Since so many people have been asking me about my opinion about the Razer Blade, I’m here to lay down some cold hard facts.
So, as many of you may already know, Razer has been working on a campaign to prove that PC gaming is not dead. While this is definitely an audacious statement to make as a company, it probably isn’t too far from the truth. However, today we won’t be addressing the death of PC gaming nor whether or not Razer is right or wrong about it. Frankly, the ‘PC gaming is not dead campaign’ is just a viral marketing campaign designed to draw attention to their new product. The aptly named Razer Blade.
Before we explain why we wouldn’t touch the Razer Blade, we have to go back into the not so recent past and see that Razer had already announced the Razer Switchblade Concept at CES 2011, which they touted as the future of gaming. The Razer Switchblade was a small 7” portable gaming device which is severely underpowered as it only features an Intel Atom processor, which any gamer knows is almost useless for any real gaming unless that gaming is done via a service like OnLive. This began the company’s obsession of trying to get a foothold in the gaming platform market.
Now that we’ve provided backstory to Razer’s attempts to create a gaming platform prior to the release of the Blade, we want to go over the specifications and price of the Razer Blade. First of all, Razer’s marketing team has decided to peg the Razer Blade as, “The World’s First True Gaming Laptop.” Where they get this brilliant marketing idea from we have no idea but we’ll leave the ridiculous statements by Razer to be evaluated by you.
The specifications of the Razer Blade are as follows:
Intel Core i7 – 2640M processor – Dual Core Core i7
8GB of 1333 MHz DDR3 Memory
17.3” 1920x1080 Display
NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M with 2GB of GDDR5 with Optimus
320GB 7200 RPM SATA HDD
Single HDMI connector
1x USB 3.0 and 2x USB 2.0
3.5mm audio microphone/headphone jack
Gigabit ethernet port
802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi B (doesn't say what type)
Weight ~ 6.9 Lbs.
Razer Switchblade TouchPad
Price? $2800 USD
So, once we take a look at these specs we realize that not only is the Blade behemoth, but it is also $2800. We begin to have vehement objections to almost everything that the Razer Blade stands for. For one, $2800 is grossly overpriced by any measurement. Why? Because this laptop only has a dual core processor for beginners and that WILL NOT live up to the requirements/capabilties of a real gaming machine. Games like Battlefield 3, if run at high settings, would require a quad-core processor in many cases. On top of that, this is a $2800 system and they’re only using low-end 1333MHz DDR3. It literally costs $39.99 for 8GB of DDR3 1333MHz on Newegg right now. With wholesale pricing, I’m sure that Razer would likely pay less. To upgrade it to 1600MHz (what we’d expect from a $2800 gaming rig), it would cost an extra $16 dollars. If that’s not enough to bother you about the Razer Blade, let us focus on the GPU. They have decided to put in an NVIDIA GT 555M GPU in their laptop, which is NOT enough to run your games at 1920x1080. We currently have an Alienware M14X (1.5GB of GDDR3) in our lab for testing and we couldn’t even run Starcraft 2 at full settings while at 1600x900. It would be ridiculous to think that the Razer Blade could do the same at a HIGHER resolution with the same GPU, and a weaker CPU. The M14X tested actually had an Intel quad core processor, rather than a dual core like the Razer Blade. The Blade needs an absolute minimum of a GTX 560M to be even considered for the title of “The World’s First True Gaming Laptop.”
Since we’re discussing components, we wanted to mention yet another point of failure on the part of Razer; the complete lack of hard drive performance. Razer decided to opt for a 320GB hard drive… This effectively shows either that Razer does not know how to build a gaming computer or that they’re just trying to be cheap. The truth is, 320GB is not big enough to matter, nor is it fast enough to compete with a smaller SSD. If Razer wanted to build a real gaming laptop they could have easily gone with a 120GB SSD, and if they didn’t think that it had enough space, they could have used something like a 750GB Western Digital Caviar Black (which we reviewed as having quite good performance). The Western Digital drive only costs $109 and the Seagate 750GB drive only costs $85. If they wanted to create a real gaming machine, they could have easily nabbed an OCZ Solid 3 SSD for $169.99 taking into consideration that they probably aren’t paying retail prices and would probably pay less per drive. On top of all of those subpar components, the Razer Blade is severely lacking in connectivity since it only has one USB 3.0 port. It is common to find at least two on many laptops nowadays, but if this system is the future of gaming they should be pushing the envelope and not be maintaining the status quo (or in this case, even less than that).
