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After A Month With Razer's Blade

Razer's Second-Generation Blade Notebook Review: Focusing On The Z
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We spend most of our reviews trying to find something wrong with the products we review, and this was no exception. Razer made its Blade R2 thin and beautiful, so something had to have been traded off. Before we tested this notebook, we assumed it'd either be slow or far too hot, given the parts inside. I even wondered if Razer's build quality would hold up to someone who tends to be rough on mobile hardware. In the end, though, the Blade proved us wrong, making a strong impression on me, in particular.

The design turned out to be both elegant and functional. I spent a month using it as my primary notebook. I gamed with it (plugged into the wall) a lot. But I also took it to many meetings and a conference. I threw it into my backpack and carried it around. Sure, it needed to be cleaned by the end of that month, but the machine itself was just as solid as the day it arrived. The finish still looks great and the display hinges are as tight as new. Not once in my month with it did the Blade lock up or overheat, even when I tried to cause issues.

Performance is similarly solid. You get a killer quad-core processor with a 35 W thermal ceiling, and it's able to keep up with some of the 45 W CPUs out there. You get a GeForce GTX 660M with a core overclocked to 950 MHz and 2,500 MT/s memory that does not throttle. You get 500 GB of storage space with a large SSD-based cache. You get a great keyboard and the Switchblade UI only available on the Blade. You get a 17.3” FHD LCD panel with great color and viewing angles. You get Nvidia's Optimus switching technology that allows this system to offer respectable battery life outside of games, too. Once you fire up your favorite shooter, we'd only caution that the Blade doesn't last long away from a wall socket.

We do wish that the standard warranty were longer (two years) and that the price of upgrading coverage was less than $300. After all, this is a closed machine with no user-serviceable parts, which we're not used to. Fortunately, Razer smartly keeps the drives and battery away from the primary heat-generating components, which would otherwise adversely affect them. The company should stand behind that smart design and give buyers a little more peace of mind.

Price will invariably be what limits the number of Blades out in the wild. At $2,500, it's about $450 more expensive than some of the other 17" gaming notebooks we've reviewed with similar hardware. Then again, the extra $450 does buy a lot more portability. The chassis and power adapter on the Blade are much thinner. Together, this system is over four pounds lighter than other gaming systems with comparable displays. The extra investment also buys a machine that most other folks don't have. Through its features and scarcity, the Blade gets noticed. If you're into that sort of thing, spending more gets you a status symbol. Yes, a Casio tells time. But an Omega Speedmaster says a lot about you. The same analogy carries over here.

If you are looking for style from a full-sized gaming machine, there is very little out there that comes close. Yes, there are machines with faster graphics modules. But, in our testing, there weren't many combinations of games and settings we couldn't play at a native 1920x1080. If you're in love with the Blade's look and feel, it's reassuring to know that it'll game. If you're looking for more in the way of performance, and aren't as particular about where it comes from, then you might choose something else. In the end, Razer's designers followed through on what they felt like a mobile gaming platform should be.

In our month with the Blade, we gained an appreciation for Razer’s overall concept and attention to detail. I wasn't able to break the system, nor could I cause it to fail. Furthermore, I didn't find any glaring weakness in performance, aside from battery life in 3D applications. Perhaps my biggest issue was that I didn't want to pack the Blade up and send it back to California.

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