Razer Blade Stealth review: Thin-and-light laptop with supersize power, style – Yahoo Tech

Quirky keyboard

Like most high-end laptops, the Razer Blade Stealth comes with a backlit keyboard. But the Stealth’s is unique in that its multicolor backlights are fully customizable and capable of producing a stunning 16.8 million colors per key. Sure, your average office worker doesn’t need keys that light up like the Las Vegas Strip, but there’s nothing wrong with a little fun.

Using the Stealth’s built-in Chroma Configurator app, you can set the keyboard’s backlights to nearly any color imaginable. Or you can make them cycle colors over time. Want to breathe some life into your laptop? Then set the Chroma Configurator to the Breathing option and the keyboard backlight will pulsate as if the notebook is breathing. The Ripple setting causes a ripple effect across the keyboard every time you press a key, like a stone skipping across a psychedelic pond.

Does any of this serve a functional purpose? Not really, but it is one hell of a fun party trick. I couldn’t stop playing with the feature when I switched on the Ripple setting. But after about 10 minutes of turning my keyboard into a desktop rave, the novelty wore off, and I switched back to the regular backlighting.

It’s also a letdown that the actual functions assigned to the function keys at the top of the keyboard don’t light up. Sure, the F1 through F12 icons glow, but the mute and brightness buttons don’t, which can make them hard to see when working at night.

When it comes to actually typing on those light-up keys, the Stealth offers a mixed bag. Because the laptop is so thin, its keys don’t travel very much; they don’t have the kind of tactile feel you get with the MacBook Air. The keys are, however, extremely responsive, which means you can type fast — as if you just mainlined a gallon of espresso. Seriously, your fingers will fly on these keys.

The Stealth’s touchpad, meanwhile, is comfortable to use but takes some getting used to. Fresh out of the box, its scrolling and movement are incredibly slow — it’s like you substituted NyQuil for that espresso. Turning up the touchpad’s responsiveness in the Settings menu, though, perks it right up.

Powerful performance (for normals)

What makes the Razer Blade Stealth truly impressive is that, for $1,000, you get a high-powered Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB solid-state drive. Those are some beastly performance specs. You shouldn’t see any slowdowns when doing things like browsing the Web, streaming movies, and processing photos and video.

A similarly equipped MacBook Air will cost you $1,150 and doesn’t offer as crisp a screen as the Stealth. The closest the Dell XPS 13 gets to the Razer is a system with a sharper screen but slower processor for $1,300. The base model of Lenovo’s Yoga 900 is actually faster and has more storage space than the Razer, but it costs $50 more.

Naturally, the Stealth can be upgraded to include a higher resolution 4K display and larger 512GB SSD, but that’ll cost you a cool $1,600.

The Razer Blade Stealth does fall short in one key area: battery life. I unplugged my laptop at about 4 p.m. while at work. Streaming music and browsing the Web, with the display brightness set to 100 percent, I was down to 20 percent battery life by 7:00 p.m. That’s not exactly marathon-level performance. Granted, keeping the screen’s brightness pumped up to 100 percent eats through battery life, but still, that’s a relatively quick drain.

For hardcore gamers

While the Stealth is ostensibly targeted at average consumers, Razer’s traditional gaming customers will certainly be interested in it. Unfortunately, the Stealth’s gaming-specific horsepower is basically nil.

That’s because the notebook eschews a discrete graphics chip from the likes of Nvidia or AMD in favor of Intel’s onboard chip. You’ll still be able to play some games with the system, but you’ll have to throttle the graphics down to their lowest settings.

Why the down-powering? Well, the Stealth was designed to be used with Razer’s special Core external graphics enclosure in mind. The Core serves as a special case for a desktop graphics card (which you’ll have to buy separately).

Using the Stealth’s USB-C port, you can connect the Core and its graphics card to the laptop to get desktop-level gaming performance. Desktop graphics cards are on a whole other level compared to built-in notebook graphics chips — it’s like He-Man and his Power Sword.

Available later this month for $400, the Core also adds four USB 3.0 ports and a gigabit Ethernet connection to your laptop.

The idea behind the Stealth-Core combo is to make it so gamers don’t need two separate computers: You can have your hardcore beast of a gaming desktop and a work laptop in one system; just unplug the Core and you’re good to go. You don’t even have to turn off your Stealth when you plug in the Core, because it’s plug-and-play.

Naturally, if you’re going to get the Core and a graphics card for it, you’re talking about adding $800 to the Stealth’s base price, which makes it just a bit less affordable. Still, $1,800 isn’t bad for a desktop-style computer that can run all of today’s most demanding games and a laptop that’s as thin and light as a MacBook Air.

The bottom line

The Razer Blade Stealth is one heck of a laptop. It’s attractive and edgy, more than powerful enough for your daily tasks, and can be used as a desktop-level gaming rig. I wish its bezel wasn’t so large and that its keyboard offered more give, but those are small complaints. More seriously, I wish it had better battery life; seeing its charge fall to 20 percent after using it for just three hours with the brightness is disconcerting to say the least.

If you’re a gamer who wants to consolidate your desktop and laptop into one computer, you really need to take a look at the Stealth. And even if you’re not into gaming, the value proposition the Stealth offers is too great to ignore, and I think everyone should check it out.

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

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