Razer Blade Pro: Extreme Performance Gaming Laptop Review
Like Will Smith in the film Men in Black, Razer makes this look good. Somehow, the company manages to maintain its razor-thin (pun definitely intended) margins while cramming in some of the most powerful specs in the land. With the latest Razer Blade Pro (starting and reviewed at $3,999), the company has added an overclocked Intel i7 processor while keeping the Nvidia GTX 1080 GPU, fantastic 4K Nvidia G-Sync display and proprietary ultra-low-profile mechanical keys. If that wasn’t enough, the slim stunner is also the first mobile device to feature THX audio certification. In other words, one of the best in the business just got better.
If that weren’t enough, the slim stunner is also the first mobile device to feature THX audio certification. And if $3,999 is too rich for your blood, the company just released a $2,299 base model with a Core i7 GPU, GTX 1060 GPU and a gorgeous 1080p screen with a 120-Hertz refresh rate. In other words, one of the best in the business just got better — twice.
There’s just something about a Razer laptop that makes the pulse quicken ever so slightly when you see it. Constructed from black CNC aluminum, the Blade Pro follows the Razer design dictates to a T, just on a bigger scale. The center of the laptop’s lid is slightly recessed, creating a pair of subtle ridges that help accentuate the glimmering emerald three-headed snake emblem.
The system’s interior offers more ebony aluminum, with the center of the deck housing the full-size keyboard and rather large touchpad in a slightly recessed compartment. A power button sits at top center on the device, daring you to press it.
The Blade Pro isn’t loaded up with ports like other desktop replacements, but what it has is vital for multi-display setups and virtual reality. Along the right is a USB 3.0 port, Thunderbolt 3, a card reader, an HDMI 2.0 port and a Kensington security lock slot. There are two more USB 3.0 ports on the left along with a Gigabit Ethernet port, a headset jack and a proprietary power jack.
At 7.7 pounds, the 16.7 x 11 x 0.89-inch Blade Pro is still the slimmest and lightest 17-inch gaming laptop in the land. The 16.9 x 12.2 x 1.3-inch Asus ROG G701VI is almost as slim at 7.9 pounds. The Alienware 17 (16.7 x 13.1 x 1.2 inches) is on the heavier end of the spectrum at 9.6 pounds as are the Acer Predator 17 X and the Origin PC Eon 17-X, both of which weigh 9.8 pounds. The 1080p version of the Blade Pro is significantly lighter, at 6.1 pounds, which really matters if you happen to be lugging your laptop around in your backpack.
Staring at the Blade Pro’s 4K panel is like looking into a fever dream of color. The Nvidia G-Sync technology made sure that Geralt’s ashen-white hair cascaded realistically over his broad shoulders as he ran toward a cadre of flesh-eating Ghouls in Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. When I watched the Wrinkle in Time trailer on this panel, the detail was so sharp, i could see the micro plaits in Mindy Kaling’s hair. The actress’ plum lipstick and bright blue sapphire popped against her warm brown skin.
For gamers who value buttery-smooth graphics over higher resolution, the Blade Pro is also available in full HD (1920 x 1080), a first for this iteration of the desktop replacement. Instead of a super-high resolution, the 1080p panel has a 120Hz refresh rate. It’s not Nvidia’s G-Sync technology, but you should still get some lovely graphics.
The splash of color comes from the Blade Pro’s ability to reproduce 178 percent of the sRGB gamut, which is well above the 123-percent desktop-replacement average and the 113 percent achieved by the Alienware 17 and G701VI. The Predator 17 X and the Eon 17-X were even more vivid, with results of 182 and 192 percent, respectively. The 1080p Blade Pro didn’t disappoint, with 126 percent gamut.
There’s just something about a Razer laptop that makes the pulse quicken ever so slightly when you see it.
