Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition Review | IGN

Razer’s Blade has been one of the most iconic gaming laptops on the market over the last decade and this year is no exception. I’ve spent the last several weeks with the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition in its highest configuration. Coming in at an eye-watering $2999, is this the flagship gaming laptop you’ve been waiting on or merely another contender for best gaming laptop of 2021?

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Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition – Design and Features

What’s in a name? In this case, quite a lot. As a high-end laptop from Razer, you can count on focused gaming performance. The “Blade” speaks to its thin and light design – well, reasonably light, anyway. This unit features a 15-inch Full HD Display configured to run at an esports-grade 360 Hz. Under the hood, it’s running on a 10th generation Intel Core CPU, an Nvidia RTX 3080 GPU, and 32GB of system memory. The total specs as configured are:

  • Price: $2999.99
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-10875H (8-core/16-thread, Max Boost 5.1 GHz)
  • Display: 15.6-inch Full HD (1920×1080) IPS 360Hz
  • Graphics: RTX 3080 (Mobile Version)
  • Memory: 32GB DDR4, 2933 MHz, 64GB Maximum
  • Storage: 1TB NVMe (Expandable with Additional Slot)
  • Networking: Wi-Fi 6E AX210, 2X2, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax, Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5.2
  • Battery: 80WHr, Up to 7 Hours, 230W Adapter
  • I/O Ports: 1x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), Supports 20V USB-C chargers with PD 3.0,  3x USB 3.2 Gen 2 (USB-A), USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, Supports 20V USB-C chargers with PD 3.0, SD Card Reader, UHS-III, HDMI 2.1 output (Up to 8K 60Hz or 4K 120Hz)
  • Dimensions: 0.67 x 9.25 x 13.98 inches
  • Weight: 4.4 lbs

 

Like most Razer laptops, the Blade 15 is available in multiple configurations that will set you back anywhere from $1699 to $3299 depending on the components and display you choose. On the cheaper end, you’ll be downgrading to an Intel i7-10750H, an RTX 3060, and half the memory and storage. The most expensive version is similar to the one I’m reviewing today but is equipped with a 4K OLED touchscreen.

The exterior design of the Blade 15 is similar to last year’s model. It’s outwardly simple but unmistakably a gaming laptop. The matte-black aluminum chassis is unassuming except for Razer’s large, backlit snake icon smack-dab in the center. The lighting can be turned off, but if you’re hoping to hide the fact you’re carrying a gaming laptop to class or the office, think again. Personally, I rather like the look of it lit up in classic Razer green.

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Thin and light has been the name of the game in gaming laptops for several years. The Blade series definitely embraces this maxim and this year’s model comes in at only 0.67 inches thick. I was easily able to slide it into my messenger bag and still have room for papers and materials. It’s light, but not industry-leading at 4.4 pounds. Over the course of the day, my bag definitely started to feel heavy carrying the laptop with me, but it’s a trade-off for the extra-durable design and caliber of components therein.

The aluminum chassis is very durable and rigid. There’s no discernable screen flex opening the laptop, which has been a concern on other models. An all-metal shell also aids in heat dissipation but does mean the entire lower-half of the laptop eventually feels warm to the touch. Unlike the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 I last reviewed, the area above the keyboard didn’t get so hot, which speaks to the vapor chamber cooling solution Razer has applied. The biggest downside to the frame is that it’s an absolute fingerprint magnet. It will show every bit of oil from your fingers, which leaves it looking messy within a day of normal use.

The Blade 15 is a beast of a gaming laptop. It’s Intel Core i7-10875H processor features 8-cores and 16-threads of processing power, but more important for in-game frame rates is its 5.1 GHz boost clock. It pairs wonderfully with the Nvidia RTX 3080 mobile graphics card which is currently the most powerful on the market. Like all RTX 30-Series mobile GPUs, it won’t run quite as fast as a desktop 3080 but absolutely dominates at 1080p gaming. The 1TB NVMe SSD is also very fast, reducing load times to the bare minimum, and has enough storage to hold a decent selection of games and applications. It also sports a second M.2 slot to quickly expand the storage without the need to reinstall Windows. The system came with 32GB of pre-installed memory, which is more than enough for any game on the market today in conjunction with streaming apps and even a few browser windows with room to spare.

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These specs also make the Blade 15 a very solid choice for streamers and content creators. While many games aren’t able to leverage all eight cores of the CPU or all 32GB of DRAM, many creative applications will happily use these resources and benefit from them. I recorded 4K video directly to the laptop with OBS and an Elgato CamLink and then edited it in Adobe Premiere Pro – the process was virtually seamless. Like most (all?) consumer laptops currently available, it did stutter when rendering certain aftermarket transitions, but its ability to handle massive video files with ease was impressive. Since the unit has a 1080p screen, most gamers will be working with 1080p video files and the experience was even smoother there.

