Unless youâre a gamer, youâve probably never heard of Razer.
The companyâs known mostly for its performance gaming mice, keyboards and controllers designed for professional gamers and “e-sport athletes” who want a competitive edge over their buddies.
In the last five years, the companyâs quickly transformed itself into one of the hottest PC makers, thanks to its powerful and sleek Blade gaming laptops.
At CES, Razer announced plans to take on established PC giants like HP, Dell and Apple with its own Ultrabook, the Blade Stealth.
Iâve been testing the Razer Blade Stealth for the last few weeks and itâs quite possibly the best Windows 10 Ultrabook Iâve ever used. Starting at $999, itâs damn affordable, too.
Stealth bomber sleek
As appealing as transforming 2-in-1 convertibles are, I like my Ultrabooks simple: well-built and clamshell-style. Spare me the fancy flippy hinges.
The Blade Stealth is the Darth Vader black laptop Apple wonât sell. The black anodized aluminum chassis is sleek and solid. Itâs all clean lines and carefully machined ports â just the way a modern laptop should look. My only complaint is the computer starts to look gross after a little while from all the natural grease it picks up from your fingers and hands.
Where a backlit Apple logo would be on a MacBook’s lid, thereâs Razerâs triple-headed snake logo. The logo glows green when the computer is on, but you can turn off the backlighting if you donât like it.
Audio is an area computer makers always scrimp on. Flanking the keyboard are stereo speakers that can get really loud, and the sound projects upwards towards you. At full volume, audio starts to sound a little tinny, but overall I was pleased with the speakers. Theyâre definitely better than the muffled speakers inside of the 13-inch MacBook Proâs hinge.
On the left side, youâll find the brand new USB-C port for charging, data and display output, a USB 3.0 port and a headphone jack. The right side has a full-size HDMI and another USB 3.0 port. Missing is an SD card slot; itâs not a huge loss, but I could really use it since I offload a lot of photos from my camera.
The laptop weighs 2.75 pounds, lighter than Appleâs 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, which weighs 3.48 pounds. Itâs also thinner: 0.52 inches thick versus 0.71 inches when completely closed. Itâs a true ultra-thin and light laptop that doesnât weigh your bag down.
Touch, type, mouse
The Stealthâs 12.5-inch touchscreen comes in two resolutions: Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440) and 4K (3,840 x 2,160).
My test model came with the 4K screen, which costs more. The base model comes with Quad HD. Itâs a beautiful screen, especially for watching high-definition videos and looking at photos in full resolution, but itâs really reflective.
While the 4K screen is ridiculously sharp, Iâm not convinced anyone needs that kind of resolution on a laptop this size. Itâs really overkill, and Iâd take the Quad HD model over it for the sake of longer battery life. Iâm also not a fan of the thick bezel around the screen; it makes the screen look even smaller than it really is.
Steve Jobs famously said touchscreens donât pair well with laptops because your arms will eventually get tired from reaching out and tapping on the screen. I disagree. I think a touchscreen is a great addition to a solid trackpad. Iâve tested a fairly good amount of laptops with touchscreens and my arms havenât fallen off yet.
The Blade Stealthâs touchscreen is excellent; itâs responsive and precise. The touchscreen works great for scrolling up and down webpages and tapping on buttons like play/pause on a YouTube video. Itâs not a replacement for the trackpad, though.
Speaking of the trackpad, itâs good. Appleâs MacBooks still have the best and most responsive trackpads. The trackpad on the Blade Stealth is smooth, but Iâve noticed it can sometimes lag. You can go into the trackpad settings and increase its sensitivity, but a regular person may not realize they can do that.
Typing on the keyboard is a joy. A few people who checked it out felt the keys were a little mushy, but I had no issues. Like all of Razerâs PC accessories, the Blade Stealthâs keyboard comes with its signature Chroma lighting system. Using the Razer Synapse app, you can configure the keyboard to glow in 16.8 million different colors. As with the Chroma mechanical keyboards, thereâs also a bunch of lighting effects like rainbow wave, spectrum cycling and ripple. The backlit keyboard is pure eye candy, but itâs eye candy other laptops donât have.
Make no mistake, the Blade Stealth is a powerful little machine. It comes with a sixth-generation 2.5GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of ultra-fast LPDDR3-1866MHz RAM, and storage options of 128GB or 256GB of SSD (Quad HD model) and 256GB and 512GB of SSD (4K).
Those are great specs for a 12.5-inch laptop, but like practically all Ultrabooks, itâs saddled with Intel integrated graphics (HD Graphics 520) instead of packing a discrete graphics card.
Intelâs HD Graphics 520 isnât bad, itâs just not going to let you run the latest graphic-intensive games at high visual settings and high frame rates â a crucial part to enjoyable PC gaming.
Youâll be able to bang that novel youâve been meaning to write, browse Mashable, stalk the heck out of your friends on Facebook and run Photoshop just fine. You can even run Adobe Premiere CC and do some light video editing.
Thatâs not to say you canât do any gaming at all on the machine. Itâs still better than a 13-inch MacBook Pro. I was able to run the addictive Rocket League on Steam fairly well so long as I dropped the resolution down and downgraded the graphic fidelity; itâs not ideal â I saw tons of pixel bleeding around the edges of the screen â but playable. Older games like Left 4 Dead 2 also work okay.
On its own, the Blade Stealth is no 14-inch or 17-inch Blade laptop, which have the graphics cards for gamers to go bananas with.
Should you desire the graphics horsepower, youâll be able to purchase a Razer Core, an external dock that houses either a Nvidia or AMD graphics card. The Core plugs into the Blade Stealth USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port and turbocharges it into a desktop-class gaming PC. Since the Core houses a desktop graphics card, youâll be able to upgrade it to a new one as well, ensuring youâre always on top of the latest oomph.
Itâs not the first this laptop and GPU dock combo has been tried â Sony did it first with the Vaio Z and Power Media Dock in 2011 â but itâs the first time itâs as easy as plug and play.
I didnât get a chance to try the Core with the Blade Stealth for this review. However, if itâs as impressive as what I saw at CES, it could be a game changer.
Battery life is about average. With mixed usage (web browsing, writing, watching videos, streaming music, etc.), the laptop lasted four to five hours on a single charge.
An ace Apple alternative
There arenât a whole a ton Windows Ultrabooks that I would consider desirable. The Dell XPS 13 is the only one that comes to mind. Lenovo makes some nice laptops, but theyâre mostly convertibles, and like I said earlier, I donât care for them.
The Blade Stealth may not be the powerhouse gaming laptop like Razerâs larger laptop offerings, but itâs still one slick Ultrabook. Itâs got great stealthy looks, a sharp screen thatâs also a touchscreen, a comfortable full-size keyboard and a decent trackpad, Windows 10 and enough power to compete and sometimes exceed the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display.
Not to mention, it starts at $200 less than Appleâs machine. And when the Core comes out, itâll be even more of a dream machine. An Ultrabook thatâs great now and will be greater in the future? How do you compete with that?
Razer Blade Stealth
Great keyboard â¢ Good trackpad â¢ Responsive touchscreen â¢ High-res screen â¢ Great performance â¢ Lots of ports including a USB-C port â¢ Starts at $999
Super reflective screen â¢ Average battery life
The Bottom Line
The Razer Blade has everything you could want from a thin and light laptop, including a great price.
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