Review: Is the Razer Blade Stealth and Core V2 combo a desktop-class beast?
- Great form factor, beautiful QHD display
- Decent horsepower (for a non-gaming Ultrabook)
- Is a bona fide desktop beast with a Core V2
- Greatly improves upon the weaknesses of the 12.5”
- Shame that it's not quite 4K.
- Very disappointing battery life
- Making this a true gaming PC is pricey
Cuts both ways: Workhorse by day, animal by night.
When it comes to delivering quality gaming experiences and maintaining a near-perfect triangle of performance, value and mobility, Razer's gaming laptops are often on – excuse the pun – the bleeding edge. That said, anybody interested in the late-2017 version of the Razer Blade Stealth ought to know they're buying into a slightly unusual prospect. This is a “for gamers, by gamers” Ultrabook that won't make a meal out of your AAA games right out of the box...
Razer is aiming at what I imagine to be a smaller target audience – the laptop gamer who's OK with shelling out for expensive (and heavy) extra gear that'll sit at home instead of being lugged about. Once connected, these additional components – in our case, a Razer Core V2 fitted with an Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080 graphics card – will turn an Ultrabook under-equipped to handle current games into a desktop-like beast. “Portable for on-the go, a powerhouse at home” is the basic pitch here.
For the purposes of this review, I'll give you an idea of how the Blade Stealth goes in its stock form. And let me reiterate that this is the late-2017 “premium” version: the 16GB of RAM here is faster LPDDR @ 2133 MHz, and they doubled the core to a Quad 8th Gen i7-8550U Processor (up from an i7-7500U two core). Also be aware that I've gotten my grubby mitts on the 256GB variant that currently retails at AU$2399.95 on the official store (the cashed-up among you can go as high as AU$3199.95 for a 1TB version).
Primarily, though, I'll focus my impressions of this Ultrabook in the “powerhouse desktop” configuration – hooked up via Thunderbolt 3 cabling to the aforementioned Core V2 and GTX 1080. Just be aware that these two items will set you back an extra AU$719.95 and AU$549.95, respectively.
Yes, welcome to the deep end. This hybrid business can be expensive.
Form factor and sexiness
First impressions of the Blade Stealth are: Wow!
It looks pretty sharp. Though it's also available in “gunmetal”, my test unit was the good old-fashioned black version – a high-quality unibody aluminum case that's a svelte 13.8 (height) x 321 (width) x 206mm (depth).
The Goth version isn't overly susceptible to fingerprints and it weighs a pittance at 1.35kg. For the footprint-obsessives keeping score keeping on this and the previous Blade Stealth, we're only 0.7mm thicker than last time and 20g heavier, too.
Impressively, Razer has managed to enhance a lot of this unit without increasing overall size. The slimmer screen bezels are greatly appreciated this time around (there's a 50% reduction over the 31+cm Blade Stealth).
Audio output grilles run either side of the keyboard and don't get in the way of what are frankly lovely and crisp-sounding stereo speakers. I religiously play games with headphones on, but reconsidered the cans when I heard the impressive audio that poured out of this thing.
When it comes to the keyboard, I had more of a love-hate relationship going on. I adore the look of the Chroma anti-ghosting keyboard which allows you to individually backlight keys with 16.8 million colours per key (frankly, I think Razer is just showing off at this point).
Mind you, while I found the pulsing technicolour keys to be soothing, I was annoyed by the fact that the secondary key functions don't light up as well. Come on, Razer, we're living in an age where most sites require at least one special character for a password. Please don't make me whip my phone out and use it like a flashlight to find the # key.
Before we proceed: a quick note on the Core V2, while we're talking aesthetics. It's a utilitarian-looking chunk of black aluminum that feels quite durable and relatively compact with a footprint of 300 (length) x 145 (height) x 43mm (width) . It also comes with two Chroma lighting points that illuminate the front underneath of the unit and its exposed graphics card slot on the side.
In this regard, the Core V2 does a great job of showcasing your beastly GPU and it supports the latest graphics chipsets including the GeForce GTX 10-series and AMD XConnect enabled Radeon RX cards. The only con I think of with the Core V2 is with regards to its weight – heaving around an additional 3.5kg plus a laptop isn't much fun.
Connectivity and display
Not a lot has changed here. Running down the left side of the unit we have a Thunderbolt 3 port (doubling as your AC charge), the first USB 3.0 (Type A) port, and an audio combo port.
The right flank is just as spartan, bearing only an HDMI port and the second USB 3.0. Tucked inside, you also get Bluetooth 4.1, Killer Wireless AC, plus a built-in webcam perched above the screen. When used in conjunction with the nifty dual array microphone, it should keep low-level streamers happy with 720p 30 fps results.
The pretty face of the Blade Stealth is a glossy, rigid screen with minimal flex. It's a 33.7cm QHD +IGZO touchscreen that can handle a 3200 x 1800 resolution.
