Razer have a certain flair that carries across all their products from laptops to mice and keyboards and even drinks bottles. They’ve created sleek and desirable looking items but does their latest laptop follow through on being just as desirable to use?
Note: With new Razer Blade models supporting the RTX 30 range of graphics cards rolling out, we revisit the previous Advanced model, launched in Q3 2020.
The latest model of the Razer Blade 15 comes in several versions; the previously released basic range (with a choice of GeForce GTX 1660 Ti or RTX 2070) and these new Advanced models, sporting either a 2070 Super, 2080 Max Q or 2080 Super Max Q Nvidia card and a 10th generation i7 processor. This provides a pretty powerful setup for gaming, art and generally anything else you want to throw at the machine, though the thin form factor might have something to say about pushing this to its limit.
Thin is the keyword here, the edges are sleek, thin and uniform at just under 20mm thick. Despite this, the laptop weighs around 2.2Kg, which is around the bottom end of average for a 15 inch laptop, so it’s portable but still not what I’d call ultra light. The black lid doesn’t scream ‘gaming’ though the usual light up Razer logo sits squarely in the centre but once powered up, the keyboard illuminates with Razer’s own branded Chroma lighting, allowing individual keys to be programmed for different colours as well as a suite of different effects that can work across all Razer Chroma devices. It’s pretty impressive when you have a game running and your keyboard, mouse and laptop are mirroring the colours in the game, in a similar style to Philips Ambilight for TV.
The major difference between the basic and advanced models, aside from the graphics is the impressive screen. While only HD (a 4K OLED variant is available for a big bump in price but given the Max Q graphics, it’s not the preferred option here) the Advanced boasts a 300Hz capable display. True, most of your games won’t ever use the full extent of that stupidly high refresh rate but it’s there if you need it and, of course, it can support anything lower than this, so it’s pretty flexible. The other things worthy of note are that these new laptops have a much better cooling system in place and they feature Thunderbolt 3 USB C ports supporting trickle charging if you happen to have a 100w USB charger lying around somewhere.
The keyboard is great to type on, one of the few changes from last year’s model has been to widen the keys on the right properly, something that was a bugbear of those who owned the 2019 Blade. They’re responsive and comfortable to use for touch-typing though they still don’t hold up against laptops that have gone for the full mechanical keyboard. As mentioned, it features individually addressable lighting on each key thanks to the Chroma setup and can be assigned to mimic screen colours during gaming. The touchpad is responsive and a decent size but lacks physical keys, which seems to be the norm these days. The area around the keyboard (and the whole case, for that matter) is prone to smudging from the lightest touch, though, so prepare to always have a microfibre cloth on hand if that bothers you.
Ports are well supported here with two USB C ports, the right one being a Thunderbolt 3 and the left a USB C 3.2 with support for charging from a 100w USB wall plug, though this is limited to a trickle charge that won’t be enough if you’re running a game and will slow down the graphics card due to the lower power input being available. 2 further USB A ports on the left and one of the right make up the rest of the USB connectivity with a full size HDMI port and headphone jack plus an SD card reader providing the rest of the ports along each side. The webcam has IR detection that supports Windows Hello, which I really appreciate as it works well here but on the flip side it’s a very disappointing 720p resolution with a pretty grainy picture in anything but the best light. Fine for zoom meetings but if you stream you’ll be looking at using an external camera for that. Bluetooth 5 and WIFI 6 are supported as well, with the latter producing impressive speeds if you have a router that can support it. Just as well as there is no Ethernet port here, though you can easily add a USB C hub that supports Gigabit Ethernet.
Moving on to the screen, that 300Hz refresh rate is still mighty impressive if you find a use for it and the advanced model also has a decent colour representation with near 100% sRGB with a good viewing angle (as expected from an IPS screen) though the shiny screen suffers a little under sunny conditions outside. Sound is well catered for, too, with upward facing speakers either side of the keyboard that provide a fairly decent quality sound with good bass but lacking a little in the mids.
Battery life is pretty impressive, with a range of settings in the Razer control centre to help maximise this. With a video running this got to just under 7 hours, which is almost unheard of in a laptop this size.
Gaming with the 2070 Super on this reviewed model was a dream in most games. Set to the High mode on CPU and GPU it managed 74fps on Utra with The Witcher 3, Control managed 108fps at 1080p and Far Cry New Dawn managed 90fps on Ultra and Fortnite scored an impressive 207fps with High settings and DLSS on.
The one issue with gaming on this and the previous models is heat. The smaller body is naturally going to provide less space for cooling, though these Advanced models do have vapour cooling built in, which helps considerably. Even with this on, the CPU temperatures do hit 70-80 in some more demanding titles unless you prevent the Turbo feature of the i7 kicking in. All the heat vents, as far as I can see, are in the base. A decent stand that doesn’t obstruct the base of the laptop is therefore essential and does help. GPU temperatures do fair better and messing around with the performance settings in the Razer control centre help to some extent but there are problem games such as Horizon Zero Dawn which seem to over-tax the CPU and GPU even on lower settings.
Issues with heating aside, the 2020 Razer Blade 15 Advanced models are as impressive in their performance as their looks and make an ideal gaming laptop if you keep in mind that they need to be placed on a cooling stand. The thin chassis and lighting help to make the laptop stand out while battery life is an unexpected treat for those who are always on the move.