Razer Blade Mk2: The Kotaku Review

The first Razer Blade was not a high performance gaming laptop, nor was it meant to be. It was designed with a balance of portability and power in mind, and the allure of a 17-inch gaming laptop that weighs less than 3.1kg was enough for the unit to sell out at every turn, paving the way for a second edition.

The second generation Razer Blade is not quite a high performance gaming laptop, but it's getting better.

Appreciating the original Razer Blade required a dramatic shift in the way I thought about portable gaming machines. Form factor always took a back seat to performance. When the initial Blade specs were revealed alongside the unit's $US2800 price tag, I openly scoffed. I could buy a much more powerful laptop for half the price. Aside from the dangerously sexy look I could think of no reason to shell out that much money.

It's amazing the difference four pounds can make.

The average gaming laptop is not a particularly portable thing. It's self-contained, certainly, but I wouldn't slip one into my backpack for a weekend wandering around E3 or San Diego Comic-Con. I tried it once, and wound up exhausted with an incredibly sweaty back. Since then it's been the Macbook Air for me, not a particularly game-friendly system.

The Razer Blade can run games, it's got a 17-inch 1080p screen, it's made of metal and weighs 6.6 pounds. I can carry it comfortably with one hand.

The second revision of the hardware is all of that, only it runs games better and costs a little less.

Externally not much has changed between the first and second versions of the Razer Blade; without looking closely one would be hard-pressed to tell the two apart. First there are the vents on the underside of the system, now wide open as opposed to the shark-gill slits of the original.

The bottom still gets uncomfortably hot to the touch during extended gaming sessions. I'd imagine the vents were modified to keep the more powerful hardware within from burning grill marks on the user's thighs, Burger King style.

The only other significant exterior change is the buttons beneath the Switchblade UI.

They're a raised a little higher and a bit more clicky, making the touchpad a much more viable control option. I still prefer an external mouse, but I'm not incredibly inconvenienced if one isn't available.

The New Razer Blade

Price: $US2499.99

Availability: September 2012

Product Specifications: •Intel Core i7-3632QM 2.2GHz (3.2GHz with Turbo Boost)

•NVIDIA GeForce® GTX 660M with NVIDIA Optimus Technology

•2GB Dedicated GDDR5 Video Memory

•8GB 1600MHz DDR3 Memory

•17.3-in. LED Backlit Display (1920x1080)

•Built-in HD webcam

•Integrated 60Wh battery

•500GB 7200rpm HDD

•64GB SATA III SSD

•Wireless Network 802.11 A/G/N + BT4.0

•42.7 x 27.68 x 2.23cm; 3kg

Support for the interface's programmable buttons is growing slowly -- there are now premade profiles for Battlefield 3, Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike Go and Star Wars: The Old Republic. The more support it gets the less gimmicky it feels, but let's face it -- it's still pretty gimmicky. I'd drop cash on a slightly smaller version of the Blade with a regular track pad in a heartbeat.

And I still love the damn keyboard. Those flat keys go against everything I've ever believed a keyboard should be, but they are just so damn responsive and easy to hit, just as they were on the Star Wars: the Old Republic Gaming Keyboard Razer put out. I'm seriously considering investing in the non-branded Deathstalker Ultimate just so I can touch them on a regular basis.

The key changes between Razer Blade the first and Razer Blade the second are hidden deep within its striking outer shell. The overly ambitious 250GB SSD drive of the first unit has been replaced with the more reasonable combination of a 500GB SATA / 64GB SSD combo. The NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M has been replaced with a GeForce GTX 660M -- not a particularly powerful mobile video card but a step in the right direction.

By far, the coolest upgrade is the processor and Intel Core i7-3632QM 2.2GHz (3.2GHz with Turbo Boost) -- so new that I couldn't write about it a week ago without making Intel incredibly angry. Razer introduced the second generation of the Blade with the tagline "The Beauty is now the Beast". This CPU is what they were referring to. It's blazingly fast, able to juggle several dozen browser windows and various applications without breaking a sweat.

Despite all that power under the hood, the second generation blade still chugged a bit with our standard benchmark games running at the unit's native 1920x1080 resolution with all the bells and whistles enabled.

That Total War: Shogun 2 score made me cringe. The game itself was playable, but not particularly enjoyable. Arkham City didn't give me too much trouble, and frankly I was surprised the Metro 2033 score was so high -- it's rather brutal.

