Razer Blade Stealth Review: Great power needs greater batteries
The Razer Blade Stealth is a well-built and powerful laptop, but its mediocre battery life is a concern.
Razer’s brand is one that’s absolutely linked to the world of gaming peripherals, although it has branched out in recent years to areas such as Android TV boxes (not available in Australia yet) and wearable fitness trackers. Equally, in recent years it has offered a small range of laptops, but these have generally been tailored towards the gaming crowd with high end processors, large screen and gaming-centric GPUs.
The Razer Blade Stealth is a different critter; an Ultrabook form factor laptop with a small high resolution screen and the option to attach an external GPU box, the Razer Core, for those who do want additional gaming grunt.
|Model||Razer Blade Stealth|
|Resolution||2560x1440 or 3840 x 2160|
|Processor||Intel Core i7 i7-6500U 2.5GHz|
|Battery||45Wh rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery|
Upsides: Why you’d want the Razer Blade Stealth
- It's really solid: Many ultrabook laptops tend towards being thin, but either flexible or sharp as a result. The Razer Blade Stealth is neither, opting instead for a rigid chassis that feels incredibly durable in the same way that, for example, Lenovo’s ThinkPads do.
- High performance: The baseline specifications for the Razer Blade Stealth line include an Intel Core i7 processor with 8GB of RAM. This means, as Ultrabooks go, the Razer Blade Stealth is a capable performer if you do need to push it hard. There’s an obvious play there for the gaming market that remains Razer’s core constituency, but if you do want an Ultrabook for video editing or serious data manipulation, it could be a very capable choice.
- Chroma Keys: Each key on the Razer Blade stealth has its own RGB backlighting, which means you can program it to highlight specific keys, or have patterns wobble across the keys as you go. Whether you use that for gaming layouts or Excel shortcuts is up to you, and if you don’t like it, you can disable it entirely.
- USB C and more: USB C is taking hold in the ultrabook/hybrid space, as we’ve seen for example with the Apple MacBook and Samsung Galaxy TabPro S recently, but both those examples give you USB C and nothing else. The slightly thicker sides of the Razer Blade Stealth give it more room to play with, which means you get USB C/Thunderbolt, two USB 3.0 type A ports and HDMI output as well.
- Razer Core expandability: Razer couldn’t just make a laptop that ignores gamers. While it only uses Intel’s own onboard graphics solution by default, Razer will also sell an external GPU box, called the Razer Core. The Razer Core allows you to insert a range of different high-end GPUs into it, and then plug through to the Razer Blade Stealth, giving it the potential gaming chops of more high-end systems.
Downsides: Why you might not want the Razer Blade Stealth
- Battery life is ordinary: Ultrabooks are portable machines, so a desire for battery life is to be expected, but you’ve got to weigh that against the power demands of a Core i7 processor, and, in the case of the higher-end Stealth laptops, a 4K display screen. We tested the entry level QHD Razer Blade Stealth with a looped 1080p video at maximum brightness to full battery exhaustion. The Razer Blade Stealth’s battery figures weren’t great. Here’s how it compared against a range of other thin and light alternatives.
Device Looped video battery test time Apple MacBook 2016 11:15 Samsung Galaxy TabPro S 11:10 Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (Core i5) 8:26 Razer Blade Stealth 5:09 Microsoft Surface Book 2015 (screen only) 4:14
It did outperform the Microsoft Surface Book, but only in a test of that device's standalone screen, and fell well short of the battery life of the Surface Pro 4, Apple MacBook or Galaxy TabPro S. Depending on your usage patterns we’d say that you might get a day’s work out of the Razer Blade Stealth, but we wouldn’t guarantee it.
- Core will cost more: Razer hasn’t announced local pricing for the Razer Core expansion box in Australia, but in the US it will set you back $US499. That’s just for the expansion case in essence, however, with any graphics card you choose to put in there naturally costing extra. If you’re going to spend on the Core it wouldn’t make sense to put a cheap graphics card in there, which means you’re looking at the north side of $1,000 more to get high end gaming performance out of the Razer Blade Stealth in total.
- Odd key layout: The keyboard on the Razer Blade Stealth is backlit, but Razer’s made some odd decisions in terms of overall layout, with the shifted versions of keys underneath their backlit regular counterparts, the opposite of any other keyboard of note. It’s particularly noticeable for the function keys, which are backlit, leaving the actual functions (volume, track skipping and so on) not lit at all.
Who is it best suited for? What are my other options?
Razer describes the Razer Blade Stealth as the "Ultimate Ultrabook". We wouldn’t go that far, but for its asking price it’s a solid option, especially if you like to mix up your professional and personal pursuits on the same machine. Razer's done a commendable job of delivering a solid ultrabook at this price point with its specifications, as long as you can live with that lower battery life.
Within the Ultrabook space there are plenty of alternatives with a premium finish such as the 2016 MacBook, Samsung Galaxy TabPro S or Microsoft Surface Book. It’s also feasible to score a simpler Ultrabook at a lower price point than the Razer Blade Stealth, although not with its specifications.
Where can I get it?
Razer sells the Razer Blade Stealth exclusively online through its Australian web site, with pricing varying from $1549.95 to $2449.95 depending on configuration.