Reviewing Razer Blade Stealth : An unusual gaming laptop that it doesn’t pack a high-spec graphics card
Not your usual gaming laptop: the Blade Stealth doesn’t pack a high-spec graphics card. Instead you provide your own and pop it into that Core housing that connects via USB-C. Here’s our Razer Blade Stealth review.
RAZER BLADE STEALTH REVIEW
The Razer Blade Stealth is an unusual laptop. It’s aimed at gamers and isn’t cheap, but does not include a graphics card required to make high-end games run quickly.
Instead, this is a normal MacBook-style laptop if you want it to be, but the styling has a gamer flavour. However, it can also plug into a Razer Core module when you’re at home, turning it into a proper gaming PC with the sort of power most laptops can only dream of.
RAZER BLADE STEALTH REVIEW: PRICE
The Razer Blade Stealth is priced like one of the latest-generation ultra-stylish portable laptops, but is cheaper than most. It’s far cheaper than a MacBook Pro with OLED keyboard display, and also costs less than the HP Spectre 13 or Dell XPS 13. Not bad.
It starts at £999 (or $999) with a 128GB SSD and QHD screen. The 256GB is £1249 and the 512GB £1349.
There are also 4K versions at £1549 (512GB) and £1949 (1TB). Razer has sent us the top-end model, but a lot of the observations in this review will apply to all versions.
Buy the Razer Blade Stealth for £999
The lead reason to buy one of these over an alternative other than price, though, is that it can hook up to a Razer Core – an external graphics card. If you’re just after a slim laptop and already have a gaming PC, it’s rather competitive.
This is like a small desktop PC unit, but one that only houses a PCI-e graphics card. It costs £499 (£399 when bought with the laptop), and that price doesn’t even include a graphics card. So this is not a cheap option. For reference, you’d probably want to look at a £190-ish Nvidia GTX 1060 or £210 on an AMD RX480 as a good minimum spec.
RAZER BLADE STEALTH REVIEW: DESIGN
Most high-end portable laptops do not come in plain moody black, the idea being you want to get away from a traditional or boring-looking machine these days. As a gaming computer, it’s no wonder the Razer Blade Stealth embraces it, though.
To our eyes at least, it works.The entire shell is black apart from the writing on the keys and the tentacle-like light-up Razer logo on the lid.
The Razer Blade Stealth seems much more “stealth bomber” than plain black box, and unlike a lot of gaming laptops, you could take it out in public without looking silly. Sure, the logo on the back looks like a sticker a teenager might put on their laptop, but it’s otherwise a super-sharp machine.
This is a great laptop to take around with you 24/7.It weighs 1.2kg and is 13mm thick. While not the slimmest or lightest laptop in the world, it’s not far off either.
Its frame feels great too. The Razer Blade Stealth is all-aluminium: the lid, the underside and the keyboard surround. It’s cool to the touch and has the hard feel you only tend to get with metal.
RAZER BLADE STEALTH REVIEW: CONNECTIVITY
Unlike a MacBook Pro or HP Spectre 13, the Razer Blade Stealth makes it sure caters for current peripherals as well as future ones. There are two full-size USB ports, a USB-C (also used as the power socket) and a full-size HDMI, so connecting to a TV or monitor is extremely simple.
There’s no memory card slot, though, so photographers will want to get hold of a USB SD reader.
Like every laptop this thin, there’s also no optical drive. If you think Razer could have crammed one in we’d like to know how.
RAZER BLADE STEALTH REVIEW: KEYBOARD AND TRACKPAD
The quality of the Razer Blade Stealth’s shell continues in the keyboard and trackpad: both are beyond reproach. However, those expecting chunky keys with a lot of travel are going to be disappointed.
These are classic ultrabook slimline chiclet keys. Their action and feedback is great, but they don’t depress massively. Still, this is nothing like the click eggshell feel of a MacBook. The keys do move a millimetre or so.
The gamer sauce comes instead from the neat backlight, which cycles through all colours of the rainbow and can be set to 12 different intensity levels. Standing out next to the all-black keyboard it looks great.
You don’t just have too leave it cycling through colours like a show room model either. Using the Razer Synapse app you can set it to display a single colour, or apply whole bunch of other profiles.
