Razer Blade 15 (2018)
Price: £1,699 inc VAT from fave.co/2Okmo5q
Razer is back with a new Blade and a bold claim, describing the 2018 model as the “world’s smallest 15.6in gaming laptop”. It comes with an improved design, 8th-gen Intel chip and Nvidia Max-Q GPU. There’s much more to it than this though, with a number of upgrades and refinements throughout.
There’s no big departure here from Razer’s design that over the years has become iconic in the gaming market. As you can see, the Blade 15 offers the sleek black and green styling that many adore. The headline design element here is that the laptop offers a full-size 15.6in
display inside a chassis that appears to be no bigger than well-known 14in Razer Blade. In fact, in some ways, the new model is smaller.
The Blade 15 is 355mm wide, which is a small increase from the 345mm you might be used to. Fitting that larger screen in is largely down to it being ‘edge-to-edge’ with tiny 4.9mm bezels. And when it comes to thickness, the Blade 15 is actually thinner than its predecessor. Depending on what graphics card you get, it’s 17.3- or 16.8mm – down from 17.99mm – so it’s the thinnest GTX laptop around.
This doesn’t affect its connectivity though, as you still get full-size USB and HDMI.
Overall, the design is more squared off and mirrors the lines of the Razer Phone. This includes front-facing speakers on either side of the keyboard, just like on the smartphone. The power button is now on the right rather than central; it looks like it might have a fingerprint scanner built in, but it sadly does not. The idea is portability and the laptop is very much that at 2.07- to 2.15kg, depending on which model you buy.
The final thing to mention is the Blade 15 has a new cooling system that includes dual fans and a large vapour chamber. It looks nice on the underside, but we’ll talk about how hot the laptop gets in the performance section below.
Keyboard and trackpad
You get the same Chroma-enabled Keyboard, so you can mess around with lighting to your heart’s content using the Synapse software. There’s more to say here, though. With the speakers either side, there’s
no numberpad (although that means a more central position) and there are no macro buttons either, which many gamers will miss. The remaining keys provide a nice experience, with a crisp action and a satisfying soft click each time a key is pressed.
There’s also a game mode to avoid pressing common Windows shortcuts and interrupting your game. We didn’t experience any issues when testing, but some will find it more akin to an Ultrabook than a gaming keyboard.
The glass trackpad is new and it’s huge. You will want to connect a mouse for any serious gaming, but for general use the trackpad is brilliant. It’s smooth, responsive and includes click buttons. Razer has added support for Microsoft’s Precision Mouse.
As mentioned earlier, the new Razer Blade 15 for 2018 offers a 15.6in screen and we love the new small bezels that run around the edge, making the laptop look great and keep the size of the chassis down.
At the bottom end, the Razer has a Full HD display with a 60Hz refresh rate. This model only has the GTX 1060 GPU and 256GB of storage, so bear this in mind. At the top end is a 4K display, also at 60Hz – it’s the only model with a touchscreen. This comes with a GTX 1070 graphics card and 512GB storage.
We tested the Full HD model with a 144Hz refresh rate, which comes with a choice of graphics card and hard drive. This will be the best option for most if your budget stretches. It will be worth it for the extra smoothness that the increased refresh rate provides.
We like the matte finish on the Full HD options but the display isn’t the brightest we’ve seen at 275cd/m2, so we almost always had it at full brightness.
The colourful display offers 99 percent of sRBG, but the 76 percent of Adobe RGB, the gamut favoured by designers, isn’t so great. This is a gaming laptop though, so this is only an issue if you’re looking for one that can be used for both work and play – in which case the Gigabyte Aero 15X will suit you better.
Core specs and performance
Regardless of which model you choose, you’re going to an 8th-generation Intel processor. As you’d expect from a high-end gaming laptop, it’s a Core i7-8750H – a 6-core, 12-thread, 9MB cache chip with a 2.2GHz base speed and up to 4.1GHz with Max Turbo. That’s the same as the Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501.
Every Blade 15 comes with 16GB of DDR4 2667MHz RAM, though you can upgrade it to 32GB. Windows 10 comes pre-installed, of course. Storage goes up to 512GB in the form of an M.2 SSD, but it depends what combination of things you want.