The real highlight of the screen is its incredibly fast 360 Hz refresh rate, which is ready to compete with cutting-edge 360Hz and 240Hz gaming monitors. This can offer real benefits in motion clarity and responsiveness if your reaction speed is up to the challenge. Even though the RTX 3080 is a powerful mobile GPU, it won’t be pushing many games to 360 FPS outside of esports, however, so be wary if you’re expecting to play AAA games at such high frame rates. Still, offering such a high refresh rate pays dividends in the smoothness of games even below 360 FPS, so it’s a welcome addition – albeit one that will more quickly drain the battery.

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The laptop also has a number of other features going for it. For day to day use, the keyboard is outstanding. The keys offered greater travel and tactility than most other laptops I’ve tested, which made typing reliably accurate. The touchpad is also very large, which makes navigation quite easy and even opens the door to some casual gaming if you forget your mouse at home. The keyboard offers bright, saturated, per-key programmable backlighting and is also completely programmable akin to Razer’s standalone keyboards. Above the screen is also a 720p webcam with Windows Hello compatibility for biometric login.

To either side of the keyboard are the built-in speakers, which feature THX Spatial Audio and 7.1 surround sound support. They are able to get exceptionally loud and seem to project out in a way that gives a greater sense of space than you would expect from a pair of laptop speakers. They work very well for most kinds of content, though bass is stereotypically lacking. The dynamic range and frequency response of the transducers is enough to give rifles a satisfying “crack” in Battlefield V – they just don’t have enough punch for a good explosion.

As a gaming laptop, connectivity is much more important than laptops designed for productivity. The Blade 15 has it in spades. There are three USB 3.2 Type-A ports, one USB 3.2 Type-C port, another USB Type-C with Thunderbolt 3 (the latter two ports also supporting 20V chargers with PD 3.0), a combo audio jack, a UHS-III SD card reader, and an HDMI 2.1 video output for external monitors capable of 8K40 or 4K120 output. For networking, it supports WiFi 6E for high-speed wireless internet but doesn’t offer an RJ-45 ethernet port. It also supports the latest Bluetooth 5.2 standard for wireless peripherals. Taken as a whole, this is a generous array of connectivity options that easily allows for a full array of USB peripherals and external storage and display options – just keep in mind you’ll need a USB ethernet adapter if you want a wired internet connection.

Fan-720x405 Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition Review | IGN

Compared to a number of other RTX 30-series laptops we’ve looked at here at IGN, the Blade 15 appears to have a surprisingly sparse arrangement of vents to support its cooling. This is partially because Razer cleverly hides the rear exhaust under the edge of the lid, but it’s also because there are flat out fewer vents. The reason for this is that the laptop uses a vapor chamber cooling solution that better isolates thermal flow through the unit. This approach to cooling is common on graphics cards and high-end CPU heatsinks as it allows the manufacturer to better guide the flow of heat and direct it in the path of blowing air. In this case, that results in heat expelling from the rear of the PC.

In practice, the cooling solution proved to be reasonably effective, albeit not exceptionally so. The CPU regularly peaked at 100C, a behavior that’s common among gaming laptops with this particular chip. The GPU, on the other hand topped out at 77C after extensive testing. Not bad, but right in line with the similarly equipped MSI GS66 Stealth that featured more traditional heat-pipe cooling. In addition, the Blade became quite loud under heavy load managing those thermals, forcing my wife to turn the TV up while sitting next to me on the couch. There is an ongoing balance in the world of gaming laptops between heat, noise, and performance. In this case, there’s definitely room to better balance those elements.

Software-21-720x386 Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition Review | IGN

Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition – Software

When it comes to software, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition is delightfully sparse. My unit shipped with a basic Windows installation in addition to Razer’s Synapse management software. This was my first experience with a Blade laptop but I was familiar with Synapse from many peripherals over the years, so getting up and running with it was fast and easy.

Upon opening it for the first time, you load into the Dashboard which shows a picture of the laptop. Clicking it takes you to the Customize screen with an overview of the keyboard. This is a rather counter-intuitive design since this screen doesn’t actually allow you to change the settings of the laptop. Instead, clicking a key opens up the programming options, exactly like a standalone Razer keyboard. You can record macros, create shortcuts to launch programs, map media controls, and more. Thanks to Razer Hypershift, you can even create entire secondary layouts for storing macros or alternate key sets.

Software-11-720x386 Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition Review | IGN

The lighting tab controls your system lighting. The available options allow you to control system-wide rules – such as how long it needs to be idle before disabling lighting to preserve battery or brightness – to individual lighting presets. The illuminated logo can be made to breathe or stay lit at a custom brightness, while the keyboard is much more programmable with animated presets like fire, rainbow waves, spinning color wheels, or entirely custom layouts created in the Chroma Studio. These lighting effects can also be synced with other Razer peripherals to quickly color-match your whole setup.