The only saving grace of the Razer Blade is its Switchblade UI and the ability to use the touchpad as both a mouse and as a gaming information display when using a mouse. This feature is novel and interesting, but to be realistic, it is very gimmicky and really doesn’t serve a purpose different than that of LED lighting inside of a desktop gaming system. However, it is quite thin for a laptop which we must commend them for, but if they sacrificed performance for the sake of being thin… they are daft. This is still being touted as a gaming machine and to sacrifice performance for the sake of a thinner form factor is a grave design oversight. This is because it simply ceases to be a gaming machine and it becomes a massive laptop for watching videos and browsing the net. Anyone that thinks the thickness of this laptop makes it portable is forgetting one major factor. It still weighs 7lbs. Who would consider a 7lb laptop portable, ever? Most 15.6” laptops weigh about 5-6lbs and are already not considered particularly portable. Portability only really exists in the sub 4lbs class of laptops, which are generally few and far between.
View of the Razer Blade with the Switchblade UI and Touchpad
Since I’ve addressed the components one by one and detailed the aspects that make the Razer Blade an utter failure, as well the Blade’s saving graces, I wanted to evaluate the system’s price as a whole against competitor’s laptops. For example, MSI sells the MSI GX780 which features a quad core i7, 12GB of RAM (4GB more than the Blade), a 750GB HDD (what we would have recommended), and a GT 555M. This is in addition to the 17.3” 1920x1080 screen and backlit keyboard. This is all for the price of $1349 on Newegg. Notice that this is LESS THAN HALF the price of the Razer Blade with superior specifications which would likely outperform the Razer Blade in most, if not all games… Is Razer really trying to be the Mac of the PC gaming world? Because right now, Apple actually has pretty on-par performance with most PC laptops, and they seem to have similar ideas when it comes to pricing.
Now that we’ve compared something with similar specs, let us compare something in a somewhat similar price bracket… The Alienware M18X is probably our #1 choice of comparison against the Razer Blade in terms of price because let’s be honest, Alienware is synonymous with being overpriced (until Razer’s Blade) and over powered. The M18X currently sells for $2,300 on Newegg with an 18.4” screen (bigger than the Blade) and a 2630QM quad core sandy bridge i7 processor, with 8GB of 1333MHz DDR3. In addition to that, Alienware went insane and used dual 500GB SSDs in RAID 0, which is impossible to compare to the Razer Blade’s measly 320GB HDD in terms of both space and performance. They also went for dual GTX 460M graphics cards in SLI, only one of which would already beat the GT 555M, but with two would wipe the floor with the Razer Blade. On top of that, the M18X is NOT a light laptop as it weighs in at almost 12Lbs, but to be practical; it really is not any less portable than a 7lb laptop, considering that neither is easy to carry around. Also, the M18X actually has a 12 cell battery, so it can be used for quite a bit of time even though it is a very large and powerful laptop. This is in contrast to the Blade which has a 60Wh battery which would amount to a 6 cell battery, or half the M18X’s battery in terms of capacity and probably weight.
Now that I’ve addressed the hardware and pricing aspect I also wanted to focus on the non-hardware aspects of the Razer Blade. The Razer Blade is being built by the company Razer, which has never sold a consumer gaming system. Ever. This should be a concern for anyone that is looking to purchase a gaming system, because the track record of the company is likely going to be important in the future if there are ever problems with the system. Does anybody think that Alienware or Voodoo’s first systems were without bugs? Probably not. Were they touted as the “World’s First True Gaming Laptop?” maybe, but that was a good 10 + years ago. The truth of the matter is that Razer has no proven record when it comes to building and supporting gaming machines for consumers, and someone willing to fork over $2800 to an unproven company is either crazy or has a lot of faith. Having owned Razer products in the past, I can tell you that I have not had the best experience with the company when it came to support for their hardware. If anyone remembers the Razer AC-1 then they will remember the months (if not years) of empty promises for supporting that sound card’s broken drivers in Vista and Windows 7. The AC-1 and HP-1 were designed to work together flawlessly and were sold as a bundle, but never actually worked anywhere outside of Windows XP. Not to mention their borderline Nazi-esque Warranty Policy on purchasing products outside of authorized retail channels, which stipulate that no product would carry any warranty if not purchased from specific stores. It does not matter whether or not the product is new, it simply needs to be purchased from “authorized outlets”. I will, though, give them kudos for their support by still trying to help me with my problems, even though it was determined that my hardware was out of warranty. The headphones themselves weren’t that bad, but primarily worked best in stereo (not the advertised 5.1). They were also very comfortable but the finish started chipping away quickly.
Because of my experience with Razer’s generally poor product support and marginal product quality, I have not purchased a Razer product since my Razer AC-1 and HP-1 episode and I am going to recommend that the Razer Blade receive the same treatment, because frankly it is a huge rip off. Based on my analysis of the Razer Blade and Razer’s lacking history as a computer company, it would be safe to say that the Blade is not the future of PC gaming… not by a mile.