Anyone who has ever tried to buy a truly compact gaming laptop has probably faced this dilemma: Do you pick a bigger system for increased performance, or sacrifice fps and go with something smaller that’s a bit easier to carry around? Even Razer, a company that’s been making gaming laptops for a decade, has struggled with finding that balance. But with the introduction of the new Blade 14, Razer now has a truly compact gaming laptop with support for the most powerful mobile GPUs you can get today (and an AMD CPU to boot), which finally eliminates the need to choose between size and performance. It’s not too big and it’s not too small, it’s just right.
Familiar Design in a New Dimension
Featuring a unibody aluminium chassis with clean minimalist lines, the Blade 14 comes with the same excellent build and design you get from Razer’s other gaming notebooks. That means the Blade 14 comes with stuff like a per-key RGB backlit keyboard, a webcam with support for Windows Hello face login, upward facing stereo speakers, and a healthy amount of connectivity for a system this size, including a full-size HDMI 2.1 port, two USB 3.2 Type-A ports, two USB 3.2 Type-C ports, and a headphone jack. However, it’s important to note that because the Blade 14 is the lone gaming laptop in Razer’s portfolio featuring an AMD CPU (Ryzen 9 5900HZ), you don’t get support for Thunderbolt 4.
Razer Blade 14
WHAT IS IT?
A 14-inch gaming laptop with big performance
Starts at $US1,800 ($2,442) ($US2,200 as reviewed)
Supports up to an RTX 3080, great build quality, 144Hz or 165Hz rate displays, strong performance
Pricey, no Thunderbolt 4, can run hot, mediocre battery life
Depending on the config, Razer offers a 144Hz 1080p or a 165Hz 2560 x 1440 14-inch display. On our 165Hz review model, the Blade 14’s screen produced a good but not especially impressive brightness of 346 nits, and while colours appeared bright and colourful, because Razer uses a matte non-touch display, the Blade 14’s colours aren’t quite as vivid as you what you might see on a laptop with a glossy display.
Now I know some folks may take issue with the Blade 14’s somewhat cramped keyboard layout, which features smaller than normal keycaps for things like Backspace, Back Slash, and its arrows keys, but given Razer’s size constraints, I’m not too bothered. Thankfully, typing feels crisp and bouncy, while Razer uses every last millimetre on the Blade 14’s deck to deliver a large (and quite responsive) glass touchpad.
It’s kind of the same thing when it comes to the Blade 14’s somewhat sizable chin. It’s not bad enough to make the Blade 14 look or feel outdated, though I do wish Razer had found a way to shrink that bezel just a bit by including a 16:10 aspect ratio screen instead of a 16:9 display, which would give you a little extra room for both gaming and productivity.
And with the Blade 14 measuring in at 12.59 x 8.66 x 0.66 inches, you’re getting all this in a machine that’s barely bigger than Razer’s 13-inch Blade Stealth (12 x 8.27 x 0.6 inches).
Big Performance, Compact Package
Here’s what you came for: Not only is the Blade 14 Razer’s only laptop to feature a Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU from AMD (or any AMD CPUs for that matter), the Blade 14 also has 16GB of RAM and can be configured with any one of Nvidia’s RTX 30-series GPUs — RTX 3060, RTX 3070, and even the RTX 3080 if you’re so inclined. That’s a lot of performance to cram into a system this size, and a marked improvement over what you’d get in the 13-inch Blade Stealth, which tops out with a GTX 1650 TI graphics card. And it’s this combination of performance that makes all the difference.
Compared to the Blade Stealth I reviewed last year, the Blade 14 (100 fps) performed twice as well as Blade Stealth (48 fps) in Far Cry 5 at full HD and ultra graphics, which shouldn’t be a huge surprise given the difference in GPUs. But still, this comparison shows much more power you’re getting by moving up in size just a touch.
In reality, the Blade 14 has much more in common with its bigger sibling — the Blade 15 — than it does with the Stealth, as both systems feature the same range of GPU options, along with similar levels of RAM and storage. That said, due to the Blade 15’s larger chassis, it does have more room to channel hot air away from its internals, which results in the Blade 15 enjoying around a 10% performance advantage in gaming compared to the Blade 15. That’s not an insignificant penalty, but for people really trying to min-max on portability, that trade-off might be worth it.
Using the same settings as before in Far Cry 5, the Blade 15 pumped out 109 fps versus 100 fps for the Blade 14. And in Shadow of the Tomb Raider at full HD on highest settings, it was a similar story, with the Blade 15 averaging 112 fps compared to 99 fps for the Blade 14. That said, when we look outside of Razer’s camp at other relatively compact gaming laptops, the Blade 14’s performance still compares quite favourably to systems like Alienware m15 R5 and the Acer Predator Triton 300 SE, with the Blade 14 (which is admittedly more expensive than its rivals) offering as good or better performance across nearly all of our productivity and gaming benchmarks.
Underwhelming Battery Life
With a time of 6 hours and 49 minutes on our video rundown test, the Blade 14’s battery life is pretty unremarkable, maybe even bordering on slightly disappointing. Systems like MSI’s Stealth 15M (7:59), the Alienware m15 R5 (7:27), and the Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage (8:22) all posted longer runtimes, with Acer’s Triton 300 SE (6:11) being one of the few rival systems to not outlast the Blade 14. But considering all those laptops are more standard 15-inch systems, this really highlights the limits of putting all those power-hungry components into a small chassis with less room for big battery packs.
Some other important concerns aside from battery life are that when under full load, the Blade 14’s exterior temps can rise rather quickly, to the point where it’s not really comfortable to use on your lap. And, if you’re trying to game on battery, peak performance takes a noticeable hit too, though with how quickly the Blade 14 runs through juice when away from an outlet, at that point you’re better off dialling down graphics settings to improve battery life anyways. And finally, while USB-PD probably can’t handle the power requirements the Blade 14 needs (at least not yet), I really wish Razer had found a way to make charging over USB-C the default option, instead of relying on its proprietary power plug. That little change alone would almost certainly be a welcome upgrade and make the Blade 14 even more portable than it already is.
That Price Tag
While the Blade 14 has a few small weak points and shortcomings, its biggest and most obvious downside is its price. Now it’s true that Razer’s gaming laptops have never really been what anyone would call affordable, but with the Blade 14 starting at $3,099 for a Ryzen 9 5900 HX CPU, 16GB of RAM, 1TB SSD, and an RTX 3060 GPU, it feels like you’re paying an even bigger premium to put all those parts in a slightly more compact 14-inch chassis.
This means the biggest argument against the Blade 14 is a system like the ROG Strix G15 Advantage, which starts at just $US1,550 ($2,102) and features the same CPU and an equivalent AMD GPU thanks to its Radeon RX 6800 graphics card. Sure, the G15 Advantage’s build quality isn’t as nice as Razer’s machines, it’s bigger, and it doesn’t even come with handy features like a built-in webcam. But when it comes to pure value, the Blade 14 can’t quite keep up.
Power and Portability
As someone who often has to debate if they want to bring a typical 13-inch or 15-inch laptop with them while travelling, the real luxury of the Blade 14 is not really having to compromise on power or portability — the Blade 14 gives you both in spades. It’s easy to slip into practically any laptop bag, and it’s got more than enough oomph to play anything you can reasonably desire, both at home or on the road. The Blade 14 is a compact but powerful do-everything machine that’s easy to lug around. Even if it’s not quite as affordable as many of its rivals, it’s hard not to appreciate everything you get from such a small package.