Introducing the Razer Blade 14-Inch

Despite arguably still being a market that supports growth, the gaming notebook arena has remained relatively staid over the past few years. At the highest end we're still looking at just Alienware and Clevo, with MSI, ASUS, and the odd Toshiba picking up the slack. Risking using a buzzword that makes most journalists froth over with rage and irritation, this is a market that's fairly ripe for innovation but hasn't seen a tremendous amount of it.

Razer's entry into the gaming notebook arena wasn't a total game changer, but it was definitely an eyebrow raiser. The original Razer Blade was an ultrathin gaming notebook, featuring an industrial design rivaled only by its profound inability to handle the tremendous heat generated by its components and its nearly impossibly high price tag. The second version did a lot to ameliorate those complaints, but I suspect it's really going to take the combination of Haswell and Kepler to get this concept where it wants to be (price notwithstanding). Thankfully that's what Razer is offering in their third generation of gaming notebooks.

Splitting the line into two models, the newest revision of the 17.3" Razer Blade gets dubbed the Razer Blade Pro, with the non-Pro nomenclature falling to the brand new 14" model. At the risk of being premature, I suspect the 14" Razer Blade is going to be the more desirable of the two notebooks: hardware specs are virtually identical between the Blade and Blade Pro, with the primary differentiators being the 1080p display and Switchblade panel in the Pro. Cutting down the Pro to a slightly more conventional 14" gaming notebook has left Razer with an attractive machine that's hard not to compare to Apple's MacBook Pro.

Razer Blade 14-Inch Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-4702HQ
(4x2.2GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.2GHz, 22nm, 6MB L3, 37W)
Chipset Intel HM87
Memory 8GB DDR3L-1600
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M 2GB GDDR5
(768 CUDA cores, 797MHz/863MHz/4GHz core/boost/memory clocks, 128-bit memory bus)

Intel HD 4600 Graphics
(20 EUs, up to 1.15GHz)
Display 14" LED Matte 16:9 900p
AU Optronics AUO103E
Hard Drive(s) Samsung PM841 256GB mSATA 6Gbps SSD
Optical Drive -
Networking Killer Wireless-N 1202 dual-band 2x2 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD audio
Stereo speakers
Combination mic/headphone jack
Battery 70Wh
Front Side -
Right Side USB 3.0
HDMI 1.4a
Kensington lock
Left Side AC adapter
2x USB 3.0
Combination mic/headphone jack
Back Side -
Operating System Windows 8 64-bit
Dimensions 13.6" x 9.3" x 0.66"
345mm x 235mm x 16.8mm
Weight 4.1 lbs
1.88kg
Extras Webcam
USB 3.0
Killer Networks wireless networking
Backlit anti-ghosting keyboard
Warranty 1-year limited
Pricing $1,799
As configured $1,999

It's hard to feel like any compromises have really been made in terms of the Razer Blade 14-inch's internal hardware. The Intel Core i7-4702HQ CPU boasts a healthy 2.2GHz nominal clock speed across four cores and is able to turbo up to as high as 2.9GHz on all four or 3.2GHz on a single core. This is the situation that Haswell is ideal for: a thin portable chassis with somewhat limited cooling capacity.

Despite being essentially a refresh of extant silicon, NVIDIA has actually made some fairly impressive strides with the second generation of Kepler mobile GPUs. The GK106 chip has turned out to be a solid desktop offering, but like Haswell, its true destiny may very well be in mobile. That chip powers the Razer Blade's GeForce GTX 765M, the same mobile GPU you're going to find in Alienware's competing 14-inch notebook. It's a slightly cut down GK106 chip, sporting 768 CUDA cores at a nominal 797MHz clock speed, and it comes with NVIDIA's Boost 2.0 enabled. That should allow it to hit speeds as high as 900MHz during gaming, thermals depending. 2GB of 4GHz GDDR5 is attached to a 128-bit memory bus.

Meanwhile, storage is handled by Samsung's 840 series SSD, shrunk down to an mSATA form factor. This is the only differentiator between the three models of Razer Blade 14-inch: $1,799 will get you 128GB of storage, $1,999 will get you 256GB, and $2,299 will get you 512GB. While your gaming needs may vary, I've found that 256GB is pretty much the minimum for all my stuff plus the games I need on the go. Individuals looking to use the Blade as their primary system (and it's totally feasible) may actually want to make the jump to the 512GB.

Where Razer does come up short with the 14-inch Blade is connectivity. Three USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI port should theoretically be enough to cover the most basic needs, and I'm even willing to forgive the lack of a card reader on a notebook that's geared exclusively towards gaming. Lacking wired gigabit ethernet is a more bitter pill to swallow, though. The Killer Wireless-n ameliorates this somewhat, but it doesn't replace it. For serious online play there's just no substitute for a stable wired connection.

