Putting The Razer Blade Through Its Gaming Paces

Razer's sleek and stylish Blade gaming laptop is slowly making its way into the hands of customers ballsy enough to drop $US2800 on an untested product from a company that's never made a gaming laptop before. Did their gamble pay off? Update: A settings tweak has changed the game.

The day my Razer Blade review unit arrived I could not get over the unit's looks. Thin and deadly, with nothing but some vents and the odd stylized squid marring its sleek black exterior, this is one appealingly design machine. Upon hitting the power switch one would be forgiven for expecting it to purr to life like some exotic sports car.

Just don't expect it to drive like one.

Let's take a game-by-game look at how the machine has performed so far.

Since Saturday I've been on a mad downloading spree, attempting to fulfil all of the requests I received for games to test out on Razer's new system. At the mercy of my internet connection I managed to grab several of the most requested titles, with others still in the queue.

Before we begin, here's a quick refresher on the unit's specs:

• 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 2640M Processor • 8GB 1333MHz DDR3 Memory • 17.3-inch LED Backlit Display (1920x1080) • NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M with NVIDIA Optimus Technology 2GB Dedicated GDDR5 Video Memory • Built-in HD Webcam • Integrated 60Wh Battery • 250GB SSD Storage • Wireless Network 802.11 b/g/n Compatible • Battery: 6 hours idle, 2 1/2 if playing "hardcore" game. • 16.81 (Width) x 10.9 (Depth) x 0.88 (Height) inches; 3.16kg (Weight)

Not exactly mind-blowing specs, but then that's not what the Razer Blade is all about. As the company likes to point out, the Razer Blade is about portability and convenience more than it is about power. At less than an inch thick and weighing in at around six pounds, this is the most portable 17 inch gaming laptop around.

Now let's see how the most portable 17-inch gaming laptop around performed, shall we?

League of Legends: The Razer Blade is a monster when it comes to Riot Games' ridiculously popular multiplayer online battle arena game. Then again so is my $US500 Best Buy laptop -- League of Legends isn't exactly a resource-intensive title. It just looks much better on the Blade's large and lovely screen. With settings maxed and shadows on high I got a uniform 60 frames per second, by far the best performance of all the games I tried. It's also one of the only games I could recommend using the Blade's built-in Switchblade touchpad user interface to control -- anything more action-intensive cries out for an external mouse. Luckily the Blade comes packed with one.

Battlefield 3: I was frightened about running Battlefield 3 on the Blade, worried I might hurt its delicate innards. Indeed attempting to run it on Ultra settings was like transforming the beautiful black box into the world's most expensive slide projector. Thankfully the issue righted itself with one simple step down to High settings, running at a relatively constant 30 frames per second, more than enough for me to get my arse shot off.

It bears noting that running anything more demanding than League of Legends generated a fair amount of heat under the unit. I've not had any problems arise from rising temperatures yet, but it does get quite uncomfortable when attempting to play with the unit in my lap. Well, first it gets nice. Then it gets uncomfortable. Or maybe it's just uncomfortable for everybody now. MOVING ON...

Star Wars: The Old Republic: BioWare's massively multiplayer game in a galaxy far, far away seriously stuttered on any setting greater than Low. Mind you it plays like a dream on Low (or as much like a dream as The Old Republic can get), and is certainly good for a couple of quick quests or a flashpoint or two while sipping your coffee at Starbucks, where America goes to tech new technology.

The Witcher 2: Here's where I was expecting the Blade to really choke. Considering the problems my high-powered gaming desktop had running The Witcher 2 at launch, surely the Blade would trip over its own sword and fall on it here. Damn CD Projekt for their patches and fixes, ruining my fun. Again the Blade managed to perform admirably under all but the highest settings, though of course the lower the graphics the better the performance.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: It was in the wintry hills of Skyrim that the Blade struggled the most, low frame rates rearing their ugly heads until I set the game to low, and even then the heads were still mighty ugly. The Switchblade touchpad also exhibited extreme amounts of lag in the latest Elder Scrolls game, scrolling a lot like one would expect an elder to scroll; incredibly slowly.

That's all I've had time to download so far, but it's easy enough to make out the general trend: Don't expect to play much of anything with the graphics settings maxxed out.

But then as Razer's director of product marketing Heathcliff Hatcher explains, that's not what the Blade was designed to do.