Taking things down to 1280x720 made each game much more playable, but I'd rather play games in 1080p on a display that's natively 1080p.

While there's definitely room for the Razer Blade to improve, particularly in the graphics card department, the second generation of the surprisingly portable, seductively stylish gaming laptop is a marked improvement over the original. The $US2500 price tag is still too much for my blood, but it's getting markedly more difficult to repackage and return to Razer once the reviewing is done. If the Blade's success continues and Razer's part costs continue to drop, who knows? Maybe I'll flee the country once they get around to releasing the Mk3.


Comments

    so a 2.5k machine that lags and sputters at under 40fps? no thanks.

      Everything chugs on Metro 2033. You never seen one of these charts before?

        I read benchmarks like the bible. A i5 3570k with two 7950's gets a solid a near 60fps on Metro 2033 at 1080p ultra. A system like that will cost you a heck of alot less than 2.5k.

        While the laptop aint shit, it aint worth 2.5k.

          I think it's a bit unfair to compare it against a desktop.

          And a 3570k and two 7950's alone would cost 1k, so once you factor in the cost of all the other stuff you need (case, mobo, hard drives, monitor, etc) you'll probably be pushing the 2k mark anyway.

          If you read them like the bible then you should understand the importance of context. As the commenter above me has said you just compared this to a desktop (and probably quoted a DIY pricing too - consider buying it off the shelf, like this laptop is). So your comment has become the logical equivalent of "lol, laptop" that we often see on laptop articles. A laptop does have advantages, even in gaming, and we all know there's a trade off in price and power (both being worse than a desktop).

            dayum, you take him down with dat intelligence n shit

              I realise I could have been nicer about it!

              Mental note: coffee first, then kotaku.

            How exactly does a laptop have ANY advantages in gaming over a desktop? And please don't tell me portability, because that means nothing. If portability sacrifices performance, screen size, and harder controls because of a stupid little touch pad (and if your using a mouse and stable platform to play on, then you might as well be using a desktop), then it's not a basis for a compelling argument.
            tuxedoglenny is right, you could easily buy a desktop system for the same kind of money that would make this laptop look like a fisher-price toy in gaming performance (off the shelf pricing is irrelevant - it's another reason why laptops are a waste of time for gaming).

              So much ignorance. It depends on your lifestyle. I don't have a gaming laptop because I don't need one, but some of my friends at uni for example, who play Starcraft 2 religiously and like to plug in at the computer club and play with others, do. I used to have a laptop I used for gaming, and it's really nice to be able to rock up to a LAN, plug your power in and connect to wifi and away you go. Your claim that laptops have NO advantages is completely silly. There are people who benefit greatly from them, but you can't seem to see past your apparent bubble of enthusiast master race circle-jerking. It's not always about having 3 GTX 680's in SLI.

                ... yeah, portability is the only thing you can come up with. It's not just about enthusiast master race; it's about practicality. If you have $2,500 to waste on a laptop that gets WORSE performance as a single mid range card that costs no more than $250 (yeah, that's HUGE enthusiast master race right there), then be my guest. As if the kind of people who own a laptop like this don't go around bragging about it. Get off your high horse.

                  *that gets WORSE performance then a single mid range card

    I don't get this whole talk of portability, up until a few years ago I used to see heaps of people carrying around 4kg and people didn't really mind. Suddenly 2 years back it seems people lost the ability to lift anything above 3kg. My M17x does perfectly fine and I don't seem to find it that heavy to carry about.

      I know right. And why do they bother making mobile phones smaller? I mean 20 years ago we had no trouble carrying around a suitcase with a receiver. People seem to have lost the ability to carry around a suitcase as their phone.

        It certainly had its advantages when phones were that big, we used to be able to use them as a decent weapon to fend off attackers, now look at us, helpless with our needlessly thin and light phones which could not even give someone concussion. Progress for the sake of progress is pointless. The machine has equivalent power to that of a $400 desktop, it really doesn't seem worth it.

    What's worse is it wont cost $2.5k here. Expect it to be closer to $3k or even $3.5k.

    According to IGN battery life was only 45mins-1.5hrs. No point in buying this. Build a mini ITX. It's less portable but much cheaper and better.

      And completely different. Hey don't buy a car, buy a semi trailer!

    gtx670 minimum needed and this would be one beast of a rig.. and for that price.. so skinny and light compared to its competitors, just needs to be able to take full advantage of its own screen resolution

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