The new Razer Blade (2018) is primed and ready for on-the-go Final Fantasy XV

Razer Blade 2018

Gaming laptops are a funny business, aren’t they? Nine times out of ten they’re nowhere near as powerful as an equivalent desktop PC, yet they usually cost just as much, if not more, than the bulky black rectangles they’re so desperately trying to replace. There’s also a matter of looks. Most gaming laptops are very much from the shouty GAMING LAPTOP school of design with their edgy angles and flashing LEDs, not to mention the fact that most of them would likely break your back as soon as you tried to remove it from your desk.

Razer’s gaming laptops, on the other hand, have always tended to hark back to the nice slim portable laptops many of us, myself included, use for work – and their new, rather lovely 15.6in Razer Blade that I went to see a couple of weeks ago, complete with its 144Hz refresh rate and one of Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q chips, could well be one of their best yet. Let’s take a look.

Measuring a mere 17.3mm thick, the new Razer Blade is only a little fatter (2.2mm, to be precise) than a 15.6in Macbook Pro. At 2.1kg, it’s also light enough that you can hold it in one hand without breaking every bone in your wrist, and – Razer’s obsession with green snakes aside – wouldn’t be something I’d be embarrassed to get out of my bag at an airport, for example, when my wholly theoretical 7.45am flight that I got up at 4am for has been delayed by several hours and there’s a spare plug socket going free in the departure lounge (no, really, I’m currently stuck at an airport and don’t want to ruin the battery life on my Switch before I’ve even left the country).

Razer Blade 2018 rear

And when its combination of a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor and Nvidia GTX 1070 Max-Q chip (Max-Q being the more energy efficient variant of Nvidia’s mobile graphics family) can run the graphical behemoth that is Final Fantasy XV at 1920×1080 on High at a decent, not to mention steady, 30fps, that’s exactly the kind of thing I want from a nice portable gaming laptop when I’m running on two hours sleep and stuck in the infernal depths of hell that is Gatwick’s South Terminal.

All right, so a game like Final Fantasy XV probably isn’t going to be taking advantage of the Blade’s 144Hz refresh rate, but at least it’s one of the prettier laptop displays I’ve seen in some time – at least compared to other gaming laptops I’ve tested recently like the Dell Alienware 13 and HP Omen X 17. I’ll have to wait until review samples are available before I can start testing things like colour accuracy and contrast ratio, of course, but with a claimed 100% coverage of the sRGB colour gamut, colours certainly looked rich and punchy at first glance, and the Blade’s super slim 4.9mm bezels make it feel like you’re getting a lot of screen real estate for the size of the laptop.

Razer Blade 2018 side

The chiclet-style keyboard will also please RGB fans, as it will not only flash all manner of colours when the laptop is left idle (or waiting for a cutscene to play out), but it will also instantly switch to game-specific lighting schemes when you start playing a game. In Final Fantasy XV, for example, only the WASD, E and arrow keys were lit, making it easy to hone in on the key bindings you actually need rather than floundering in a sea of useless letters when, and this is purely hypothetical of course, most of your muscle memory has either been confined to a controller in previous gaming sessions, or the number of screaming beach-crazed children running excitedly around your feet has left you incapable of remembering which key does what.

You get a huge touchpad as well, which is almost as deep as the keyboard itself, and four USB ports around the sides. Its small size means there’s not a lot else in terms of connectivity options – a combined 3.5mm headphone and microphone jack is more or less your lot – so it’s not exactly great for connecting to an external display, but I guess that’s the price you pay for getting a slimmer laptop as opposed to a 17in tank masquerading as a large brick.

Razer Blade 2018 keyboard

It shouldn’t, in theory, cause too much of a racket either. With a noise rating of just 40dBa, you’ll notice a certain amount of whirring when you’re sitting in front of it, for sure, but at least it shouldn’t be too annoying for your equally irate neighbours who probably also got up at 4am, because that seems to be the only time anyone ever goes to the airport.

Unfortunately, there weren’t any other games for me to try during my demo session with the new Razer Blade, which makes it a bit difficult to judge how it will handle other titles. Still, Final Fantasy XV is arguably one of the toughest games out there right now, so if it can handle that at 30fps on High, I’d imagine it would be pretty capable of holding its own against today’s other AAA games.

Razer Blade 2018 side ports

There is, of course, the small matter of pricing. Only the GTX 1070 Full HD version is available at the moment on Razer’s Store, and that one will set you back a massive $2400. Two other GTX 1060 models as well as a 4K GTX 1070 version are due to arrive in June with prices starting at a vaguely more palatable $1900, but that’s still a heck of a lot of money.

