Razer Blade Stealth Ultrabook Review: 12.5 inch 4K UHD IGZO Laptop
Razer’s Blade Stealth 4K laptop is one truly superb 4K performer for an Ultrabook of its compact size and by the standards of just about any 4K laptop we’ve reviewed to-date. In this machine, Razer really packed in the power and delivers the goods almost as well as can be expected for any 4K display and gaming device that’s this small.
The Blade Stealth’s internal Core i7-6500U processor is one of the fastest currently available on the market and is definitely the best that Intel has to offer for the laptop market. This means some serious kick for handling of the 4K needs that the Stealth has. Furthermore, while its sold separately as an accessory, Razer’s external Core GPU unit also contributes a serious kick in terms of video crunching power that makes the Blade Stealth into one of the best 4K-capable Ultrabooks we’ve looked at so far.
However, we are talking about 4K resolution in a laptop here and while the Blade can handle these kinds of graphics for tamer visual needs like video and graphics editing at this massive resolution, 4K gaming at anything approaching high or ultra detail levels and reasonable frame rates is out of the question, even with the Core CPU unit and the i7 CPU that comes packed into this Ultrabook. This deficiency for handling 4K gaming is something we’ve noticed in every 4K laptop we’ve yet looked at and the Blade Stealth is unfortunately no exception. Likewise for high-end games at HD resolution. These are more in line with the Blade’s capabilities but playing them at high or ultra-detail levels while still achieving fast frame rates is not an easy task.
In simple terms, the Razer Blade Stealth can handle the basics of 4K video, animations and other more static graphics in this large ultra HD resolution but it still doesn’t quite cut the mustard for real 4K gaming, but then no current 4K laptop does and in any case, Razer didn’t build the Blade Stealth 4K model Ultrabook with gaming in mind or as an advertised potential use in this laptop. Unlike some other brands we’ve seen, the company seems to be conscious that 4K gaming isn’t really quite yet a laptop level activity.
Right off the bat, the compact and elegantly simple design of the Razer Blade Stealth is quite wonderful to deal with. This Ultrabook is small and some users might find its 12.5 inch display to be a bit on the small side but for those of you want a more economically sized 4K laptop, few other models beat the Blade at that game. Furthermore, the aluminum chassis offers a body that’s both light weight and relatively tough. This is an Ultrabook that you can pick up and casually toss into your backpack without worrying that it’s going to fall apart at the drop of a hat. In addition to these qualities, the Blade Stealth simply looks good. We like its color and we definitely like its mostly conservative but with a touch of flash style.
Moving beyond external superficial design, the Stealth also offers some superb specs for its relatively low price. In comparison to some of the 4K laptops we’ve previously seen selling for close to or even above $2000 but with inferior processing and graphics power and storage, the Stealth is nicely decked out with its SSD storage, robust GPU and excellent Intel CPU. Additionally, its connectivity is pretty good and we definitely appreciate the inclusion of a Thunderbolt 3 port, allowing for second generation USB 3.1, DisplayPort and charging all in the same single slot.
Additionally, the Blade Stealth comes with the first individually lit RGB keyboard keys we’ve yet seen in a notebook and its 4K display is downright vibrant, with very good contrast, great color and of course, touch functionality. Overall, the Razer Blade Stealth offers solid performance almost across the board.
3.8 - 17 Review
On the other hand, the Blade Stealth is certainly not perfect, with the keyboard keys being a bit too shallow for our liking and the bezel along the edge of the display taking up a more space than we like. I mean, Razer wanted to make a compact laptop, so why not shrink it just a tiny bit further with a reduced bezel or better yet, design the device to come with a slightly larger display space instead, again while sacrificing a pointlessly wide bezel.
Additionally, we don’t particularly like the short battery life of this particular Ultrabook. For an “ultraportable” compact notebook, it dies in a little over 5 hours after fairly normal (not too heavy) use and while we don’t expect 8 to 10 hour battery charge times for a 4K laptop, it would have been nice for such a compact device to at least manage 6.5 to 7 hours. In addition to this, the heat this little laptop’s CPU is capable of generating can be quite ferocious –hot enough to literally cause pain if you have it sitting on exposed skin and this heat generation is what you can particularly expect if you use the Blade Stealth for some more intensive 4K graphics rendering through high performance games.