Keys can light up as they’re pressed, there’s a Fire preset that mimics the tones of a bonfire and Wave, which fires a swift rainbow gradient across the keyboard. There are others too.
There are no dedicated macro keys, as there’s just no space for them, but there’s no mistaking this for anything but a gamer keyboard.There are no dedicated macro keys, as there’s just no space for them, but there’s no mistaking this for anything but a gamer keyboard.Below, the trackpad is very tightly hemmed-in and nowhere near the size of a MacBook pad, but it feels great. Just a single touch tells you this is a very nicely textured glass panel rather than a plastic one. It’s extremely smooth, to the extent it is soft to the touch. Fresh out of the box its sensitivity was a little low, but this may have something to do with our review model having a 4K screen. That’s a lot of desktop pixels to traverse.The pad’s click feels great and is relatively quiet too. Razer has also used a very sensible button layout. Only a square in the bottom-right of the pad acts as a right-button press, making accidental taps a rarity.You may find your hand accidentally touching the pad on occasion for the first few days, but that’s largely because there’s so little spare space here. Not much is wasted.RAZER BLADE STEALTH REVIEW: SCREEN This only applies to the keyboard part though. Look at the fat bezels around the 12.5-inch display: compared to the Dell XPS 13 the screen to size ratio isn’t all that hot. There’s a lot of empty black space around the display.However, aside from making us wish it stretched out a bit more, this is an excellent screen. A reminder: we’re using the higher-end 4K version of the Razer Blade Stealth, but there’s also a cheaper QHD version that should still look very sharp.
Both versions sail ahead of the competition in several respects, mainly thanks to the fact they use IGZO panels rather than IPS or TN. On our test sample, contrast was excellent at up to 1350:1 (depending on brightness), making the black parts of the screen almost fade into the pure black of the surround at the sort of backlight level you’d use indoors.
This doesn’t come at the expense of brightness either. With the backlight maxed, the Razer Blade Stealth outputs a searing 405cd/m2. We’re perfectly happy for a high-end laptop to have 350cd/m2, but this one goes the extra mile.
Colour performance too is remarkable. Our colorimeter says it covers 99.9 percent of sRGB, 98.2 percent of Adobe RGB and 87.6 percent of DCI P3 colour standards. It can also render colours outside of all three, with 147.7 percent of sRGB and 101.8 percent of Adobe RGB.
The Razer Blade Stealth is the sort of laptop that makes us much less bothered about OLED models. Who needs one with LCDs like this?
Right out of the box the Razer Blade Stealth looks every bit an Adobe RGB display, meaning colours appear intensely bold. We had some trouble getting the display to revert to an sRGB calibration for a more relaxed look, so it would have been handy if Razer had baked this into its own software, though.
The 3840×2160 pixel resolution appears extremely sharp, although given the QHD model will also appear sharp and is significantly cheaper, many of you may be more comfortable with that version. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed by this 4K screen. It’s a touch display too, a feature missing from the HP Spectre 13 and Dell XPS 13.
While we haven’t used the QHD version ourselves, we do know it doesn’t quite have the amazing colour depth of the 4K one. Razer says it hits 70 per cent of Adobe RGB, though, a figure suggesting it should cover 100 percentper cent of sRGB or very close to that. We’d likely still be very happy with the lower-spec display day-to-day, much as it’s clearly less impressive than the 4K one.
RAZER BLADE STEALTH REVIEW: PERFORMANCE
Most Razer laptops use discrete graphics cards to get you far better gaming performance than the average laptop. However, the Razer Blade Stealth is more conventional in this respect.
It uses integrated Intel HD 620 graphics, baked into the Intel Core i7-7500U chip. This is the first laptop we’ve reviewed with a seventh-generation Kaby Lake processor though, so it’s still cutting-edge.
This is a dual-core low voltage CPU, typical of those normally used in laptops like this, which need to maintain good stamina as well as decent performance.
One of the great aspects of the Razer Blade Stealth is that all the models have this higher-end Core i7 CPU, where many £1000-or-more ultrabooks still have Core i5 CPUs.
