Razer is certainly in the habit of making waves with the products that they release. They’ve come a long way with their line of laptops, having been just a small niche among their products. It wasn’t even a good niche, either, but a slightly sloppily implemented design with a lot of ambition, but not the best of execution. Those mistakes have been learned from, even those of the just the previous generation of the Razer Blade Stealth, handily improving with each generation. Though they may be heralded as a great marketing company, they do take gamer feedback quite seriously. And use that when looking at designing their machines. Razer has come a long way since the poor QC-days of yore. And today we’re going to look at the latest incarnation of the Razer Blade Stealth. Newly improved with Kaby Lake, a bigger battery and a slightly better screen attached.
The Razer Blade Stealth is a sultry little surprise
The little chassis is quite the marvel, considering it’s so small yet has so much packed inside of it. Razer even increased the battery capacity by a not insignificant amount to help increase the utility and usefulness of the wee machine. The previous attempt was a great start and a good base of which to start perfecting. Like Apple, Razer has a very good, timeless design that could theoretically a few more refresh cycles. It’s good, and sturdy and now that they’ve included a battery large enough to allow more than a few hours of light work to be done, it’s useful as a work machine, too. Handling it and using it for the past month has been more of a treat than I’d first guessed.
With the first-generation Surface Book and even the Lenovo P40 with their 6th generation Core U series were sometimes a bit slow on the uptake, choppy even. Similar specs but merely one generation more and we’re looking at performance that’s usable in every-day life. Not to mention a keyboard that’s far more useable than you’d think. The keys may be shallow(ish) but they do have a little bit of great feedback when pressed and it’s fairly easy to type at your max speed after you get used to it.
Razer wants you to have a base station with the new Blade Stealth. Away from the GPU dock this is nothing more than a thin-ish laptop with tiny dimensions. Aside from the choice of screen, which does happen to accurately display quite a bit of the color spectrum, it’s not in and of itself special in any way. Except for the GPU dock and the firmware and drivers that allow it to be used. That’s where this becomes something more than the sum of its parts. Or really, it becomes exactly its parts. A minuscule traveling companion with a GPU that can pack away in your checked luggage.
But the usefulness of that combination may be suspect. I’ve always found it a strange proposition to game while on the go anyway. Unless that’s precisely the reason for my travels, gaming is hardly the focus. That GPU dock, though, does have slightly more value than just as a gaming companion. Think also of those content creators that would enjoy extra GPU processing power at their beck and call, sitting idly wherever you happen to be staying while you take the Blade Stealth out with you, as it’s rather unimposing and you hardly notice its weight.
The idea actually works, too. At least in theory. And don’t think you’ll be getting any serious gaming done with just the basic unit. The Blade Stealth is not a standalone gaming machine. But it might be a good travel companion regardless. Care to find out?
Review Unit Specifications
For this review we’re taking a look at the “mid-range” Blade Stealth that has a 1440P screen. The limited specifications and U-series CPU are certainly capable enough for some things, but I find that I wouldn’t be playing at 4K anyway given the bandwidth limitations of Thunderbolt 3 over a native PCIe GPU. That and the CPU is great, but it isn’t exactly that awesome. Though it’s much easier to drive the 1440P screen during every day activities, and thus it might be a bit of a better match. There’s no use having a slow experience just so you can have more pixels on the screen. This, we feel, is a good compromise. This model has a 1440P screen, 256GB PCIe SSD and 16GB of RAM.
The whole thing is a sleek, dark slab of aluminum that very closely resembles a certain Apple product. That’s certainly not a bad thing, because imitation is the highest form of flattery. And the design works well. It’s quite minimalist with the only glaring “gamer” flair being the Razer logo on the rear. But even that doesn’t detract from the actual usefulness of the machine. Sure, it’s green and stranger than most logos, but it could easily pass as a business machine in this new age. In fact, it is my business machine now, but that’s for another time.
The entire thing is quite solid with no flex, except a very minute amount around the vents on the bottom. Otherwise it’s sturdy and feels quite confident in the hand. For whatever reason, and this may be due to my exceptionally oily hands, but the material does seem attract my fingerprints. The darker color makes them harder to actually see, but they’re definitely there.
Open it up and you’re greeted with an acceptably sized ClickPad from Synaptics. It’s mostly responsive and seems to respond fairly well to multi-touch gestures though I’ve noticed a few issues with the cursor jumping, from time to time. It isn’t constant so I’m confident that it’ll be resolved with driver updates in the future. Or I got a bum Blade Stealth.
The keyboard is obviously not full sized, but Razer did keep the proportions that we enjoy the same. That is, the right shift key is precisely where you think it is, and where your pinky thinks it is. It has smooth actuation and is actually a joy to type on. The smallish keys have 0.87mm of travel and need around 55 grams of force to actuate them.The keys are flat, though, which takes some getting used to, though they’re space enough that you shouldn’t find any issues accidentally slipping and pressing the wrong key. It’s a good keyboard, better than the Surface Book and encroaching on Lenovo territory. Almost, but not quite.
The lighting is just as robust and adjustable as it is with their desktop keyboards. It’s just as easy to play with, too, using the same software you’re used to. Razer Synapse has come a long way and is very usable now. The one thing I’d like to see, is the lighting up of the function symposia when you hit the function key, and not simply having the F keys change color to white. But that’s a personal gripe that I don’t think everyone will necessarily want. It’s bright and there are more colors and things you can do than you’ll actually likely do.
There are some complaints about it being a bit stiff to type on that have been circulating. It does require a bit more force than most, but it’s almost akin to using a mechanical keyboard. You have to be sure with your presses. My dainty fingers didn’t have any issues, nor did they get tired from typing.
Connectivity is not quite vast, but isn’t sparse either for this class of machine. The Razer Blade Stealth has a single Thunderbolt 3 port, a USB 3.0 port and a 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo port. The other side is endowed with a single USB 3.0 connector and an HDMI out for those occasions that you’d like to either share your work, or simply game on something larger. Wireless duties are handled by a Killer Networks 1535 capable of AC speeds and with Bluetooth 4.1 onboard.
Thuunderbolt 3 vastly increases the usability and connectivity with the ability to daisy chain a multitude of devices or get expansion docks with nearly everything you could possibly need. Including their own eGPU solution. Or you could use a different external chassis though the first-party solution does keep the aesthetics pure. For the size, it has enough to keep things interesting on short trips. And represents a good amount of extra usability on most longer, more productive visits. Unfortunately we didn’t have the GPU dock on hand to test with this time. But we expect to have one soon so we can test on more than just the Blade Stealth.
So, this isn’t a 4K screen, but being such a small screen (12.5-inches) it’s nearly impossible to discern individual pixels. More than that, it’s easier to drive and uses less power. Meaning it may be the best option anyhow. It’s bright and shiny, and really a thing of beauty. It put out 351 nits of brightness and we measured 114-percent of the sRGB color gamut. Color accuracy out of the box was also really well done, measuring 0.99 Delta-E, where 0 is ideal.
Watching movies is a joy, they’ve picked a good panel for their lower-end model showing that they don’t have to skimp on components quality to keep costs down necessarily. Touch is nice, and is accurate. It’s something that tends to be used for off-handed things or when just standing over it looking at emails, closing web pages etc. I find it far more useful than most, though.