• Type: compact Ultrabook
• Screen size: 12.5 inches
• Aspect ratio: 16:9
• Resolution: 3840 x 2160
• Included OS: Windows 10 64-bit
• Battery life: variable, depending on processor and GPU usage, nominally 5 hours
• Processor: Intel Dual Core i7-6700HQ 2.6 GHz Processor
• RAM: 8GB Dual-Channel System Memory (LPDDR3-1866MHz)
• Weight: 2.75 lbs. / 1.25 kg
• Storage 128GB / 256GB / 512GB PCIe SSD options
• GPU: Intel® HD Graphics 520 (external Razer Core GPU expansion box coming mid-year)
• Connectivity: Wireless-AC (802.11a/b/g/n/ac + Bluetooth® 4.1), Ethernet, 1 x Microphone-in/Headphone-out jack
1 x USB 3.1 TYPE C port (Thunderbolt 3)
2 x USB 3.0 port(s)
1 x HDMI 1.4
• Card Reader: 2 -in-1 card reader ( SD/ SDXC/ MMC)
• Built-in 2.0MP webcam
The 12.5 inch 4K ultra HD display of the Razer Blade Stealth is one of the real winners in this little Ultrabook’s design and specs. It’s definitely a cut above the average for the laptops we’ve reviewed so far on 4K.com and despite its small size, it impresses in pretty much all metrics of quality. First of all, the cramming of 3840 x 2160 pixels of resolution into such a small screen produces a massive pixel density of 352 PPI which makes it impossible to detect pixilation with the naked eye in a way you won't see in even the very best 4K TVs on the market. Furthermore, Windows 10 graphic elements ,which can support 4K resolution, work to make the display quality even smoother in its overall performance.
Furthermore, the display panel is made up of the much less common IGZO (Indium, Gallium Zinc Oxide) technology and this results in excellent viewing angles, superb color gamut coverage of 100% for the Adobe and sRGB color space spectrums and as a result, colors in the Blade Stealth look deeply vibrant, varied, accurate and rich. They’re simply striking in fact, especially on such a small PC display.
While you can never really expect too much from the built-in audio of almost any laptop (at least not in comparison to the power provided by external speakers), the Razer Blade Stealth surprises in this minor area of its performance with the quality it outputs. The small stereo speakers are located on either side of the keyboard and offer what we’d definitely call above-average sound performance.
The audio quality is on the tinny side but there is an audible bass and the volume they can output is definitely loud enough to fill a room, even if some distortion appears at maximum volume. Overall though, if set to a volume of maybe 85%, the speaker’s quality is great by laptop standards and sets a decent balance between decibel level and clarity. A mid-range portable external speaker setup might offer only modestly more robust audio quality than these speakers. And again, to see this kind of audio performance in such a small laptop is a testament to the overall quality of the Razer Blade Stealth.
The jet black all-aluminum body of the Blade Stealth looks great in our opinion. While it does come with a few “edgy” gamer-oriented design tweaks like a glowing green logo on the lid and keyboard buttons that light up in all sorts of brilliant ways, all of these decorative light show features can be deactivated in the laptop’s software settings and in any case, they’re not nearly as blatantly visible as we’ve seen them in some “gaming” laptops. In other words, while the Blade Stealth definitely has a gamer’s feel to its external design, it also offers enough more conservative appearance to be usable as a work laptop without being too eye-catching.
Overall, the Stealth’s design is in any case quite nice. It’s slim, extremely light at just over 2 lbs and very smooth in its mutedness. The laptop’s profile is quite thin and the matte black aluminum finish is both tough and very modern looking with a robust feel to the touch. On the other hand, the very thin keyboard buttons simply don’t move or spring enough for our liking and the feel of them when using this Ultrabook for prolonged typing is decidedly weak, almost as if you’re not really pressing them properly even if text appears on the screen. This may seem like a minor detail but it is annoying. Furthermore, Razer put way too much real estate in this tiny laptop into the bezel around the display. It’s too thick and while it makes the laptop look bigger than it is, we consider this pointless. Why not just deliver a larger display space of maybe 13.5 inches in the same relatively compact external form factor.
Finally, the keyboard also comes with a Chroma backlight feature that is definitely unique. These backlights for the individual keys offer one multicolored LED per key and their main benefits are partly of a rather cool looking multi-colored aesthetic appeal and partly functional in that the lighting array can be configured to allow specific keys to light up with a specific color for easier accessibility and quick-access. Thus, if you’re making heavy use of, say, the shift key, you can have it light with one specific color while all other keys stay turned off. Furthermore, the entire keyboard backlight can be reprogrammed to display almost any color you like or light up in an animated way that can create rather cool rainbow or ripple effects, such as a radiating circular wave of light that moves away across other keys around any one key you press down. Overall, all of this keyboard backlighting is hardly more than a cool decorative bonus with minimal practical functionality but we liked it anyhow, especially when using the Razer in a darker room.
