It wasn't all that long ago that we first got our mitts on the Blade 2.0, and today we came to grips with two new third-gen Razer gaming laptops: the Blade Pro and a fresh 14-inch model. On the outside, both of these Blades favor their elders -- both sport matte black anodized-aluminum shells with Razer's trademark Slimer-green accents and diminutive power bricks. Where they differ from previous Blades is in what lies beneath that familiar facade.
Razer Blade 14-inch and Blade Pro hands-on
Each will come with Intel's fourth-generation Core-i7 quad-core silicon (a 47W chip in the Pro and a 37W CPU in the 14-incher) and a freshly revealed NVIDIA GTX 765M GPU, plus bigger batteries than ever before. If it wasn't already obvious, let us spell it out for you: a big reason for these changes is electrical economy. One of the biggest complaints with any portable gaming rig is its battery life, or more accurately, lack thereof. A more efficient CPU and GPU, plus an extra 10 to 14 Wh of juice means that Razer is acutely aware of the problem and is taking steps to fix it. Razer ran the MobileMark 2007 battery test on the new 14-inch Blade and it lasted six hours. Of course, we'll have to wait until we review these new rigs to discover real-world battery life, but at least on paper, the two new Blades will be a bit more miserly.
In person, the Blade Pro is nigh indistinguishable from its predecessor. The 14-inch version, however, aside from appearing like a shrunken version of the bigger Blade when closed, actually has a few distinct differences. First off, the power button's much smaller than the Pro's, though it is still centered above the keyboard. Next, the 14-incher borrows its speaker design from the MacBook Pro, as its noisemakers are situated on either side of the keyboard instead of being centered beneath the screen. It also lacks an Ethernet port, though it has a trio of USB 3.0 ports and a single HDMI 1.4 socket like the Pro.
It turns out, Razer was able to shrink down the Blade to 14 inches and make it a scant 0.66 inches thick because it designed it twice. That's right folks, the original plan was to out the smaller Blade with the second generation version, but CEO Min-Liang Tan wasn't happy with how thick that first 14-incher wound up. So, the design team at Razer scrapped it and started over -- leveraging the lessons learned from the first go-round to make the necessary improvements.
In our brief time using it, we found that it's a stoutly built machine. There is a teeny bit of flex if you press on the lid, but the keyboard deck is as solid as can be. Furthermore, we found the trackpad to be hyper accurate both with single-finger movements and taps -- among the best we've ever used on a Windows machine. That's not some accidental happenstance, either. Razer put a custom microcontroller and firmware in the Blade to intercept every signal coming from the Synaptics pad and ensure that it's good enough to game on. The buttons just beneath that pad, however, were a bit squishy and less precise than we would have liked them to be.
Because of the identical form factor to the Blade 2.0, there's not much new to talk about with respect to the Blade Pro's hardware. However, Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan did reveal that a few new productivity apps are coming to its Switchblade UI. That's right folks, Adobe Premiere and Photoshop, GIMP, Autodesk Maya and a viewer for the Unreal Engine UDK will all be getting apps built for the Switchblade UI -- and you can get a glimpse of how they work in the video above.