"We believe if performance is all that matters, then a cheaper and more powerful desktop should be the way to go. If it's a laptop, then we sacrifice some performance (but it should still play games well) but portability is just as important. 0.88" thin and 6lbs with good performance in our view is better than 2-3 inches thick and 5-8kg. Again, if someone just cares about performance we think Origin makes a phenomenal laptop and they should get it. But it's just a really different product type and we didn't intend it to be a straight up head to head benchmark — how do you benchmark how someone feels when they carry a Razer Blade vs a traditional gaming laptop all day?"

He's right, you know. Origin does make a damn fine laptop, but I wouldn't want to carry it around in my backpack all day. Someone might steal it!

Perhaps that wasn't the point.

I'll have more on the Razer Blade in the next couple weeks as I carry it about everywhere I go and fiddle about with that glowing LCD touchscreen they've placed next to the keyboard.

Update: After some time spent troubleshooting technical issues with Razer, I discovered that for some reason my unit's NVIDIA graphics card was not engaging, leaving the poor onboard Intel card to attempt to handle games that it should never have touched.

Once the good graphics card was actually working I was able to run Star Wars: The Old Republic on high with a satisfactory frame rate, Skyrim is actually playable (it auto-detects at Ultra High), and Battlefield 3 -- well it still chugs on Ultra, but not quite as badly as it did before.


Comments

    So.... basically its a rediculously overpriced laptop compared to other gaming laptops? You pay, lets face it another $800 for it to be lighter than any other 17"? I'll take an Alienware over this anyday.

      You know your product is overpriced crap when an Alienware is a better deal.

        I agree, I hate any Dell product under the sun. If you could get Origin laptops here then I would shell out for that instead.

        If these things do get released in Australia I would expect them to be avaliable at EB Games and JB Hifi for around $3200.

        I don't want to live on this planet anymore..

          Apparently, you can:
          http://originpc.com.au/

            At first I was excited seeing the ".au" at the end but looking at their prices. They're not really doing much to compete with the other companies like they do in the US.

            So this is an Origin PC that should run BF3 on Ultra. I would spend this much on a proper gaming laptop. Plus if the Blade was released here it would cost about this much.

            Chassis and Primary Display: EON17 platform with Intel Core i7 and 1920 x 1080 Full HD 17.3" LED Backlit Glossy Screen
            Graphics Card: Single 2GB GDDR5 ATI Radeon HD 6990M (2GB of Total GFX)
            Processor: Intel® Core™ i7 960 3.2GHz LGA 1366 Quad-Core Processor (8MB L3 Cache)
            Memory: 12GB Triple-Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz - 3 X 4GB
            Hard Drive One: 256GB Crucial M4 - Solid State Drive
            Hard Drive Two: 1TB 5200rpm SATA 300 Hard Drive
            Optical Drive: 6X Blu-ray Reader/8X DVD±R/2.4X +DL Super-Multi Drive with Power DVD 7
            Audio: Integrated High-Definition Audio and up to 7.1 Channel support
            Networking: Wi-Fi Link 802.11A/B/G/N Wireless LAN Module
            Operating System: Genuine MS Windows® 7 Home Premium 64-Bit Edition
            Product Subtotal:

            $3,463.00

      You pay $800 for it to be lighter, thinner and have that cool multitouch pad thing on the side as opposed to Alienware's paying $800 for backlighting...

    Skyrim should be way easier to run than Battlefield 3 and the Witcher 2... a HD 6670 can play Skyrim on high settings.
    If they really wanted to advocate portability, then I think making a 17 inch behemoth wasn't the right way to go. 14"-15" is probably much more realistic, and they can reduce screen resolution a bit that way as well, so games would run better.

    Hmmmm.. so really, you're paying mostly for the name and the fact it's a little lighter?

    I have been looking at laptops recently, and for similar specs you can get something for a few hundred less, if not more.
    In fact, there are some really brilliant Toshiba and Acer gaming-oriented laptops for around the 1400-1600 price point.

      If you're going to go a gaming laptop, make sure you pay the extra for a half decent graphics card. You don't have to go crazy, but for example the performance difference between say, a GT540M and a GT555M is noticeable. Basically, don't go 'Oh yeah, a 2GB GT540M will do OK.' It won't. Just fork out the inevitable extra for just that one step further.

