Razer's Refresh: New Panels and the Blade Pro 17

We caught up with the hardware specialists and got our hands on the refreshed Razer Blade series.

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We'll get to the innards later because more than anything else it's the first impression that the Razer Blade makes that really defines it. We've seen handsome hardware from rival companies before, but Razer's line of premium gaming laptops really does make an impact the first time you catch sight of one. We're not ashamed to admit that during our time with the company at the Williams F1 Conference Centre in rural Oxfordshire, we suffered from a little bout of laptop envy. When it comes to bold design and striking features, Razer doesn't play second fiddle to anyone.

The company hosted the event at the Williams Conference Centre in Wantage because of their partnership with Williams Esports, but the parallels between the Razer Blade series and the blisteringly fast race cars that adorn the facility can't be ignored either. Everything in the building was built with speed in mind, and with the latest refresh we get a bunch of new trimmings added to an already capable line of high-end gaming laptops, including new panels, faster GPUs, and an update to the company's 17-inch model.

Razer's laptops are all premium in their class; not quite the highest end machines on the market, but positioned in a price bracket that makes them aspirational products. They're also fast. Very fast, in fact. Especially those models that are powered by the latest RTX graphics cards - which is what we came to see - like the new Pro 17, which has been updated for the first time since 2017 (although why it's called a Pro when you can get more fully-featured models in the 15-inch range isn't entirely clear).

Razer's Refresh: New Panels and the Blade Pro 17

Razer's 2019 refresh brings with it a renewed focus on high-performance gaming thanks to the new line of GPUs, which deliver ray tracing tech to the next generation. We've seen this tech in a Razer Blade before, but now the company has upgraded the CPU to the more capable I7-9750. It's an upgrade which should help future proof each model to a greater extent, as well as allow better performance when playing more CPU-intensive titles and if you're multi-tasking.

Another new feature that will speak to those who don't mind the extra expense if it means a higher quality experience is the new 4K OLED screens, which are currently available along with 144Hz and 240Hz variants (4K OLED is only in the 15-inch model, the Pro 17 only offers 144Hz at the time of writing). Screen refresh speeds are at the top of the agenda in 2019 and the Razer reps we spoke to were keen to highlight the brightness of the OLED panel and the richness of the blacks. Even the Blade Stealth can be purchased with 4K touchscreen.

The Razer Blade Pro 17 was front and centre at the venue, but that extra couple of inches of screen is deceptively subtle. That's probably because of the thin bezel and the overall slender design of the chassis - it doesn't feel like a cumbersome 17-inch laptop (you know the type we're talking about) and over the years we've used plenty of chunky 15-inch laptops that felt bigger. Razer's engineers are among the best when it comes to squeezing as much as possible into a limited space, and that trend continues unabated here.

That said, our main concern going in was heat. The new RTX line packs plenty of punch, but with increasingly potent hardware being crammed into increasingly slender devices, heat distribution is something we're always aware of. We didn't get our hands on the laptops long enough to see any throttling or noticeable slowdown - on the contrary, we were playing Apex Legends and the performance on max settings was silky smooth - but Razer's existing solution, the vapour chamber cooling that was introduced in the last refresh, seems to be effective enough for their liking and there doesn't seem to have been any further innovations in that area, beyond the addition of two new, quieter fans at the front of the new Pro 17s.

There were three different models of Razer on show during the event - the Pro 17, the standard 15-inch model, and the 13-inch Razer Blade Stealth. We didn't test the Stealth, but the demo machine was hooked up to a Core X powered by an RTX 2080 (the same graphics card that was inside all of the laptops in attendance), which gave the more modest MX150 GPU a significant boost. We reviewed the previous version and the big question mark hanging over the pint-sized laptop is why you would buy one when you could get a Blade 15 instead. The answer to that feeds into one of the core pillars of Razer's approach: lifestyle.

Razer's Refresh: New Panels and the Blade Pro 17
The Razer Blade Pro 17

This product and pretty much everything else that Razer does feeds into this notion of "lifestyle". Razer's branding is strong, amongst the strongest in the entire industry, and the company knows it. They know just how dedicated and loyal their community is, and they know that there's a desire for their hardware not just because it's capable and well-made, but because it looks and feels good to use. The Blade series is no different to anything else that's adorned with the three-headed snake logo and the iconic bright green colouring.

It's also clear that the company is taking aim at Europe with a bit more vigour, targeting the UK, Germany, and the Nordics in particular by building its presence in bricks and mortar stores, taking aim at those customers that might previously have considered buying MacBooks and Surfaces. "We haven't really been serious about our [laptop] business in Europe until, more or less, eight months ago," Razer's Mathias Kjessler told us while outlining the company's plans to evolve their partnerships with major retailers in the UK (PC World) and in the Nordics (Elkjøp/Elgiganten). That being the case, you can probably expect to start seeing more Razer-themed displays when you're out and about doing your shopping.

Like the most recent round of Razer Blade laptops, there seemed to be lots to like, with the Pro 17 a natural extension of what the company did with the last round of Blade 15s. That said, what we can't recommend just yet is the new 4K OLED screen, because we simply haven't spent enough time with it to say whether it's worth pushing the boat out for as that upgrade alone costs close to £300. Hopefully we can get our hands on one in due course and, if so, we'll let you know how we get on. In the meantime, here are the various specs for the different versions of the Blade, although for more detailed specifications you should head here.

Razer's Refresh: New Panels and the Blade Pro 17
The Advanced edition of the Razer Blade 15

Blade 15:
15.6" Full HD 144Hz, 100% sRGB / 15.6" Full HD 240Hz, 100% sRGB / 15.6" OLED 4K Touch 60Hz, 100% DCI-P3
Core i7-8750H / Core i7-9750H CPU clocked at 2.6GHz with Max Turbo speeds up to 4.5GHz.
Up to GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q
128GB SSD SATA-III (upgradable to 512GB SSD NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4)
16GB of Dual-Channel DDR4-2667MHz (upgradable to 64GB)

Blade Pro 17:
17.3" Full HD 144Hz, 100% sRGB
Core i7-9750H CPU clocked at 2.6GHz with Max Turbo speeds up to 4.5GHz.
Up to GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q
512GB PCIe NVMe (upgradeable to 2TB SSD)
16GB of Dual-Channel DDR4 2667MHz (upgradeable to 64GB)

Blade Stealth:
13.3" FHD Matte, 100% sRGB / 13.3" 4K touch display, 100% sRGB
Core i7-8565U Processor with Hyper Threading 1.8 GHz / 4.6 GHz (Base/Turbo)
GeForce MX150
256GB M.2 SATA (upgradable to 512GB PCIe M.2)
8GB of Dual-Channel LPDDR3 2133MHz (upgradeable to 16GB)

Razer's Refresh: New Panels and the Blade Pro 17

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