Saturday, January 19, 2013

Razer Blade review

By on 2:14 AM







Razer Blade review

TechRadar rating

4.5/5

FOR

  • Extremely fast
  • Thin and light
  • Snappy aesthetics
  • Great battery life
  • Above average audio

AGAINST

  • Super expensive
  • Stiff keyboard
  • Flimsy mouse buttons
  • No Blu-Ray player


Introduction

In both form and function, there's a lot to love about Razer's new 17-inch Razer Blade gaming laptop. It's attractive, thin, lightweight, and very, very fast.

Far and away, however, the feature everyone notices first - and that you'll want to show off to your friends, family, and fellow/random tech nerds - is first-of-its-kind Switchblade touchpad interface. This unique new feature turns the Blade's touchpad into a fully functioning second screen that allows you to check your email, watch YouTube videos, or - best of all - amplify your gaming experience.

This final point is the most important of all because from the hardware to the battery life to the right-hand position of touchpad, the Razer Blade is decidedly gaming-ready.

The question is: Is it worth the top-shelf $2,500 (£1,500) price tag? Answer: If you have the cash, the answer is yes. Consider this: At this point in time, it's literally not possible to get this much power on another laptop with a 17-inch screen in a chassis this thin and light.

We'll get to the Switchblade UI touchpad shortly. Let's start at the top.




Razer Blade lives up to its name

Even considering the impressive Switchblade second-screen touchpad, we still can't get over the size and shape of this system. At .88 inches thick and weighing only 6.6 pounds (a touch under 7 pounds with the power brick), this is an exquisite feat of modern engineering. Most laptops with the Razer Blade's specs are literally twice as thick and weigh 10 percent to 20 percent more.

These dimensions felt even more impressive when we remembered that Apple's 13-inch MacBook Air measures .68 inches at its thickest point. It's not packing nearly half the power of this portable.

Aesthetically, we immediately fell in love with the Razer Blade's sturdy black matte brushed aluminum chassis, which sports Razer's distinct-looking logo illuminated in green. The system's green backlit Chiclet-style keyboard is impressively gamer-y as well.

The Razer Blade has a 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 display. It's not an IPS screen, but it has great viewing angles and very nice color tones - enough so that we initially thought it was an IPS panel.

The laptop measures 16.81 inches in width and 10.90 inches in depth. It has a full-size 6-row keyboard, and the Switchblade UI touchpad can serve as a numerical keypad.

(And no, it's not yet time to talk about the touchpad. You'll have to keep waiting.)



Specification

The star of this new laptop is a brand new Intel Ivy Bridge CPU: the 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-3632QM.

The successor to the 3612QM, the Core i7 3632QM is a high-end mobile part containing 4 cores and 8 threads. The CPU, which like the rest of the Ivy Bridge line, is fabricated on Intel's 22nm process, has a TDP of 25 Watt. With all four cores active, it's capable of turbo boosting up to 2.9GHz, and can also boost to 3.1GHz with two active cores and 3.2GHz with a single core active.

Translation: This CPU is really, really fast - and power efficient.

The CPU does have Intel's integrated HD Graphics 4000, but Razer taps Nvidia's upper mid-range GeForce GTX 660M as the graphics workhorse. DirectX 11.1 compatible, it's ideally suited in terms of power consumption and output for the Razer Switchblade's ginormous HD display.

We also like the hybrid 500GB drive, which is an ideal mobile solution because it delivers a large amount of storage capacity, but also offers rapid access of the most utilized data via an integrated 64GB SSD. Some day, we'll play on laptops with 750GB solid state drives; until then the hybrid is a welcome alternative. We experienced lightning-fast boot times and the system comes out of sleep mode in a very snappy manner.

Also nice: The dual-band Wi-Fi network adapter is capable of exchanging data on both 2.4GHz and 5.0Ghz frequencies. That's a nice touch, given the large number of performance routers that also operate on both frequencies. At shorter ranges, the 5.0GHz is ideally suited for high-performance data transfers.

Other key specifications include:
8GB RAM DDR3 1600MHz
Free upgrade to Windows 8
Bluetooth 4.0
60Wh battery



Switchblade Touchscreen Trackpad






Razer Blade review

It is finally time to discuss the Razer Blade's fancy, newfangled touchpad, dubbed the Switchblade User Interface. In short, the Switchblade is amazing, innovative, and remarkable. In a lot of ways, it's kind of like having a touchscreen phone embedded onto your laptop.
The Switchblade UI is comprised of a multi-touch track panel that is also a 4-inch, 800 x 480 LCD screen, ten backlit soft keys that Razer calls Dynamic Adaptive Tactile Keys, and the Synapse software utility that allows you to customize and program the UI for games, general usage, and more.
The Synapse utility requires a log-in to use, but in exchange it stores all your settings, add-ons, and customizations online for you, including mouse sensitivity, keyboard lightning, key bindings, and more so that if you ever upgrade to a new system or Synapse-compatible keyboard, you'll be able to take all your settings with you.
Some of the ways you can use the 10 keys above the touchpad include:
  • A numeric pad
  • A gaming mode that locks out the Windows key and Alt-Tab
  • The ability to launch a web browser in the display in order to search for cheats, tips, or anything else
  • YouTube - you can watch a game walkthrough without having to leave the game
  • A clock
  • Game timer that allows you to create countdown timers
  • Facebook, of course
  • Twitter
  • One-press screen capture utility
  • Macro recorder for capturing game actions
  • Gmail
The Switchblade UI also comes with some game-specific applications and settings for Star Wars: The Old RepublicBattlefield 3Team Fortress 2, and Counter-Strike.
The Switchblade UI and Dynamic Adaptive Tactile Keys automatically update when you play games that have pre-loaded settings, like the above. With these games, you'll have a bunch of actions available at the press of a button.
As an example, in Battlefield, you can use the touchpad to quick-switch between weapons and use context-sensitive controls. In SWTOR, you can access all sorts of data on the second display.
Over time, we should see support for more and more games. The rub is that because this is such a unique feature, we may never see a high volume of game customizations for the Switchblade UI. (Razer also makes a DeathStalker keyboard as well as a SWTOR plank that both feature a second screen.)
If you want to take full advantage of this next-generation touchpad, you're going to have to spend some time learning how to fully customize the soft keys to function in the manner you like using the Synapse software utility. It's not the quickest procedure, but assigning functions and mapping macros to the keys is fairly straightforward.
You can even access a library of images that you can assign to these custom in-game functions.
Finally, you can also customize the touchpad wallpaper with whatever image you'd like.

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