Between you and me, my last laptop review was the gorgeous 33-cm OLED of an Alienware 13 (R3), so the step down to this felt considerable. However, after a short period of adjustment, I was more than happy with the 406-nits brightness, 95% colour gamut and 276 PPI contrast delivered by this unit.
I cannot fault the touch capabilities of the screen, either – everything is perfectly responsive, though the glossy screen does catch fingerprints easily.
It's also important to mention that this touchscreen is quite the battery hog (a larger problem we'll delve into soon). If you're not planning on using it extensively, best to disable it in device manager.
Let there be no confusion on this next point: with its piddly little Intel-UHD-620 graphics chip, the Blade Stealth is nowhere near powerful enough for the modern, serious gamer. At best you'll be able to play things like Rocket League, World of Warcraft and Counter-strike on modest settings.
I would NOT recommend playing any of the below test games (Overwatch, Witcher 3, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Dota 2) on this Ultrabook without first hooking up the Core V2. The frame-rates would be so bad, it'd be like playing an interactive Powerpoint presentation.
Fortunately, the process of connecting said Core is incredibly easy. It is effectively a one-cable solution – the Core bridges itself between your Ultrabook's AC input and your mains (plus it also offers you four additional USB ports, an Ethernet port, and a variety of display-out options).
As always, I started my gaming evaluations with the all-important chicken dinner test. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds averaged a very decent 98 fps on 3840x1080 (though I did see drops to 80 in some of the city areas). Overwatch performed quite well on the same resolution, too, thanks to a consistent 125 fps average on Ultra. Slaughtering monsters and playing too much gwent in Witcher 3 was viable on Ultra settings at 3840 x 1080, thanks to a consistent and respectable 59 fps. Last but not least, good ol' Dota 2 performed well with 86 fps on the Razer's max resolution.
Bottom line: a Razer Blade Stealth + Core V2 + a decent graphics card = results that are surprisingly comparable to a serious, desktop-level gaming rig.
|Geekbench (Razer Blade Stealth)||Geekbench (Razer Blade Stealth + Core V2)|
Drawbacks and issues
I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you that I was pretty unimpressed with the low battery life of the built-in 53.6Wh unit. On the official site, Razer states an incredibly optimistic estimation of ten hours, and I don't think that's a fair representation.
You're looking at five hours of web browsing, and a paltry 90 minutes while gaming. Once again and to be fair, the idea here is to be doing all of your serious gaming while on mains with your Razer Blade Stealth (sheathed, if you will) in desktop mode.
Sadly, the overall biggest con here is that getting the Stealth Blade the required GPU horsepower will likely be too pricey a proposition for most. Then there's also the matter of the average commuter not being able to – realistically – carry and utilize all that power easily. Not like any of the competing gaming laptops out there, at least.
Whether or not the Blade Stealth's ball-and-chain-like eGPU solution shall be a source of annoyance will vary greatly from person to person. I can certainly see the merits of using this unit as a stylish-looking workhorse at school/the office during the day, and roiding it up for some stress-relief when I get home.
I can also see that instead of all the additional cost and faffing about, one might find themselves wishing this Razer Ultrabook just came fitted with an Nvidia MX150, a GPU that I've seen deliver great on-the-go results. Personally, I find myself leaning towards the latter, but it's up to the individual to decide for themselves.
Cinebench R15 (Razer Blade Stealth)
|Cinebench R15 (Razer Blade Stealth + Core V2 )|
|Time Spy||Fire Strike Ultra||Fire Strike Extreme|
|3DMark (Razer Blade +Core V2)||5055||4346||6879|
Whether the Razer Blade Stealth is right for you depends heavily on your lifestyle and needs. This Ultrabook is well-constructed and it competes against the likes of a MacBook Pro or a Dell XPS 13, but it's ill-equipped for AAA gaming in its stock standard state. Providing you're OK with splashing out for a Core V2 and a graphics card (and are fine with sacrificing your portability to hook this eGPU up) the Blade Stealth may be leveled up into a surprisingly powerful desktop-class beast.
Pricing and availability
The Razer Blade Stealth is available at Razer Store and select partners. Our test unit, the Quad Core – 256GB version, retails for AU$2399.95.
Razer Blade Stealth specifications
- 13.3-inch (33.7cm) Touch QHD + IGZO
- 3200 x 1800
- Intel UHD Graphics 620
- 16GB RAM Dual-channel LPDDR3-2133MHz
- Intel i7-7700HQ (Quad Core, 6MB Cache, up to 3.8GHz w/ Turbo Boost)
- 256GB / 512GB / 1TB SSD (PCIe M.2)53.6Wh
- 70Wh with approx two hours battery life
- Windows 10
- 13.8 (height) x 321 (width) x 206mm (depth)
- 1280 x 720 @ 30 fps (HD)