      If you're planning on spending $1500 on a laptop already, and it ended up costing $1700 to make sure it doesn't suck, it'll be worth it in the long run.

      Great points but you lost me at Toshiba and Acer.

    I hate the 17" size SO BIG how is 17" portalable and 3.5 kg WOW heavy i thought it was going to be a 13 inch packing a real punch. that would have been the "saviour of pc gaming"...lol.

      You don't look at gaming laptops the way you do regular laptops. The "portability" of a gaming laptop comes from the fact that it's not a tower.

        yeah i get what your saying i just got the impression from what they were saying was that they were going to be bringing the power of a gaming rig to a smaller form factor to truly "revolutionise"/ "save" the segment. guess i just wanted a 13" packed to the teeth.

    I don't understand that Skyrim result. With my lappy (2630QM, 540GT) it's playable at high settings and 1080p (well, 20fps or so) and tinkering a bit with medium-ish settings at 720p I'm pretty much always around 30-50fps.

    Hmmm, so for $1000 less I could buy an ASUS or MSI with significantly better specs, cooling and a focus on performance instead of what is essentially a black 17" Macbook. GeForce GT 555M just doesn't cut it for $2800.

    There is no such thing as a portable 17" laptop. Until someone invents a way of shrinking the screen while not in use it's still going to be a 17" laptop that needs a dedicated bag for transport. If you're going to get a 17" gaming laptop it needs to be a desktop replacement or there's no point in getting it.

    Why would anyone want this again? Yet another pointless Razer product.

      "There is no such thing as a portable 17″ laptop."

      I agree with this statement, but then you shamelessly use the phrase 'gaming laptop', when everyone knows there's no such thing, just like a 'future-proof PC' ^^

        Touche. (I'm quite happy with my Asus G73 "gaming latop", however).

          and let's face it. Who isn't?

      That's what I was thinking. Why spend 2.8k on a razer laptop, when you could get to higher/equiv spec'd asus ones for the same price?
      All this does is reinforce my opinion that razor products are just overpriced, overmarketed trash, that dies in less than a year.

    I spent about $1800 on an Asus RoG G73SW not too long ago, and it's doing amazingly well. Pretty much exactly what I was expecting for the price. I would expect a $2800 laptop to do a lot better than it sounds the Razer Blade does. I mean I'm aware it's a laptop, and they have significantly different performance pricing and expectations to a desktop, but this doesn't sound impressive at all.

    'But then as Razer’s director of product marketing Heathcliff Hatcher explains, that’s not what the Blade was designed to do.' - what, play games well? Uhhh..... I mean no one expects a laptop to run the latest game on Ultra settings at 60fps, it's just not feasable, but I'd expect better than low settings on Skyrim.

    GT555M? That's it? I was expecting to be blown away by the performace and specs of the Blade and feel bad about my recent purchase of an RoG laptop. I really don't - if anything it makes me feel better.

      When did you buy the G73 though? When the JWs and SWs first came out they were $2500 roughly.

        Bought the G73SW about a month ago now, and they were around $2200 new, but I got mine cheaper due to it being superceded. Even at it's full price, it's still a stark comparison to the Blade and how it apparently performs.

          Yeah but didn't the SW come out early last year. And like the JW when they came out were sold for around $2500 (that was the good price as well) RRP was listed at being a tad higher. Also, if yours has the specs I think it does then it only beats the Blade in terms of the GPU (and only by a little bit). Not to mention the Blade has the thinner lighter form factor which ups the price and so would the LCD screen/touch pad setup.

            Agreed. But in terms of cost and performance, both have diminished (comparitively) since the G73SW's release. It's initial price of ~$2500 can't really be compared to the brand new $2800 Razer Blade as on par.

            Taken as an $1800 laptop, compared to the $2800 Razer one, the comparison is still fair. Mainly to illustrate what you can buy for $1000 less, and will likely do a better job in many departments except for size/weight.

            The Razer Blade is massively overpriced, and (seems to be) massively underwhelming. The only thing you're paying for is the Razer logo, and a smaller form factor. Alienware pioneered overpriced prestige, and Razer appears to have taken it to the next level. I would expect for the cost a better GPU, primarily - a GTX500M series, or a GT600M series.

