Razer Blade Hands-On: Lightest-Ever 17-inch Gaming Laptop Has Touchscreen TouchPad

LAS VEGAS -- Razer's long-awaited entry into the notebook space is finally here in the flesh, and it was worth the wait. Today at CES 2012, the company, which is best known for gaming accessories like mice and keyboards, showed off the Razer Blade, a 17-inch notebook that, at 6.6 pounds and .88 inches thick, is light enough to actually carry with you on a regular basis. 

Inside, the Razer Blade has a powerful 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7 2640M quad-core processor that can turbo boost up to 3.5-GHz and 8GB of RAM. A Nvidia GT 555M graphics chip provides enough oomph for even the most demanding games. A 256GB SSD ensures your applications, and especially your games will open quickly. Getting this much gaming power in a system this light is unheard of.

Leading game systems like the Alienware M17x, ASUS G73SW and Toshiba Qosmio series are normally in the 8 to 10 pound range, which makes them very difficult to carry with you on a regular basis. Because it is actually light  enough to carry around, Razer calls the Razer Blade the "the first true gaming notebook," implying that its competitors are not really notebooks.

The Razer Blade's most interesting feature, however, is the touchscreen that doubles as a touchpad and the 10 customizable keys above it. Razer calls this its Switchblade UI and we've never seen anything like it. The 10 light-up keys themselves are little tiny screens that show different images on them, depending on how you customize them and on the application.

In a demo today, a product manager showed us how one of the Switchblade keys could put the touchpad into numeric keypad mode, where the touchpad screen shows number keys and the 10 keys change into controls that change the design of the numeric keypad into, for example, touchscreen arrows. Another Switchblade button launches a tiny web browser on the touch screen while a third launches YouTube. A Razer product manager said that gamers can watch YouTube walkthroughs of their games on the tiny screen so they don't have to exit the game on the main display.

The Switchblade UI also lets you customize the light-up keys to launch any game macros or applications you want. You can even create your own little icons to display on the keys. A Razer rep showed us how these settings are saved in the cloud via the company's Synapse 2.0 software so, if you have other Razer products with the same features, those settings will transfer over. In fact, we later saw a Star Wars: The Old Republic gaming keyboad that also has the SwitchBlade UI features.

 We had a chance to witness the Razer Blade playing Firefall on its 1080p screen and were impressed with the smooth video and sharp images. However, we lifted one of the notebooks off the table and noticed that the bottom was extremely hot as was a right side vent. 

 The Razer Blade should start shipping at the end of this month for $2,799. We can't wait to test it more thoroughly. 

Avram Piltch
Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master's degree in English from NYU.