Before starting on the Blade itself, let’s talk about what it represents to Razer as a company. This is Razer’s first foray into the PC space, and it’s a very, very solid first effort. There are definitely some details that show they’re new to this game, but they’re the kinds of things that Razer will figure out as they move forward. The overall level of polish and design acumen shown by the shipping Blade suggests that Razer will have success as they expand their gaming system line, especially towards the more mainstream parts of the PC market. I think it would be really interesting to see them put out a 15” version of the Blade with a rearranged Switchblade UI, or possibly a small form factor, game console-style PC (similar to the new Alienware X51). Razer acquired the late OQO’s design and engineering team (makers of handheld PCs in the mid-late 2000s) along with the ODM that developed a number of Intel’s design concepts (the Nikiski glass trackpad ultrabook, the UrbanMax slider, the original Origami concept UMPC) to create their own ODM design house in Taiwan to support the Razer teams engineering work on the Blade. Those moves have definitely paid off in the development of the Blade and their transition into the gaming PC market. 

Now, for the Blade, which is definitely one of the more interesting notebooks we’ve tested recently. For some time now, the notebook market has been relatively consistent; other than the Ultrabook movement, we haven’t seen much that’s truly different in quite some time now. The Blade is unique; it’s not really comparable to any other notebooks out there and you’re not going to see anything as focused to the overall experience of gaming as Razer’s halo product is. It’s not the fastest notebook out there, but it’s adequate for gaming at 1080p. You’re not going to set FPS records, or run every new game at ultra settings, but if that’s the goal, you’re probably gaming on a desktop anyways. 

I’m not traditionally a gaming laptop guy. When I game, it’s on my desktop or my 360 (I’d like to add that contrary to my coworkers’ beliefs, I do actually game when I get the time). I used to game on notebooks before I got a MacBook Pro, but never on gaming notebooks, simply because 17” gaming notebooks were so far away from the concept of portability. Even some of the more gamer-centric 15” notebooks (Asus G5x series, Alienware M15x) were just too bulky to be considered reasonably portable. I deal mostly with 13” and smaller systems; I can’t actually tell you the last time I carried a laptop that weighed more than the MacBook Pro’s 4.6lbs. 

The Blade is the first 17” notebook I’ve ever wanted to carry around. It’s legitimately portable, unlike so many other gaming systems out there. But we do have some issues with Razer calling the Blade the world's first "true gaming laptop". There are plenty of smaller variants of gaming-centric laptops we've seen over the years—Alienware's M11x and M14x are two we could easily cite as being small enough and light enough to deserve the term "laptop" while still providing good gaming performance and acceptable battery life. I will grant that the Blade has a significantly more focused gaming experience, which is probably what Razer was getting at. Everything about the Blade’s design, from the ground up, was built with gaming in mind. Almost every ergonomic or design-related concern I brought up in conversations with Razer’s team had a reasonable gaming-centric rationale behind any decision that was made. 

Naturally, as in any serious gaming system, the performance is something that has to be mentioned. The Blade is very quick in normal, everyday use - the SSD and 2.8GHz i7 see to that. And the GT 555M acquits itself surprisingly well in gaming situations; as long as you don't crank up the resolutions or settings too high, it's completely livable. But due to thermal constraints, it doesn't run at the same level as notebooks with GTX-grade graphics. That's where an update to Ivy Bridge and Kepler would be helpful; IVB's lower TDP would be especially significant from a thermal standpoint, though the boost in CPU performance certainly wouldn't hurt. Kepler  would bring not only the generational boost in performance but also a likely increase in power efficiency due to the 28nm manufacturing process. The more efficient chips open up a lot of possibilities for Razer due to the thermal design; quad-core CPUs and GTX-caliber graphics wouldn't be out of the realm of imagination. Obviously, we'll see a large scale shift to the IVB/Kepler combo in the near future, but it's a move that would increase the overall appeal of the Blade tremendously from a performance standpoint. 

