on October 1, 2013
Razer ran a promotion on twitter a month ago, the #RazerB2S (back to school giveaway). I won, so here is my review. . .
Lets start with appearance. The design is very simple, no weird angles or bevels, just a clean smooth design with rounded corners. The finish is a beautiful matte black, so it looks great and doesn't take finger prints. While some have complained about the green Razer logo, I think it looks striking, especially since it glows when the screen is on.
Next up is the physical build quality - which is superb. It feels sturdy, and will not bend/flex (well, the screen will, but anything that thin would). The keys feel solid, and there are two long rubberized feet on the bottom (running most of the length of the front and back). The charging brick and cord are solid (and wonderfully small and light), and the connection feels very good. Many charging ports feel as if they would break under a tiny stress, this one feels like I could dangle the computer from it without damage (note: I'm not going to try it, you probably shouldn't either). Of course that can be a disadvantage if you are apt to trip on the cord, as that could pull the laptop onto the floor. A magnetic solution (similar to a Macbook) may have been an over all more robust solution, but for a standard charging cable, it feels great.
Now, onto the system. Boot time is unbelievable, you can go from cold to fully operational in seconds, which is partially thanks to Razers hardware optimizations, and partially thanks to Windows 8's vastly improved boot times. The OS is pretty much stock Windows 8, the Razer website says that it has no bloatware, which is *true* to some extent. But there are a few programs installed that aren't stock Windows.
- Razer Synapse 2.0: I'll give this a pass, since this is a Razer gaming machine, and synapse allows for customizing keyboard hotkeys, and for adjusting the key backlight. However I was disappointed that I could not use the FN key (which controls secondary functions on the F1-12 row) to give keys (even F-row) secondary functions. In fact you don't seem to be able to be able to program hot keys that use modifiers at all. All in all I think AHK will remain my key-mapping solution. It dose make disabling the caps lock key easy though.
- Qualcomm Atheros Killer Network Manager: I'm not sure what it's for honestly, it appears to track network (and system) performance, but not in a really useful way. I don't know what the point is, and it keeps bugging me to run speed tests and can't seem to remember that I selected "don't show this message again". It just doesn't seem useful, especially with a memory footprint of up to 100MB (that I have noticed). I don't know how to classify this as anything but bloatware.
- Intel/Nvidia stuff: There are settings managers for the Intel graphics and for the SSD, and for Nvidia graphics. All are poorly designed, but are probably necessary for optimal performance.
- Razer Comms: Unlike Synapse this has nothing to do with my hardware, it's just a chat/messenger application. . . For a system I don't use, or have any reason to use. Skype works perfectly fine. . . So what's the point? Gotta call it bloat.
Aside from that it's just Windows 8.
Now as too the performance. The Nvidia graphics card kicks in automatically when the intel graphics can't handle the load, so you may see low FPS for a second, that a major spike when it switches over. You will know that the Nvida is on because of a very low hum from the fans that will kick in (though the noise increases as it heats up) as soon as it swaps. I can easily record Minecraft at 1080p and 60 FPS (higher actually, if I don't lock the FPS) with all the settings maxed out. And the SSD is able to write fast enough to not kill the performance. The downside is that at 256GB a 60 FPS raw HD video will fill up the drive rather fast. Unfortunately it gets HOT, really hot. It can become uncomfortable to play games since your hands are resting on the machine, and the keyboard is almost too hot to touch at times. This is unfortunate, but not really avoidable in a laptop that's this small.
The keyboard and trackpad are not the worst, nor are they the best. The keys are a bit on the harder side to press, but they feel clicky rather than mushy. Unfortunately due to the size they are small low-profile keys (which can be annoying to type with) and it lacks a numerical keypad (which is normal for a 14" laptop, it would be hard to fit, but it's missed). Aside from the physical aspect, I have noticed that the back light can be a bit uneven. My Windows key is very bright, and the F11 and F12 keys are rather dim, the back light is a much appreciated feature, but it could have been implemented better. And my last beef with the keyboard? The font choice, it just looks kinda wonky, but I guess that's just personal preference. The trackpad is a synaptics touch pad, with very nice satisfying clicky buttons. it's a fairly large touch pad, with all the multitouch and gestures you would expect, and all the features that normally come with a synaptics device. I think I prefer the (also synaptics) touch pad on my old computer, that was smaller, and had a textured surface. The pad isn't bad, but unfortunately not the best - and simply not very game friendly. But what track pad is?
Now about the screen. . . This has to be the most annoying feature - the screen is not full HD, and the anti-glare finish makes anything white look grainy. I would really have liked a 1920x1080 screen, especially for recording games, which requires that you have a 1080 screen to record in 1080.
Then there are a few things it completely lacks. First, the optical drive, it has none. I like my BD drive, so the loss is annoying, but well worth the trade off for size and weight. Second is a wired network adapter. An Ethernet port probably wouldn't even fit, but man did I wish I had one when my wireless router was on the fritz.
But my favorite parts? First is the battery: It lasts for hours (when not gaming) even with the brightness turned all the way up. Now if you do start gaming (or utilize the Nvida card) the battery is just not going to last, and you can't expect it too - that card is optimized for performance, which requires far more power. The other amazing feature? The weight. It's so amazingly light and thin, and yet packs all the power you would expect from a gaming machine. And it isn't just the most powerful laptop in the size class, but a pretty high level gaming machine in it's own right.
- Boot time
- Supports 5Ghz Wi-Fi networks
- USB 3
- Screen resolution
- key size
- Back light uneven
- No optical drive
- No Ethernet
All in all this is an amazing machine, it has its flaws, but I think we need a new tech spec: Performance per ounce, cause this machine would be at the top of the charts.