Still, first impressions are certainly high and the prospect of playing Final Fantasy XV on the go at a decent frame rate is absolutely an enticing one – at least for JRPG nuts like myself – and I hope to be putting one through its paces very soon, once I get out of this damned departure lounge.

27 Comments

  1. Themadcow says:

    “stuck in the infernal depths of hell that is Gatwick’s South Terminal”

    I’d love to read what you think about Luton Airport.

  2. televizor says:

    $2400 ?! Who the fuck is buying these?
    I bought a 1000$ Gigabyte ultrabook 5 years ago (still gaming on it a bit) and I’m never buying a laptop for gaming again.

    • Themadcow says:

      People with reasonable amounts of disposable income? The gaming PC is the only real area of growth in the sector and there is significant demand for multipurpose gaming laptops. Personally I did fine with an overspecced Dell XPS (quite a few years ago) but that was when the only other choice was a gaming styled brick.

    • Halk says:

      For example people who have to move to different continents every few years and who want to travel light.

      Also, pricewise: I bought an Dell XPS 15 9530 in late 2013 (probably literally the best laptop available at the time). Cost me 1900 €. Still using it now, looks like new, and I am seeing no real need to replace it soon. That puts the price in relation for me.

      I would have definitely considered the Razer products as well. Except many of them are not available in Europe or at prices that are even worse than in the US.

    • DodgyG33za says:

      I can answer that one. Me!

      I just splashed out AUD3000 (about USD2400) on a similarly spec-ed Asus GL503VS.

      I already have a gaming rig with a Vive, and a Microsoft SurfacePro 4 (for work). Gaming/programming is my hobby and entertainment. And at the moment I spend about 70% of my time in Laos. It isn’t at all practical to take my gaming rig, so the Asus gaming laptop fits the bill.

      For what it is worth I have worked my entire working life in IT, half of it as a contractor. If you do that for 30+ years and you DON’T have enough to splash on the things that matter you have probably been doing it wrong.

      Someone in their 20’s may not realise it yet, but income increases as you get older and assets snowball as long as you don’t increase spending in line with pay rises.

    • Blowfeld81 says:

      Due to my job I have been spending about 3/4 of my weeks in the last 3 years in hotels instead of my home.

      Ofc I like to enjoy exploring cities, but with 50+ working hours a week I often time simply like to do some sports and then chill with a good game.

      That’s why I spent 2k Euros on my 17 inch gaming laptop 2,5 years ago and regret nothing.

      At home I got a much stronger PC and that is something I want to continue.

    • Raoul Duke says:

      Middle aged people with more disposable income than free time, who can also justify a decent laptop as a work expense.

    • that_guy_strife says:

      I bought a 1500 $ CAD Gigabyte laptop 4 years ago (GTX 970M) and it still plays today’s AAA titles on High at 50 + FPS ! Though my next PC will definitely be a tower. I don’t like how laptops can’t be upgraded, and the Gigabyte support was really fucking shitty.

      GPU melted, had to argue for a month that it was a hardware issue, they didn’t fix it the first time nor the second. Had to send it in 3 times to be able to game on it again.

  3. kael13 says:

    By buying one of these, you take on a bit of a risk. Yes, the specs look nice, yes the hardware seems solid, but if you have an issue with it, you’re screwed pretty much. It’s not like a PC where you can just rip out the faulty component. At least, while my laptop is under warranty anyway, I can easily drive the 10 minutes to the shop I bought it from and they’ll take it in for repair. I’ve read the Razer horror stories, where getting one of these serviced is nigh on impossible.

    Something like this is feasible only if you have lots of disposable income and don’t really mind the potential of it turning into a 2kg place mat.

    • mitrovarr says:

      It’s worth adding that I read the reviews of some Razer laptops lately and there were a ton of complaints about Razer having horrible customer service.

    • Zhiroc says:

      > It’s not like a PC where you can just rip out the faulty component

      That presumes you’re comfortable with servicing PC internals. I’m not. I will never build a PC myself, and if it takes removing screws, I’d prefer to let others do that, and anything beyond.

      I also don’t service my own car (including changing oil), or do electrical or plumbing work around my house. I let professionals do that.

  4. Nelyeth says:

    I used to think “Why would I buy a desktop when a gaming laptop does the same thing AND can be carried everywhere?”.

    The damn thing cost me 1100€ (that was 5 years ago, with a GTX660M) and lasted me four years before I finally decided I’d had enough and got myself a desktop. Never again.

    If one has enough disposable income to buy both a beefy desktop and a decent laptop that he can use to play on the go, that’s another thing entirely, and I can see why he’d buy a gaming laptop. But darn, 17 years old me could only chose between one or the other, and he chose poorly.