Scoring 0.3 on the Delta-E test, the Blade Pro’s screen is fairly accurate (0 is perfect). It’s definitely better than the 1.3 average and the 0.5 and 1.6 obtained by the Alienware 17 and the G701VI. The Eon 17-X and Predator 17 proved to have the more accurate panels at 0.14 and 0.18.
You’ll never have a problem seeing either Blade Pro screen, as the 1080p and 4K screens averaged glistening scores of 334 and 320 nits of brightness, respectively. They easily topped the 291-nit category average, the Predator 17 X (318 nits), the Eon17-X (289 nits) and the G701VI (277 nits). The Alienware 17 has the brightest screen in the land, at a whopping 340 nits.
Audio: Now with THX Certification
The Blade Pro’s audio keeps getting better. This iteration of the system has THX certification — a world’s first. That means that the unassuming 3.5mm jack on the side of the laptop is capable of supporting high-performance headphones, so feel free to pull out those 7.1 Dolby-powered headsets you have lying around.
Sans headgear, the Blade Pro’s pair of top- and side-mounted speakers are definitely showstoppers. Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE” practically exploded from the speakers with a surprising amount of bass, filling the lab with the rapper’s braggadocious exposition. The synthesized instruments on Ciara’s “Body Party” started out distorted, but once I adjusted the settings on the Dolby Digital Plus software, I was able to even out the highs for a more balanced performance.
When I was fighting my way through a bandit camp in Witcher 3, the accompanying music was loud, energetic and balanced. The frenzied violin and yelps melded with the clashing of swords and maces to fill the lab and make me feel like I was in the middle of the action.
Unfortunately, the THX goodness extends to only the 4K version of the Blade. Music lovers shouldn’t fret, however, as the 1080p version has great audio quality as well thanks to the preinstalled Dolby Digital Plus software. SZA’s weary tenor danced above the synthesized keyboard on “Weekend.” The finger snaps were nice and crisp and provided a nice pop as the music filled our lab.
I’m always on the fence when it comes to Razer’s keyboards. They’re notoriously shallow, which can be a bit uncomfortable at first, but manageable once you get used to it. The Blade Pro’s ultra-low-profile keys have just 1 millimeter of key travel (between 1.5 and 2mm is ideal) with 71 grams of actuation (60 grams is the minimum). However, those ultra-low switches are comfortable and deliver a pleasing click when you start typing. I managed 68 words per minute on the 10fastfingers typing test, which is a tad higher than my usual 65 wpm.
However, I actually prefer the membrane switches on the 1080p Blade Pro. With a 1.7mm key travel and 70g of actuation, those keys actually have a reasonable amount of snap and cushion, which makes for a more comfortable typing experience. In fact, I hit a steady 75 wpm during the typing test.
Thanks to Razer’s Synapse software, the Chroma-lit keys are still some of the prettiest on the market, able to reproduce a crazy 16.8 million colors with a slew of captivating effects. My favorite effect is Wave, which sends a rainbow tide rippling from right to left.
Touchpad and Scroll Wheel
Like the 2016 model, the Blade Pro’s huge 4 x 3.3-inch touchpad is set on the right of the keyboard, which takes some getting used to.
But once I was adjusted, I had no problem summoning Cortana, zooming in and out on pictures and performing two-finger scroll and rotating on the responsive device. The programmable scroll wheel continues to be one of my favorite components of the Blade. For instance, to adjust the volume, you just need to push the wheel up or down.
In addition to programming keyboard color and special effects, Synapse also lets you record and create macros or track your keystrokes. Since the Blade Pro is overclocked, Synapse now has a Performance Control feature to allow you to switch between the Balanced setting for optimal battery consumption and Performance Optimized to increase the CPU clock speed. You also have the ability to control the fan speed from Low to High to Auto. Because Synapse is cloud-based, you can access your settings on any Razer device, meaning you don’t have to start from scratch.
