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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  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, July 02, 2013 - link

    I should also note that buying your own review units means your reviews will be, at best, several weeks after everyone else. That's not the end of the world, but it does mean about one third the traffic as being one of the first reviews. Reply
  • bji - Friday, July 05, 2013 - link

    I've read comments not too infrequently about people wishing for reviews that didn't happen because the manufacturer didn't send a sample. And also I've heard people lament about wanting to read reviews of hardware several weeks or months past its release time.

    Obviously you don't have to buy any of the hardware that you already get before release or otherwise directly from the manufacturer, and augmenting those reviews with some self-purchased hardware wouldn't change that.

    I am sorry to hear though that the reviewer compensation is so meager; I would consider 20 - 40 hours to write a review to be worth thousands of dollars of my time and if I was investing that much time I wouldn't care much about eating a couple hundred on resale losses. If you're only getting paid $400 for 20 - 40 hours of time spent writing a review then you must be doing it to some extent for hobby purposes in addition to the income, because obviously it's no way to make a living. With that in mind, I don't mind spending hundreds every month on my hobby, if I were a reviewer I'd probably just look at the resale losses as funding my hobby, and I'd spend my time reviewing what I liked to and wanted to, not what manufacturers decided to send to me.

    There must be something to this review business though; I've seen pictures of Anand's house from some of the articles on here and it looks pretty nice :)
    Reply
  • n13L5 - Friday, July 05, 2013 - link

    Its not that bad, as long as you don't have to work with a crummy CMS to actually publish it and waste more hours...

    But really, stop talking about "buying" stuff to review, there are specialized rental agencies who send you the stuff for 2 weeks to review and pick it back up when done.
    Reply
  • Sushisamurai - Wednesday, July 03, 2013 - link

    I like anandtech. Please don't change. The formats fine. I'd rather have your in depth reviews, and more of them, rather than more shallow reviews. I've been a reader for the last 3 years. If I had any criticism, you should have a 'to-buy' section, where you recommend hardware (summarized), we buy, you get a referral fee.

    Anandtech's transparency is by far the best I've seen (eg, look at apple insider, cnet, etc)
    Reply
  • Sushisamurai - Wednesday, July 03, 2013 - link

    Sorta like how appleinsider has that macmall and a few other companies with price comparisons and sometimes promos. AT could do something similar, but for other resellers and special/discount pricing for certain products, like... Motherboards.. Ram... GPU etc Reply
  • burgertime - Tuesday, July 02, 2013 - link

    Can't you start your own hardware review website? Reply
  • chizow - Wednesday, July 03, 2013 - link

    Valid points all around, but I would think if AT reached out to Lenovo, there wouldn't be too much trouble in procuring a review sample.

    Seems to me this is more of a case of that model flying under the radar. It's pretty obvious why parts like this from Razer cost a ton more...they spend a lot more on marketing.

    That being said I think this is way too expensive for any kind of laptop, but then again I don't game on these kinds of mobile platforms. Lack of gigabit Ethernet as mentioned in the article is a non-starter for me.
    Reply
  • n13L5 - Friday, July 05, 2013 - link

    They don't have to have a budget to "buy" hardware to review. There are agencies specializing on loaning gear to review sites. Tech rags can rent the stuff for 2 weeks or 3 weeks or whatever time they think they need. At the end, it gets picked up by a courier. Reply
  • dsumanik - Tuesday, July 02, 2013 - link

    Dustin I'd encourage you to read anands current "best Mac laptops June 2013" article.

    It is shameless, biased, direct marketing for apple.

    As a decade-long supporter of this site I'd like to see that article deleted and an apology issued.

    Yeah it's no big deal and relatively minor, but the deeper issue is credibility.... Like wtf. Is happening to you guys?
    Reply
  • krumme - Tuesday, July 02, 2013 - link

    Yes, but Dustin says what needs to be said, and is quite frank about the situaiton. He is by far one of the reviewers with most credit in my book. Reply

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