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Home News Razer Blade 15 (2020) review: 300Hz for the win

Razer Blade 15 (2020) review: 300Hz for the win

Razer Blade 15 (2020)

Score Details

DT Recommended Product

“Razer’s Blade 15 is the most attractive gaming laptop money can buy.”

  • Sleek design
  • Comfortable keyboard and touchpad
  • Exceptional gaming experience
  • 300Hz refresh rate
  • Ideal port selection
  • Runs hot
  • Very expensive

MSRP $1,599.00

All other gaming laptops swim in the wake of the Razer Blade. It’s a design that others seek to emulate, both in aesthetics and portability.

But with two years on the same chassis, the Razer Blade may not wow in the same way it once did. The latest version is a refinement of the formula, adding more performance and a faster 300Hz screen, with only a couple of minor adjustments to the formula.

Razer offers models as affordable as $1,600, but my review unit will cost you $3,000. Does the Razer Blade still stand out enough to justify its premium, or has the competition caught up?

Design and keyboard

The Razer Blade’s biggest accomplishment is not what it achieves, but what it completely avoids. It’s a gaming laptop that nixes every design cliche typically associated with its rivals. It resists ornamentation and facade, instead focusing on straight lines and minimal chrome. Sit it next to the Acer Predator Triton 500 or the Alienware m15, and you’ll see what I mean. The Razer Blade looks like a normal laptop.

That makes it a good option for someone who wants to use the device for tasks aside from gaming, especially since it only weighs 4.6 pounds. It’ll fit into your backpack just as easily as a MacBook Pro 16-inch or Dell XPS 15. The machined aluminum built quality is exceptional too, as long as you can forgive how quickly it picks up fingerprints.

There have always been exceptions to the Blade’s ethos, and they involve glowing lights. On the lid, Razer’s iconic green snakes still light up. It’s been dimmed on the silver version of this laptop, but here it still glows unashamedly. The same is true of the RGB-laden keyboard, which is backlit per key in a spectacular fashion that has become synonymous with the Razer brand.

Speaking of the keyboard, Razer has made a small adjustment to the layout. The keyboard previously featured full-sized arrow keys, which forced a separation between the question mark and shift key. Gamers may have appreciated the spacious arrow keys, but it was frustrating when typing.

The layout is now more conventional, which I consider an upgrade. Coming from the Dell XPS 15, though, the keycaps feel a bit small. It’s a minor quibble, but I’d like to see less space between keys in a future design.

Press a key, and you’ll be rewarded with fantastic key fell. There’s plenty of travel, with a satisfyingly springy mechanism that made me feel comfortable immediately. The glass touchpad is a winner, too. It’s large, responsive, and quiet. You won’t find a better keyboard and touchpad on a gaming laptop.

Ports and security

All the bells and whistles are all here, well beyond what your standard gaming laptop offers. Razer even throws in an IR camera above the top bezel for Windows Hello facial authentication. It’s typical for gaming laptops to include HDMI and plenty of USB 3.2 Gen 2. The Blade includes both, with a total of three USB-A and a single USB-C port.

Razer takes it further, though, by including both Thunderbolt 3 and a full-size SD card slot. Creative professionals and content creators will appreciate these, which can support high-speed storage and quick access to camera files. Their inclusion shows how Razer wants to position the Blade.

Though you can power the laptop through its Thunderbolt 3 port, Razer also offers a proprietary charging port on the left side for full power.

The Razer Blade even supports the latest connectivity standards, such as Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.

Performance

Owners like to use the Razer Blade for everything from video editing to gaming, but the balance of its performance skews towards the latter. That has consequences for its performance in productivity applications which, though not poor, lags laptops that skew more towards work than play.

This year’s model features the latest 10th-gen Intel Core i7-10875H. Its eight cores and 16 threads are a big step up from six-core processors featured in previous generations, which is promising if you want to use the Razer Blade for more than gaming.

In the Cinebench R20 multi-core benchmark, the latest Razer Blade 15 represents a meaningful leap from last year. Again, it can thank those extra cores and threads for the bump. The Razer Blade still lags behind some other non-gaming laptops that use the same processor, however. It’s 29% behind the Dell XPS 15, for example.

Interestingly, the Blade is a whopping 36% behind the Dell G5 SE. The G5 SE is a gaming laptop, but it uses an AMD GPU and CPU, along with the SmartShift technology to share power between the components.

Video encoding in Handbrake tells a similar story. The Razer was 9% slower than the Dell XPS 15 and 19% behind the XPS 17.

That’s not to say the Razer Blade 15 is a bad choice as a content creation laptop. When the GPU can be used, it’s quite powerful. For example, it’s a capable video rendering rig in an application like Adobe Premiere Pro. It exported a 2-minute 4K video clip to ProRes 422 in 7 minutes and 42 seconds. That’s much faster than the configuration I reviewed last year, which had a six-core Intel processor and an RTX 2070 Max-Q.

It still can’t beat options like the Dell XPS 17 or the Microsoft Surface Book 3 in these tests. Despite the Razer having a supercharged RTX 2080 Super, the XPS 17’s RTX 2060 finished the same render in Premiere 46% faster. That’s what a larger chassis and an improved thermal system buys you.

All versions of the Razer Blade come standard with 16GB of dual-channel RAM, and don’t allow for anything more. Most other performance-driven laptops offer up to 32GB, including both the Acer Predator Triton 500 and the Dell XPS 15.

