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Razer Blade (2016) review: Incremental upgrades make it a good laptop for the moment

Hayden Dingman | July 25, 2016
If systems with GTX 10-series GPUs start appearing later this year, the 2016 Blade will have a tough time competing.

Razer Blade 2016 - Handbrake Encode results

For gaming performance, the Blade posts typical 970M numbers. In fact, when benchmarking Tomb Raider on Ultimate settings and running at 1080p, we ended up with the same frame rate on the Blade (58.4fps) as an 970M-equipped Alienware 15 we tested last year.

Razer Blade 2016 - Tomb Raider Ultimate 1080p results

That’s all right, but it’s not what you’d get from a GeForce GTX 980M. For example, Origin’s 980M-equipped EON15-X managed 77.4 frames per second in Tomb Raider at the same settings, and the Acer Predator 17 scored 78.9fps. Things are even bleaker if you compare the Blade to a laptop sporting a desktop 980, such as the MSI GT72S Dragon, which reached a whopping 100.1 frames per second.

Why mention the 980, when the Blade is about half the size of any 980M- or 980-equipped laptop? Because if you buy this machine now, getting just a little under 60fps in a three-year-old game will seem even more depressing whenever Nvidia GTX 10-series mobile parts appear and wallop on every 970M, 980M, and maybe even laptop-sized 980 in sight.

This Blade is something of a stopgap release, though. Nvidia has still yet to announce anything official about GTX 10-series mobile parts, so at this point, really all Razer could do was to double the VRAM on the 970M, upgrade the processor, and put in a faster SSD. The good news is that this Blade is commensurately less expensive, given its older GPU. The 2016 model starts at $2,000 for the 256GB SSD configuration, which is a couple hundred dollars cheaper than the previous comparable version.

Bottom line

Sure, you can find a similarly spec'd laptop for a few hundred less, but not one that crams this performance into such an ultraportable form factor. Add in USB-C, the promise of the Razer Core, and that PCIe SSD? Pretty snazzy.

So if you need a laptop today, and can’t wait for the 1070 to go mobile and start making its way into products, the 2016 Blade is a solid choice. Just be aware it’s not a very future-proofed option at this point.


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