Razer Blade Hands-on
We take a first look at the new ultra-thin 17-inch gaming notebook.
by Scott Lowe
February 2, 2012
It has been a long, tumultuous road for Razer's 17-inch gaming notebook , but now the Blade has finally arrived in all of its 0.9-inch thick, aluminum-encased glory.
Compared to the 11-inch and 14-inch notebooks I've been using as of late, the Blade feels massive, but as far as 17-inch products go, it's one of the thinnest and lightest around. The design is filled with flat surfaces and hard edges, which make it sleek and minimalist, teetering on the edge of almost looking too plain. Razer spices things up a bit with its green LED-illuminated keyboard and accents, as well as the striking Switchblade UI. The overall construction feels solid with the display hinge mounted tightly and the keys springy and responsive.
Perhaps as striking as the size of the notebook itself, however, is how small Razer has managed to make the power brick, which is roughly the size and weight of the average TV remote. Compared to competing gaming notebooks, this is a huge improvement. What's more, despite the overall thinness of the notebook's chassis, the system supports three USB ports, as well as a full sized HDMI cable connection and ethernet jack.
The system boots to Windows 7 Home Premium with a completely clean, Razer-branded desktop.The company has kindly gone in and gutted much of the unnecessary bloatware and added only its own Synapse 2.0 software, which syncs player profiles and macros to the cloud to be shared seamlessly with all synced computers. With synapse, users control the Switchblade module, which includes the LCD-backed trackpad and 10 custom keys.
By default, the keys are configured to offer quick access to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, GMAIL and a few custom widgets, such as a clock, screen recording program, etc.
But these keys don't just launch windows on the primary display, they take over the LCD trackpad, allowing you to have a dedicated window to scroll through your Twitter feed or check your Facebook. Switching back to the trackpad is as simple as tapping a home key just to the left of the interface.
A more detailed sense of performance will have to wait until I've had more time with system, but I was able to play a brief session of Battlefield 3. At 1920x1080 at high settings, the system ran smoothly at well over 30 frames per second with no slowdown. Upping the graphics quality to ultra, however, caused framerates to drop and produce recognizable stutter. Considering the Blade's specs--8GBs of RAM, 2.8GHz dual-core Intel i7 and NVIDIA GT555m--its performance while running Battlefield 3 was about what I expected.
Despite being pleased with most of what I've seen from the Blade, I'm witholding final judgment. The price tag is a massive hurdle, especially for a product with as limited upgradability as a specialized gaming notebook. How the system performs during longer play sessions is also a concern; the design has four small ventilation points, which seem as though they would be incapable of displacing enough heat as the GPU and CPU are reaching peak performance. Finally, I can't help but wonder how long does the system's battery lasts during real world usage.
Only time will tell, but based on what I've seen thus far, I'm hopeful.
by Scott Lowe
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