Since the launch of the MacBook Air 2006, the desire for an ultraportable machine has been the rule of the land.
Yes, you have your beasty gaming machines, your bulky sub $400 machines, etc. but if you are buying a laptop for work and have the luxury of spending over $1,000 chances are you are looking at ultraportable machines. It is in this market that the Razer Blade Stealth launched. First released back in 2016, the Blade Stealth has been improving steadily.
Offering users a slim form-factor, a great screen, Chroma lighting, and—if you are so inclined—the ability to use external GPUs it is hard to argue the usefulness of this thin and light machine. Over the course of the weeks using the Stealth, it has quickly become my go-to device, and a new gold standard I expect companies to meet or exceed should they want to release a thin and light laptop in 2018.
Thanks to the improvements Razer has made to the 13.3-inch model, the Blade Stealth has never looked better. The new slimmer bezels and tried and tested body design give the Stealth an iconic yet distinct look. With the power, price and abilities, it can easily give the MacBook Pro or even the Dell XPS a run for their money.
Starting at just over $1,500 CAD, the Stealth is by no means a cheap investment, but for that money, you get a very capable PC. The min-spec model comes with an Intel Core i7, with integrated Intel UHD graphics, QHD+ (3200 x 1800) display, 16GB RAM and a 256GB SSD.
It is hard to knock anything Razer has packed into this slim body PC, especially when you look at the price of similarly specced laptops. Razer has managed to build a PC that reaches that balance with power and price, something I never thought I would be saying about Razer or their high-end products.
Despite the increase in screen size, the overall body of the Blade Stealth has not changed. Measuring 12.6 x 8.1 x 0.54 inches in size, making it only a mere 0.02 inches thicker than last year’s less powerful offering. While not the thinnest laptop on the market, it manages to maintain the full-size USB 3.0 ports, not forcing users into using dongles for legacy devices.
While the size may be svelte, the Stealth is not the lightest laptop you can pick up in the thin and light category. The bump to Kaby lake has brought with it increased weight, now sitting at a solid 2.98 lbs (1.35 KG). While nowhere near what you would see on a high-end gaming PC, it is substantial. This is most likely due to increasing cooling needed for the more powerful CPU, and honestly, I am happy to trade a bit of weight for a much more capable machine.
The biggest change users will see when they unbox their new Blade Stealth for the first time is the new, bigger screen. Gone are the relatively big bezels of last year’s offering, now reduced by around 50 per cent. Boasting a new 400 nit display, the 3200 x 1800 QHD+ screen was a joy to use. From playing games and watching YouTube to some light Photoshop and Premiere work, I was impressed with what Razer has packed in this year’s offering.
Razer also notes that the display also offers 100 per cent of the sRGB Colour gambit making it ideal for design or photo work. In testing, it outclassed many of our office production machines and stands as one of the nicest displays I have used in 2018. I am only sad I can’t make the Blade Stealth my primary production machine going forward.
The keyboard on the Blade Stealth is also a joy to use. While it does not have the noticeable click of some other keyboards, notably the Pixelbook and MacBook, the keyboard more than gets the job done. I used the Blade Stealth for all major writing projects and found it easy to use, with a good level of travel and enough click to ensure you have satisfaction with every keystroke.
The boasted Razer Chroma is a nice touch, although it is by no means a deal maker for the Blade Stealth. For an already fantastic machine, it acts as more of an icing on an already fantastic cake. It does what you would expect from Chroma: lighting up a stunning device in fun and interesting ways.
While the keyboard is fantastic and has not changed much, the Touchpad is noticeably better than past iterations. The Windows Precision Touchpad that is included in this year’s model was a joy to use. While past Razer Blades had me reaching for my mouse more often than not, the latest offering managed to hold its own, at least until I wanted to play some Overwatch or StarCraft II and not hold my team back.
The Kaby Lake i7 chip at the centre of the Blade Stealth ensures you will never be lacking raw horsepower, at least for most office-based tasks. In Cinebench R15 the Razer Blade Stealth managed a 164 in single core, with a multi-core score of 528. In PCMark 8, the Stealth managed a solid 3,035, and a Geekbench Multicore score of 14,635, with 4,590 single core. While not the most powerful laptop available, for its size the scores more than speak for themselves.
While the integrated graphics of the Razer Blade Stealth will not net you 60fps in the latest shooters, should you be willing to reduce the settings in games such as Overwatch, you will be able to achieve a playable 45-50fps. Games such as Civilization VI or Counter-Strike where also very playable with no noticeable slowdown or screen issues.
One of the biggest selling points of the Stealth line of laptops is the ability to utilize external graphics, notably the Razer Core, to beef up its gaming abilities. This external enclosure allows users to slap in a high-powered full-size graphics card, and connect it to the Blade via USB-C. While hardly a portable solution for such a small laptop, it gives the option for more intensive gaming, but it does come at a cost. At the time of writing, the Razer Core V2 is selling for $599 CAD and you will need to source a graphics card on top of that. But the joy of this system is this is can always be purchased down the road, giving the Blade Stealth an upgrade path, should you wish to game or crunch some more intensive pixels that the laptop can’t do on its own.
I only wish the battery life was a bit more impressive, especially on a device that overall was well above the crowd. In testing, we only managed to scrape in just under six Hours with our standard rundown test. Now this is not unexpected, the computer is powerful and the screen is stunning, but I wish some of the extra weight went to the battery.
The good news is thanks to the USB-C changing nature of the device, you can use external batteries and chargers to top-up the device while on the road. The Razer Power Bank should net you an additional five hours in a pinch, although even with this I would feel wary bringing the Blade Stealth to work or on a trip without the charger.
With the screen, performance level and set of features on offer with the Blade Stealth, Razer has crafted one of the most impressive thin and light Ultrabooks currently on the market. The small improvements year over year have yielded one hell of a laptop, and if it were not for the less than ideal battery life, it would be a near perfect offering. As it stands, the Blade Stealth Kaby Lake revision is a fantastic machine. Anyone in the market for a thin and light this year should give the Razer Blade Stealth a serious look, it truly the Ultrabook to beat in 2018.
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