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New Razer Blade Stealth Hands-on: Now It’s a Real Gaming Laptop

Razer continues to make its case for the thin-and-light crown with its latest take on the Razer Blade Stealth. It's the first time Razer's ultraportable will feature a discrete graphics card, bringing work and a little play in a stunning 13-inch chassis.

Razer's given me a little early access action, so I've spent the weekend playing and working with the Blade Stealth –– here are my first impressions.

Design

Well isn't this a sexy little minx! Weighing 3 pounds and measuring 0.58 inches, the Stealth's black aluminum frame slid into my backpack with ease. It's gotten that boxy makeover similar to that of the Blade 15, giving it a retro-chic look that I dig. If I have one complaint, it's that Razer got rid of the glowing snake emblem on the lid. I like standing out in a crowd, but that's just me.

At 2.8 pounds, 12 x 8.3 x 0.6-inches, the Blade Stealth is right on a par with the Dell XPS 13 (2.7 pounds, 12 x 8 x 5 inches), the Asus ZenBook S (2.4 pounds, 12 x 8.4 x 0.5 inches and the Apple MacBook Air (2.8 pounds, 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches.

MORE: Which Razer Laptop Is Right for You? Blade vs Stealth vs Pro

Display

We haven't tested the nits or brightness of the Blade's 13.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 matte display yet. But when the head of our video department saw the Blade, he was really taken with the panel's vividness. And when I watched the trailer for Jinn, I was equally enthralled. Details were distinct enough that I could see flyaway strands of hair in the lead actress' loosely-coiled curls. Colors from her lilac hair, gold hoop earrings and jet-black top seemed to pop from the screen.

Those dazzling colors held up during my Borderlands 2 playthrough. I sent a pack of Billymongs scrambling after I tossed a corrosive grenade, splashing their pristine white coats with neon green goo. The technicolor fun only continued when I switched to a sniper rifle loaded with incendiary bullets, setting the beasts ablaze in a cheery red-orange glow.

Keyboard

When I review Razer laptops, I'm constantly dinging them for their shallow keyboards. And from the feel of this Blade Stealth, I don't think that's going to change. However, typing on this iteration of the keyboard was more comfortable than previous models. It seems that Razer found a way to add a bit more pop to the island-style keyboards since I didn't find myself bottoming out. I hit my usual 70 words per minute on the 10fastfingers typing test, so that was a plus.

Fans of Chroma (like myself), will be happy to know that the captivating jewel-toned lighting is front and center on the new Blade. There is, however, one notable difference. Instead of having the ability to assign RGB lighting to each individual key, the keyboard is now one large zone. That means if you want one key to flash purple, they're all going to. It's a bit of a bummer, but it's hard to be mad at something so pretty.

My biggest complaint concerning the keyboard is the Right Shift and Enter keys which are woefully undersized in favor of the direction keys. Being that I rarely ever make use of those keys, I wish they could have been condensed or even left off the keyboard altogether. As it stands, I was constantly second-guessing my finger placement when it came time to capitalize a word. I got used to the shrimpy key over time, but being that the Stealth is positioned as a mobile productivity machine, I really could have used the regular-sized Shift key.

Gaming

While you could always play games that weren't particularly graphically taxing on a system with integrated graphics, the catalog was severely limited. Razer has expanded your options a bit by adding a discrete Nvidia GeForce MTX 150 GPU with 4 GB of VRAM. I had a blast revisiting the wilds of Pandora in Borderlands 2, particularly when I unleashed my Mechromancer's massive robot upon an outgunned squad of bandits. Bullets and bodies flew without a single drop in frame rate.

Now before you go and fire up Battlefield V or Destiny 2, keep in mind that all discrete GPUs aren't created equal. In the grand scheme of things, MX 150 means that you can play older titles like BioShock Infinite or Borderlands 2 with no problem. Trying anything really graphically taxing will result in a stuttering mess.

And like most gaming laptops, when you're not gaming, the Stealth automatically switches over to its Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU thanks to Nvidia's Optimus technology.

Performance

The Blade Stealth is outfitted with a 1.8-GHz Intel Core i7-8565U processor with 16 GB of RAM. It's one of the first laptops to feature Intel's new Whiskey Lake chips, which has a higher clock speed than its Coffee Lake counterparts. Intel also claims Whiskey Lake CPUs will offer twice the overall performance of a 5-year system, but offered no comparison to last year's Kaby Lake chips.

The notebook had no problem streaming an episode of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix with 20 additional tabs in Google Chrome, some of which were running Twitch or Tweetdeck with seemingly minimal effort. I'm looking forward to putting the laptop through its paces with our synthetic tests. As it stands, it looks like it will go toe-to-toe with the Dell XPS 13 and Huawei MateBook X Pro.

MORE: Best Gaming Laptops

Battery Life

I haven't yet had the opportunity to run our battery test on the new Blade Stealth. What I can tell you is that I played Borderlands 2 on the Blade Stealth for a little over 4 hours before I got the low battery warning. When I was just watching video or working on this write up, the time rose to 6 hours.  But I'm eager to see how the laptop holds up on our benchmark as Razer laptops have slowly, but surely improved their endurance over the years.

Configurations

I spent the weekend gaming, working and watching video on the $1,599 pre-production model of the new Razer Blade Stealth. The laptop features a 1.8-GHz Intel Core i7-8565U Whiskey Lake processor with 16 GB of RAM, a 256GB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD, a Nvidia GeForce MTX 150 GPU with 4 GB of VRAM, an Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU and a 1920 x 1080 non-touch panel. The base model is $200 cheaper, but you miss out on the discrete graphics.

Bottom Line

After a weekend with the new Blade Stealth, I'm pretty excited to get the laptop into the lab for some real testing. My biggest takeaway from the experience, that while you can play a lot more games with the MX 150 GPU, the Blade Stealth isn't meant to be your mainstream gaming rig. That is of course, unless you have a Razer Core or a Thunderbolt-compatible eGPU. Other noteworthy specs include a stare-inducing display and a gorgeous Chroma keyboard that's comfortable to type on, but is sullied by specific undersized keys. Overall, my early testing shows that Razer is becoming a serious force to be reckoned with in the ultraportable space.

Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.