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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  • Meaker10 - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    What are you talking about, its aGT 555M, a more potent GT555M I might add, very similar to the base graphics card in the alienware small desktop PC.

    A GTS450 with a shader cluster disabled basically.
    Reply
  • VivekGowri - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    A GTX 560M would have been nice, basically the same as the GT 555M they have in it right now, except without the disabled shader cluster and a 192bit memory bus...Or they could have pushed release back a month or so and shipped it with a GT/GTX 6xxM part; Kepler would have definitely increased the performance envelope without throwing the thermals out of whack. Reply
  • Parhel - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    Ivy Bridge would have probably allowed for some some additional heat coming from the GPU side as well. This is a really sweet notebook, but in the end, I'm left thinking the same thing I thought after reading your Dell XPS 13 review the other day. Why spend invest in a premium ultrabook type system today when Ivy and Kepler are right around the corner? Reply
  • perpetualdark - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    Yes, for gamers. A gamer has a powerful desktop system, and if he/she wants to take it mobile, something powerful enough to game on, yet MOBILE and PORTABLE it what we look for. Something that can dual as a second "box" when at home.. See, to me, that is what the definition of a "gamer" is.. Not someone looking for a powerful desktop replacement with a docking station. That is what YOU are looking for - an all in one solution that fits every situation.

    I recently purchased a gaming laptop because I was going to be travelling a lot more for work. I chose the Asus 15" gaming laptop after a LOT of research. In the beginning, I wanted performance, lightweight, and inexpensive. I didn't need a powerhouse with dual graphics cards and the biggest screen you can get, I wanted enough power to run my games effectively while still being a mobile solution. One I had to carry through miles of airports, and still fit under my seat once I was on the plane. One I could open on a plane without having to be seated in an exit row. I also wanted something that would have enough battery to game for a few hours, or watch a movie on.

    The problem was, it was not out there. Nobody made something like that. My choices were a super expensive powerhouse that weighed over 10 lbs, a cheap plastic generic laptop with good specs, a portable solution with a wimpy graphics card, and a decently specced and decently priced laptop with poor battery life but very bulky for a 15". I went with the last option. It weighs a ton and the battery life is crap, but it is small enough to fit my needs, performs great with a 560M, the display is awesome, and it can run at 100% for 6 hours straight and be cooler than most laptops are in sleep mode. It didn't fit my criteria perfectly, so it was a tradeoff.

    This razer fits what I wanted much more closely, and is a step in the right direction. I would be willing to drop to a 555m from the 560 if the battery life were better and the weight and blukiness was substantially lower. If they made this in a 15" model and got the price down to about $1700, I would have jumped on it in a second. I don't want a 17" laptop because the whole point of a laptop is portability. Too many 17" laptops, especially the "gaming" ones, are bulkier than my desktop, and the only thing that sets them apart from a desktop is they can be moved easier from room to room. That is not the intent of a laptop, and some companies are selling these things without batteries for that very reason.

    I do question heat on a laptop like this.. can you run this thing wide open for an hour while it sits on your lap, without cooking your legs? Does it have to have micro fans that run at a million RPM and put a jet engine to shame? These aren't "deal breakers", just concerns.

    Bottom line though, is it fills a niche in the gaming market that I believe the trend is leaning toward. With the miniaturization of everything in life, why are gamers stuck with 10+ pound beasts that will put you in the hospital after the 10th flight segment in a week.. ? Make it just powerful enough to run the games we want. You don't need 200fps to play it, you need more than 30 all the time and you are good. If you want more, it is to satisfy your desire for a big epeen, not to have a mobile gaming alternative to your main gaming rig.
    Reply
  • Hrel - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    I agree with you. I just think a dock would be a good thing because then I wouldn't even really need a desktop. A dock is something you leave at home so they could just put a desktop GTX560 in it. Then I connect my bluetooth keyboard and mouse, run and HDMI cable to the tv and BAM! Laptop turned desktop. That is what I want. I don't want to build another desktop, I feel like it's unnecessary. Right now my laptop is faster than my desktop in every department except the GPU. A dock could fix that problem and I wouldn't need a desktop anymore.

    Like I said, fix the noise issue. Fix any heat issues and correct the keyboard layout and this would be great. I agree 15" would be better, I'd be ok with upping the thickness to a whopping ONE INCH!!!! If that's what it takes to have proper noise and thermals. But you literally don't have to change a thing about this laptop to offer a dock too. I just really want more docks. I would much rather pay 400 bucks for a good gaming dock to keep at home than 1200 on another desktop. Hell, a dock plus laptop would even be easier to take to a friends house if I just had to be able to max everything out in a game for some reason. It would also offer a possible upgrade path when that non-swappable integrated laptop GPU starts getting dated.
    Reply
  • nafhan - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    They're definitely targeting a specific niche, which it sounds like you are not in. The real question is: are enough people in that niche for this to be a viable product?

    If money were not an object, I'd probably buy one of these as a compliment to a very high powered gaming desktop.
    Reply
  • Jedi2155 - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    I got my Volt...working on getting a house. This will compliment my gaming system quite nicely. Reply
  • Jedi2155 - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    Once they get Ivy Bridge and a Kepler GPU on there of course. Current performance is too anemic to replace my 3 year old Gateway FX with a 9800M GTS. Reply
  • Hrel - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    On the first page you list a GT540M, then when you get to the benchmarks you say it has a GT555M; not much better but definitely a step up. Which is correct? Reply
  • Hrel - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    you say GT555 in the table below comparing notebooks too. Assuming your correct on the number of "cuda cores" I'll assume it has the GT555, not the GT540, which has only 96 Cuda Cores. Reply

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