Reviews

Overview: 2014 Razer Blade 14″

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After a slight four week delay, Razer’s new 14″ Blade is finally available to the public. While it boasts some impressive features, is the new edition a definitive improvement over the 2013 model?

In 2013, Razer released the new Razer Blade, a successor to the previous model- now dubbed the Blade Pro- and as a statement towards the way gaming notebooks have been manufactured in the past. Gaming laptops have traditionally featured thicker bodies in order to accommodate for extra cooling and performance-grade hardware; some notebooks are anywhere from 1″, to even 2.5″. Razer released the 14″ Razer Blade as a way to have the best of both worlds; the power of a gaming notebook, in a thin and sleek chassis found in the world of MacBooks and ultrabooks. While the 2013 model was praised for its sleek design- coming in at only .66″ when closed- the unanimous complaint was in regards to the screen. Where laptops have begun using HD+ level screens, the Blade contained a 1600×900 TN-panel display, which resulted in poor viewing angles, and washed-out unsaturated colors.

On May 9th, the 2014 Razer Blade 14″ was released to the public. On the surface, the updated model doesn’t sport any obvious changes; the Blade still possesses the 3 green USB 3.0 ports, 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack, and an HDMI port. While it’s a little thicker than the previous model, Razer can still technically say that it’s thinner than a standing dime- the 2014 Blade is only .7″ thin when closed. When owners open the lid, they are greeted by a new, far superior screen than the one found in the 2013 model. The new Blade features a 3200×1800 QHD+ glass-panel display, with a 10-point touchscreen. The screen also features a 2.2MP webcam with an integrated array microphone. On either side of the back-lit chicklet keyboard are two Dolby 5.1 speakers. Inside the chassis, the Blade is powered by a Haswell Intel Quad-Core i7-4702HQ processor, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, and the new GTX 870M GPU, along with an Intel Integrated Graphics 4600.

The new Razer Blade also features the same cooling and ventilation scheme as the previous model. Because of this, the strip of metal between the Function keys and the laptop hinge can get very hot during gaming sessions, or while using hardware-intensive applications. However, even in the most extreme of situations, most of the heat is isolated to that one area; the top of the keyboard will experience some heat (I experienced this during Tomb Raider 2013, Crysis 2, and CyberLink PowerDirector 12), but nothing that should cause discomfort or pain.

While the screen is a vastly superior improvement over the 2013’s TN-panel display, the Blade isn’t safe from the same problems that other notebooks face with the 3200×1800 display: While Windows 8.1 itself and most webpages and OS-based software are optimized for larger resolutions, not all third-party applications have been optimized for the display. In some cases, text and icons are considerably small, and may be illegible to some. This was most noticeable with Steam notifications and the in-game overlay, Origin, and CyberLink PowerDirector 12.

Three models are available for purchase, each of which contains a different storage capacity; starting at $2200, the Blade can be purchased with either a 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB SATA M.2 SSD. The price may be daunting to some; the Blade is more of a “luxury” laptop, as there are less-expensive and fully capable alternatives on the market.

(Note: This particular overview uses the 256GB model as a hands-on base of information.)

As shown in the video overview below, for being in such a small form-factor, the Blade is a more-than-capable gaming powerhouse:

The 2014 Razer Blade 14″ is an outstanding gaming laptop, and a definite improvement over the previous model, but it’s difficult to recommend to the average consumer, as this is a laptop that would appeal to a few select groups of individuals: The most obvious example of someone who would purchase this laptop, would be an avid fan of Razer and their gaming peripherals and other devices. This laptop would also appeal to people who are actively on-the-go and want a powerful gaming laptop, but without bombastically “advertising” themselves…

Alienware creates powerful, top-notch gaming notebooks, however they tend to be much larger- almost “desktop replacement”- notebooks, and their designs often feature flashy, ornate ridges and accents; this is the Lamborghini of notebooks. Maingear is closer to being a Ferrari of gaming computers; Maingear offers a wide plethora of notebooks, built for various tasks, whether it’s gaming or as a mobile-workstation. While Maingear is more subtle than Alienware, the wild colors and features underneath the lid may not appeal to someone who wants a “discreet” gaming laptop.

With the Razer Blade 14″, despite the partnership with Koenigsegg, Razer is closest to Ariel, with their lightweight, bare-bones and no-nonsense Ariel Atom. The Blade is a minimalist low-profile machine, built for the perfect combination of portability and performance. Apart from Razer’s iconic triple snake logo, green accents and the very subtle ridges on the hood, the Blade is a stylish laptop that can be used at a lan-party, and later find itself in a board-room meeting.

For those looking for a lightweight high-performance laptop, packaged within a sleek low-profile chassis, definitely give the 2014 Razer Blade 14″ model some consideration.

Image courtesy of Razer

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