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Razer Blade 16 review: A miraculous display in a laptop you can probably skip

Flipping between a 4K and 1080p native screen is a trip, but it’s not practical.

Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The Razer Blade 16 is one of the most unique laptops we’ve ever seen – I just wish I could recommend it as easily as the Blade 15. It can handle 4K gaming just as well as high-speed 1080p gameplay, thanks to a dual-mode screen. And it’s one of the fastest notebooks around, featuring Intel’s latest CPUs and NVIDIA’s newest GPUs. And notably, it can be configured with an RTX 4090.

But all of that comes at a cost. It’s noticeably heavier than the Blade 15, and you’ll have to pay at least $3,300 to own one with the dual-mode display. It’s like Razer put another Razer tax on top of its already high prices.

Razer

The Blade 16's dual-mode screen is remarkable, but the Blade 15 is far more practical for most.

Pros
  • Groundbreaking dual-mode 4K/1080 display
  • Tons of power
  • All the ports you need
  • Bright MiniLED backlight
  • Excellent keyboard and trackpad
Cons
  • Expensive if you want the dual-mode screen
  • Noticeably bulkier than the Blade 15
$2,600 at Adorama
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$2,600 at Amazon

For some, though, the cost will be worth it. The Blade 16’s MiniLED display can natively handle 4K+ 120Hz (meaning it can show up to 120fps gameplay), and 1080p+ 240Hz. You could always configure a 4K panel to scale down to 1080p or lower resolutions, but that usually leads to a muddy mess, and 4K screens are typically limited to 120Hz at best. What’s special about the Blade 16 is that it delivers those resolutions as sharply as standalone monitors.

According to Razer, the Blade 16’s dual-mode MiniLED technology was developed together with the display maker AUO. The screen is natively a 4K+ 240Hz panel that can sync pixels together to accurately scale down to 1080p, something that looks far better than typical downscaling. Razer says there’s no mobile GPU or data pipeline that can effectively deliver 4K at 240Hz, so that refresh rate is only possible in 1080p. (It’s still rare to find 4K 240Hz on desktop monitors, and even a 4090 would have trouble hitting 240fps at that resolution.)

Previously, you'd have to choose between a 4K screen with a much lower refresh rate, or a faster 1080p or 1,440p display. The Blade 16 lets you have your gaming cake and eat it too. The only downside is that switching between those two modes requires a complete reboot. Given how miraculous technology seems, though, I don't think that's a huge problem. If you care more about resolution, stick with the 4K 120Hz mode until you need to dive into some fast-paced competitive gaming.

Maybe instead of thinking of the Blade 16 as a slight upgrade from the 15-inch model, it's better to think of it as a shrunken down Blade 17. That's another massive and expensive computer, but potential buyers are likely aware of its downsides. More importantly, the Blade 17 was the fastest Razer laptop for years — now that title belongs to the Blade 16 and the new Blade 18.

Razer Blade 16 dual mode monitor option
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Both of these laptops feature Intel's 13th-gen mobile CPUs, as well as NVIDIA's more powerful RTX 4080 and 4090 GPUs. This is the first time we've seen NVIDIA's 90-series hardware on any notebook, so that alone is sure to be a hook for power hungry gamers. Strangely, though, Razer's dual-mode display is only available on the Blade 16 — the tech likely isn't there yet to make it happen on the bigger computer.

In practice, the Blade 16 excelled at both 4K and 1080p gaming. Cyberpunk 2077 and Halo Infinite looked absolutely crisp in 4K with their graphics and ray tracing settings maxed out. Both games also looked far brighter than I've ever seen on a laptop thanks to the MiniLED panel. That's particularly useful for bright HDR highlights, something most notebooks and monitors handle poorly.