Gaming, Graphics and VR
Don’t equate the Blade Pro’s slimness for weakness. On the contrary, one of these svelte stunners is equipped with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU with 8GB of VRAM, the most powerful GPU you can get in a laptop. Meanwhile, the 1080p version rocks a GeForce GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of VRAM. That means that when it was time for me to clear out a swamp of foglets in Witcher 3, the 4K laptop maintained a steady 37 frames per second on Ultra settings while the GTX 1060 delivered an acceptable 30 fps.
On the Hitman test, the 4K Blade Pro notched 116 fps on Ultra, shattering the 88-fps desktop-replacement average.
On the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark, the 4K Blade Pro notched 73 fps at 1080p on Very High, trouncing the 53-fps average. The Razer machine also managed to defeat the Alienware 17 (62 fps), Predator 17 X (66 fps) and Eon17-X (66 fps), all of which have GTX 1080 GPUs. The G701VI, with its GTX 1080 GPU, was the ultimate winner, registering 71 fps. The 1080 iteration of the Blade produced 35 fps.
This iteration of the Blade Pro has THX audio certification — a world’s first.
On the Hitman test, the Blade Pro notched 116 fps on Ultra, shattering the 88-fps desktop-replacement average. Neither the Alienware 17 nor Predator 17 X could match it at 87 and 60 fps, but the Eon 17-X delivered 129 fps for the win.
The 4k Blade Pro hit 81 fps on Ultra during the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark, beating the 69 fps category average. However, it wasn’t enough to top the Alienware 17 (82 fps), the Predator 17 X (83 fps), the Eon 17-X (84 fps) or the G701VI (90 fps).
But the Blade isn’t just a beast on traditional games, it can also deliver some silky smooth frames in VR, so feel free to strap on that Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. The system maxed out the SteamVR Performance test at 11, matching its competitors. The less powerful Blade Pro still delivered a solid score of 6.8 fps.
The Blade Pro is officially playing with the big boys, upgrading from last gen’s Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor to an overclocked 2.9-GHz Intel Core i7-7820HK CPU with 32GB of RAM. The 1080p model also got a boost with a 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor with 16GB or RAM. So neither laptop had any problem with me running a few Twitch streams, with TweetDeck, Slack and YouTube running in the remainder of my 20 Google Chrome tabs as the system ran a full-system virus scan.
Both laptops also did well on synthetic performance tests like Geekbench 4, on which the 4K model achieved a score of 15,404, besting the 12,926 desktop-replacement average, while the 1080p version produced 14,760. Outfitted with their own Core i7-7820HK CPUs, the Alienware 17, Predator 17 and G701VI scored 14,154; 14,795; and 17,404, respectively. The Eon17-X’s 4.2-GHz Intel i7-7700K desktop processor delivered 14,491.
During the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro test, the 4K Blade Pro matched 20,000 names and addresses in 3 minutes and 16 seconds, beating the 3:25 average, the Predator 17-X (3:41) and the Eon17-X (3:47). The G701VI and the Alienware 17 were faster, at 2:59 and 1:47, respectively. The 1080p Blade Pro finished with a time of 3:18.
The 4K Blade Pro’s pair of 256GB PCIe SSDs in RAID 0 configuration duplicated 4.97GB worth of multimedia on our file-copy test in 15 seconds; that works out to a transfer rate of 339 megabytes per second. It’s not as fast as the 540.3-MBps average, but is still better than Alienware 17’s (512GB SSD) 228-MBps rate and the 1080p Blade Pro’s (256 M.2 PCIe SSD with 2TB 7,200-rpm hard drive) 175.5MBps. The Eon17-X’s 512GB NVMe M.2 PCIe SSD produced 1,018 MBps, while the Predator 17-X (dual 256GB SSDs) and the G701VI (dual 512GB m.2 PCIe SSDs) were in almost a dead heat, at 1,272.3 and 1,272.4MBps, respectively.