Gaming performance

The Razer Blade’s greatest performance strength is in gaming. It comes with either the Nvidia RTX 2070 Super Max-Q or the 2080 Super Max-Q. These new GPUs from Nvidia add just a few more frames per second (fps) than the non-Super versions that preceded them. Fortunately, the Razer Blade was already a supremely powerful gaming laptop.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is the most challenging test game, and the Razer Blade still averaged 60 fps with graphics detail at Ultra High. This and Civilization VI were the only two games where the Acer Predator Triton 500 pulled ahead a bit, offering up to 8% faster frame rates at the highest settings in both games. Still, you’ll likely not complain about the Razer Blade averaging 134 fps.

Going back to a 60Hz screen feels downright clunky by comparison.

Elsewhere, the Razer Blade dominates. It performed spectacularly in Fortnite and Battlefield V, surpassing the Triton 500 in both cases. In Battlefield V at Ultra, the Blade averaged 98 fps. When I pulled the settings back to Medium, the system pushed out 122 fps, which is a new record for 15-inch laptops. For a laptop this small, that’s seriously impressive.

Fortnite was similarly fast, with the Razer once again among the fastest 15-inch laptops I’ve tested. It easily hit 110 fps at Epic settings. But the responsiveness really came to life with lower settings. For example, 161 fps with settings at High felt incredibly fluid. Going back to a 60Hz screen on my XPS 15 felt downright clunky by comparison.

I even tried out Rocket League, which had no problem hitting its max of 250 fps at the highest graphics quality. That’s not quite 300, but the animations are unbelievably smooth, all the same.

These games were all played at the native 1080p screen resolution. You could connect to a higher-resolution external monitor, and I suspect it would handle 1440p quite well. While 4K would be a stretch in some games, turn-based strategy games like Civilization VI should be no problem.

The Razer Blade is, of course, quite expensive. Though it’s equal to the $3,000 Asus ROG Zephyrus S15, it’s $400 more than the Triton 500, despite delivering very similar performance. The Alienware m15 will get you a similar package for almost $800 cheaper. Some of those options, such as the Triton 500, also offer G-Sync support. The Razer Blade lacks this feature, but the high refresh rate is surprisingly good at avoiding screen tearing.

In general, the Razer Blade still runs hot. Surface temperatures can get toasty during games, though that’s not too surprising. The frustrating part is temperatures at near idle. With nothing running, the palm rests and keyboard are still a bit warm, and that can be uncomfortable.

Display and speakers

Razer offers two 15.6-inch display options, one for content creators, and one for gamers. The gaming-oriented screen, which I reviewed, is a 1080p display with the aforementioned 300Hz refresh rate. The creator-focused option is a 4K display, meant for photographers and video editors who need that high pixel count. The 4K screen also has a glossy finish, a touchscreen, and a 60Hz refresh rate.

While the 4K screen will no doubt offer a sharper image, the 1080p screen looks great. Contrast is high at 1,010:1, and though it maxes out at just 310 nits, the matte screen does a great job of blocking glare. The screen is also fairly color accurate, though you’ll need to opt for the 4K OLED panel if need a wide color gamut.

The Razer Blade offers a decent set of upward-firing speakers. They’re neck and neck with the Dell XPS 15, though they fall short of the MacBook Pro 16-inch. They’re still lacking bass, and there’s certainly room for improvement.

Battery life

Because the Razer Blade doesn’t have G-Sync, its battery life doesn’t suffer the same fate as other gaming laptops. Those models, like the Predator Triton 500, only last a few hours in normal usage.

The Razer Blade’s five hours isn’t anything to write home about, of course. Despite its 97-watt hour battery, you still can’t get through a full workday without needing a charge. Less powerful laptops like the ROG Zephyrus G14 or Dell G5 SE can last an extra hour or so. Even the 4K Dell XPS 15 lasts up to 7 hours.

Of course, it all depends on how you’re using it. In our lightest test, which loops a local 1080p video, the Razer Blade endured just under 7.5 hours. If you’re running heavy applications or gaming, you can’t expect more than around 3 hours on a single charge.

That might not sound all that impressive, but you won’t find a laptop with an RTX 2080 Super that lasts this long.

The base edition

The Razer Blade Base Edition

When you go to buy a Razer Blade, you’ll encounter an “Advanced Edition” and a “Base Edition.” The Advanced Edition is what I reviewed, and it’s the version that gets you the newest parts.

However, the Base Edition has its benefits. It offers the same processor and memory options. You can even opt for the same 4K OLED screen if you want.

The differences come down to the chassis and the refresh rate. The Base Edition maxes out at 144Hz for the 1080p model, and the chassis is a bit thicker and heavier. The Base Edition also offers a different selection of graphics cards, ranging from the Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti up to the RTX 2080 Max-Q.

Razer also offers a “Studio Edition” that supports Nvidia’s RTX Quadro 5000 graphics and ships with Windows 10 Pro.

Our take

The Razer Blade doesn’t demand you to use it in a certain way. It attempts to satisfy the modern gamer — the one who might also use their laptop for work or as a content creator on the side. The design of the Razer Blade isn’t as revolutionary as it once was, but there’s no question it still does it best.

Is there a better alternatives?

The Acer Predator Triton 500 offers similar performance at a reduced cost, as does the Alienware m15. These laptops look more garish, however, and won’t work as well as day-to-day laptops.

If you’re looking for a more muted design to match the Razer Blade, the MSI GS66 Stealth is a close rival. Its build quality isn’t as strong, and previous versions haven’t performed as well.

How long will it last?

Like most premium laptops, the Razer Blade should last at least four or five years. Its build quality is unrivaled, and the components are all up-to-date. It comes with a standard one-year warranty, but Razer offers three-year protection through its two different warranty plans, starting at $250.

Should you buy it?

Yes. This is the best gaming laptop you can buy, and it’ll function great in almost every other setting, too.

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