Razer Blade 14 2021 review: Incredible power comes with a cost
- 165Hz display is beautiful
- NVIDIA Geforce RTX 3080 is a beast
- Stays cool even under heavy load
- Pricey, especially for the top configuration
- Doesn't quite live up to its battery claims
- No Thunderbolt support
For the past few years, Razer Blade 14 laptops have followed a pretty simple recipe. Grab a black aluminium enclosure, shove in the best current GPU and an Intel CPU, sit back and watch the plaudits roll in.
At first glance, the 2021 model might seem like more of the same, until you realise that something's missing. That something is the iconic "Intel Inside" badge because this is the first Razer Blade to offer up an AMD option, via the very tasty AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX processor, matched with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060, 3070 or 3080 GPU. It's a potent combination that really delivers on the gaming front – for a price.
The design of the Razer Blade 14 2021 is easily the least exciting part of the laptop because it's essentially unchanged from the classic Razer style. It features an aluminium body in straight black with that classic Razer snake logo on the top, measuring in at 16.8x220x319.7mm with a carrying weight of 1.78kg. All stock and standard for a 14-inch laptop, and like every other Razer Blade I've ever tested, also very quickly a home for every fingerprint smudge imaginable.
Open up the Razer Blade 14 2021 and you're faced with an RGB backlit keyboard with reasonable key travel. It's not quite up there with models that use full mechanical keyboard layouts in terms of response, but it's also entirely suitable for laptop-based gaming.
Screen bezels on the 14-inch display are minimal, and there's a choice here in terms of screen quality. The entry-level Razer Blade 14 2021 features a 144Hz-capable 1920x1080 panel, while the mid- and upper-tier models bump that up to a 165Hz capable 2560x1440 display. That's a matter of both visual fidelity and how much you're willing to spend, although those screen choices do also determine GPU choices for you as well.
On the connectivity front, you get two USB 2 3.2 Gen 2 A type ports and two USB 2 3.2 Gen 2 C type ports, with support for Power Delivery and Display Port 1.4. That jump from Intel to AMD does come with a connectivity casualty however, as Thunderbolt support is absent – precisely because it's an Intel technology to begin with. The Razer Blade 14 2021 also features a full-sized HDMI output socket and standard headphone/microphone combo port to complete its peripheral story.
Outside those screen options, this appears to be Razer playing it very much as expected. If you like Razer's style and approach in design, it's fine and nicely portable if your needs are going to extend to more than desktop-based gaming pursuits.
It's really when you crack it open that the Razer Blade 14 2021 gets particularly noteworthy.
The Razer Blade 14 2021 ships in 3 different configurations, although the differences between them are pretty easy to sum up. Every model ships with a 1TB SSD for storage and a fixed 16GB of RAM, and they all run on Windows 10 Home. On the CPU front, they're all using the AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX.
The differences come about through the screen technology, with the entry-level model offering up a Full HD panel compared to the QHD panel on the mid-range and top-tier variants, and then the GPUs used to push pixels to those screens. The base model comes with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060. Bump up to the mid-range model and you'll get a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070, and the top-tier luxury model runs with a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080.
The one catch here is that you really can't tweak out the specifications at all. If you want that GeForce RTX 3080, you've got to grab the top-tier model. If you wanted more RAM, or different storage options, they simply don't exist.
Razer sent me the premium model for review. That's not an uncommon play for hardware makers – it tends to make their gear look the best – but the reality of that combination is that you'd still get a pretty good result out of the mid-tier (and a little less so on that entry-level model) if you went that way.
How good is it? To kick that off, I ran the Razer Blade 14 2021 through our standard suite of benchmarks and compared it against a range of gaming-specific laptops. Here's how the Razer Blade 14 2021 compares:
The Razer Blade 14 2021 is only just beaten out by the Alienware in that comparison, but they're very different systems. You couldn't reasonably call the Alienware portable in any real way; it's more of a luggable that you wouldn't want to have on your lap for any serious length of time.
Comparatively, the Razer Blade 14 2021 is lighter and much easier to sling into a bag or use on your lap over a longer gaming session if that's your style. One area that did concern me, especially with a laptop decked out in black was heat dissipation, but here the Razer Blade 14 2021 performed well. You can certainly tell that it's shunting heat around as you put it through heavier workloads, but it mostly avoids issues of burning up your lap as you do so.
Benchmarks give you a synthetic view, and to supplement this, I threw a slew of gaming titles at the Razer Blade 14 2021 to see how well it handled them. Not surprisingly, the answer to this was "very well indeed". You'd easily be able to punch up most recent titles to maximum or near maximum settings without dropping frames, and for older titles, the Razer Blade 14 2021 won't even break a sweat.
The overall package is very good, but if I'm going to pick up on anything, it's the embedded webcam. 2020 showed us just how important having a good webcam on our day-to-day laptops is. Despite its premium pricing, Razer only places a 720p-capable webcam on the Razer Blade 14 2021. If you needed to use it for work, or wanted to use it for game streaming efforts, you'd quickly hit its limitations in terms of image clarity and especially low light pick-up. At this price, I'm not sure that simply saying "buy a better webcam" is enough.
Gaming laptops are notorious for woeful battery life. That's just a function of systems that have high power CPUs and GPUs throwing pixels around as though their digital lives depended on it for the most part. As such, I was intrigued by Razer's claim that the Razer Blade 14 2021 is capable of "up to" 12 hours of battery life, especially given its smaller frame.
The magical words there are "up to" because again it depends on the workload you throw at it. To test this out, I ran the Razer Blade 14 2021 past our standard laptop battery life test, looping a Full HD video at maximum brightness to the point of battery exhaustion, and then running PC Mark's Gaming battery benchmark past it. The first is a lighter test for most laptops to show likely best battery life, while the latter is considerably more brutal.
Here's how the Razer Blade 14 2021 compares:
On one level, the Razer Blade 14 2021 impresses because while it's right up there in the PCMark scoring, it beats the competition handily in the video streaming test by a considerable margin. There's plenty of scope for good battery life in other words.
The flip side of that, however, is that it fell 2 hours and 21 minutes short of the claimed 12-hour battery life. That figure is probably achievable under a very light workload, but I'm not entirely sure who buys a top-flight gaming laptop purely for playing solitaire.
Razer's supplied charger does a good job of keeping the Razer Blade 14 2021 powered up, although its flat vertical orientation does mean that while you can plug it in either way, you're going to want to spin it backwards because it directly blocks a USB port if you don't.
Should you buy the Razer Blade 14 2021?
- Buy it if you want a top-flight ultraportable gaming machine.
- Don't buy it if you want to have much left in your wallet afterwards.
The Razer Blade 14 2021 is a seriously impressive machine. Razer has packed an incredible quantity of power into a small frame, and it's done so without creating a machine that will cook your legs or set fire to your desk while doing so.
However, there's a catch, and that catch absolutely is the price point. The Razer Blade 14 2021 is a premium model with pricing to match. The entry-level model will run you $3,099. The mid-range model will set you back $3,999 and the top-end model as tested will sting your wallet to the tune of $4,999.
That's a serious price for a serious bit of gaming kit, and it's easily the biggest barrier to recommending the Razer Blade 14 2021. For many, it's simply going to be a price they cannot meet, but if you can, it's a great little gaming laptop.
Pricing and availability
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