Razer Blade 14 review: A good thing comes in a small package
Compact gaming laptops have recently come of age. This is mainly thanks to the product engineers who have realized that they can pretty much compress an Nvidia RTX30 GPU into a 14 inch ultrabook and voila: real gaming performance in a smaller and lighter laptop than a laptop. many traditional laptops.
Of course, that 14in screen could be a problem for some who would argue, and not without reason, that 14in is a bit too small for extended gaming. But it’s surely a bit like complaining that your two-door sports car doesn’t have five doors – that’s the nature of the beast.
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Razer Blade 14 review: what you need to know
If I had had to bet on which hardware maker would put together the best compact RTX30 series gaming laptop, my money would have gone to Razer. It pretty much invented the category with the original Blade 14 in 2015, although, of course, this machine was nowhere near as compact as this 2021 model.
Razer is a serious gaming kit dean, from laptops and desktops to monitors, eGPUs and chairs (sit on a £ 500 Razer Iskur chair and you might never want to get up. ). There isn’t a weak machine in the Blade 15 or Blade 17 lineup and its first productivity test the Razer Book 13 was an impressive start as well.
What Razer has done with the Blade 14 is take all of its gaming laptop know-how and pack the latest AMD and Nvidia chips into a compact laptop that you can comfortably slip into your backpack. . It’s also designed in such a way that you won’t be embarrassed to take it out during an important business meeting.
Razer Blade 14 review: price and competition
The Blade 14 starts at £ 1,799 for a machine with an RTX 3060 GPU and a 144Hz FHD display, and ends at £ 2,799 with an RTX 3080 and a 165Hz QHD display. In between these two is a model. £ 2,199, which uses the same screen as the top-of-the-line version but has a slightly weaker RTX 3070.
All models share the same AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX processor, 16GB RAM, and 1TB SSD. In my opinion, the RTX3070 is the best value of the bunch, but it’s the high-end machine Razer sent me for review.
The market is barely inundated with 14 inch gaming laptops, but the competition that exists can only be described as fierce. Acer’s Predator Triton 300SE offers impressive value for money at just £ 1,299 and gives you an Nvidia RTX 3060, a 14-inch 144Hz display and an Intel Core i7-11370H processor.
The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 has been widely praised by all tech hackers and their mother-in-law, and rightly so. I’ve only seen its big brother in these pages, the ROG Zephyrus G15, but it’s a really great machine. For £ 1,799 you can get a G14 with an RTX 3060, 120Hz QHD display and an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS processor.
If a 14-inch laptop is just too bulky for you, then the Razer Blade Stealth 13 might be worth a look. The 13.3-inch 4K display is super crisp and at under 1.5kg it’s a real light weight but in a good way.
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Razer Blade 14 review: design and build quality
For a full-fledged gaming laptop, the Blade 14 is very small and light. At less than 17mm thick and weighing just 1.78kg, it’s eminently portable, and the laptop’s width and depth of 320mm and 220mm respectively means it isn’t either. massively larger than a 13-inch MacBook Pro.
The Blade 14 looks like a scaled-down Blade 15, which is a good thing. The angular black aluminum unibody is cool – physically and figuratively – and sturdy while the lid doesn’t flex too badly, even when it’s deliberately twisted. There’s a shiny Razer three-headed snake logo on the lid to let unwashed people know what kind of laptop you have, but you can turn off the logo lighting if you’d prefer to be a little less flash.
Open the lid of the Blade 14 and you’ll find a compact keyboard flanked by two speaker grilles. The keyboard is rock solid and the keys have a very precise, albeit shallow, 1.1mm action. The glass-covered trackpad works flawlessly and has a well-cushioned, quiet click action. If I had to make a hole it would be that the up / down cursor keys are rather small, but that’s a problem with a lot of 14 inch laptops.
Open the Razer Synapse control panel and you can access the Chroma RGB software, which allows you to set the backlight color for each individual key and run various lighting sequences. I’ve set mine to vibrate to the beat of the game’s soundtrack, but I’m leaving the WASD keys solid red.
Connectivity is well served by two USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports and two USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 ports as well as an HDMI 2.1 connector and a 3.5mm audio jack. Both Type-C ports support DisplayPort 1.4 and 20V Power Delivery 3.0 charging. This last point is worth noting, as the supplied 230W DC power supply is a bit of a brick. Above the screen is a decent 720p webcam, but more important than its video quality, it supports Windows’ Hello IR facial recognition security.