With crazy specs like these, you’re going to take a hit on battery life. The Blade Pro lasted only 1 hour and 54 minutes on our battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi), which is well below the 4:14 desktop-replacement average.
It was enough to outlast the Eon 17-X’s 1:39, but not the times of the Predator 17-X (1:58), the Alienware 17 (2:36) or the G701VI (3:27). The 1080p model of the Blade Pro lasted an impressive 6:11 on the test, putting the other systems to shame.
Razer’s retained its special cooling system that features a hidden internal fan, vapor chamber and dynamic heat exchanger, which helps keep the all-aluminum chassis cool. The company also added copper-based cooling fins and some more heat spreaders to accommodate the overclockable components.
But no matter how much cooling Razer installs, it’s hard to keep an all-metal chassis cool. After 15 minutes of playing through Witcher 3, the touchpad measured 101 degrees Fahrenheit, several degrees over our 95-degree comfort threshold. The center of the system hit 119 degrees, while the undercarriage measured 121 degrees.
Once things cooled down, we streamed an HD YouTube video for 15 minutes, and the touchpad and space between the G and H keys hit 90 and 98 degrees. The bottom of the system registered a toasty 103 degrees.
The Blade Pro’s 1920 x 1080, 2-megapixel camera is one of the better integrated shooters. And although the picture’s detail was a bit on the fuzzy side, the camera caught the exact shade of my electric-blue dress and chocolate skin tone.
Software and Warranty
Razer employed a light touch on the preloaded software bundle. It added only a few apps to optimize your gaming, including Killer Network Manager, which lets you configure your Wi-Fi card so you can obtain optimal performance. You also get Nvidia’s GeForce Experience, which has a suite of game-centric software, including Shadowplay recording software. Game Optimization automatically tweaks in-game settings to get the best performance and frame rates.
You’ll see only a few bloatware apps, including Facebook, Fallout Shelter, Twitter and Drawboard PDF. Buyers of the system also will be eligible for a free download of FL Studio 12 Producer Edition, a professional music production suite.
The Razer Blade Pro ships with a one-year limited warranty that includes parts and labor.
I had a grand ol’ time reviewing the $3,999 base configuration of the Razer Blade Pro, which has an overclocked 2.9-GHz Intel Core i7-7820HK processor with 32GB of RAM, a pair of 256GB PCIe SSD in RAID 0 configuration and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU with 8GB of VRAM.
Want more storage? It’s definitely going to cost you. A pair of 512GB PCIe SSD in RAID costs $4,399, while the RAID 0 1TB option brings the price up to $4,899.
But if you’re looking for a less expensive option, there’s the $2,299 model, which has a 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB PCIe M.2 SSD with a 2TB 7,200-rpm hard drive, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of VRAM and a 1920 x 1080p display.
The $3,999 Razer Blade Pro was already a superb notebook for gaming, VR and content creation. The desktop replacement delivered a beautiful 4K Nvidia G-Sync display, great graphics and overall performance into one of the thinnest, lightest chassis we’ve seen on a system this size. This time around, Razer’s improved on a few things, upgrading to an overclocked Intel “Kaby Lake” Core i7 processor and adding THX-certification to its display and audio — making it the first mobile device to hold the title.
However, for the price, I do want a system that has a faster SSD and longer battery life, two things that the $2,999 Asus ROG G701VI can provide. While that system is significantly cheaper, you do lose out on the 4K display and customizable mechanical keyboard. There’s also the Alienware 17, which can be configured with similar specs, including a 4K display for $3,649, but at 9.6 pounds, it’s not really a portable system.
Which is why the $2,299, 1080p version of the Blade Pro is a viable contender. The laptop serves up solid power despite its somewhat midtier specs, and gamers might prefer the 120Hz refresh rate and comfortable keyboard over a 4K panel and a shallow mechanical keyboard. Overall, if you’re looking for the ultimate mix of portability and power, the buck stops at the Razer Blade Pro.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/ Laptop Mag
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