Introducing the Razer Blade 14-Inch

Despite arguably still being a market that supports growth, the gaming notebook arena has remained relatively staid over the past few years. At the highest end we're still looking at just Alienware and Clevo, with MSI, ASUS, and the odd Toshiba picking up the slack. Risking using a buzzword that makes most journalists froth over with rage and irritation, this is a market that's fairly ripe for innovation but hasn't seen a tremendous amount of it.

Razer's entry into the gaming notebook arena wasn't a total game changer, but it was definitely an eyebrow raiser. The original Razer Blade was an ultrathin gaming notebook, featuring an industrial design rivaled only by its profound inability to handle the tremendous heat generated by its components and its nearly impossibly high price tag. The second version did a lot to ameliorate those complaints, but I suspect it's really going to take the combination of Haswell and Kepler to get this concept where it wants to be (price notwithstanding). Thankfully that's what Razer is offering in their third generation of gaming notebooks.

Splitting the line into two models, the newest revision of the 17.3" Razer Blade gets dubbed the Razer Blade Pro, with the non-Pro nomenclature falling to the brand new 14" model. At the risk of being premature, I suspect the 14" Razer Blade is going to be the more desirable of the two notebooks: hardware specs are virtually identical between the Blade and Blade Pro, with the primary differentiators being the 1080p display and Switchblade panel in the Pro. Cutting down the Pro to a slightly more conventional 14" gaming notebook has left Razer with an attractive machine that's hard not to compare to Apple's MacBook Pro.

Razer Blade 14-Inch Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-4702HQ
(4x2.2GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.2GHz, 22nm, 6MB L3, 37W)
Chipset Intel HM87
Memory 8GB DDR3L-1600
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M 2GB GDDR5
(768 CUDA cores, 797MHz/863MHz/4GHz core/boost/memory clocks, 128-bit memory bus)

Intel HD 4600 Graphics
(20 EUs, up to 1.15GHz)
Display 14" LED Matte 16:9 900p
AU Optronics AUO103E
Hard Drive(s) Samsung PM841 256GB mSATA 6Gbps SSD
Optical Drive -
Networking Killer Wireless-N 1202 dual-band 2x2 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD audio
Stereo speakers
Combination mic/headphone jack
Battery 70Wh
Front Side -
Right Side USB 3.0
HDMI 1.4a
Kensington lock
Left Side AC adapter
2x USB 3.0
Combination mic/headphone jack
Back Side -
Operating System Windows 8 64-bit
Dimensions 13.6" x 9.3" x 0.66"
345mm x 235mm x 16.8mm
Weight 4.1 lbs
1.88kg
Extras Webcam
USB 3.0
Killer Networks wireless networking
Backlit anti-ghosting keyboard
Warranty 1-year limited
Pricing $1,799
As configured $1,999

It's hard to feel like any compromises have really been made in terms of the Razer Blade 14-inch's internal hardware. The Intel Core i7-4702HQ CPU boasts a healthy 2.2GHz nominal clock speed across four cores and is able to turbo up to as high as 2.9GHz on all four or 3.2GHz on a single core. This is the situation that Haswell is ideal for: a thin portable chassis with somewhat limited cooling capacity.

Despite being essentially a refresh of extant silicon, NVIDIA has actually made some fairly impressive strides with the second generation of Kepler mobile GPUs. The GK106 chip has turned out to be a solid desktop offering, but like Haswell, its true destiny may very well be in mobile. That chip powers the Razer Blade's GeForce GTX 765M, the same mobile GPU you're going to find in Alienware's competing 14-inch notebook. It's a slightly cut down GK106 chip, sporting 768 CUDA cores at a nominal 797MHz clock speed, and it comes with NVIDIA's Boost 2.0 enabled. That should allow it to hit speeds as high as 900MHz during gaming, thermals depending. 2GB of 4GHz GDDR5 is attached to a 128-bit memory bus.

Meanwhile, storage is handled by Samsung's 840 series SSD, shrunk down to an mSATA form factor. This is the only differentiator between the three models of Razer Blade 14-inch: $1,799 will get you 128GB of storage, $1,999 will get you 256GB, and $2,299 will get you 512GB. While your gaming needs may vary, I've found that 256GB is pretty much the minimum for all my stuff plus the games I need on the go. Individuals looking to use the Blade as their primary system (and it's totally feasible) may actually want to make the jump to the 512GB.