Wireless communications are state of the art; you get Bluetooth 5.2 and Wi-Fi 6E thanks to an Intel AX210 card, which means support for 6 GHz transmissions when they become common.
Remove the back of the Blade 14 and the only thing you can play with is the 1TB SSD. Razer doesn’t advise you to replace it with something bigger than a 2TB module just because it doesn’t. There is no room for a higher capacity dual stack SSD. The 16GB of 3200MHz DDR4 RAM is soldered into place, so upgrading is out of the question. The installed Samsung M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0×4 1TB SSD achieved good read and write scores of 3078MB / s and 2580MB / s respectively.
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Razer Blade 14 review: display and audio
The 14-inch 2,560 x 1,440 IPS display is as sharp as a tip at 220 dpi and colorful, with sRGB gamut coverage and volume of 99.7% and 140.6% respectively. The DCI-P3 color space is also quite good, with coverage and volume of 97.1% and 99.6%. It’s also bright, peaking at 353cd / m2 and with a contrast ratio of 1117: 1. The Delta E of 3.13, however, was a bit of a letdown (anything above 3 is less than ideal) for such an expensive laptop.
As you would expect from a 165Hz display, gaming is an incredibly smooth experience, something further enhanced by support for the AMD FreeSync standard. The matte finish on the other hand does a good job of keeping highlights at bay.
The audio performance is equally impressive for such a small laptop. The THX certified speaker system produces surprising volume and a respectable amount of treble and bass.
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Razer Blade 14: performance and battery life
You would expect the Blade 14 to perform very well just from reading the spec sheet. An AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX octa-core processor with a base clock frequency of 3.3 GHz combined with an Nvidia RTX 3080 GPU with 16 GB of RAM is not a combination that will ever be described as lazy or puny.
To get the latest hardware speed boost, Razer’s Synapse Control Panel allows you to increase the bit by tuning the clock to CPU and GPU performance to the maximum possible. Doing this means that the fans are running loud and quite loud, a side effect of having to push a lot of air through a limited space to keep everything cool.
The Razer received a score of 297 in the Expert Reviews internal processing benchmark score, placing it among the best in terms of productivity performance. The same is true for gaming performance. Our benchmark test using the Wolfenstein: Youngblood benchmark returned frame rates of 185 fps without ray tracing, 112 fps with ray tracing but no DLSS, and 134 fps when DLSS was enabled. These scores were recorded at 1920 x 1080, while in native QHD the frame rates were 142, 79 and 118 fps, respectively.
The Hitman 2 bench test scored 66 fps, although this dropped to 39 fps in QHD, while the Shadow on the Tomb Raider test returned 81 fps at 2560 x 1440 with ray tracing enabled, DLSS disabled and the detail levels set as high as possible. Let’s just say the Blade 14 is fast and move on. Well, after a caveat that is.
The Blade 14 turned out to be one of the AMD / Nividia machines that refused to run Wolfenstein: Youngblood out of the box. I have encountered this problem before, most recently with the Acer Nitro 5 powered by RTX 3060. The solution is quite simple; download and run the AMD Cleanup utility, then reinstall and update the AMD Radeon drivers using the Radeon Software Adrenalin utility, then update the Nividia drivers using the GeForce Experience program.
This still fixes what I’m assuming is a conflict between Nvidia graphics software and AMD Radeon, but you shouldn’t have to do this to run a popular title. However, since this is not a problem unique to Blade 14, I will not rate it.
I wasn’t expecting much when it comes to battery life from a compact laptop with a QHD display, but I was pleasantly surprised. Expert Reviews’ standard video recap test took 11 hours and 14 minutes before everything darkened, which I was more than happy with. If you want to squeeze a little more from the 61.1 Wh battery, you can lower the screen refresh rate to 60Hz.
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Razer Blade 14: Verdict
Is the Razer Blade 14 a flawless machine? It is quite close to it. Some would argue that the screen is a bit small for extended gaming, but I’m not going to criticize a 14 inch laptop for having a 14 inch screen and while it isn’t exactly cheap at the high end, the entry level model is good value.
Beyond that, the Blade 14 is an impressive machine in every way: it’s fast, sleek, well made, has a good keyboard and a very decent sound system. It’s also packed with plenty of extra features that a hardcore gamer would insist on, while still being smart enough not to appear out of place in more subdued environments.