3.8 - 17 Review
In keeping with its tendency towards lots of power in a small body, the Blade Stealth also delivers the goods nicely on internal hardware and connectivity specs. This Ultrabook comes in three SSD options, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB. While none of these except the 512GB are particularly great for major data, media and video storage in the Blade, the SSD technology delivers some lighting fast performance, start times and data retrieval for the Windows 10 operating system or any other software installed directly on the laptop’s solid state hard drive. And if you need extra storage space for large volumes of media, it’s easy to simply hook up an external hard drive to the Blade Stealth.
And speaking of connectivity, the Blade Stealth does a very decent job of it. While the selection of ports isn’t as big as some we’ve seen, all the essentials are covered well enough and with some decent bonus technology. Thus, you get your hands on dual USB 3.0 ports, a headset jack, a single HDMI 1.4 port and both Bluetooth and WiFi of the 802.11ac caliber. Furthermore, and we particularly liked this, the Blade offers a single quick charging USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port, which can give massive speeds of up to 40Gbps, beating out even HDMI 2.0 connectivity in its data transfer power.
Hardware-wise, the Razer Blade Stealth is no slouch by any means and handles its 4K resolution well for all normal, moderate visual uses like photo viewing, video, moderate graphics manipulation and light to moderate gaming in Full HD resolutions, even at high levels of detail. On the other hand, 4K gaming at any decent frame rate is pretty much out of the scope of the Blade Stealth and this is pretty much par for the course in the entire world of 4K laptops as we know it so far. On the other hand, Razer is releasing an external Core GPU box sometime in the next couple months and with this new optional addition, the Razer Blade Stealth might easily become the first integrated 4K laptop unit that does actually support even full 4K gameplay to at least some reasonable degree.
For now however, most Full HD games will garner between 15 and 40fps at high or Ultra levels of detail and things like 3D or 4K gaming are unlikely to manage better than 10fps with even slower performance that in some cases goes down to as low as just 2 or 5 fps according to our benchmark results.
On other metrics of hardware performance like video encoding and graphics editing performance, the Blade performs reasonably well though not at what we’d call lightning speed. Furthermore, the SSD card’s storage test performance in the Blade is quite impressive. The PCI SSD storage that Razer installed in this Ultrabook runs powerfully fast with excellent reading speeds, a superb random write speed and great sequential write performance. When the Blade Stealth’s PCI Express SSD cards are compared to more conventional SATA SSD storage systems like those found in most other 4K and HD laptops, performance really kicks off superbly, with an average sequential write speed of over 1200 megabytes, which far outshines the 500 to 900 megabyte sequential write speeds of similar devices like an ASUS Zenbook , Dell XPS 13 or Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4.
Overall, the Razer Blade’s dual-core 2.5GHz (3.1GHz Turbo) Core i7-6500U CPU, 8GB 1866MHz LPDDR3 RAM and PCI Express SSD cards deliver some excellent performance in such a small laptop. Later, when it becomes available, the Core external GPU unit will also likely further enhance the hardware and video performance of the Blade Stealth to nearly desktop 4K PC levels of power, for those who want to spend the extra money on the upcoming GPU unit. Pair this laptop with the new GTX 1080 with the Razer Core (Razer has not mentioned if the GTX 1080 is available for the Core yet) and you should be able to play any games on high or ultra high settings.
The Razer Blade Stealth comes packaged up with Windows 10 Pro in its 64-bit version and generally doesn’t come with much in the way of what we’d call bloatware software additions. In fact, the laptop is a smooth nearly ready-to-go performer right out of the box and the Windows 10 OS is also nicely suited for 4K resolution in such a small screen, allowing its graphics to scale so that they don’t become ridiculously tiny on the Blade’s display with its pixel density of 352 PPI.
We’d also like to note that under an energy efficient brightness and activity configuration with a display brightness of just below 200 nits, the Blade Stealth’s battery unit can manage just under 380 minutes of constant web use with the WiFi also activated.
The Razer Blade Stealth 12.5 inch 4K UHD Ultrabook is currently selling for a price we consider to be quite decent for the specs it offers: $1399.00 for the 256GB version. 512GB version is selling for $1,599.99.
3.8 - 17 Review
• Fantastic overall performance
• Superb hardware specs
• Excellent display IGZO display
• 4K graphics look great!
• Light and compact
• Great design
• Heats up badly when pushed to Full HD gaming limits
• Overly thick display bezel
• Weak battery power
• Keyboard keys too thin
• No real 4K gaming capacity