Sexy, lightweight design; Lovely 4K display; Customizable Chroma keyboard; Excellent overall and graphics performance
Below-average battery life; Uncomfortable keyboard
The Razer Blade Stealth is one of the sleekest and most powerful ultraportables you can buy, but is hampered by short battery life.
What do you do when you’ve consistently created some of the fastest lightweight gaming laptops? You turn your attention to ultraportables and try to dominate there. Razer’s Blade Stealth ($1,399 as configured, $99 starting) is a 12.5-inch beast, packing a powerful Intel Core i7 processor into a sleek chassis, complete with gorgeous 4K display and keyboard that grows millions of colors. The Stealth’s short battery life disappoints, but overall this is one speedy stunner.
Editors’ Note: The Stealth will soon have the ability to turn into a full-blown gaming PC via an optional graphics amplifier called the Core. We will update this review once that accessory is available.
For a notebook named Stealth, this lightweight laptop really knows how to stand out in a crowd. Razer didn’t try to reinvent the wheel and kept the same black aluminum chassis with the glowing three snake emblem we’ve come to know and love on its other systems.
The laptop’s interior is comprised of more obsidian-colored aluminum. The keyboard, which lights up in different colors, is flanked on either side by two slim speakers with the power button sitting just below the hinge and the touchpad barely fitting onto the abbreviated palm rest. Overall, the presentation is still stunning, but the oil from my hands quickly marred the system’s beauty.
Weighing 2.75 pounds and measuring 12.6 x 8.1 x 0.52-inches, the Stealth is a light heavyweight compared to Samsung Ativ Book 9 (2.09 pounds, 11.2 x 8.4 x 0.46 inches) and the waiflike Apple MacBook 12-inch Retina (2 pounds,11.8 x 7.6 x 0.68 inches). The touch screen enabled-XPS 13 (12 x 8 x 0.33-0.6-inches) is slightly heavier at 2.9 pounds.
It’s hard to look away from Stealth’s vivid 3840 x 2160 12.5-inch touch display. As I watched a sample 4K video of outdoor scenes, I was transfixed by a leafy seadragon as its delicate greenish-gold appendages floated gracefully through an aquamarine sea. Details were sharp enough to see the white ribbing across its side and the tiny tears in the fish’s fins.
The high-gloss panel did capture my reflection more often than I would have liked, but I appreciated its generous viewing angles. The colors retained their brightness no matter how far back I tilted the display. The bezel is a bit thick for for my taste, especially compared to the XPS 13’s infinity display with its barely-there sides. However, Razer’s thicker presentation allows for proper mic and camera placement, which is important when livestreaming games.
The laptop’s color reproduction capabilities are quite impressive, as it showed 173 percent of the color gamut, which tops the 100 percent minimum and the 82 percent ultraportable average. The competition fell woefully short with the XPS 13, MacBook and Ativ Book 9 all notching 104 percent or less.
However, with a score of 4.2 on the Delta-E test (0 is ideal), the Stealth’s color accuracy could be better. It barely cleared the 4.3 average.
At an average 402 nits, the Stealth’s panel is hella bright, easily outshining the 309 nit average as well as the MacBook (353 nits), XPS 13 (336 nits) and Ativ Book 9 (303 nits). The 10-point capacitive touchscreen was very agile and responsive when I used pinched to zoom on documents and web pages or swiped my fingers to re-arrange open windows.
I was pleasantly surprised by the Stealth’s svelte speakers, which produced audio that was both loud (for an ultraportable) and clear. As I listened to Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall) the bass guitar grounded the track and set the stage for the accompanying guitar and keyboard to shine without taking away from the artist’s iconic voice. Little details like the crash of the cymbals were easy to make out.
Dolby’s Digital Plus audio software and its four profiles (Movie, Music, Game and Voice) definitely help to amplify the laptop’s audio. During my testing, I found myself using the Music profile the most as it provided a nice balance of warmth and clarity. You can also create your own custom profiles using the Intelligent Equalizer and Surround Virtualizer.
Keyboard and Touchpad
On the bright side, the Stealth represents the first time Razer has placed put its lovely Chroma lighting into one of its laptops. Capable of producing up to 16.8 million colors by way of Razer’s Synapse software, the keyboard is truly a sight to behold.
Unfortunately, once I stopped staring at it and starting using the layout,, the Stealth provided one of the least comfortable typing experiences I’ve had.. The island-style keyboard has a 1 millimeter (1.5-2 mm is optimal) key travel with just 55 grams of actuation (60g is the minimum).
Such shallow travel and weak feedback means that the keys bottom out immediately on the hard surface beneath. I ended up with a dismal 48 words per minute on the 10FastFingers typing test, well below my typical 60 wpm.
With such a small palm rest, the 4.2 x 2.5-inch Synaptics touchpad looks bigger than it actually is. That didn’t stop it from delivering a snappy response when my fingers brushed across it’s cool surface to perform a pinch-zoom gesture or a three or four-finger flick. I appreciate that Synaptics had the good sense to add it’s SmartSense palm rejection software because your palms or wrists are bound to inadvertently hit the touchpad with such a small space to work in. Oddly, the corners of the touchpad seemed to have more feedback than the keys.