In terms of graphics, there’s an Nvidia GTX 1060 or 1070 (our review unit) in the Max-Q form, essentially versions of the desktop cards made for thin laptops. If that isn’t enough graphics power, then Razer has also launched a new Core X eGPU to house a desktop card (£259 from fave.co/2uPGE75).
In our Geekbench 4 multi-core test, the Blade 15 scored 17,956, and in PCMark 10 it managed 4962. That’s better than the Areo 15X but a little behind the ROG Zephyrus which has a GTX 1080.
In our gaming benchmarks, the Blade 15 recorded impressive results. Tested at Full HD resolution, it scored 101.5fps on medium settings in Total Warhammer and 64.3fps when set to ultra. In Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, it reached 79.8fps on medium and 44.6fps. These aren’t far off the Asus ROG with its 1080, so the Blade 15 can offer Full HD gaming at ultra settings and more than playable frame rates.
The chassis does get quite hot, though. The fans get quite loud and the sections either side of the trackpad where you’ll rest your palms gets warm. The hottest section is between the keyboard and screen, which we often found too hot to touch. Razer says this is normal with a metal casing and that heat is drawn away from where you make contact with the laptop. It’s worth noting that since the air intake is on the bottom, you shouldn’t use the Blade 15 on a cushion, bed or similar.
Connectivity and audio
There’s a switch to Intel for Wi-Fi and the Blade 15 offers 8021.1ac and Bluetooth 5.0. Connectivity is decent despite the laptop being thinner than before. You get three USB-A 3.1 ports (in green, of course), HDMI 2.0, USB-C Thunderbolt 3, a 3.5mm combo jack and, for the first time, a mini DisplayPort 1.4. This means you can support up to three external displays.
There’s also a 720p webcam, which is above the screen not below it like many new laptops. You’ll also notice a proprietary power connector. This comes with an angled cable to feed the cable to behind the laptop.
There are speakers either side of the keyboard. So while many laptops have speakers on the side or even underneath, these ones actually point vaguely towards your ears. They are no replacement for a headset, but the quality, for a pretty thin laptop, is good and there’s a decent amount of power should you need to
drown out fan noise. If you’re gaming there’s even a bit of stereo separation, so you can tell which side an enemy is coming from.
It’s no secret that gaming laptops aren’t made for battery life. The Razer Blade 15 has a 80Wh battery built in, which is a chunk bigger than Asus’s ROG Zephyrus and it shows.
Razer’s device lasted almost twice as long with a result of two hours and 45 minutes – that’s playing a video on loop at 120cd/m2 (40 percent brightness in this case). It’s still not great, but it does mean you can play for a little while without needing a power socket.
If you need a bit more longevity then the Gigabyte Aero 15X managed a more respectable three hours and 55 minutes.
The Razer Blade 15 is expensive, but not more than rival gaming laptops and you’re getting a serious combination of design and specs here. It offers a 15.6in experience in a size barely bigger than before (in fact, it’s thinner). Add in 8th-gen Core i7, Nvidia Max-Q GTX graphics and lots of other goodies and we’re looking at one of the best portable gaming laptops money can buy. It can get a bit hot and noisy at times, but there’s little to dislike about this stunning device Chris Martin
• 15.6in (1,920x1,080) Full HD, 144Hz matte finish • Windows 10 Home 64-bit
2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H (4.1GHz boost) 6 cores, 12 threads Nvidia GTX 1060/1070 Max-Q GPU with 6/8GB RAM 16GB 2,666MHz DDR4 RAM (expandable to 32GB) 256GB/512TB NVMe SSD Intel Wireless-AC 9260 802.11b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi Bluetooth 5.0 1x USB-C 3.1 Thunderbolt 3 3x USB 3.1 HDMI Mini DisplayPort 1.4 Kensington Security Slot Stereo speakers HD webcam Single mic 3.5mm headset jack UK tiled keyboard with numberpad Two-button trackpad 80Wh lithium-ion battery 355x235x16.8mm 2.1kg 2-year RTB warranty
The Razer’s small bezel’s make the laptop look great and keep the size of the chassis down
The Razer 15’s connectivity options mean it can support up to three external displays