Razer Goes Mainstream with the Blade Stealth
Razer had arguably the worst booth at CES 2016. Not because of their products or rabid fans. But because their booth was like entering a nightclub -- almost entirely dark with black Razer products on black tables. Sure, it looked cool, but getting decent photos of the new Razer gear was near impossible. I did manage to find the new Razer laptop at the Intel booth, which was fine, except everything there was bathed in blue light.
In any case, Razer showed off a lot of new hardware, but one stood out in particular: the new Razer Blade Stealth.
Unlike many of Razer’s other products, the Blade Stealth is actually a normal computer. A very normal computer. You’d think it was downright pedestrian if Razer’s marketing team didn’t tell you otherwise. In fact, the Razer Blade Stealth’s normality is what actually makes the laptop interesting.
Why, you ask? Because this is Razer’s attempt to go mainstream. After all, one can only sell so many $100 mice. If you want to grow, you need to appeal to the masses. And a $999 laptop is mass market price.
So the Razer Blade Stealth isn’t, despite the claims, a gaming PC. Sure, it has a i7-6500U processor, but that’s nothing exotic. Graphics are the standard Intel 520 integrated graphics found in every slim 6th Gen laptop. No discrete graphics, just the Razer logo and lights.
Simply, this is no gaming laptop.
To appeal to gamers, Razer was showing off the the companion “Razer Core” as well. The Core is one of those Thunderbolt 3 Graphics docks that allows any laptop -- not just a Razer branded one -- with Thunderbolt 3 to boost its graphics performance with an external graphics card. A number of manufacturers are showing these new docks at CES and, really, it’s nothing revolutionary on Razer’s part.
But the Razer Blade Stealth, because it’s so normal, is actually the most exciting product. And since Razer is known for being at the premium end of the spectrum, it's surprising to see Razer play in these entry level waters. Let's take a look at the specs to see how the Razer Blade Stealth stacks up to some of the other popular players in the ultraportable 13" category:
Razer Blade Stealth
- $999 starting MSRP
- 8GB RAM
- 128 GB PCIe SSD (upgradeable to 512GB PCIe)
- 12.5” QHD 1440p screen (UHD 2160p optional)
- “Chroma” keyboard (aka RGB with individual lights)
- 45whr battery (9 hours claimed battery life)
- 12.6” x 8.1” x .52” thick
- Full aluminum unibody construction
Underlined areas are where Razer has an advantage:
Dell XPS 13
- Intel 520 Graphics
- 8GB RAM
- 128GB SSD (not PCIe NVMe)
- 13.3” Infinity screen
- HD 1080p resolution (1800p touch optional)
- 56whr battery (18 hours claimed battery life)
- 11.98” x 7.88” x .6”
Lenovo Yoga 900
- Intel 520 Graphics
- 8GB RAM
- 256 GB (PCIe?)
- 13.3” screen
- 1800p resolution
- 66whr battery (9 hours claimed battery life)
- 12.75” x 8.9” x .59”
As you can see, the Razer is the least expensive of the bunch that has an i7. To get the XPS 13 with the i7, you’d need to step up to the $1650 model. Dell does offer the Inspiron 13-7000 with the i7 but it’s not an ultra portable at 3.66lbs. The Yoga has a higher resolution screen but runs $200 more.
In the size department, the Razer is only bested by Dell with its awesome 13.3” Infinity screen in a smaller chassis. That said, the 13.3” screen is only HD to Razer’s QHD screen. You can get a 1800p screen for more coin. Will that matter to you? For most, regular HD is all you need for gaming, especially with a 12.5” screen. I’m a little surprised Razer isn’t offering an HD screen for those of us who value FPS over pixels.
Finally, the Razer has Macbook style unibody construction. While the Dell and Lenovo offer unibody machined aluminum and carbon fiber, Razer will claim their unibody is harder to craft and, ultimately, better. Marketing hype? Time will tell.
The big advantage the competitors have is the bigger screen at 13.3” over 12.5” for roughly the same weight and performance. If the Razer had a 13.3” screen with a battery comparable to the competition, this would easily be one of the most attractive laptops on the market right now.
The comparison holds true for other laptops like the Spectre X360, ThinkPad, etc. Apple's Macbook regular and Air varieties get absolutely murdered in the spec department. Razer holds a good $200 advantage on the competitors when all the specs are aligned, including taking the screen into consideration.
So forget all the other Razer hype. If the Razer Blade Stealth is a quality product without glaring software or firmware flaws then it’ll be arguably Razer's most important release in years.