Razer Gaming Laptops – 2017 Brand Rating and Report Card
When everyone else went for the big, bulky behemoths, Razer made its mark with laptops that are slim, sleek, sexy and powerful. The trend continues in the Razer machines reviewed in our inaugural Best and Worst Gaming Brands.
Razer has delivered three stunning laptops of varying degrees of slimness. However, a lack of customization options and some mushy keyboards kept Razer from the top spot.
Razer was on a tear during our test period, releasing and re-releasing several of its laptops with small upgrades. We reviewed five laptops, three of which earned Editors' Choice awards.
The 2016 Razer Blade Pro had the highest score (4.5 stars) for the brand, while the company netted another two 4-star reviews and two 3.5-star reviews; the latter were both for the Razer Blade Stealth, which has great performance but below-average battery life and a stiff keyboard.
We often call Razer's Blade laptops the gamer's MacBooks because of their svelte dimensions, all-metal chassis and striking looks. With the 17-inch Blade Pro, 14-inch Blade and 12-inch Blade Stealth, Razer knows how to make a notebook that's every bit as attention-grabbing as Apple's products.
It's hard to fathom how the company, time after time, manages to squeeze such powerful components into spaces that are between 0.52 and 0.88 inches thick. Sometime this year, Razer will debut a 13-inch Stealth chassis with a new Gunmetal Gray color for a more subdued look.
We've yet to see a Razer panel that we didn't like. Available in FHD, QHD or UHD, Razer displays tend to be bright, accurate and colorful. In fact, the only thing that might be more colorful on a Razer laptop are the jewel-toned Chroma keys. Our favorite Razer screen, hands down, is the Blade Pro's 4K display, which reproduces 185 percent of the color gamut along with a strong 304 nits of brightness.
Glistening like a cascading waterfall of jewels, Razer keyboards are truly sights to behold. Outfitted with the company's Chroma backlighting, they can turn your laptop into a captivating spectacle. Using Razer Synapse software, you can create custom color profiles and program hot keys. The company is also the latest to debut its take on a mechanical keyboard, with the proprietary ultra-low-profile switches on the Blade Pro.
As pretty as those keys are, they lack the key travel necessary for long-term comfortable typing. As it stands, Razer keyboards tend to bottom out frequently, which can be a bit of a pain for touch typists. At 1mm, the Blade had the best key travel out of the group, but it's still below our ideal 1.5-2.2mm range. However, it managed to deliver only 58g of actuation, which is below our 60g minimum. The Blade Pro (0.9mm) had the best actuation, at 66g.
Razer has always made a splash with its product announcements, and the company's reputation for cutting-edge gaming tech is fully deserved. All of the Razer laptops boast distinctive features and unique capabilities, from the 17-inch Blade Pro to the slim and portable Blade Stealth.
The Razer Blade Pro goes well beyond the newest Intel chips and Nvidia GPUs, with the world's first ultra-low-profile mechanical keyboard, a 4K touch-screen display with Nvidia G-Sync and impressive THX-certified audio.
The 14-inch Razer Blade crams potent VR-ready gaming into a design slimmer than that of most MacBooks, while the Razer Blade Stealth offers a stunningly slim ultraportable that can transform into a gaming beast with the Razer Core external graphics card enclosure.
An upcoming gunmetal-gray version of the Blade Stealth improves on its predecessors by significantly shrinking the screen bezel.
The Razer Core may not be the first external graphics solution to hit the market, but it was one of the first to offer Thunderbolt 3 connectivity instead of a proprietary connector, and it even works with some non-Razer laptops.
The Razer Blade, Blade Pro and Blade Stealth all feature the Razer Synapse software utility suite, the only cloud-based gaming utility available. Synapse enables the recording of macros to any key on the keyboard, also letting you make adjustments to the trackpad or fan speed. Those looking to take a CSI-level examination of their gameplay can use Synapse to track behavior and gain stats and heat maps.
Synapse also includes the option to illuminate your keyboard as you please, with 16.8 million color options for each key, as well as six lighting effects (Wave, Ripple, Breathing, Reactive, Spectrum Cycling and Static). If you're using the Razer Core graphics amp, you'll also find yourself using Synapse to control it.
Selection and Customization (2/5)
Depending on how you look at it, Razer has two or three gaming notebooks. However, since the Blade Stealth can't game without the Razer's graphics amp, we're inclined to leave that number at two. The Blade and Blade Pro, while quite pricey, are some of the most gorgeous notebooks in their respective classes. Both the 14- and 17-inch Blades feature surprisingly thin chassis, and the Blade Pro even finds room for an Nvidia 1080 GPU, up to 2TB of SSD storage and 32GB of RAM, easily keeping pace with systems from Alienware and Asus.
The big things holding Razer back are its limited lineup and the lack of customization options available when choosing a system. Both the Razer Blade and Blade Pro allow you to choose the size of your SSD (starting at 256GB), but that's about it. On the Blade, your choice of storage even determines what screen you get; everything else (RAM, CPU and GPU) is locked.
Razer backs its laptops with a standard, one-year limited warranty on parts and labor. Upgrading your RAM or storage doesn't void the warranty, and if you need service, the company pays for shipping both ways. You can also buy an additional year of coverage direct from Razer.