Razer Blade Stealth (late 2016) Laptop Series Review
A second take on a great design
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Last year, we tried out Razer's Blade Stealth, the gaming company's first ultrabook. The first time around, this model almost ticked the boxes we'd expect from a premium computer, packing a powerful processor and good specs into an attractive metal case.
Just in time for the holidays, Razer's revamped the Blade Stealth (MSRP $999.99) to feature two main upgrades from the original version. First, under the hood, you'll find a 7th generation Intel Core i7 processor which is faster than previous i7s. Another welcome addition is a larger battery, that should give you a slight boost in runtime.
Perhaps the best thing about this refreshed Razer is the doubled RAM available in the more expensive variants, making this high-quality system a surprising value. You get a lot of bang for your buck compared to ultrabooks from Dell, Apple, and HP. About the only real downside is that its large glass trackpad just isn't as sensitive or useful as options from other manufacturers.
About the Razer Blade Stealth (late 2016)
The Razer Blade Stealth comes in a few simple configurations, so all you need to decide on is the screen resolution, amount of RAM, and amount of SSD storage. All versions of the Blade Stealth are powered by the same zippy Core i7 processor. We tested the base model with the following specs:
•Intel Core i7-7500U dual-core processor
•8 GB 1866 MHz LPDDR3 RAM
•128 GB PCIe M.2 SSD
•QHD (2560 x 1440) IGZO touchscreen
•Intel HD Graphics 620
•Killer Wireless AC/Bluetooth 4.1
•53.6Wh LiON battery (built-in)
Be aware that even though the SSD is a standard M.2 type you could upgrade or replace later, the RAM in the Blade Stealth is soldered down, and can't be augmented.
What We Like
Top specs for a reasonable price
Looking around the laptop landscape, PC shoppers have never had a better range of options. The high-end is a super diverse playground for just about anything you could desire, from the Surface Book to the Dell XPS 13, there are plenty of models we can recommend, and the Blade Stealth is just about as worthy.
Razer gave the Blade Stealth a leg-up on a lot of these competing laptops by giving it excellent specs, starting with a full-throttle Core i7 chip in every model. Even though the $1,000 version has a wimpy 128 GB SSD, its other specs are excellent. When you get up to the $1,249 configuration, you get 16 GB RAM and a 256 GB PCIe SSD. For some context, a two-generation old i7 MacBook Air costs $1,349 for a similar processor and storage, but only gives you half the RAM—and a much worse screen.
A slim design with enough ports and a good keyboard
To its credit, Razer kept its bigger Blade design intact when making this little Blade Stealth. Featuring an HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports, a headphone jack, and a dual-purpose USB-C port, this laptop doesn't sacrifice usability in the name of portability.
That handy-dandy USB-C port is mostly used to charge the Blade Stealth. Apart from that, you also get the blazing-fast utility of Thunderbolt 3. Razer's been capitalizing on this port to light up a special experience once you get your laptop back to your desk. When plugged into the optional Razer Core accessory, you can utilize a standard PCI graphics card, giving you near-desktop PC performance for gaming and other intensive tasks.
Razer's marquee Chroma technology is in the Blade Stealth, letting you completely customize the backlight and color of each individual keyboard key. On top of that, the keyboard is generally comfortable to type on, making it a decent choice for students and professionals who have to crank out words all the live long day.
What We Don't Like
A trackpad that's behind the pack
Everybody loves a big, smooth, responsive glass trackpad. That's what Razer tried to provide in the Blade Stealth, and at first glance, it looks like they pulled it off.
Unfortunately, dig a little deeper, and the Blade Stealth doesn't offer the same high-quality Microsoft precision software that can be had in cheaper options. In my personal experience, trackpads that use the built-in Windows drivers just respond more precisely with even two-finger scrolling going awry occasionally. The Synaptics-based software that ships with the Blade Stealth is workable, but inferior and doesn't enable as many gestures as you'd get from a Microsoft-powered unit.
A thick screen bezel and fingerprinty black finish
The aesthetics of this laptops are pretty cool, but there's one feature that sticks out like a sore thumb. The fat black border around the display is immediately noticeable and, especially when contrasted with models like the Dell XPS 13, looks downright old-school. Razer's screen panel itself is anything but, coming in QHD+ and 4K options that both look beautiful. They don't need to go edge-to-edge, but the big black frame does detract from the display.
The Blade Stealth's metal build comes with a caveat, too: the black anodized aluminum case picks up hand grease and oils like there's no tomorrow. Neat freaks need not apply. Add on Razer's polarizing logo, and you've got a look that won't appeal to everyone. It's not as shouty as a true gaming laptop, but it could be a little more subdued.
Few premium extras included
Even though the Blade Stealth has Razer's super sweet Chroma Keyboard setup and has a touchscreen, you're not going to see much else outside the standard laptop fare. Models like the Surface Pro 4 has Windows Hello facial login, for instance. Dell's XPS 13 models feature SD card slots...we could keep going. Suffice it to say that Razer hasn't gone out of its way to make the Blade Stealth feel more high-tech than the last one. You get mostly excellent basics, and nothing more.
Should You Buy It?
Yes, if you don't mind a subpar trackpad
I had plenty of gripes about the first Blade Stealth, but this version shores up those issues pretty darn well. Its bigger battery won't let it run for days on end, but a little extra gas in the tank never hurt anybody.
For me, this Blade Stealth goes the extra mile by doubling the RAM in every tier except the $1,000 entry-level version. By putting 16 GB RAM in the Blade Stealth, you're getting a powerful machine that also happens to be a very decent value. When stacked up against its competition, you're getting a unique computer that makes up for its lack of features with a very solid foundation.
From its metal case to its good keyboard and fast internals and pretty touchscreens, Razer gives shoppers a lot to love and for less money than just about anybody. The only downside for me is that its trackpad, even though it has a nice feel to it, just isn't as responsive as a Mac or a PC with Microsoft's precision trackpad software. And that's a darn shame.
Sure, I might prefer a Dell XPS 13, but there's an iconoclast lurking inside me. That contrarian part of my brain loves this laptop. If you relish buying products are just a little different than the norm, Razer's second Blade Stealth is worth scoping out.
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