We took the MacBook Pro Retina and locked it in a room with the new Razer Blade Pro gaming laptop. Both are deadly practitioners of their own specialized brand of tech Kung Fu. To find out the undisputed winner of that–one-side but–titanic bout, the curious will have to digest the whole piece. Find out if these are the best laptops.
This one is all about my initial impressions and a few notable hiccups I’ve noticed while thoroughly enjoying a myriad of gaming sessions with the Razer Blade Pro gaming laptop. This is Razer’s flagship laptop offering–a refined and proven refresh from their initial BLADE lappy. The Blade Pro is a large laptop with a wide 17.3 inch LED backlit display capable of 1080p. It’s rocking Windows 8 OS. The OS is post RT and pre-8.1. It’s all powered by Intel’s brand new i7 4700-HQ processor (Haswell).
The speed at which this machine gets things done is staggering. From a complete shut done it can boot to life in 6-secs. As I mentioned in the comparison, there’s something about the Blade Pro that subconsciously beckons to be played with… It’s a call I answer each and every time. Much of this has to do with the Spartan layout and the…
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I really like the majestic emerald-on-ebony theme. Yes, it’s the ubiquitous color scheme from Camp Razer. But it looks great. The entire laptop is black with the emerald used only for the lettering on the chicklet style keys and the Razer logo emblazoned on the front cover. Aluminum is the pervading material used. It looks good but you’ll want to wipe it down regularly. It’s a magnet for visible fingerprints and smudging. There’s not a lot unused fluff in or out. When opened you see the webcam and mic at the top of the display. Above the keyboard we have a large power button with another green Razer logo. The keyboard is large with the sizeable chicklet keys. They offer great response and sound nice when pressed. You don’t get a traditional numpad. But one can be accessed as one of the included functions of the trackpad. It’s positioned to the right and creates a familiar and semi-traditional keyboard and mouse setup. This layout and design is more natural for gamers. There’s no fear of inadvertently hitting the trackpad which is typically found below a laptop’s keyboard.
What seemed like a novelty on the Deathstrike and the Star Wars themes keyboard before it, is now as commonplace to Razer as the company’s slithering and scaly nomenclature. The Razer Switchblade is Razer’s trackpad/capacitive touchscreen user interface. We’ve spoken about the feature several times in the past. But now it and the Synapse 2.0 programmable software work without a hitch. You can still use the trackpad to check email, browse the internet, view picture library, watch YouTube video, access a full numpad or secondary direction arrows. You can also use the 10 dynamic tactile keys positioned above for a number of multi-use functions both in and out of games. I have them set to launch programs and webpages. But it’s packed with many customization options and presets for game profiled like Counter-Strike and Battlefield 3. Ever wanted to toss a C4 pack with a single button..? Oh yeah!
Some of the Switchblade supported apps available for download include GIMP to touch up images using the UI, Photoshop for a new tools window with a ton of functionality, Premiere Pro for editing movies, Maya autodesk app for animation tool sets on the UI, Unreal Developer Kit accessibility through the UI and a cool gamer-friendly feature called Mirror Mode. This lets you re-create a portion of your game’s screen and interface right on the Switchblade. Place your RPG character’s gear or item tool belt here for easy access from the Switchblade UI. As the dev kit for the UI makes its rounds to more developers we hope to many and more intelligent applications. I’m still waiting for a dedicated Teamspeak/Ventrilo/Mumble integration and some cool video capture functionality.
All the above just scratches the surface of the Switchblade. It’s pretty slick now and functions as intended. Custom wallpapers features never worked on the Deathstrike. That and more have been cleaned up. It also lends itself more naturally to gesturing commands in Windows 8 and desktop applications. It’s improved and moved from novelty to self-made necessity. Plus it’s plain fun!
I won’t spend too much time here. But the GPU and integrated graphics tech in this black clam is award winning. It’s using a GPU from the brand new 700 series of Nvidia GTX solutions. With the GTX 765m paired with the included Nvidia GeForce Experience tool, I was able to play all the modern games tested at 1080p with approx 40-60fps. Somg game will dip below 40. But 30+ is wholly playable in most applications.
If you want more juice then you could manually tweak settings accordingly, reducing resolution and so forth. With the hands-on approach, GeForce Experience analyzes your hardware and sets game settings accordingly. That said, you won’t get 60+ fps in Metro Last Light with settings maxed. This is the case for BF3, Max Payne 3 and BioShock Infinite. However, mid-range settings allow you to game smoothly and at 1080p on LED backlit display…. Life is good! I was able to play Bioshock Infinite while camping under the stars on 4th of July weekend. Fun times, to be sure!
Heat and Haswell
I’m gonna save the true temps for the review. But in 90+ degree-California after a good hour of gaming, I couldn’t have the thing resting on my bare thighs anymore. It gets too hot. I recommend a solid laptop cooler. Still Razer is doing impressive things. It takes a good hour of hardcore gaming before you notice the heat. A Haswell CPU was a good choice in this regard for it’s low energy consumption and reduced heating threshold.
Here’s another bitter pill to swallow. The Razer Blade Pro gets some decent battery life, about 4-5 hours of general use. But things get intense quickly with high end games. Gaming from full batt-life to dead will run you approx 3 hours if you’re lucky.
This too is an area I would love to see some improvement. There are 3x USB 3 ports. That’s not bad but there are no other connectivity options. What this system is begging for is a SDXC card slot. It really needs this, or another trio of USB ports. I am much happier with a mouse, which takes up another USB (unless you use a Bluetooth mouse). So now you have 2 USB ports left to work with. The Razer Blade Pro just needs more holes!
Storage: Tight Pockets
You absolutely need an external HDD. The Samsung 841 256gb SSD is lightening fast in the realm of 500+mb/s a second. It’s one of the best solid state drives on the market. Yet at this capacity, things feel highly constricting. The scenario reminds me of Aladdin “Absolute cosmic power in a itty-bitty living space.” But seriously, that’s a shallow pocket. You can get by for a while. But without a higher capacity secondary solution, get ready for a lot of drive content management and file shuffling.
That’s it so far–a few bumps in the road. Things heat up a bit and it does need to sup power after a couple hours. Still, these are the facts. What the Blade targets, it hit square in the center. That’s gaming. It’s easy fun and handled with apparent ease. It can run all of today’s most demanding games and on the go, to boot. There’s also not much bloatware at all heaped atop the Windows 8 OS. Razer does toss in their new VoIP program for chatting while in-game. I haven’t tested this out. But it’s free so give it a go and you can tell us. There’s the handy Nvidia GeForce Experience and Razer Synapse 2.0 programming software. It’s all very lightweight and suits the reduced size SSD. We’re going to dive back in and keep testing for our more formal review. But currently, I’m having a lot of fun with the Blade Pro. Is it worth your $2500? Until our review, that’s entirely up to you.