At a mere 17mm thick and powerful enough to capably handle some of the most demanding games on the market, Razer's new 14-inch Blade might be the coolest piece of equipment I've ever played a PC game on. It's certainly the hottest.
Once known for its mid-to-high-end gaming peripherals, Razer has gotten to a point where I can no longer refer to them as an accessory manufacturer. Between the original 17-inch Razer Blade, the Edge PC gaming tablet, and now this ridiculously thin beauty, the company has definitely made an impression on the PC gaming market. With engineers pushing the envelope and leadership unafraid to sacrifice a lower price point for a more innovative product, Razer is one of the gutsiest companies building gaming machines today.
Case in point, the new Razer Blade, the 14-inch machine that's taking over the Blade name while its 17-inch predecessor goes pro. Prior to its debut in late May, Razer teased the unit with the tagline "thinner than a dime". As Kirk Hamilton pointed out during a write-up of his hands-on time with the unit, perhaps "shorter than a dime" would have been more appropriate.
Another Razer marketing favourite is "impossibly thin", a much more apt description of the new Blade, as I can't see how it performs as well as it does without exploding.
Crammed inside this sleek and sexy aluminium housing is a Intel Core i7-4702HQ quad core processor running at 2.2GHz (3.2GHz when Turbo Boosted) and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. Cooling this sort of hardware is the very reason most dedicated gaming laptops are big and bulky.
Yet the 14-inch Razer Blade survives marathon gaming sessions of demanding games — I've run Metro: Last Light on the highest settings for 10 hours straight — without melting into a puddle, and all the external cooling I can see is these two tiny fan vents on the bottom of the unit.
That doesn't mean the unit doesn't get hot. It gets damn hot — so hot that a more traditional PC manufacturer might not have approved the design. What's amazing about the Blade's design is where it gets hot. I promised myself I wouldn't use stock images in this review, but this one's unavoidable.
The Blade's unique thermal solution, as seen but probably not understood in the photo above, pipes all of the system's heat to the rear of the unit. On top, it's the area between the keyboard and the display. These areas get piping hot — not so much that brushing your finger past them would burn you, but holding them against the metal for any extended time is out of the question. This is not a system you'd want to bring with you into the bathroom (that's what the Edge is for).
Unless you're planning to play PC games exclusively on your bare legs, the heat is little more than an annoyance, one easily overlooked in the light of the power packed into the Blade's slender, four pound frame.
I tested several popular PC games, each running at their highest possible settings at the Blade's native 1600x900 resolution. Tomb Raider averaged 40 frames per second. BioShock Infinite averaged in the low 40s as well. Metro: Last Light's benchmark gave me an average of 31 FPS, but the game, as seen in the video above, seemed to run much better than the benchmark, easily averaging 45.
The numbers may not be impressive compared to those of a high-end PC packed with top-of-the-line full-size graphics cards, but these are games running at ultra settings, on a machine that's only 17mm thick. There is no other machine that comes close to pushing the amount of power the new Blade does in a similar form factor, period.
Even when not engaged in a heated battle with demanding PC games, the new Blade is an impressive machine. The aluminium construction is impressively sturdy, the design understated, even with the ever-present glowing green serpent logo. The Killer wireless chip is quite speedy, important in a system without a physical network port. The built-in stereo speakers give good sound, though a nice set of headphones is preferred. The trackpad is a trackpad — external mouse for the win — devoid of the customisable Switchblade interface keys of its bigger brother. That's probably for the best.
If I could improve one aspect of the new Blade, it would be the screen. It's quite lovely when you look at it just right, but the viewing angle isn't spectacular — expect regular adjustments if you shift about in your seat a lot while playing. The battery life could be better as well. I could see getting the promised six hours out of it during everyday use, but cord-free gaming isn't going to last more than an hour and a half before the system needs more juice.
When Razer first got into the gaming PC business, trumpeting its rallying cry of "PC Gaming Is Not Dead", I was certain the company's plan to change the face of PC gaming was little more than marketing hype. Now that I've seen the original Blade, the Edge, and this impossible beauty, I'm not so sure.
With the new 14-inch Razer Blade, the company has created a gaming machine the likes of which we may not have seen for at least another couple of years otherwise. This sort of fearless innovation is exactly what the PC gaming hardware industry needs to take them beyond the big scary boxes and into the hearts and homes of gamers everywhere.
The 14-Inch Blade is available for purchase at Razerzone.com. Prices start at $2299 RRP in Australia.