Where Razer does come up short with the 14-inch Blade is connectivity. Three USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI port should theoretically be enough to cover the most basic needs, and I'm even willing to forgive the lack of a card reader on a notebook that's geared exclusively towards gaming. Lacking wired gigabit ethernet is a more bitter pill to swallow, though. The Killer Wireless-n ameliorates this somewhat, but it doesn't replace it. For serious online play there's just no substitute for a stable wired connection.

In and Around the Razer Blade 14-Inch
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  • robco - Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - link

    If they're going to crib from Apple, they need to go all the way. I don't want to hear any criticism about how Apple lacks ports or requires adapters. Not even ac wireless? With a rMBP, I could use a gig-E network adapter. My other primary concern is the intake vents on the bottom, since I do often use my laptop in my lap.

    I agree that this laptop has a lot going for it. But the display is very important. I don't see why they went cheap. Granted, Razer may not have Apple's R&D resources, but they don't have to write their own OS either.
    Reply
  • Check101 - Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - link

    Ah, thank you for the clarification. This confirms my thoughts... The notebook manages heat by pushing the heat away from the user, and it is slim, powerful, sturdy, and has a large battery. Now, some hard numbers show that this screen is terrible for this price-point. I was very curious about an upcoming review ever since Razer CEO posted a review of the 14 inch Blade on his Facebook page arguing that the screen was just fine, but that was a very quick review that glossed over important details. Now we know... Razer needs another iteration of this notebook... Reply
  • arthur449 - Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - link

    Great review, Dustin. I enjoyed your attention to detail about the notebook's hot spots and remarks about the usability of the keyboard. You're also spot-on about Razer hitting the sweet spot in terms of notebook gaming hardware.

    While the screen is hilariously bad, how're its response times? It seems completely odd to me that they would've neglected this aspect of the overall package so badly. Maybe they sacrificed viewing angles, contrast, and color quality in favor of a bright twitchy TN panel gamers on-the-go would appreciate in poorly lit areas? I'm assuming it's not a 120Hz panel, but does it have any notable ghosting?
    Reply
  • dwade123 - Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - link

    It already struggles with the latest console ports. Next-gen ones are gonna make this an obsolete device. Reply
  • Silma - Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - link

    It looks nice enough but unfortunately it follows the tradition of too many notebook makers of marrying a decent/good cpu/gpu pair with as many crappy parts as possible. Yet again, as for the Carbon X1, an indecent super ba Reply
  • Silma - Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - link

    super bad super low res screen.
    This, combined with no Ethernet network, and the wariness with Razer's lack of quality control that came with the purchases of too many premium mouses that won't work more than a few months at the most, will make it easy for to admire the notebook's aesthetics
    from afar and buy something else, probably the Asus Infinity or the Samsung 9+ if they ever step out of vaporware.
    Reply
  • SpartanJet - Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - link

    Will you be reviewing the Razer Blade Pro this time around? Reply
  • wdfmph - Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - link

    Last time I said gaming laptop does not make sense and lots of people shoot me. See it yourself. It just has to drop the ball here or there no matter how expensive they could be. Last time is the stupid single fan design in the MSI laptop, this time is the miserable screen.

    In addition, I think reliability of RAZER products questionable.
    Reply
  • Winterblade - Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - link

    Great review... hopefully the next version will correct the display quality, I'm perfectly fine with the resolution but if indeed windows 8.1 can fix the way windows manages high-density displays then I would definetly want a more dense display.

    Also, please Razer add a gigabit ethernet port or at least bundle the next generation blade with an adapter, this is a gaming machine, not a god-damn tablet.

    I'm all in for a truly portable gaming machine, and at this very moment I consider this the very best option in that regard (NO, I will not carry more than 2Kg half-way trough the world, nobody should :P), that being said, with 2 horrible faults (display & ethernet) I just can't justify my self buying the blade, fix at least one of these and count me onboard for Gen2 Blade 14.
    Reply
  • Roland00Address - Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - link

    Dustin before you send back the Razer or resell it can you by chance test the integrated graphics for the intel hd4600. We got benchmarks for the desktop 4600 (but that has a much higher tdp so it can always hit those boost clocks), and we saw how thermally limited the intel 5000 was compared to the intel 4400 with the macbook air and acer s7.

    It would be nice to know how the non ulv intel hd graphics will perform in mainstream notebooks, and how this will compare to trinity/richland.
    Reply

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