            I mean at the end of the day, if someone's prepared to pay for the Blade and is happy with the product, I guess all my blustering is for naught. It just seems a little confusing.

              Exactly my point, prices drop after release. All new devices start out priced higher just to see if people will pay that price and then it gets lowered from there. Also, you can't ignore the LCD screen/touchpad when looking at the cost and even if you think it's still overpriced, it's not comparable to an Alienware laptop where the only things you pay extra for are lights and a logo and I think that's what Razer are cashing in on; premium price with an actual reason.

                I still don't buy that gimmicky-looking touchpad and the smaller form factor being a fair reason for it's price. And let's face it, that's all it's got. The hardware certainly isn't mind blowing.

                I mean far be it for me to defend Alienware, but they're (usually) more than just $800 backlighting, as you put it. Take into account SLI graphics with Optimus tech, potentially higher specced CPU's and RAM, and several other variables. I can at least understand Alienware being just a little more expensive than the norm. I still think they're overpriced for the most part, but not as massively as the Razer.

                Anyway, I think we'll just have to agree to disagree here. Might do a little more reading on benchmarks, as the descriptions here are largely un-technical. I mean I'm certainly not in the market for one, but it's worth scoping it out at least to see where things are heading.

                  Actually when I purchased my G73JW, an equivalent specced m17x (and I'm talking IDENTICAL) was $800 more so the only difference was the colour of the backlighting.

    You need a pretty beefy system to run Skyrim and BF3 at 1920X1080 at a good framerate on anything above low quality settings.My desktop is an I5 2500k at 4.5Ghz with 2 nvidia 560 ti's and it just manages those games on ultra at 40-60 frames a second.Lapt tops have underclockd c.p.u.'s and cutbacked underclocked graphics chips that are decepyively named.The worst example being the radeon 6990M.
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-hd-6990m-geforce-gtx-580m-deception,3118.html

    From what I gather, Clevo is the way to go nowadays for powerful but reasonably priced gaming laptops. Wouldn't waste my cash on Alienware and this really doesn't seem that appealing.

      Clevo, Metabox and such are all running out of the same factory last I heard and if you don't need flashy lights or carefully sculpted chassis' then it's a great way to go for a well priced gaming laptop.

        Got my Clevo Horize from Logical Blue One and I am stoked It does BF3 on ultra at 1920x1080 with no real noticeable frame rate drop. at sub $2k for the option I went with that is a perfect price for performance.

    I could buy 8 PS3s for that price and wire them up into a beowolf cluster with my AMD286 (16Mhz on turbo) as the controller. Great for viewing porn, data mining and playing games of Catherine.

    SWTOR runs like crap anyway, people with beast desktop pc's have been having frame rate trouble with that game since launch due to the unoptimized graphics engine. Hardly a fair test.

    Sooooo, fail?

    My Dv7 (yeah, I know it's shit) still runs Skyrim on medium settings and mods pretty well.

    There are bound to be a lot of unhappy early adopters if you can get a better all round gaming laptop from an existing product line.

    I've decided I don't like the look of it either.

    will the blade's PSU work in aus do i need a transformer?
    i think this thing is great! besides all the games i play on the go still work on my dell xps m1710 which is OLD so this thing will be fine for me and way lighter and thinner and way less embarrassing at the airport! i cant wait! besides i only play games like Battlefield on my desktop gt580 3waySLI i7 990x
    thats what its for! where as this is portable (way more than my dell at least)

    You guys should just save some $ and buy an MSI whitebook with a GTX580m from GenTechPC for just over $2K. All the performance of an Origin with less bulk, and craps all over the RazerBlade in terms of bang for buck. Having said that I would love to see these guys succeed and when they can get their manufacturing costs down and overall price down I will get on board.

    Hey i found a asus laptop 2 GB grapics card 8-16 GB ram 5 GHz processor blu-ray for under $1300 at dick smiths!

    its also got a 15'' HD screen, speakers, webcam, U.S.B 3.0, 3x, HDMI its got it al,l exact price $1126
    Also:headphone jacks, its probably the best choice,being a gamer on an eMachines netbook being able to play:The orange box, counterstrike source, H-L 2 deathmatch, garry's mod, terraria,DoD source realm of the mad godl. All on an intel graphics media accelerator 3150 is fairly good!

    and the mistakes were accidents

    WHEN IS IT COMING TO AUSTRALIA

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