Hands-on with the Razer gaming laptop
The new Razer Blade gaming-centric laptop is sleek and powerful, but it's not for every gamer looking to take their action on the go.
The second-generation edition is an upgrade from the original, released in February 2012. Razer wanted to bolster the hardware specs without detracting from what makes the Blade unique in portable computer gaming -- its size.
The first thing you notice about the Blade is how thin it is. A 17-inch, high-definition screen is housed in a case that is less than an inch thick and weighs 6.6 pounds. The matte black aluminum finish is in stark contrast to the neon green Razer logo and keyboard lighting. It is quite the eye-catching machine and will sit comfortably on your lap.
What makes the Blade different than standard laptops is its unique Switchblade interface, which sits on the right-hand side of the keyboard. This LCD touchscreen acts as a traditional touchpad mouse for most options, but can be programmed depending on which game is being played.
Ten lighted buttons can be programmed as macro game commands, allowing for handy use. Some game profiles (Team Fortress 2, Battlefield 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic to name a few) are already available and Razer says they are working to add more.
The placement of the Switchblade to the right of the keyboard took some getting used to when I just wanted to use it as a touchpad. Frequently, my fingers would seek the touchpad below the keyboard before wandering off to the right. In game, the location was more familiar to me as I treated it more like a gaming mouse.
The touchscreen can also act as a secondary, but very small, display. While social media apps were preprogrammed into the buttons, I wouldn't recommend trying to Facebook or tweet on it while gaming on the big screen. However, if you're looking for an edge, a YouTube video walkthrough of the game you're enjoying can be viewed in the small screen while you control the action on the big screen.
The next thing you'll notice about the Blade is the lack of an optical drive. Given today's online gaming services (like Steam), that may be less of a problem than it first appears. However, it will limit your ability to play games from a disc or even watch a movie in nongaming moments while traveling.
However, this machine is built for gaming performance and that's where most of the improvements were targeted. With a brand-new quad-core processor (i7-3632QM) developed by Intel, a high-end Nvidia GeForce GXT 660M and 8GB of RAM, the new Blade isn't quite at the top of the performance ladder, but is definitely within shouting distance.
Playing a variety of games, from "Diablo 3" to "Civilization V," on the high detail setting was a visual dream. Graphics were crisp and clear, and movement within the games went along without a hitch. The audio from the built-in speakers wasn't as deep as some other laptop gaming computers. You'll probably want to plug in headphones to get the best quality.
Surprisingly, with all that power, the Blade stayed warm without burning me when gaming with it on my lap. The hottest internal parts are positioned along the hinge in the back and the air vents effectively shunt heat away without any loud, noisy fans. Indeed, the computer was surprisingly quiet while working to keep up with the graphical demands of my games.
USB ports are all located on the left hand side of the deck so if you want to add a mouse for serious gaming, you'll need a long cord -- or a wireless one mouse. There is also an HDMI output and a headset jack along the left side. A 500 GB hard drive is smaller than some other gaming laptops, but shouldn't be a significant loss. The battery life isn't as long as I'd like, but the battery pack is slim and sleek, which is good for mobile gaming and finding those outlets on the road.
The final thing you'll notice about the Blade after oohing and ahhing over its looks and functionality will be the price. The new laptop will set you back $2,500 (according to the Razer website), making it an expensive option in the laptop gaming arena. This price tag puts it squarely at the high end for the gaming audience.
The incredibly slim and light design, the powerful engine inside, and a heat dissipation system that won't scald your legs make the new Blade an excellent portable gaming option. Personally, the price tag puts it out of my reach despite all the attractive features. It is a laptop for very serious gamers who want to take their fragging on the road.
The demo unit I reviewed used Windows 7, but Razer plans to make Windows 8 available to customers who want it. They are also not doing away with their first version of the Razer, which is priced $600 cheaper, but is a little lighter in the performance department as well.