(Pocket-lint) - Razer is no stranger to the gaming laptop world. The company wowed us recently when we tested (and enjoyed) the GTX 1070 Max-Q powered version of 2018's Razer Blade 15. But now an even newer and more powerful version has been launched for 2019.
Updated with Nvidia's latest and greatest RTX graphics cards, these new versions are even beefier and support ray-tracing as well. The result is a powerful, compact and high-spec gaming laptop that's a force to be reckoned with. But is it too hot (and too pricey) to handle?
Hidden power in an understated frame
- Intel Core i7-8750H Processor
- 16GB dual-channel DDR4-2667MHz (expandable to 64GB)
- Upto 500GB SSD (NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4) in advanced model
- Lightweight CNC-milled Aluminum Unibody
Like the previous model, the 2019 version of the Razer Blade 15 comes in two main variants. There's the base model and advanced model - the main difference being the base model is the only one without the GeForce RTX GPU. That cheaper version sports a GTX 1060 Max-Q and only a 60Hz screen, while the high-end of the advanced version has the RTX 2080 and a 4K touchscreen.
Prices start from around £1,500 for the base model and hit nearly £3,000 for the top-of-the-range 4K capable advanced model.
For review purposes, we had our hands on an advanced model with a GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU and 144Hz 1080p display. A nicely capable machine with a decent spec. This model sports an Intel Core i7-8750H CPU, 16GB of RAM and up to 500GB of NVMe storage space.
On the outside, the 2019 version of the Razer Blade 15 maintains the same aesthetic as the previous model. It sports an understated design with a durable aluminum shell. It's compact, sleek and pleasantly styled with no over-the-top lighting or stand-out stylings that would give away what it is when you're not playing.
Of course the iconic Razer logo is fairly prominent on the rear and that subtly lights up when it's turned on, but otherwise there's not much to give away the gaming power under the hood.
On the sides, there's a collection of USB ports with the iconic Razer green, but otherwise it's fairly subtle and understated - and that's a good thing in our mind.
The Blade 15 includes a compact keyboard layout and a large glass Microsoft Precision touchpad. There are speakers on either side of the keyboard with the power button recessed in the one on the right. Even the power button is understated: it's not immediately obvious what that is unless you're used to the layout. These little design cues speak volumes to the overall look and feel of this gaming beast.
On the underside, cooling fans and two long rubber feet are ready to keep the laptop cool. The fans underneath suck the cool air in and its blown out the back. When gaming on a desk, this works perfectly; on the lap, not so much - more on that in a moment.
Judging a book by its cover, the entire design of this laptop will appeal to the serious gamer who needs something that can use every day for meetings and such without arousing suspicion, while still having the power to play the latest games on ultra settings without a fuss.
Stunning visuals and gaming grit
- Nvidia GeForce options including GTX 1070/RTX 2060/2070/2080 Max-Q GPU
- 15.6-inch 1080p IPS panel with a 144Hz refresh rate and 4.9mm bezel
- 100 per cent sRGB, individually factory calibrated
- 3DMark benchmark scores: Sky Diver, Fire Strike, Time Spy, Port Royal, DLSS
There are a variety of storage options available in the two variants of the Razer Blade 15. Each (apart from the basic model) include an NVMe SSD as the main drive. This means load times are incredibly swift, not just when you turn it on, but when you boot games up too.
This is ideal for gamers who don't have time to hang around and want to get straight into the action. Mash the power button and you're in Windows in a matter of seconds and in game in not many seconds more.
We would recommend searching out the bigger drive options though. The model we tested had a 512GB drive and that's reasonably sized - but last year's model had half that and small drives soon fill up with the latest games. No point in springing loads of cash for a high-end gaming beast only to have to regularly tidy, remove and install games to keep on playing.
The new Razer Blade 15 has a similarly specced 15.6-inch 1080p IPS panel to the previous model. The version we tested features a matte screen, slim bezels and a 144Hz refresh rate.
There's no denying that this is a very nice panel. Not only is it bright, capable and colourful for gaming, it's also fantastically clear and has super viewing angles too. We did note a slight light bleed from the very bottom edges of the bezel but that's a minor niggle in an otherwise awesome display.
With a hardcore processor, a decent amount of RAM and a fairly bleeding edge Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU, this laptop is a real powerhouse. We ran it through a variety of gaming tests including cranking out some games of Battlefield V's Firestorm with everything set to ultra and ray-tracing turned on and it still managed around 70-80fps.
It's worth noting that it's not possible to turn DLSS on with this laptop unless you're plugged into an external monitor. Razer told us this is down to Nvidia's setup of the RTX GPUs, stating that they're not designed to run DLSS at 1080p.
Dirt Rally 2.0 ran smoothly and beautifully on this device. With everything cranked up to the maximum Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmarked at between 30-50fps
As you'd expect, the compact frame of the Razer Blade 15 does come with some compromises. We found the fans could get quite noisy during heavy gaming sessions - so you might need a decent gaming headset to avoid that - but not as loud as other laptops we've tested. The fans can be tweaked in the software, but we found it was often better to let the laptop do its thing and set speeds automatically.
