The new Razer Blade Stealth is an unusual beast. It’s manufactured by a company that proudly states on the box that they are “For Gamers, By Gamers” but, like the previous model, it’s not really a gaming laptop. But it is one of the best ultrabooks you can buy.
What Is It?
- Display: 13.3in, 3200×1800 pixels (276 PPI)
- CPU: Intel Core i7-7500U, 2.7-3.5GHz
- RAM: 16GB LPDDR3-1866
- GPU: Intel HD 620
- Storage: 256GB-1TB PCI-E SSD
- Dimensions: 321x206x13.1mm, 1.33kg
The $2199.95 Razer Blade Stealth is the latest Razer ultrabook and successor to the original Razer Blade Stealth released in 2016. Campbell reviewed that model last year and was a fan of it’s design and display, but lamented its battery life, connectivity and RAM options.
This model doesn’t change too many things about the design – it’s still wonderfully sleek and lightweight, features high-end processing power and a fully-customisable RGB-backlit keyboard but some subtle and some not-so-subtle changes position this as one of the best ultrabooks to release this year.
The first of those changes is that the Stealth is now available with a larger 13.3-inch QHD+ display at a resolution of 3200×1800 and 276 pixels per inch. This brings it into line with some of the more recent ultrabooks to release, like the Surface Laptop. You can still find the 12.5-inch model if that’s your thing and the screen comes in at a resolution of 3840×2160 and 352 PPI.
Importantly, by reducing the size of the bezels on the display, Razer have been able to include the 13.3-inch screen without compromising the form factor, so the laptop hasn’t increased in size and, impressively, only weighs an extra 40g over its smaller counterpart.
Under the hood, Razer have made the necessary hardware changes to all models to ensure the Stealth maintains its high-end specifications. All models include 16GB LPDDR3 RAM (up from 8GB), integrated Intel HD 620 graphics (up from the Intel HD 520) and Intel’s 7th Gen ‘Kaby Lake’ i7-7500U Processor (up from the i7-6500U) that has a 2.7Ghz base and a 3.5Ghz turbo clock speed.
There are five models to choose from: You can get the 13.3-inch model with 256GB ($2199.95), 512GB ($2499.95) or 1TB ($2999.95) of PCI-E solid-state storage, whereas the 12.5-inch only comes in 512GB ($2399.95) or 1TB ($2999.95)
What’s It Good At?
The Blade Stealth is designed so incredibly well that I honestly started to regret rushing out and purchasing a Surface Laptop. Razer have been able to maintain the form factor of the 12.5-inch model while increasing the screen size by decreasing the bezel around the display and maximising the use of available space.
It’s a design choice that holds true for the entire unit. The tenkeyless-keyboard is compact and flanked by near-invisible speaker grates while the trackpad basically disappears into the base of the unit yet, tactilely, feels different enough under hand for you to know exactly where it is. Couple that with the CNC aluminium exterior and you get a device that looks immaculate while maintaining a high level of durability.
Even with all those impressive design traits, the Blade Stealth is near weightless at 1.33kg and adds very little weight to a backpack when travelling. I noticed that the Stealth’s form factor isn’t quite as deep as the Surface Laptop I’ve been using and initially worried that would make it harder to use when on the move, in places where I’m propping it up on my knees, lap or in other weird positions I put my body into on a cramped train.
The decreased depth was no issue, and the Stealth seemed to rest well in whatever unusual spot I held it in. Portability is a major plus for me, where I’m constantly moving from desk to table to couch to bed and so on, and in this department the Blade Stealth is exceptional.
The QHD+ IGZO touch display was immediately impressive to me. Though it isn’t quite 4K resolution, colour reproduction and accuracy is excellent, providing images that are crisp, vibrant and have excellent contrast. I would have preferred streaming Netflix through the Blade Stealth as opposed to my Surface Laptop, except for the fact that the speakers on the Stealth aren’t quite as good as Microsoft’s competitor.
