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Most Portable 17" Gaming Laptop Available Today
on July 19, 2012
I had my eye on the Razer Blade Laptop since it was announced two years ago and bought mine in February. After owning the notebook for six months now would like to share my impressions. Having owned a plethora of gaming laptops over the years (DELL XPS 17, ASUS Gamers Republic G73 series, Alienware M15X, M17X, even the huge M18X) I can say without any reservation this is the lightest, sleekest, most portable gaming laptop I've ever owned, and the only one like it on the market as of right now.
Aesthetically, the Razer Blade has all the sleek, unibody looks of the Apple Macbook line, thought it is a matte black aluminum laptop rather than silver. Razer has really designed this unit with gamers in mind. For example, the 17.3" 1080P display is matte with excellent contrast and color reproduction. The keyboard has an anti-ghosting feature (I'm not sure what the other reviewer was complaining about as neither my screen nor keys have ever suffered from ghosting in any scenario). Even the side fans blow hot exhaust back away from the gamer which is a plus. With the aluminum construction the Blade is a solid, well designed piece of hardware.
The most unique feature of the Blade is of course the Switchblade UI, which includes a color video touchpad located to the right of the keyboard, and 10 customizable LED icons. While the location of the trackpad is awkward at first and takes a day or so to become accustomed to, it is a delight to use. Razer regularly updates the Switchblade software, adding new icons and customization features. I, however, have enjoyed more than anything, creating my own icons for apps and games and shortcuts. I press the game icon and my game list profile launches with a list of 20 games, each with their own launch icon. I can slide back and forth on the display using a three finger side scroll, and select Max Payne 3 (yes, the Blade runs it just fine), and then my Max Payne 3 custom profile launches. Bring this thing to a lan party and watch the folks "Ooh and ahh" as you switch back and forth using custom icons. It really does make this laptop one of a kind.
Performance-wise, the Blade is an upper-middle class gaming laptop. This means its somewhat comparable to the Alienware M14X (2011 edition). It features some of the best of last years tech, including a dual core Sandy Bridge i7 CPU, which is quite fast and capable, and runs cooler than the quadcore (also preserving battery life), as well as an NVIDIA 555M GT Graphics Card. With the most current driver, the Blade scores 12530 running 3DMark06. Of course, with the advent of Ivy Bridge and Nvidia's Kepler 6XXX series GPUs, the question is, "Is the Blade still all that powerful?" Well, it was never the most powerful laptop to begin with. My M18X with crossfire outperformed the Blade in every test. Moreover, Ivy Bridge has better performance benchmarks, not to mention better integrated GFX and better battery life. The Geforce 650M has shown itself to be an impressive card as well (Macbook Retina anyone?). These are two upgrades people are hoping for in the next iteration of the Blade (maybe Q4 this year or early next year, no one really knows). As someone who typically keeps their laptop for less than a year, I had mulled selling my Blade a while back but have decided to keep it, at least until I see what Razer's next big offering looks like. Here's my rational for doing so, as well as my advice to those considering pulling the trigger and buying this unique laptop (on sale with 10% off for students right now BTW):
1. This is still a very powerful gaming laptop. Aside from Metro 2033, I have yet to find a game that I can't play on this machine with respectable framerates, high resolution (nearly all my games I play at 1080p, and one or two I drop the resolution down to 1600P or 720p), and high textures. I play Skyrim at 1080P with the high res textures pack, and ultra settings, with only the filter lowered, and average 40+ FPS. Battlefield 3 I lower to 720P but play it maxed out, Dirt 3 maxed out at 1080P, Max Payne 3 at 1080P with low shadows, Spec Ops the Line maxed out, MW3 plays flawlessly maxed out. So all that to say this may have 2011 tech in it, but there aren't any modern PC games that this unit can't play well, leaving me with a satisfied smile.
2. This is still the most portable gaming laptop. The only laptop I would compare this one to as of right now would be the Macbook Pro 17, which was discontinued this year actually. The Blade is thinner than the 17 at less than an inch, is just as light, just as portable. You won't simply won't find another 17" notebook with gaming specs as high as this, that is as portable as the Blade. I would also point out the Blade also comes with a power adapter that is also an inch thick, and weighs about as much as a TV remote. I can actually put the adapter in my pocket and carry the Blade under my arm. Coming from an M18x with a 3lb adapter, its a refreshing thing. I would say if you want a comparable 17" notebook and like OSX, the Macbook Pro 17 2011 is really your only other option. But again, as of right now, you still won't find a 17" laptop with these specs and with this level of portability.
3. This is still the most unique gaming laptop. While you can't change the color of the keyboard (ala Alienware and a few other models), the Razer Blade is still the only notebook on the market that allows you to change your actual keys and touchpad for that matter. You won't find freedom to customize your PC experience anywhere else as of right now. Kudos to Razer for having the chutzpah to bring an innovative product like this to the market before anybody else.
So, is the Razer Blade for you? If you want the most powerful Ivy Bridge, Kepler-infused Gaming Laptop on the market as of right now, then no. Its not the most powerful, not by a long shot. That was never Razer's goal. But if you are in the market for the most portable, most unique, and in my opinion, most attractive 17" gaming laptop currently available, then look no further than the Razer Blade.