In and Around the Razer Blade 14-Inch
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  • dineshramdin - Thursday, July 04, 2013 - link


    For Alienware, I got 14 notched a higher 111fps at the resolution of at 1366 x 768, which is amazing…
    Reply
  • zh.aung - Friday, July 05, 2013 - link

    "...seriously crippled the notebook with a lousy screen that threatens to undermine the whole operation. I can't fathom what the thought process was behind this decision..."
    The most perplexing thing since the disappearance of the start button!
    Reply
  • n13L5 - Friday, July 05, 2013 - link

    People already complained about their display panel at Computex, so I had filed a pre-sales ticket with Razer, regarding the display just before they started taking orders. This was their answer:

    I have read through your email and unfortunately we are unable to share this information, as we may make changes in manufacturing that will change the type and model of LCD panel in use. We can only point you to the product specifications page, which I'm sure you have visited. Once reviews start coming online from the various tech sites they may share more about their impressions of the panel.

    Unsurprisingly, the bad commentary on a bad panel isn't showing any signs of changing. Facts are facts (except for the marketing departments of the world)
    Reply
  • Hrel - Sunday, July 07, 2013 - link

    Idk, I still feel like this style of gaming laptop won't be a... comfortable proposition until we get another manufacturing shrink. Which just depresses me since it means AMD is right out. Intel's pricing has been getting absurd over the years. I really like what Razer is doing here though, I don't think it's bad now, but I still wouldn't call this platform "mature". Reply
  • Hrel - Sunday, July 07, 2013 - link

    Also, not having 802.11ac at this point, ESPECIALLY at this price point, is simply unnaceptable.

    I agree completely with your laments on the LCD. I'd still pick Alienware if I were to spend this kind of money. Especially since how thing/light it is has no bearing on my decision at all. I'm a man though, not a girl. So I can't even tell the difference between 5 and 15lbs, much less 4 and 6. As long as it's under 50lbs in the bag with everything I'm good.
    Reply
  • geniekid - Monday, July 15, 2013 - link

    Looks really good. Well done AT/Box Reply
  • windsor83 - Saturday, September 14, 2013 - link

    I think Razer chose a lesser resolution display to minimize the power. Displays are known to be very power hungry, take retina display for instance, mac get super hot when working on maya, for instance, for very long time. But again, why do we need a stunning display to play games?? isnt the fps and portability more important than the display? We didnt have hd 4 years ago. Honestly I just bought an alienware 14 and display is stunning and design is solid but the font size is way too small by default, then it becomes ugly if i increase the font size. I have to squint my eyes to see what i am typing on gmail or msdoc. Then the edge just press my wrist so hard that I now fear getting a carpal tunnel syndrome. So is my alienware really worth it if it gives me ailment problems? I am boggling my mind whether to return my alienware and get the razer instead sacrificing the display. Please comment on my question, is the display really that important? Reply
  • NimbusTLD - Friday, October 04, 2013 - link

    I just got my Razer Blade 14 last week after being on the fence about it due to the screen's notoriety amongst the press. I have to say it's not that bad. I can see how having a higher resolution would give me the same squinting issues that you write about - Windows just isn't ready to handle high PPI (not that 1080p at 14" is even that high...). 900p seems to give a perfect readable font size at native scaling for me.The viewing angles and colours don't seriously bother me either - sure it's a bit annoying, but the rest of the laptop makes up for it. I wanted a laptop now, and the Razer Blade 14 is the one which is closest to my preferences: powerful enough for games and image editing, and thin enough to be carried around during my travels. Until Windows dramatically steps up their scaling, or Razer release a similar model with an IPS panel, I don't see myself buying anything else :) Reply
  • zhouse17 - Thursday, October 10, 2013 - link

    I think that this review was unnecessarily harsh. I've had my razer blade 14" for about 5 days now, and I love it. I was trying to decide between the razer blade 14" and the macbook pro retina 15" for a long time, and was leaning towards buying the macbook after reading this review. I fit into the niche that this laptop is designed for as I really value portability since I'm a grad student and carry my laptop everywhere, but I also want to be able to play games. This review really threw me off, since they trash the screen so hard, because I have a lot of respect for Anandtech. I spend at least 8 hours a day looking at my computer screen, mostly taking notes and studying, so a lousy screen would really be a deal breaker for me. In reality, though, the screen on this thing isn't bad at all. My last computer (a dell latitude e6500) had a matte TN screen, and you get used to it really fast. In my opinion it’s totally worth having a TN panel just for the faster refresh rate, since everything still looks so good. The pixel density on this 1600x900 screen is about the same as for a slightly larger 1080p screen, and it’s actually the perfect resolution for the video card. The viewing angles aren’t great, but that’s completely a non-issue unless you want to play split-screen multiplayer games on your 14” screen, in which case you should just buy an hdmi cable and use a TV or an external monitor. Everything looks sharp, and the color and contrast look great to me, but I’m not a photo editor. As for the rest of the computer, this thing is truly a feat of modern engineering. It packs more power into a smaller package than I even thought possible, and runs insanely fast. It boots up in like 8 seconds, and the battery life is good (I can make it through 4 hours of taking notes/browsing the web in class without plugging it in). Plus this thing crushes games, at least for a laptop. I’ve been playing through bioshock infinite the last few days on “very high” graphics settings at 40+ fps and it looks amazing. The keyboard is the best I’ve ever used on a laptop, and the trackpad is awesome. Finally, this is overall the sexiest laptop I have ever seen. It looks and feels exactly like a macbook pro retina 13”, but with a much better color choice (black looks so much better). Obviously this laptop is aimed at a niche user who’s priorities are portability and gaming, but as a member of that niche I couldn’t recommend it more highly. Reply

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