I still don’t get excited by the idea of a touch screen in ultrabooks like this, but because of the small form factor, I consciously caught myself reaching out and moving things around, on occasion.
While the refreshed model is still using LPDDR3 RAM, Razer has bumped it up to 16GB and coupled with the Kaby Lake i7-7500U this is a powerful machine for basically any day-to-day applications you may be using. I routinely work with 50 or more tabs open, word documents and speciality apps and it didn’t even bat an eyelid.
Moreover, even without a top-line GPU it handled Photoshop and Premiere Pro exceptionally well and it can run a raft of PC titles such as Battlegrounds and Overwatch at acceptable framerates, I just wouldn’t be using this thing as a gaming laptop.
What’s It Okay At?
I hesitated talking about its connectivity and RGB-backlighting in both the ‘Good’ and ‘Not Good’ section and resolved to put it in a completely new section of my own choosing.
Connectivity options are similar to most ultrabooks in this price range and the Razer features a single Thunderbolt 3 port (USB C 3.1), two USB 3.0 ports, audio port and a HDMI port. I think if you’re going to judge the Blade Stealth as a gaming laptop then you likely put this in the Not Good category, whereas if you’re judging it against similar ultrabooks, it gets a pass mark. You also get Bluetooth 4.1 and Killer Wireless AC.
It is interesting that the Stealth tries to hold onto its gaming laptop roots by providing a fully customisable RGB-backlit keyboard. It’s a feature that appeals to the gaming crowd, sure, but when you start to position your laptop more for users looking for mobility and productivity, particularly from a specifications point of view, it feels a little out of place.
That’s not to say it’s bad – Razer’s Synapse software which is used to customise the keyboard is user-friendly-enough and highly functional – it’s just a point of difference between similar ultrabooks that doesn’t improve the Stealth’s standing and actually hurts its battery life.
What’s It Not Good At?
A gaming laptop this is not and if you’re looking for a portable gaming beast, the Blade Stealth isn’t right for you. You can get respectable frame rates and performance from a range of titles, but as it’s only packing integrated Intel HD Graphics 620.
Razer Core, which turns your laptop into a desktop by providing an external GPU, still remains a powerful asset if you want to use your laptop as a gaming device and it’s exceptionally easy to connect – you just use the Thunderbolt 3 port – but the trade off is that you lose the mobility and of course, you’ll be spending extra money which defeats the purpose of buying the Stealth in the first place.
The Stealth packs so many high-energy features into the unit, there is definitely a compromise on battery life. The battery is larger than its predecessor, up from 45Wh to 53.6Wh, and Razer claims this gives will give you around 9 hours of life.
If you crank the RGB backlighting on the keys, the battery life decreases even more, so I turned them off to see how long I could go on with a single charge. I was able to get through just under 5 hours of constant use doing basic word processing, intermittent YouTube and web browsing. For a device that’s aimed squarely at productivity and mobility, the battery life is still a sore point even as Razer have brought it more into line with some of its closest competition.
Should You Buy It?
The 13.3-inch $2199.95 Razer Blade Stealth seems like an unusual beast at first glance, caught between wanting to appeal to the gaming crowd but, in reality, positioning itself as an ultrabook. Is it an in-between? I wouldn’t say so, but if you look at the Blade Stealth in the same category as MacBook Airs, Dell XPS’ and Microsoft Surface Laptops, you begin to understand that this is an impeccably-designed device that rivals the best of them. Though the price has increased from the lower-end models released last year, the specifications are significantly improved and though I wouldn’t call it a value buy, it certainly is worth its price tag.
The real key for me is that Razer listened to some of the complaints about the previous Blade Stealth, because they doubled the RAM and also the battery life without compromising on quality. For an all-day, on-the-go experience, the battery life still isn’t quite there and I’d love to see this improve even more in future iterations, but because the Blade Stealth is such a powerful, well-built device, I can’t do anything but recommend it.