There is no doubt in my mind that the Blade is too expensive. There are reasons for that—the kind of volume Razer is manufacturing the Blade in is nowhere near the Dells, HPs, and Samsungs of the world. The logic is simple: the higher the volume, the cheaper it costs to manufacture. This means the Blade is rather expensive to manufacture, and it’s something that could easily add 20% to the total cost of production. Other than that, the display is relatively pricey, as are the top shelf CPU and SSD. The Switchblade UI panel and anti-ghosting keyboard couldn’t have come cheap either. That’s not to say that $2799 is a good deal, or even a mostly reasonable price for a notebook with this level of specs, but there are legitimate reasons as to why it costs so much. 

And if that bothers you, the idea of getting midrange graphics performance from a very high end gaming laptop, you’re not the target market. If it comes down to performance versus price, you will be happier spending your $2800 on an M18x or two ASUS G74s. Razer intends the Blade for consumers that don’t mind paying a premium price to get a very unique product, or gamers more focused on the overall experience of mobile gaming than raw computing power and the highest framerates. It’s definitely a different notion—the idea of adequate graphics in a more mobile shell—and it requires a certain way of thinking, but if it makes sense to you, the Blade is a great way to go. As the immortal Ferris Bueller once said, “it is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up."

The word desirable is one I try to stay away from, because it tends to be frequently overused. But it describes one specific concept very well, that of being worth having or seeking as by being useful, advantageous, or pleasing. And that definition fits the Blade to a T; I can find no better word to use for it as a descriptor. The Blade is, quite simply, a highly desirable notebook, and it comes with a pricetag to match. If that sounds up your alley, you'll love it.

Razer Blade - Display
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  • niva - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    That system is indeed interesting. I'm really looking forward to seeing what other machines they'll put out in the future. I'm not interested in the Switchblade, but the design of this machine highly appeals to me. The usage of the black and green details, the glowing kb... very nice Razer. Now I wish I could afford something like this... Reply
  • Thefinaleofseem - Friday, March 16, 2012 - link

    The most hilarious thing about this laptop? It's arguably more overpriced than a 17" Macbook Pro. Compare the specs. 6770M vs 555M. They're about the same. 1080p panels with the MBP arguably having a better panel, similar form factors and weight. The Blade actually went with a bloody dual core when the MBP has a quad that turbos to about the same frequency anyway. It does have an SSD, which is a welcome change over the laughable 320GB hard drive they used to have in there and actually gives it a solid edge. It does have 8GB of RAM, although if you buy RAM anywhere other than Apple, you can get 8GB for less than $40, so that's hardly an issue.

    That leaves the little touchpad and a few extra buttons. Sorry, but that screen is little more than a gimmick. A touchpad with no tactile feedback? Utterly useless in gaming, which is the market that Razer is looking to grab with this thing. Have fun looking away from the screen periodically to ensure that your fingers are in the right place. It might be somewhat useful in slower/turn-based games, but nothing even remotely fast paced will have a use for it.

    The only solid advantage it has is the SSD. The major disadvantage it has is the laughable dual core CPU. Really, in a game that can use perhaps only two cores, the difference will be minute if it's even visible at all. In games that can use a quad? The MBP will pull ahead easily, not to mention if you're running multiple other applications with your games or want to do something else, like media compression. That leaves the SSD, which is nice, but quite frankly, when you're about on the level of what many consider to be the poster boy for overpriced, then maybe you're charging too bloody much.
    Reply
  • santiagodraco - Sunday, March 18, 2012 - link

    I agree with much of what's you've said and also agree that this thing has missed it's mark (but as a notebook per se it's very cool).

