- Good performance
- Excellent build quality and design
- Innovative multifunctional touchpad
- Good keyboard
- Beautiful display
- Not user upgradeable
- Fans could be quieter
- Lack of ports
Quick TakeThe Razer Blade Pro isn't the least expensive gaming laptop but it is the thinnest and lightest; making it easy for us to recommend for mobile gamers.
Razer, a company known for its gaming peripherals, has entered the PC market with its Blade gaming notebook computers. The second-gen Blade Pro features a 17.3-inch display and the latest in technology including a fourth-generation Intel “Haswell” quad-core processor, Nvidia GTX 765M graphics card and SSD storage, all wrapped in a sub-7 pound, under one inch thin metal chassis. It also incorporates an innovative multifunctional touchpad.
The Blade Pro’s all-black exterior is made of lightweight but strong aluminum. Even the screen surround is metal, which is rare. The two halves of the chassis fit together so well, I initially thought it was one piece. The overall strength of the chassis is excellent; there’s essentially zero flex. The lid is afforded good protection as well thanks to the solid construction.
Design-wise the Blade Pro keeps things simple, for the better; it’s not as eye-catching as an Alienware but elegant in its own way. The Razer logo in the back of the lid is backlit just the right amount. I like the simplicity of having the large power button centered above the keyboard. Something odd about the design is the touchpad – or, the blank space where it usually goes. One of the Blade Pro’s unique features as we’ll see later in this review is its multifunctional touchpad (which Razer calls the Switchblade user interface), which is next to the keyboard where the number pad would reside. Overall, I found a lot to like here.
Those looking to put their own parts inside the Blade Pro will be disappointed; this notebook wasn’t designed with user upgradeability in mind – the chassis is sealed. The battery is also not user-accessible.
Ports and Features
Some sacrifices were made to keep the Blade Pro at 0.88 inches thin; the port selection for this 17.3-inch desktop replacement notebook is underwhelming. Available ports include three USB 3.0, HDMI and Ethernet. It’s missing, well, everything else – an optical drive, eSATA, VGA, an ExpressCard slot, and a media card reader to name a few things. The ports the Blade Pro does have are probably enough for most people (myself included). All picture descriptions are left to right.
Left: CPU cooling exhaust vent, AC power jack, Ethernet, HDMI, 3x USB 3.0
Right: Kensington lock slot, GPU cooling exhaust vent
Screen and Speakers
One of the Blade Pro’s many strengths is its screen quality. This panel has a 1920×1080 resolution and an easily appreciated anti-glare surface. It’s a standard TN-type panel, meaning it has optimal viewing angles as opposed to IPS displays, which have virtually unlimited viewing angles (the picture looks the same from everywhere). I coincidentally found the best viewing angle to be as far as the display tilts back (about 35 degrees past vertical). While IPS is preferred, just about every 17.3-inch gaming notebook has a TN panel. Brightness is excellent; I used it at 7/10 brightness most of the time. Contrast is very high and color reproduction is also very good. This is unquestionably one of the better TN panels I’ve seen; it’s difficult to criticize.
Two stereo speakers are located in front of the display hinge. They sound surprisingly clear and full for notebook speakers, though admittedly bass is lacking. Note the Blade Pro has a combination headphone/microphone jack (they’re not separate) — remember that if you plan to buy a headset. The integrated Bluetooth is another way to get sound.
The Blade Pro has precision-cut aluminum Chiclet keyboard. The flat keys have a slightly rubberized surface. Consider me a fan; this keyboard has zero flex, no rattles and sufficient key travel for communicative feedback. It’s also quiet enough for use in environments where low noise is valued – just don’t hit them too hard, or they’ll make a nice metallic ‘clack’ (which I personally like).
I scrutinize keyboard layouts heavily in my reviews; the keyboard is after all the primary source of interaction with a computer. I was about to give the Blade Pro bad marks off the bat seeing the lack of a number pad – that is until I discovered it actually does have a number pad. The touchpad, which sits where the number pad would, is actually a full-color LCD screen.The ten keys above it are small OLED screens too. Razer calls this system the Switchblade user interface (SBUI). Each of the keys is bound to an app; launch an app and it changes not only the touchpad’s functionality but also the functions of the ten keys.
One of the included apps is a number pad; press the key and you instantly have a full number pad; the ten OLED keys display the home, end, pgup, pgdn keys and so on. Exit the app by pressing the dedicated Razer button at the bottom right of the physical keyboard. Other apps include a web browser, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Gmail; Razer has an app store where you can download more. There’s an app for Photoshop, GIMP and Maya, for example. The SBUI is an excellent example of innovation; above all else, it’s useful and easy to use. Consider me impressed.
I almost forgot – using the SBUI as just a touchpad works well. It’s amply-sized and accurate. The two dedicated touchpad buttons could use more feedback (not enough travel) but are quiet. The glossy surface must have some kind of coating as it doesn’t seem to attract fingerprints.