    • mitrovarr says:

      In my experience, gaming laptops hardly ever work properly. They can only cool themselves properly if kept scrupulously clean and the fans are still in 100% condition. Any dust or fan wear at all, and they overheat. This will throttle them, ruin the battery over time, cook off the thermal paste on the cpu, cause other miscellaneous system damage, etc.

      Between that, the high cost, the large size and bad battery life, they really have a lot of downsides.

      • Zhiroc says:

        I own an Alienware 17, and I’ve been very pleased with it. It’s coming up on 5 yrs old now, and I’ve had zero problems, and it still runs every game I’ve thrown at it incredibly well.

    • Themadcow says:

      Tbh, as a single guy spending most of my leisure time at home I’d probably struggle to see the benefits of a gaming laptop over a desktop. For married blokes who’s other halves aren’t super-keen on seeing the back of their heads for X hours a week though…

      • that_guy_strife says:

        Or for LANs ! Those of us with laptops can freely go to friend’s to play, it’s a bit more complicated when you need to carry a tower and a monitor. I think they’re getting much better though, like an i7/1060 laptop for 1000 $ CAD, it’s not that much of a premium to pay for mobility for people who aren’t really into tech and just want something they can play on 5/10 hours a week. Just make sure you can add an SSD and use Liquid Metal as paste, pretty much golden.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Lo says:

    A good read! Also in the top pic it looks like it comes with a retractable cutting board.

  6. HiroTheProtagonist says:

    Call me crazy, but can some laptop maker just put out a brick like a Thinkpad T420 and stuff a 1070 in it? Even though I can appreciate the design looking more businesslike (in spite of the green backlighting/theming and snakes), I’m solidly in the camp of “it’s what’s inside that counts”. My current desktop is pretty much a black metal monolith with no accents or outwardly “gamer” aesthetics (besides maybe the outer mesh for airflow), and I have yet to see a gaming laptop with similar design sensibilities.

  7. Xynon says:

    144hz… Is this gsync? If not, use Riva tuner and lock the for to 36hz (144÷4=36) and crank all settings to max for an evenly frame paced experience for FF15.

  8. mordgan says:

    US$2400 for 30 fps on HIGH?!
    No thanks. Cya Razer.

    Pretty absurd if you as me.

  9. Inebriatedgnome says:

    Had a long chat with an experienced hardware engineer about the Blade’s internals a little while ago. At the time I was dead set on making the next significant Blade upgrade my new laptop. I don’t want to go into too much detail here to protect the person who gave me this information, but I would recommend against buying one. The thermal design is far from optimal despite Razer’s claims to the contrary; in fact some decisions they took are likely to cause heat buildup that limits the lifespan of some motherboard parts to about a year. You hear nothing about this because reviewers without specialist knowledge see a shiny machine and press like, and the company works to silence reviewers who don’t fall in line.

    • mitrovarr says:

      You absolutely do hear about it. I was idly reading some reviews of these the other day, and yeah, the motherboards dying right after warranties were out was a very common complaint.

      • Inebriatedgnome says:

        Apologies for letting my ire get the better of me, then! I’ve been out of the loop on laptop forums for about a year now. But the motherboard failures are exactly what he was talking about. I don’t have much specialist hardware knowledge myself, so it was amazing to see someone pull up a photo, point to two chips and say “Here is what’s causing the problem in probably 90% of cases.”

        There is a workaround for the issue he described to me, but in general the cooling setup looks like a mess. Absolutely not a company I want to support after hearing that.

        • hfm says:

          I had a 2014 Blade 14 (870M) and I beat the tar out of it for over 3 years and thousands of hours of gaming and it was still going strong when I replaced it with a HiDevolution EVOC 16L-G-1080. So the bad reports you see might not be indicative of everyone’s experience.

  10. racccoon says:

    Sorry, your not going to get me into a laptop because I haven’t upgraded my PC for donkeys, laptops are a waste to me.
    One thing that keeps coming to mind is the first top pic needs edited to have a massive hand and tiny little laptop the size of postage stamp in its palm. :) don’t ask why its just what I keep seeing. lol

  11. NelsonMinar says:

    Is this review for a different model than what The Verge reviewed? Curious about ports; this review suggests there’s no video out, which surely couldn’t be. The Verge review mentions DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, HDMI. Also 3 USB ports, not 4. Different machines? Or just a review mistake?

    I have a 2017 Razer Blade and am mostly happy with it. It is super, super loud when running a game though, the fans required to cool the GPU are so loud you can’t have a phone call in the same room. Razer also has a lot of hardware quality control problems, not to mention software disasters like Razer Synapse. On the balance it’s a good machine, but not without drawbacks.

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