edge’ with tiny 4.9mm bezels.
And when it comes to thickness, the Blade 15 is actually thinner than its predecessor. Depending on what graphics card you get, it’s 17.3- or 16.8mm – down from 17.99mm – so it's the thinnest GTX laptop around.
This doesn’t compromise on connectivity though, as you still get full-size USB and HDMI. We’ll go through the rest later.
Overall, the design is more squared off and mirrors the lines of the Razer Phone. This includes front-facing speakers on either side of the keyboard, just like on the smartphone.
The idea is portability and even at its heaviest, the Blade 15 is a more than luggable 2.15kg.
You get the same Chroma-enabled Keyboard but a new larger – it’s huge – trackpad. The eagle-eyed reader may have spotted the power button is now on the right rather than central; it sort of looks like it might have a fingerprint scanner but it does not.
The last thing to mention is that the Blade 15 has a new cooling system that includes dual fans and a large vapour chamber. We’ve only had hands-on time but the laptop seems to keep nice and cool, and the fans kept very quiet.
Specs and features
Regardless of which model you choose, you’re going to an 8th-generation Intel processor. As you’d expect from a high-end gaming laptop, it’s a Core i7-8750H – a 6-core, 12-thread, 9MB cache chip with a 2.2GHz base speed and up to 4.1GHz with Max Turbo.
Every Blade 15 comes with 16GB of DDR4 2667MHz RAM, but you can upgrade it to 32GB. Windows 10 comes pre-installed, of course.
There’s much more choice when it comes to the screen and other specs.
The entry-level model will get you a Full HD display with a 60Hz refresh rate. And that comes with a 256GB M.2 SSD and a Max-Q GTX 1060 (that’s with 6GB of GDDR5).
If you want that 144Hz refresh rate, and you probably do, then you can choose from a model with the same storage and graphics as the cheapest model, or a GTX 1070 (8GB of GDDR5) with either 256- or 512GB of storage.
All the displays so far are IPS and with a matte finish. However, if you’re feeling flush then you can go for a shiny screen that offers a 4K resolution and touch input (it’s 60Hz). This comes with 512GB of storage and a GTX 1070 as standard.
If that's not enough storage then you can upgrade to 2TB and if a 1070 isn't enough graphics power, then Razer has also announced a new Core X to house a desktop GPU. It's now just £269.
So, in total, there are five configurations to choose from – see above for the pricing structure.
We tried the mid-range model running Rise of the Tomb Raider with ultra-level graphics and were surprised about just how cool and quiet the laptop was, even after 15 minutes of solid 60fps gameplay. You could hear a small hum as the GPU kicked into life, but it’s nowhere near as loud or hot as other gaming laptops we’ve used, and to do that without an impact on graphical performance is impressive.
There’s a switch to Intel for Wi-Fi and the Blade 15 has a Wireless AC-9260, which offers 11ac and the laptop also has Bluetooth 5.0.
Connectivity is decent despite the laptop being thinner than before. You get three USB-A 3.1 ports (in green, of course), HDMI 2.0, USB-C Thunderbolt 3, 3.5mm combo jack and, for the first time, a mini DisplayPort 1.4. This means you can support up to three external displays, according to Razer.
Last but not least on the spec sheet is a 720p webcam, which is above the screen not below it like many new laptops, and a 80Wh battery.
SHOULD I BUY RAZER BLADE 15?
The Razer Blade 15 is pretty expensive, especially if you want a 144Hz model, but you’re getting a serious combination of design and specs here.
This gaming laptop has been refined, upgraded and improved to provide a 15.6in experience in a size barely bigger than before (in fact, it’s thinner).
Add in 8th-gen Core i7, Nvidia Max-Q GTX graphics and lots of other goodies and we’re looking at one of the best portable gaming laptops money can buy.
Stay tuned for a full review soon.