None

PCMark 10

3DMark (TimeSpy Extreme)

Geekbench 5

Cinebench R23

Razer Blade 16 (Intel i9-13950HX, NVIDIA RTX 4090)

7,364

8,667

1,943/18,227

2,024/15,620

Razer Blade 18 (Intel i9-13950HX, NVIDIA RTX 4060)

7,326

5,009

1,980/13,658

1,900/15,442

Razer Blade 15 (2022, Intel i7-12800H, NVIDIA RTX 3080 Ti)

7,085

4,798

1,795/9,529

1,661/10,464

ASUS Zephyrus G14 (2022, AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS, Radeon RX 6800S)

7,170

3,821

1,543/9,839

1,521/12,212

Given the sheer power of the RTX 4090 in our review unit, the Blade 16 was also able to play games in 4K well beyond 60fps. Depending on your graphics settings, you may even be able to reach 120fps to fully max out its screen. Halo Infinite hit a very playable 80fps with ultra graphics settings, while Cyberpunk 2077 hit 70fps with Ultra ray tracing settings thanks to DLSS 3.

Not surprisingly, the Blade 16 had no issue getting above 200fps in Halo Infinite and Overwatch 2 when I flipped over to 1080p mode. Personally, I've never really seen the point of gaming screens beyond 120Hz — I just can’t really perceive much of a difference by bumping up to 144 or 240Hz. But after switching between the Blade 16's various modes, I noticed that I played better as I approached 200fps — I hit headshots more regularly, and I was faster to react whenever enemies popped up. Maybe it was just luck, or me feeling more comfortable over time — or maybe those extra frames actually helped.

As much as I enjoyed the Blade 16's gorgeous display and incredible performance, I didn't love lugging it around my house or hauling it in a bookbag. It weighs 5.4 pounds, a full pound heavier than the Blade 15. Now that might not seem like much, but it makes a huge difference for portability. Living with the Blade 15 was no different than most other 15-inch notebooks, but the Blade 16 feels noticeably bulkier.

Razer Blade 16 overhead view of the keyboard

But again, maybe I should be judging it against the Blade 17 instead, which weighed a little over 6 pounds. When compared to that, the Blade 16 seems like a remarkable engineering feat. That's not the way most people think of 16-inch notebooks though: The MacBook Pro 16 replaced the 15-inch model, and many other laptop makers are following suit with their larger notebooks.

On the non-gaming front, the Blade 16 also excelled at everything I threw at it. Scrolling through websites and documents was a dream, thanks to that high refresh rate screen. And while it doesn’t include a mechanical keyboard like Alienware and other competitors, the Blade 16’s typing experience was solid. The trackpad is also far larger than the Blade 15’s, but it’s just as smooth and responsive. And you can actually expect to do a decent amount of work before recharging: In PCMark 10’s battery benchmark, it lasted 5 hours and 15 minutes, two hours more than the Blade 18. It also has every port you’d want: three USB 3.0 Type A connections (two on the left side, one on the right), HDMI, two USB-C ports (one of which supports Thunderbolt 4) and a microSD card slot.

Razer Blade 16 USB ports and SD card slot
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

As I spent time with the Blade 16, I couldn’t help but ask myself: Is it really worth spending more for a dual-mode screen, when fast 1,440p laptops are becoming increasingly affordable? Personally, I think that resolution sits at a sweet spot between delivering more pixels than 1080p, but also achieving faster refresh rates than any 4K panel. For most people, a 1,440p laptop (like the Zephyrus G14) simply makes more sense – especially when you can find them for $1,000 (or more) less than the Blade 16.

Given its added heft, as well as its higher $2,700 starting price (with an RTX 4060), I can't recommend the Blade 16 to most buyers – not when the Blade 15 is still around and starts at $2,000 with a 3070 Ti. If you want the 4060, be prepared to shell out another $500. And if you’re mainly intrigued by the dual-mode display on the Blade 16, that costs $3,300 with an RTX 4070. Honestly, that’s a ridiculously high price for a laptop with that GPU. Our review unit cost a whopping $4,300 with the Core i9-13950HX, RTX 4090, 32GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD.

But, just like much of Apple’s hardware, the Razer tax may be something we have to pay for innovation. The Blade 16’s dual-mode screen is one of the most remarkable things I’ve seen in a gaming laptop lately – but for most shoppers, the Blade 15 will be far more practical.