Almost by definition, traditional gaming laptops are bulky, heavy, wheezing monsters. They’re so chock-full of graphics cards and other gaming-centric guts that they’re barely portable – and they certainly don’t belong anywhere near your lap. (And while the MacBook Pro is a thing of beauty, it simply doesn’t hold a candle to a real gaming rig.) The newest iteration of Razer’s Blade is a top-shelf gamer tucked into a shockingly slick and svelte frame, one that finally deserves to be called a notebook.
The Blade’s black matte aluminum body is just 0.66-inches thick and reminds one of Apple’s beloved, but now discontinued, black MacBook. Unlike other dedicated gaming laptops, the Blade’s leisure-time proclivities are understated, tipped off only by the glowing green of the Razer logo and its backlit keyboard, so it can be carried into a meeting or presentation without raising an eye. Notably, every key is completely programmable, so complex game-specific macros can be mapped to your choice of combinations. We found the trackpad to be slightly finicky at times, but that’s largely beside the point as PC gaming is virtually impossible without a dedicated external mouse or gamepad. The Blade tips the scales at just over 4 pounds, which for a gaming laptop makes it an absolute featherweight. And thanks to some smart design choices, even the Razer’s AC power brick is a petite little thing. But you may not even need it: Thanks to some dazzling engineering, the Li-ion battery is capable of keeping games running at full speed for up to six hours. It definitely heats up when fully taxed, yet fan noise is kept to a minimum.
Despite its otherwise unassuming physique, on the inside, the Blade is a certifiable hotrod (under the hood, you’ll find an Intel Core i7-4702HQ processor, 8GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M 2GB graphics card). First-person action games like ‘BioShock Infinite,’ ‘Elder Scrolls: Skyrim,’ ‘Battlefield 3,’ and ‘Dishonored‘ all run fantastically well with fidelity and detail settings turned way up (‘Infinite’ ran at 43 frames per second, and ‘Skyrim’ hit nearly 73). The frenetic multiplayer firefights of ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops II‘ don’t drop a frame, and when running slightly less graphics-intensive fare like ‘Starcraft II,’ ‘Total War: ROME II,’ and ‘Civilization V,’ the Blade hardly breaks a sweat. With an Xbox 360 controller plugged in, racing and sports titles like ‘F1 2013‘ and ‘FIFA Soccer 13‘ handle with aplomb. ‘Crysis 3‘ – perhaps the hardiest of all PC games – demands taking the graphics settings down to medium detail to get the ideal frame rate. Still, try this on almost any other laptop and it’s simply unplayable.
If there’s one chink in the Blade’s rather durable armor, it’s the 14-inch LED screen. While it maxes out at a respectable 1600 x 900 resolution, the Blade suffers from less than stellar display quality, with washed out black levels and a loss in clarity if you’re not staring it dead in the face (on the upside, its extremely fast refresh speed means you’ll never see any ghosting). The machine’s prowess doesn’t come cheap, either; if you want an assortment of games on tap at all times, you’ll want to go for the model with a larger 256GB or 512GB solid-state drive (SSD), which clock in at $1,999 and $2,299, respectively. Still, if you’re looking for the best truly portable gaming notebook on the market, the Razer Blade is the one to beat – for now. [From $1,799; razerzone.com/blade]