The other problem comes when gaming on your lap. As you'd expect, this spec requires quite a hefty amount of cooling when cranking out maximum visuals. We found the laptop struggled to keep itself cool and soon got uncomfortably hot both underneath and on top. We're not necessarily surprised by this but it's worth noting - it's better to play with this monster on a flat surface.
For standard day-to-day use, browsing, streaming, knocking up spreadsheets and such, the Razer Blade 15 is pleasantly quiet, comfortable and easy to use.
We found the trackpad could be a bit finicky at times though. The pad has gestures controls which theoretically give you easy access to quick switching and various other tricks in Windows. But we found these were more frustrating than useful and often occurred when we didn't want. A two-finger swipe that minimises all windows sounds useful - but not when the trackpad thinks you've made that gesture when you haven't. You can turn these off in Windows settings though.
We also felt like the keyboard layout was slightly unusual and took a while to get used to. Slight oddities like a function key where the directional arrow usually is threw us off a bit, but otherwise, daily typing is pleasant.
Compatibility and outputs
- 3x USB 3.1
- Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)
- HDMI 2.0B audio and video output
- MiniDisplayPort 1.4
- Intel Wireless-AC 9560 (IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac)
- Bluetooth 5 connectivity
- 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo port
- Dolby Atmos support
The Razer Blade 15 offers a healthy variety of inputs and outputs for all your needs. It has enough USB ports to power an Oculus Rift and there's an HDMI and MiniDisplayPort for external connections too.
It's simple enough to connect this gaming laptop to an external monitor - although you cannot use the 144Hz mode when doing so. Theoretically, up to three other displays can be powered via the ThunderBolt and Mini DisplayPort connections so there's plenty of possibilities.
With a 3.5mm headphone jack, Dolby Atmos support and enough USB ports for a decent gaming headset, there are plenty of audio options as well.
The accompanying speakers are fairly capable: they deliver a great quality sound whatever you're doing and can be cranked up pretty loud too. However, they aren't beefy enough to drown out the white noise from the fans when they're on full tilt, so that's worth bearing in mind.
Alas, there's no Ethernet connection options, but the Intel wireless adapter is more than capable. We didn't have any troubles with downloading, streaming or gaming during testing - wherever we were.
A 720p webcam is present for Skype and such like, but it won't cut the mustard if you're thinking of streaming your gaming sessions. The built-in microphone is fairly standard and good enough for day-to-day use, but struggles to compete with fan noise.
Keyboard setup and programmability
- Razer Synapse 3 enabled
- Backlit Keyboard with per key RGB illumination
- Powered by Razer Chroma
- N-Key rollover keyboard
- Glass touchpad (Microsoft Precision Touchpad)
Razer fans will be pleased to hear that this new laptop is Razer Synapse 3 compatible, providing access to the customisation settings you're likely already familiar with, including numerous keyboard backlighting modes and various effects.
We like that you can even tweak this customisation on individual key-by-key basis. Diving into the software, you can also create macros, access extra modules to pair with Philips Hue lights, etc, and really get the most out of tweaking your laptop.
Layout wise, we've already mentioned that the Razer Blade 15 sports a compact layout. There's no numpad here, but there are also no extra or unnecessary keys. This gaming laptop does have function keys though: with a couple of presses you can tweak screen brightness, adjust keyboard backlighting, play, pause and skip music or change the volume. One nice touch is when pressing the function key all the other backlighting turns off and only the F keys light up so you see what you're pressing.
Battery life and longevity
- Up to 6 hours standard use
- Approximately 1 hour of gaming power
As you might imagine from the specs, the Razer Blade 15 requires a fair amount of juice to run. The company says you can get "up to six hours" use out of this machine. We found in the real world it was more realistically three to four hours.
This was less than last year's model and will obviously vary depending on specification and how you use it, but even with lighting off and screen brightness down, we still found we were using juice at a rate of knots.
For "proper" gaming you need to be plugged in too - otherwise, frame rates take a hit and things won't run smoothly. More casual games could probably run on battery but you'd be unlikely to get an hour out of the machine before it needs plugging in.
We liked the previous version of the Razer Blade 15 and we're happy to report that with added joy of ray-tracing-capable GPU options the updated Blade is even better.
This is a powerful little gaming machine, one that's easy on the eye, compact enough to take around with you, and more than capable of any task you throw at it. It is expensive, but you do get plenty of bang for your buck.
For gamers looking for something powerful but also good enough to use in the office, then this is it.
Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX531
The 2019 Zephyrus S GX531 is the pinnacle of the Asus ROG laptop line-up. It too is Nvidia RTX powered and it's arguably better looking than the Blade, but less understated.
It's equally as expensive, but also very capable and fantastic for gaming sessions.
Razer Blade 15 (2018)
Yes, this is essentially the same laptop only without the latest and greatest Nvidia graphics. It does mean that you'll probably be able to find this for a lot less money and still get plenty of gaming goodness for your cash.