    As for the trackpad... well that's really a non issue as anyone who calls themselves a gamer wouldn't be caught dead using a trackpad, they'll have a mouse in the bag. So from that perspective the trackpad is very cool as an information display but nothing else.
    Reply
  • Hrel - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    How can you claim to be about gamers when you put a GT540 in a 17" Chassis? Psh, doesn't even count. With that price tag I expected AT LEAST a GTX560, if not GTX570. Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of trying to make this type of laptop less cumbersome. But right now I can't imagine playing on anything less than the GTX560M, which I have currently in my Clevo. Overall I'm very happy with it, but I'd pay an extra 500 bucks to have a second hdd bay and cut the bulk by half. As for the specs this is as low as I'm willing to go. Get rid of the cd rom drive, fine. I honestly couldn't care any less about that. But the GT540M is unacceptable; I'm sorry. It's nice that this is thin, but I'll put up with a little extra bulk and weight to have a GPU I can actually use. If you have to do that by putting the GPU in an external "caddie" or docking station I'm fine with that too. As I don't ever game on battery power, only when it's plugged in.

    Razer, I say develop a docking station using Intels lighpeak connection and some good ol USB 3.0, and make that dock compatible with every single laptop you release, period. THAT! My friends will garner some serious customer loyalty.
    Reply
  • Hrel - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    I look forward to the day when I can just slide my smartphone into my laptop, where that touchpad is now. One concern though, I have a friend who because of a skin condition cannot use anything that's capacitive touch. I'm sure this is a small segment of their target customers but every time I see capacative touch on stuff I think of that now. Reply
  • Hrel - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    hm, see that's another things, especially for this much money, I expect to work properly. Noise, I never notice the noise of my Clevo P151. If I listen for it I can hear it, but I do not ever notice it. I paid 1100 bucks for this thing, then put a Seagate Hyrbrid drive in it. Beautiful 1080p screen. For nearly 3 times that I expect everything to be better in every single way. The physical size of the laptop just doesn't matter if it means sacraficing anything else at all about the laptop. I'd rather have a 20lb monster that runs everything I play at 1080p and doesn't make a peep than a 6lb pansy that can't even play Mass Effect 1 at 1080p smoothly. Like the SSD, ok, load times are low. That's nice. That's why I have the hybrid drive. But really I care much more about the performance IN THE application that I do how long it takes to load that application. It's a luxury item, like the size of the laptop, nice to have and I'm one of those people who are willing to pay extra for that kind of thing; I have the means. I'm just not willing to sacrafice another area of the laptop to get it. I do like the design elements and apparent attention to detail quite a lot. This looks like an excellent first try, they just got too ambititious and sacraficed on fundamentals; in my opinion. Also the price seems about 800 too high given the specs. And that's assuming noise was a non-issue. Reply
  • owan - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    We get it. You want gaming performance, you're willing to carry around a desktop with a screen bolted on. Thats great, but you're not who this laptop is for. I agree that their marketing department made a mistake saying this was "for gamers" but you don't have to harp on it. Reply
  • Immentus - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    Sure it is. It's aimed very much for him - it's a gaming laptop. Many of his points are valid considerations. Maybe you should focus on educating yourself rather than trying make your skittle fan boy comments sound valid. Reply
  • Hrel - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    Lol, you sir just made my day! Thank you. Reply
  • tim851 - Friday, March 16, 2012 - link

    Not every gaming laptop is aimed at every gamer. That would be nigh impossible.

    Hrel is obviously looking for a desktop replacement, something you don't lug around every day. That's why he can live with the drawbacks, i.e. size and weight.

    Just because other gamers put more emphasis on portability and are willing to sacrifice top performance for it doesn't make them less of a gamer or a solution aimed at them less of a gaming laptop.

    There are still people playing competitive Counter-Strike or StarCraft (1) and let's not forget the millions of people living in World of Warcraft or other online games. These people are gamers, yet don't need the utmost performance.

    And some might welcome the style appeal in the Blade, which is obviously meant for people who like the MacBook Pro's design, but for whatever reason don't want one or a clone.
    So here you get the same form factor and internals in a surprisingly discrete and different design.
    Reply

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