Gaming laptops usually emphasise performance over style and portability, but the new Razer Blade has all three in spades.
What Is It?
Razer have been making amazing gaming accessories for a while now, but it has only been in the gaming laptop business for a year or two now. Despite the short lead time, it has already had a massive impact on the space by building laptops you can actually take places and use for ordinary stuff as well as for high-performance gaming.
The new Razer Blade is a smaller, even more portable take on the first amazing gaming laptop it premiered last year.
It only comes in the one spec as far as the processor and graphics card are concerned, which may immediately turn off PC gamers who love hardcore customisability in their gaming experience. Thankfully, the spec it comes in is powerful enough to keep you happy for the next few generations of video card hardware.
The screen you won't be able to take your eyes off of is a 14-inch QHD+ (3200x1800) touchscreen with a 16:9 aspect. As far as power is concerned, the new 14-inch Blade is running a 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-7402HQ quad-core processor (Turbo up to 3.2GHz), 8GB of RAM, the new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M, either a 128GB, 256GB or 512GB SSD, three USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI-out, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and Windows 8.1.
All that is packed into an impossibly thin chassis, measuring 34.5cm wide, 23.5cm deep and 17.8cm high with a footprint just over 2kg. Not something you're about to notice when it's crammed into a satchel or backpack, that's for sure.
The only real difference you can make to the spec before you buy is in the SSD. $3299 gets you the 128GB model, $3499 nabs you the 256GB model and for the 512GB model, you're looking at a slightly eye-watering $3699.
It's on sale through JB Hi-Fi and Razer's online store.
What's It Good At?
First of all, it's a gaming laptop you can actually move around. So many of the laptops from Dell's Alienware range and the ASUS Republic of Gamers offering are laptops in name only: moving them around would give you a back injury. Not the Razer Blade 14, however. It's a slim, portable beauty with a beast under the hood for all your gaming needs.
On top of the slim and portable chassis, Razer has thrown its considerable accessory expertise at the thing and developed one of the best mechanical keyboards we've yet seen on a gaming laptop. There's great spring and travel to the keys and the noise it makes on the keypress will keep hardcore mechanical keyboard lovers happy.
Then there's the big beautiful screen. It's a 14-inch, 3200x1800 panel, and the colours are crisp, vibrant and well-balanced. Playing games on this thing is an absolute treat.
Under the hood, the Blade is still a powerhouse.
Razer Blade 14: Performance
Graphics: 3D Mark Fire Strike: 4171 3D Mark Fire Strike Extreme: 2085 Gaming: Tomb Raider (Normal Settings): 42fps Tomb Raider (Normal Settings): 20.6fps Storage: CrystalDiskMark (Sequential Read): 502MBps CrystalDiskMark (Sequential Write): 260Mbps
Every single one of those specs outperforms other, larger gaming laptops like the Asus ROG 550JK we tested a few weeks ago in the Gizmodo labs. Less really is more.
It's running Windows 8.1 out of the box as well which is nice. Means you won't have to go through a cumbersome upgrade process as soon as you pull your pride and joy out of its box.
The Blade is a joy to game on, but the power can be a little too extreme if you're buying it for pure productivity. It performs every day tasks so well that if you're not gaming on this thing all the time, you might feel like you overspent.
What's Not So Good?
Despite the fact that Razer make great accessories, the trackpad mouse could use a little extra work. It's a tap-only affair, with single and secondary click buttons below the trackpad. The trackpad surface itself is pretty small, and the even smaller mouse buttons make selecting stuff a pain.
Of course, if you're buying a gaming laptop, one assumes that you're going to be using an external mouse anyway. It'd be nice, however, to have the option of a clicking trackpad as well as the two buttons down the bottom rather than being forced into one use case.
The Razer Blade 14 is packing loads of connectivity options by way of ports, but there are still some noteable omissions. There's no Gigabit Ethernet port, for example, and you're left without a CD/Blu-ray drive. It's a smaller device than its larger Razer Blade Pro counterpart, but making sacrifices on such an expensive laptop is still going to be a turn-off for hardcore gamers.
But by far the worst thing about the Razer Blade 14 is the Australia Tax you're slugged with at the checkout.
Take the base 128GB model for example. In the US it costs $US2199. Add a 10 per cent sales tax on top and you're left with a total bill of $2418. Adjust that for local currency ($US1 > $A0.93) and it costs $2574 in the US compared to a whopping $3299 on Australian shelves. The price even adjusts itself when you go to buy it from the local Razer online store.
Overall, it's a wallet-melting $725 difference. Time to break out our favourite Australia Tax question: could you travel to the US and buy it there for the money you'd spend on the Australia Tax? Sadly not this time, but it's close. Flights on Jetstar from Brisbane to Honolulu (admittedly one-way) only cost around $850. You're on notice, Razer.
That's almost offensively expensive. Admittedly, that figure is without shipping to Australia and the cost of a local charger, but still, it's pretty obnoxious.
We've quizzed Razer about this before. We were told back then by the guy in charge of the whole operation that there's a cost the company has to bear for running local warranty, service and after-market support for these laptops. I'd agree that if a laptop goes bang, you want to know you're going to be taken care of, but to the tune of $700+? Hell, Apple Care on a $3200 MacBook Pro with Retina Display still only costs you $389, and that's optional!
Should You Buy It?
If you're in the market for a gaming laptop that fits into a normal backpack or satchel, you're in luck: the Razer Blade 14 is a masterpiece. It's fast, functional and all-round brilliant for most out-of-the-box PC gaming experiences.
The only piece of advice we'd have for you if you're buying one is to use an international shipping service like HopShopGo and buy it from the States. You'll save a boatload of coin that you could easily invest in precious games on Steam.