Laptops made by gaming companies are usually big, chunky, heavy, bulky slabs of plastic and metal and silicon and glass that you have to carry around with both hands. You don't want to take them too far from their chargers either. Usually. Razer's new Blade Stealth is a laptop from a gaming company, but it's not necessarily a gaming laptop; it's a laptop that can be used for gaming if you're so inclined, but straight out of the box it's essentially a MacBook Pro — but a cooler MacBook Pro, because it's black and has flashy lights.
What Is It?
- Display: 12.5in, 2560x1440 / 3840x2160 pixels
- CPU: Intel Core i7-6500U, 2.5-3.1GHz
- RAM: 8GB DDR3-1866
- GPU: Intel HD 520
- Storage: 128-512GB PCI-E SSD
- Dimensions: 321x206x13.1mm, 1.25kg
The $1549 Razer Blade Stealth is a Ultrabook-esque laptop, but it's one of the most powerful options out there if you want a slim and light device. The Blade Stealth is built around its 12.5-inch display (either a 1440p or a 4K one), and fits some high-end processing components into a body that measures only 321x206x13.1mm and that weighs only 1.25kg. The satin black finish on the laptop's unibody aluminium shell is only broken up by the distinctive, serpentine Razer logo in the centre of the laptop's lid — that's just about the only thing that stops this from looking like an entirely professional and businesslike ultraportable laptop. Well, that and the entirely per-key customisable red-green-blue LED lighting underneath the Blade Stealth's keyboard.
You can buy four different variants of the Razer Blade Stealth in Australia. All use an Intel Core i7-6500U processor with a 2.5GHz base and 3.1GHz boost clock with integrated Intel HD 520 graphics and 8GB of 1866MHz DDR3 RAM, but there are two points of differentation that you can choose on to distinguish between the $1549 starting point and the $2449 all-out spec. You've got a choice of 128GB or 256GB PCI-E solid-state drive in the Razer Blade Stealth QHD, which uses a 2560x1440pixel LCD display, or you can go for a 256GB or 512GB SSD in the Razer Blade Stealth UHD that uses an amazing 3840x2160pixel screen. Now that's future-proofing this machine for the 4K video and the 4K games of 2016 and beyond.
What's It Good At?
If you do want to spend more money for the excessive power, you can purchase the Razer Core to turn the Blade Stealth into an effectively desktop-equivalent machine with desktop graphics. The Razer Core will support the latest and greatest and most powerful Nvidia and AMD graphics cards, will dock your external keyboard and mouse and monitor and other peripherals including USB storage, and it all connects to your laptop with one tiny USB Type-C connector through Thunderbolt 3. It's pretty impressive to see in action, and it greatly widens the appeal of the Blade Stealth if you're the kind of person that wants one machine that can do it all — as long as you're happy to restrict your gaming to your desk at home.
The design of the Blade Stealth is really impressive. It's 13.1mm thick at its maximum, and like a MacBook Pro that's the majority of its body apart from smooth curves at all four edges. Although the 12.5-inch IGZO display has a rather sizeable bezel on both sides, top and bottom, Razer has used every available inch of the rest of the Blade Stealth's chassis. The tenkeyless, chiclet-style keyboard runs to within a couple of centimetres of the laptop's edge where it's flanked by small but capable speakers, and the trackpad is a reasonably large one. Both are tactile and feel good to use, although you'll want a full-size keyboard for any serious typing. The Blade Stealth just feels like a laptop that will stand the test of time.
The display of the Blade Stealth is really worth mentioning. In the entry-level Core i7 model there's an already-good 2560x1440pixel panel, but the top spec gets a phenomenally detailed 3840x2160pixel display that is among the best we've seen on any laptop out there. You'll need to muck around a little with Windows 10's default scaling to size the icons and text correctly, but once you do you'll fall in love with how crisp and colour-accurate the Blade Stealth is, and how deep its black levels are at all different brightness levels. I'd gladly watch an entire movie on it, and similarly it should spoil any game that you can run on the Stealth. My only complaint is that it's too glossy to easily use outdoors.
What's It Not Good At?
Only having the option during purchase for 8GB of DDR3 RAM (no DDR4!), and no option to increase that to 16GB or 32GB after purchase, is a little disappointing. While 8GB is plenty for most users, we always like to have the option for extra RAM, especially for those people that realy like the design and size of the Blade Stealth but are just turned off by the lack of extra high-speed memory for applications like light video editing or code compiling or Photoshop manipulation. When you're a gaming company, you're dealing with an audience that like their machines over the top, and in this case the Blade Stealth's RAM is OK rather than awesome. Although we're probably judging the Blade Stealth a little harshly here anyway.
Razer's choice of I/O ports for the Blade Stealth are — for the most part — adequate, but again judging it on the high standards we've applied to other portable gaming machines we do wish it had more than two full-size USB ports. If you have a USB-C device you can plug that into the Stealth's USB-C power/data jack, and full-size HDMI is a godsend for anyone that might want to connect an external monitor while travelling, but a mini-DisplayPort would have been nice. You can dock your desktop setup, of course, if you have an external keyboard and mouse and monitor, but you'll need the expensive and sizeable Razer Core to get there.
The Blade Stealth's internal 45Wh battery is a relatively small one in outright capacity due to the notebook's skinny body, but even beyond that there are a few factors that mean the Stealth consumes its available energy a little faster than any potential competitors. That RGB-backlit keyboard, for example, has an especially bright maximum luminance. The optional 4K screen — you'll get it if you buy the top-spec Core i7 model — is incredibly detailed and quite bright at full power. That Core i7 sucks up a fair bit of juice, too. All these contribute to battery life that is merely OK for day-to-day productivity; the Blade Stealth is not an energy-sipping battery life monster like you might find from Apple or HP or Lenovo.
Should You Buy It?
Price: from $1549
- Excellent design and looks.
- Beautiful screen.
- Razer Core adds desktop gaming power.
- Only 8GB of DDR3 RAM.
- Mediocre battery life.
- Just one more USB port, please.
The $1549 Blade Stealth is a very smart concept for a laptop. It makes a lot of sense to carry around the most important productivity tools — a fast CPU, a great screen, a surprisingly good keyboard and trackpad — without the excessively heat-producing graphics embedded in the slim and lightweight 12.5-inch notebook's chassis. Of course, that takes portable PC gaming out of the question, unless you're running something that's already lightweight enough to run on the Intel CPU's internal graphics, but that's the laptop that you're signing up to buy in the first place. And yes, you're paying MacBook Pro money to get the Blade Stealth, but you're also getting a very MacBook Pro-competitive device.
The only potential stumbling block of an otherwise impressive laptop, if you buy the right one for your specific screen and CPU needs, is the Blade Stealth's mediocre battery life. That's the trade-off you unfortunately have to make for that beautiful screen and the i7 processor's computational oomph, and the usefulness that the extremely customisable keyboard setup allows for. If you're in a situation where you can charge regularly, or split your charging between work and home, you'll have yourself an amazingly versatile and highly attractive little powerhouse for work and play in the Razer Stealth.