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Razer Blade Stealth + Razer Core review: the external laptop graphics card dream

Teeny laptop hooked up to a giant grpahics card

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Razer Blade Stealth review

I was busy wibbling about the Core and Thunderbolt 3 in the main page of this piece, but I wanted to give the Razer Blade Stealth its own moment in the spotlight, as it’s a lovely thing in its own right. Seeing as it’s not actually a gaming PC unless you buy the £500 Core too, I’ll keep it briefer, however.

Specs first:

CPU: 7th Gen Intel Core i7-7500U; dual core, hyperthreaded, 2.7GHz base speed / 3.5GHz turbo
GPU: Intel HD Graphics 620
RAM: 16GB DDR3 1866MHz (non-upgradeable)
Screen: 12.5″ 16:9, choice of QHD non-touch (2560 x 1440) 70% Adobe RGB or 4K touch (3840 x 2160) 100% Adobe RGB
Storage: PCIe M.2 SSD, 128GB-1TB depending on config
IO: 1x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), 2x USB 3.0 port x2, HDMI 2.0a, Wireless AC, Bluetooth 4.1
Dimensions: 0.52” / 13.1 mm (Height) x 12.6” / 321 mm (Width) x 8.1” / 206 mm (Depth)
Weight: 2.84 lbs. / 1.29 kg

To hold this thing is to love it, as uncomfortably melodramatic as it sounds. Though thinner and lighter laptops are available, you’re not going to quibble with the bulk of this wee thing, and the black-painted all-metal construction means the sense of heft and quality is more satisfying anyway.

A deeply unfortunate fly in this desirable ointment is the prominent use of Razer’s ever-hideous green snakes logo on the laptop’s lid. This strikes me as equivalent to working out every day for a year, buying a $1000 tuxedo and then pairing it with a Garfield tie. It’s a shame they can’t just write ‘Razer’ in a restrained font on the lid instead. If I owned one of these, I’d be looking for a big sticker to hide my shame in coffee shops. The neon green tabs inside the USB ports are a touch unfortunate too, though less glaring.

Another rampantly crazy aspect of the Stealth is that the backlit keyboard (programmable into various colours and animations, including per key if you so wish) does not backlight the brightness, volume, etc. alt-functions of the F keys and secondary functions on the numbers (yer @s, “s and whatnot). So if you’re using this in a dark room – watching a film in bed, for instance – you’ll need a torch if you need to pause, turn the sound down or have just have your retinas seared off by a maxed-out backlight. I’ll note that Razer’s more powerful Blade laptop, which I’ll write about separately later, has the same problem, so I guess the company needs to rethink its keyboards on a broader scale.

Both systems have one other minor bugbear, which is a bright white, flashing LED on the front edge when they’re in sleep mode, so you’ll either need to turn them off completely or hide them under a coat if you keep them in the same room you sleep in.

Back onto the good stuff. Though that’s not a terribly beefy CPU, it’s very rarely given me any gip. Once in a while the system choked for a short while if I was trying to do too many things at once, and as I mentioned in the last page, the chip may or may not have been responsible for a drop-off in frame rates when using it with a Razer Core eGPU dock. A natural trade off for the slim size, and I’m not complaining.

The model I was loaned is the 4K touchscreen version, and I’m going to be all melodramatic again and say that it’s the best laptop screen I’ve ever had the pleasure to gawp at. 4K’s nice and all, but on a screen that small the gains of UHD over 1080p are fairly minimal, though text is subtly crisper. It’s not the resolution so much as it is the colour that delighted me.

I’ve currently got five other laptops in the house, a combination of other review kit and the geriatric systems owned by myself and my partner, and even the ones I never had any screen-based complaints about look wretchedly dull and washed-out compared to the vibrancy of this one. I spent a long, long time just running through the meadows in The Witcher 3 (when hooked up to the Core eGPU), astounded by the living colour of the fauna and flora. Going back to my normal PC has been difficult.

I’m a big fan of touchscreen on laptops too, so am glad to see it here. Touch is also offered on the cheaper, less colourful (70% Adobe RGB vs the 4K’s 100%) 2560 x 1440 QHD model. No non-touch version is available in the EU, which is a bit of a shame for those who don’t need it – in the US, a touchless QHD model is available, for $100 cheaper.

Though the colour is spectacular here, the monstrous pixel count of a 4K screen takes a heavy toll on battery life, and if I were buying a laptop myself I’d probably avoid it for that reason – but touch might change that. Though it might sound pointless on paper, once you’ve owned a touch laptop, you can’t go back, I assure you.

Speaking of which, battery life is OK but not brilliant here, generally giving me between two and four hours of sustained use depending on intensity of tasks and screen brightness. I’m told the QHD model has more stamina, but again you’ll lose out on both wonder and convenience – but it does cost several hundred quid less. Even QHD is fairly pointless at this size – it’s a damn shame there isn’t a cheaper still 1080p option, which would also help the battery life further.

The Stealth is silent during light usage, which is much appreciated, but two fans on its bottom spin up for the likes of video and games. They’re not too bad but can have a slight whine to them. Again, perfectly acceptable given the slim size, though. Speakers are decent for the size too.

It’s a very likeable laptop indeed, though personally just a little too small for my tastes. That might change were there not quite so much empty bezel around the screen and it thus was more of a 13″ device than a 12″. On the other hand, when coupled with the Core, plugging this tiny thing into the shoebox and so transforming it into effectively a desktop is a delightful setup, though again the £2000+ cost places it beyond the reach of most of us.

Can’t recommend it as a gaming machine in its own right, of course, but perhaps later iterations might be able to squeeze something like a GTX 1050 in there, which would make all the difference. If you’re in the market for an ultrabook you should definitely consider this one, although the price is high. £999 for the QHD/128GB isn’t too outrageous for a premium machine, but realistically you’re going to want a bigger hard drive than that, and jumping up to just 256GB adds an entirely unreasonable £250 onto the price.

Me, though I like it a lot, I probably wouldn’t buy this, which is partly because my needs are a bit different but mostly because I feel as though this will be a significantly better machine a couple of generations hence. My checklist for a next-gen model, in fact:

Quad-core chip
13″, near-bezel-free screen
Touchscreen, 100% Adobe RGB 1080p screen option
Low-end discrete GPU for basic gaming
Backlight on alt-function keys
Fair SSD pricing
A less embarrassing logo on the lid

If it did that, I might well be thinking about making this laptop I buy whenever I came to the end of all these reviews – particularly because the Core eGPU could turn it into gaming brute whenever I’m back at my desk. Again, I don’t think that future is far away, and is to some extent achievable now. It’s interesting times for the venerable gaming PC, I do believe.

The Razer Blade Stealth is available now, for $900/£999-$2000/£1,949 (take back control ahahahahahahahahah), depending on spec. Unit temporarily loaned to us for review by Razer.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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