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When it comes to actual system settings, these are tucked away on the performance tab. Razer has done an arguably too good job simplifying the settings here. Performance modes are limited to Balanced and Custom when plugged in and just Balanced when running on battery. Setting custom specifications doesn’t give the same degree of control found on flagship MSI or Asus gaming laptops and instead gives you a basic performance slider. Custom fan curves or overclocking are out of the question with this version of Synapse.

This tab also allows you to choose the current GPU mode. Like some other RTX 3080-equipped notebooks, the Blade 15 supports Nvidia Optimus and can intelligently swap between the integrated GPU on the processor or the dedicated RTX 3080 to save battery. Enabling Optimus defaults the system to 60 Hz outside of games, however, which is very noticeable even in basic mouse movement. That said, it’s very effective in extending battery life through most of the day.

 

Benchmarks

Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition

Origin EVO15-S

MSI GS66 Stealth

Asus ROG Zephyrus G15

Price as tested

$2,999

$2,997

TBA

$1,799

CPU

Intel Core i7-10875H

Intel Core i7-10870H

Intel Core i7-10870H

AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS

GPU

Nvidia RTX 3080

Nvidia RTX 3080

Nvidia RTX 3080

Nvidia RTX 3070

3DMark Time Spy

9973

10163

9623

9417

3DMark Fire Strike

21765

19318

19725

20947

3DMark Night Raid

48029

44155

40996

35633

Total War: Three Kingdoms

82

80

83

71

Borderlands 3

88

89

89

110

Metro Exodus

63

63

64

57

Hitman 3

134.5

129.4

NA

113.9

Unigine Heaven 4.0

123

135

124

123

PCMark 10

6697

6029

5892

7016

PCMark 10 Battery Test

5:52

1:56

5:44

5:01

Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition – Performance

As a flagship gaming laptop, what really matters most is how it performs in games. I conducted my testing using IGN’s standard array of games and benchmarks. Since thermal solutions can make such a big difference in overall performance, I’ve shared the results alongside other competing laptops with similar specs. All of my tests were conducted at Ultra settings.

Note: We added Hitman 3 to our test rotation after the MSI GS66 had already been returned, so that entry is marked with an NA.

The Razer Blade 15 performed very well across these tests. In synthetics, it led the pack in all but 3DMark Time Spy. Performance in Unigine Heaven did fall slightly behind the Origin EVO15-S but it made up for that with real world performance gains in Hitman 3. In other game tests, the Blade 15 performed right on par with other mobile RTX 3080s we’ve tested.

CDM1 Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition Review | IGN

Since the NVMe SSD in this drive was undisclosed, I also tested its speed using CrystalDiskMark. If offered impressive, if not cutting edge, results. At 2.9 GB/s for both read and write speeds, the Razer Blade 15 will be able to optimize load times and offer good performance in creative apps like Premiere Pro. Still, given the price, I would have liked to have seen Razer include a drive that runs a bit faster. The same is true of the memory, which is clocked to only 2933 MHz versus the 3200 MHz offered by some of the competition. These might seem like small things, but remember, the Blade 15 Advanced Edition is actually more expensive than many models currently available today.

For gaming outside of these tests, the Blade 15 was excellent. Even though I’m not an esports player, the fluidity of motion with the 360 Hz screen was fantastic. There is subtly more clarity in quick turns and the system does feel more responsive, though I wish it came with Nvidia G-Sync as a cherry on top. I also loved how color rich the screen was, which made both gaming and watching shows on Netflix more enjoyable. It was also nice to be able to use and enjoy the built-in speakers. They do sound thin but are perfectly sufficient for gaming and loud enough to hear clearly even when sat back with a controller.

For normal use, it was also exceptionally good. The keyboard was great for getting work done and the touchpad made carrying a separate mouse optional for me. The webcam also worked well and colleagues on the other end reported that I both looked and sounded good. I do wish it was slightly lighter, however, as I could definitely notice it in my bag after a while.

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Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition – Battery Life

The Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition features a large 80 WHr battery. This falls somewhat behind the likes of the ROG Zephyrus or MSI GS66 Stealth that offer 90 and 99 WHr batteries respectively. Still, it optimizes battery usage well. With Optimus enabled and the screen and backlighting at 50% brightness each, it lasted 5 hours and 52 minutes in the PCMark 10 Modern Office Battery Test. This falls short of the average workday; however, by turning lighting off completely and further dimming the screen could likely be extended to the full seven hours of rated uptime.

An interesting feature of this laptop is the braided cable on the charging brick. The brick is large and rated for 230 watts, so is already challenging to carry along with the laptop itself if you need more battery life (and you just might). The braided cable looks very nice on the surface and will certainly help protect the charging cable over time, but is very stiff and difficult to manage. It’s also flat-out bigger, taking up more space in your bag. In the end, I would prefer something slimmer and easier to work with.

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Purchasing Guide

The Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition is available from the Razer Store for $2999. Razer also offers alternate configurations ranging from $1699 to $3299. The line-up can also be purchased from Amazon.
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