Razer recently sent us its second-gen Blade, complete with a Core i7-3632QM quad-core CPU and GeForce GTX 660M. Eight gigabytes of memory, a 500 GB hard drive, and an SSD cache round out this 17" gaming notebook. Would you believe it's less than 1" thick?
Notebook designers talk about the “Z” (axis) when they refer to the designed thickness of a machine or components inside. The lower the Z, the tougher it is to add complexity and dispel heat. Hence, most gaming notebooks are on the thicker side, since they need the room for large heat sinks and fans. A thermal solution capable of removing the 150+ watts of heat that a high-end gaming system produces simply couldn’t fit inside a MacBook Air. High heat can lead to several unwanted effects. It can shorten the life of batteries and traditional hard drives. Heat can also make a machine uncomfortable to use. In a notebook with a Z as low as Razer's Blade, getting components to fit in, while also getting heat out, becomes the major challenge.
Razer’s motto is “For Gamers. By Gamers”, and it started catering to that demographic in the 90s. Initially, Razer focused on high-end gaming mice to help enthusiasts get the most performance possible by staying on the cutting edge of technology, functionality, and ergonomics. Over the past decade, though, we've seen the company expand its portfolio to include keyboards, headsets, console controllers, and even gaming laptops.
When Razer expanded its line-up with the original Blade, it was a major departure from most gaming notebooks that came before. Razer designed the Blade to generate as much performance as possible in a portable machine, yet it still incorporated a large 17” screen. The company eschewed the bulk and heft of laptop frames commonly used in other 17” gaming machines in favor of a thinner, sculpted body that reduced overall weight. Instead of a large OEM power adapter, Razer created its own, which was lighter and smaller. Instead of a typical trackpad, it included a small touchscreen running the Switchblade UI and ten customizable keys.
The original Razer Blade (released at the tail end of 2011) dealt with thermal challenges by employing a dual-core processor and Nvidia's GeForce GT 555M, a combination that didn't require as much cooling as competing 17" gaming machine. Unfortunately, the match-up also caused the first-gen Blade to lag behind other notebooks in measures of absolute performance. The machine was capable of mid-range gaming, sure. But it was also slower than other systems selling at lower prices. Razer's Blade had the looks and the portability, but it lacked muscle. In the quest for a low Z, the performance trade-off was a little too severe.
The second-generation Blade, which we are reviewing today, represents a major effort to upgrade the machine's performance, while retaining the thinness and features that set the original apart. With a unique quad-core CPU that only dissipates up to 35 watts and a highly-overclocked GeForce GTX 660M, the new Blade should move up a couple of tiers in terms of speed. The cooling system is completely revamped to be more effective than the original, too. To save space, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are covered by one card. In the end, the second-gen Blade should be what Razer's customers were hoping for all along: the right mix of looks, performance, and portability. Is this the one?
|Razer Blade (Second Generation) System Specs|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-3632QM Quad Core: 4C/8T, 2.2 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3.2 GHz Maximum Turbo Boost, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache, 35 W TDP|
|Platform||Intel HM77 Express Chipset|
|Memory||8 GB Dual-Channel DDR3 at 1600 MT/s|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GTX 660M 2 GB GDDR5 with Nvidia Optimus Technology|
|Solid State Drive||Lite-On LMT-64M3M64GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD with Nvelo Dataplex Software (Cache Acceleration)|
|Hard Drive||Hitachi HTS725050A7E630 500 GB 7,200 RPM Hard Drive (Primary Storage)|
|Display||AU Optronics B173HW01 V5 17.3" FHD 16:9 Glossy LED Backlight LCD, 1920x1080|
|Wi-Fi||Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 AGN 2x2 HMC Wi-Fi/Bluetooth Adapter (802.11a/g/n) + BT V4.0|
|Ethernet||Realtek RTL8168 PCIe 10/100/1,000 Mb/s Ethernet|
|Audio||Stereo 2.0 with Dolby Home Theater v4 and HDMI 1.4 Support|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Webcam||Integrated Webcam / Microphone|
|Security||Kensington Security Slot|
|Ports||USB 3.0 (x3), Headphone/Mic Combo, HDMI v1.4|
|Battery||Integrated 60 Wh (64.5 Wh Capacity as shown in test unit)|
|AC Adapter||120 W|
|Dimensions||16.81" (Width) x 10.9" (Depth) x 0.88" (Height)|
|Warranty||One Year Tech Support, Labor, and Parts.Extended 2 year warranty (excludes battery) for an additional $299.99.|
- Meet Razer's Second-Gen Blade
- Design And Features
- Internal Components
- SwitchBlade UI And Keyboard
- Comparing Two Other Iconic 17" Notebooks
- Razer Synapse And Other Included Software
- Packaging, Included Media, System Restore
- Synthetic Benchmarks: 3DMark
- Productivity Benchmarks
- Black Ops II, Battlefield 3, Sniper Elite V2
- Hitman: Absolution, DiRT, And Arkham City
- Mists of Pandaria, Skyrim, And Shogun 2
- AC And Battery Testing
- 75-Minute Heat Run
- Battery Life and AC Power Draw
- Storage, System Latency, And Audio Testing
- Brightness, Contrast, Uniformity, Gamma
- Color Gamut, Color Accuracy, Monitor Rating
- After A Month With Razer's Blade