The Razer Blade Stealth scores 2044 points in PC Mark 8 (Home) and 7393 (3620 per core) in Geekbench 3, 7894 (4070 per core) in Geekbench 4.Performance is not a huge leap ahead of Skylake’s chipsets, though.
While this is excellent for a very slim and light productivity laptop, it’s totally different to the performance of a true gaming laptop, which would use a quad-core CPU and discrete graphics card.
The Intel 620 GPU is also only marginally better than the HD 520 of last-gen laptops. In Thief, it manages 21.9fps with the resolution set to 720p and graphics set to low, dipping to a painful 6.5fps at 1080p with visual effects maxed-out. That’s only around 1fps and 0.5fps (respectively) better than the Skylake-powered Acer Aspire S13 we reviewed recently.
On its own, this is no gaming laptop. To get anything like Razer’s usual gaming cred, you need to buy the Core attachment. In case you skipped over our intro, this is a desktop-bound unit that plugs into the laptop via Thunderbolt USB-C, and houses its own graphics card. You can buy one with a Stealth for £399, although this does not include the graphics card itself. Both Nvidia and AMD cards are supported, including full-size PCI-e models.
As these laptops only have dual-core CPUs, it’s likely they’ll become a bottleneck with certain games when paired with, for example, an Nvidia GTX 1080. However, you can still create a pretty fearsome setup with a Razer Blade Stealth. It just won’t be cheap.
We’re also slightly disappointed by the style of fan used here. There are two to each side of the Razer Blade Stealth’s underside, but their relatively small diameter means they produce quite an obvious high-pitch whine under pressure. More so than a Dell XPS 13. If you’re going to use this laptop as the brain of a home gaming setup, you might want to find a nice sound-insulating cupboard into which you can dump the thing.
For the first few hours of testing, the fans seemed to yo-yo all over the place in terms of their revs, sounding like they were preparing for take off with no justification. However, this seems to have settled down and the Razer Blade Stealth is largely near-silent with normal light use.
RAZER BLADE STEALTH REVIEW: BATTERY LIFE
To see how long the Razer Blade Stealth lasts with fairly light use, we set it to play a 720p video on loop until the battery died. It lasted six hours 42 minutes at 120cd/m screen brightness.
It’s not mammoth stamina, but should be enough to get your through most of a work day. And is certainly better longevity than that of a great big gaming laptop.
You will likely get better battery life from the QHD version too, thanks to the sheer number of pixels our Razer Blade Stealth has to drive in our 4K version.
RAZER BLADE STEALTH REVIEW: SOUND QUALITY
You get no prizes for guessing how the Razer Blade Stealth’s speakers work. They pipe out from the grilles to the left and right of the keyboard, getting you a very clear stereo effect and dispersal that doesn’t depend on how the laptop sits on the table/floor/your lap.
We had a chance to listen to the Stealth alongside the new MacBook Pro, the HP Spectre 13 and Microsoft Surface Book. It’s one of the loudest and beefiest-sounding of the bunch, only beaten by the MacBook, which has quite alarmingly powerful speakers for its size.
The tone of the sound is rather nice too, without the clear skews some laptops suffer form when they try to sound bassier. We could happily watch a film on the Blade Stealth without wishing we had a speaker to plug in.
The Razer Blade Stealth is an accomplished little laptop that can sidle up to the flashiest ultraportable laptops without seeming like the weird gamer kid in the corner. It’s slim, it’s moody, and you can tweak its personality with the multi-colour keyboard backlight: pink on black is a strong look. Its 4K screen is stunning if you don’t mind ultra-energetic Adobe RGB-style colours and while battery stamina isn’t amazing, it roughly matches the new MacBook with OLED touch panel. It’s a shame the cost of making this a home gaming laptop with the Core attachment is quite so high, but the Razer Blade Stealth convinces as a pure and simple ultra-light style laptop too. Black is back for everyone tired of brushed aluminium and “rose gold”. We’d recommend buying the cheaper version than we’re actually reviewing unless you absolutely need loads of ultra-fast storage and a 4K display. While the Quad-HD version loses the immense colour saturation, it’ll still look sharp across 12.5 inches and at £999 is a solid deal.