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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  • Winterblade - Tuesday, July 02, 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 02, 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
  • Khenglish - Wednesday, July 03, 2013 - link

    One thing I would like to see more detail on for gaming laptops is temperatures. Cooling is a huge issue for gaming laptops.

    What program got you to 93C? What was the room temp? If you got to 93C after running linpack an hour, then 93C is fine. If you got to 93C from 3dm11's physics test, then we have a problem. Can you confirm that there was no throttling? Haswell's throttle point is not until 100C, but sometimes the BIOS will trigger early throttling, or do something like disable turbo if the dGPU is active.

    Same story for gpu temps. Just loop one of the unigen benchmarks for an hour or something.
    Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, July 03, 2013 - link

    "While the Blade has incorporated some of the best elements of Apple notebook design" - Apple was not the first to release a thin laptop or to use the chiclet keyboard so why do web sites like this keep on pushing these thoughts? It instantly places the machine, in readers minds, as being somewhat negative. Reply
  • VLSImagic - Wednesday, July 03, 2013 - link

    Probably because when you put this directly next to an Apple rMBP 15", then you're looking at something that, shall we say, was 'inpired' by the Apple in terms of its design. And its not just on the outside either, checkout the 15" rMBP motherboard in this picture and then compare it to the Blade's internals in the article:

    http://www.extremetech.com/wp-content/uploads/2012...
    Reply
  • augustofretes - Friday, July 05, 2013 - link

    You apple deniers need to grow up, Apple invented the ultrabook, ultrabooks exist because they were and are a response to Apple's Macbook Air, they launched that while the industry was high on Netbooks... Reply
  • Steveymoo - Wednesday, July 03, 2013 - link

    What an archaic pricing scheme - The system uses 3 variants of the samsung 840 SSD (admittedly gutted and custom fitted, but still.) As far as I can see, there is only around a $200 difference between the 128gb, and 500gb variants of this SSD. So apart from blatant profiteering, where are they getting the $400 mark-up in price from? Reply
  • SpeedyGonzales - Wednesday, July 03, 2013 - link

    ...out of their asses. Base configuration upgrades such as RAM, SSD and GPU upgrades are usually used to rip-off customers. See: Alienware, Razer, Apple...to a certain extend the Clevo resellers as well, but not as drastic. Reply
  • Terrestrial - Wednesday, July 03, 2013 - link

    Anand, what do you think about Min's post on Facebook about the panel on the Blade, reprinted below:

    I’ve been asked many times why we chose a TN panel over an IPS panel for the Razer Blade and my response has been “It’s the best 14” panel available for gaming.” I thought I’d go into it in greater detail.

    The TN panel on the Razer Blade has a transition time of 8ms (16ms worst case) and essentially, that means that pixels can completely turn on or off within the refresh time allotted in a 60Hz display. The IPS panels available to us at the time had a refresh rate of 35ms (50ms worst case) and basically that means there could be visible artifact during pixel transitions from any one color to another.

    The difference between 50ms and 16ms means that we can avoid any chance of visible artifact during quickly changing frames, i.e. gaming performance is best on the panel we chose.

    However, admittedly, while gaming performance is better on the panel we chose, other issues like vertical viewing angles are poorer for the TN panel as compared to IPS panels.

    We made these decisions well aware that it would have an impact on other uses – i.e. lying in bed and watching a movie with a friend etc, but it has always been gaming first here at Razer. Honestly, from my own personal perspective, I don’t have any issues with viewing angles cos I’m forever alone on my laptop anyway.

    This is akin to the decision that we made for the first Razer Blade Pro 2 years ago where we picked a dual-core CPU with a higher clock rate vs a quad-core CPU with a lower clock rate. For the tech uninitiated then, most said “why not Quad core?” but the hardcore gamers understood that a higher clock speed dual core CPU would outperform a lower clock speed quad core for gaming. It was only till the Quad Core CPUs met our gaming spec that we moved to a Quad Core CPU. Similarly, when it came to screen selection for the new Razer Blade, we picked the 14” best screen there was for gamers.

    Would we pick an IPS panel in the future? Possibly, but only if the refresh rates are up to par with our expectations for our customers – you – the gamer. Until then, the 14” TN panel is the best panel there is for gaming.

    Our design philosophy has always been to design and build the best possible products for gamers. And that will never change!
    Reply
  • SpeedyGonzales - Wednesday, July 03, 2013 - link

    @Terrestrial

    I think gamers are willing to compromise on viewing angles, maybe on colour gamut as well, but not on black levels.

    Focusing on response time only, does not help, if dark gaming scenes are rather grey.

    Are you telling us, that there is no 1600*900 TN panel available with a black level less than 0,5 ?

    What is needed is a TN panel with a contrast ratio of at least 600 and a color gamut of 68+, in this case gamers will compromise on viewing angels.

    At this price point this panel makes the entire Laptop obsolete, because dark scenes will be "unplayable", regardless of screen response time.

    Whilst talking about design decisions, the Razer Blade pro, with its 1080p resolution is underpowered. All tests so far show, that the GTX765 is massively bandwidth limited and therefore not future proof at a native 1080p resolution.

    Both laptops look very nice and I would be willing to pay the Razer premium, even for the 500GB SSD, but not with such bad design compromises.
    Reply

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