Razer’s included Synapse software lets you configure macros, set trackpad sensitivity and track of your keystrokes and tweak your keyboard’s color palette. Similar to other Razer Chroma products, you can also access the Chroma Apps store, which allows games such as DOTA 2, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Overwatch to integrate their unique lighting effects into the game. Best of all, all of your carefully created masterpieces are saved in the cloud and can be used with other Razer devices.
The Stealth has one of the better webcams I’ve tested. Despite some visual noise, the 2.0 megapixel camera still managed to convey the texture in my locs and sweater. My skin color looked a little washed out, but the various blues in my shirt definitely caught my eye.
Razer knows how to keep things cool. After streaming video for 15 minutes, the touchpad measured 81 degrees Fahrenheit while the space between the G and H keys hit 90 degrees. The bottom of the system registered 95 degrees, matching our comfort threshold.
With a notebook this small, you don’t have room for a lot of ports and jacks. Razer gives you the bare essentials with a full HDMI port and USB 3.0 port on the right. Another USB 3.0 port sits on the left with a headset jack and a Thunderbolt 3.0/AC charging port.
For such a slim laptop, the Stealth can throw a haymaker or two thanks in no small part to its 2.5-GHz Intel Core i7-6500U processor with 8GB of RAM. Despite running a full system antivirus scan with 8 additional Google Chrome tabs, my episode of “Black Mirror” streamed with no problem.
The Stealth’s CPU continued asserting its dominance on the Geekbench test, delivering a score of 6,893, thrashing the 4,797 ultraportable average. The XPS 13 and its 1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-2467M CPU came closest to the Stealth with a score of 6,374. The MacBook (1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor) and the Ativ Book 9 (0.9-GHz Intel Core M-5Y10c) produced below average scores of 4,631 and 4,603.
When we ran the File Transfer Test, the Stealth’s 256GB PCIe SSD duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 28 seconds for a result of 181.8 MBps, beating the 162.2 average. The Ativ Book 9 and XPS 13 hit below 160 MBps. The MacBook’s 256GB Flash memory put the others to shame with a result of 254.5 MBps.
During the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro test, the Stealth paired 20,000 names and addresses in 4 minutes and 8 seconds, blowing past the 7:32 category average. That was enough to keep it at the head of the pack.
The Stealth’s integrated Intel HD Graphics 520 GPU won’t be playing anything more strenuous than Candy Crush Soda Saga or a high-def video. But that’s to be expected for an Ultrabook of this caliber.
The notebook did extraordinarily well on 3DMark11 Ice Storm Unlimited, a synthetic graphics test, hitting 67,733, smoking the 41,788 average. The XPS 13, which also has a Intel HD Graphics 520 GPU was a distinct second at 57,102 while the Ativ Book 9 (Intel HD Graphics 5300) obtained 43,373.
But this is a Razer laptop and at some point you’re going to want to kick back and play something a bit more challenging. When that happens, Razer’s head-turning graphics amplifier, dubbed the Core, will be there to satiate that craving. Unfortunately, the Core wasn’t available for review at the time of the writing, but stayed tuned for an update.
Every rose has its thorn, and for the Stealth it’s the battery life. The laptop tapped out after 5 hours and 5 minutes on our battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits), which is well below the 8:10 ultraportable average. The Ativ Book 9 fared somewhat better at 6:23 while the XPS 13 clocked in at 8:08. The MacBook went the distance with a time of 8:43.
If you want more endurance, you’ll be better off buying the 2560 x 1440 version of the Stealth rather than the 4K version.
Software and Warranty
Outside of the usual Windows 10 suite of apps, the Stealth’s software load is pretty light with only a few Razer-branded and third-party programs. On the Razer side of things you have Comms, the company’s voice chat gaming messenger, which lets you chat for free on mobile and desktop. It also features a handy in-game overlay so you can talk without leaving your game.
Third-party apps include Flipboard, Twitter, Killer Diagnostic, which keeps tabs on network speeds and Killer Network Manager, which allows you to maximize online gaming performance by configuring the network card.
Our review unit of the Stealth costs $1,399 and has 2.5-GHz Intel Core i7-6500U processor with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB PCIe SSD, Intel HD Graphics 520 GPU and a 4K (3840 x 2160) touchscreen. The $999 base model drops the storage to 128GB and swaps out the 4K touchscreen for a high-res, 2560 x 1440 touch panel. If you’re concerned about storage, there’s the $1,599 model, which offers 512GB with the 4K display.
It’s not a MacBook Killer or XPS slayer but, Razer has done an amazing job of combining its love of high performance devices with a reasonable price. For $1,399, you get one of the most powerful Ultrabooks on the market and a simply stunning 4K display. And later this year, when its graphics amplifier starts shipping, the Stealth will transform into one formidable gaming machine.
But there are a couple of downsides that can’t be ignored. The super-shallow keyboard and short battery hurt the Stealth’s value as a productivity machine. If you want a laptop that’s better for work, consider the $799 Dell XPS 13 or $1,299 Apple MacBook 12-inch Retina, which both offer stronger typing experiences and longer endurance. Overall, the Razer Blade Stealth is a good choice for mobile professionals who want an ultraportable with equal parts power and personality.