The Razer Blade 15 Advanced model is a premium gaming laptop, but there are some important things you need to know before you consider it, let’s discuss.
The Blade 15 is available in either the base model, or the advanced model which has higher specs. The specs in my unit are at the higher end of what’s available.Like many others from Razer, the Blade 15 advanced is a solid aluminium unibody design with a clean matte black finish. The build quality feels excellent, though the edges along the front could feel a little sharp depending on the angle I rub up against them.
Razer lists the weight as 4.7 to 4.9 pounds, or 2.14 to 2.2kg, and mine was on the lower side of that range, I suspect the optional glass OLED panel weighs more. It’s definitely on the thinner side for a 15 inch gaming laptop with these specs inside, the overall footprint is quite portable, and this results in 7mm thin screen bezels on the sides. Mine has a 15.6” 1080p 300Hz display, but it’s also available with a 4K OLED option. Unfortunately there’s no G-Sync, however we do have the option of disabling Optimus after a reboot for increased gaming performance, but there’s no advanced optimus here.
I measured the screens average grey-to-grey response time at 3.8ms. This is a great result when we compare it against other gaming laptops, just a little behind the ideal 3.33ms needed for a 300Hz panel. I’ve tested the screen with the Spyder 5, and got 98% of sRGB, 70% of NTSC, 76% of AdobeRGB and 76% of DCI-P3. At 100% brightness I measured the panel at 278 nits in the center and with a 740:1 contrast ratio, so decent colour gamut but not quite as bright as I’d like. Backlight bleed was minor in this worst case, I wasn’t able to notice the glow spots when viewing darker content, but this will vary between laptops and panels.
There was some flex to the screen, but it was on the lower side owing to the metal lid. There was also some flex to the keyboard when pushing down hard, but no issues at all during normal use, overall it felt fairly solid due to the metal unibody design.
There’s a 720p camera above the display in the middle, and it’s got IR for Windows Hello support which I found to work well. The keyboard has per key RGB backlighting which illuminates all keys and secondary key functions. Effects and customizations can be made through the included Razer Synapse software. It seems to have about 16 levels of key brightness, and this can be controlled by holding function and pressing the F10 and F11 keys. Typing took me a little getting used to, and I’m not really sure why, but it felt fine after a bit of use, the only thing I didn’t like was the small up and down arrow keys.
There are front facing speakers on either side of the keyboard, and although they look impressive compared to others I didn’t think they were that amazing, perhaps a little above average with some bass. They sounded quite loud at max volume despite measurements not really reflecting this, which I suppose is simply due to their placement, and the latencymon results were looking alright.
The power button is found towards the top of the right speaker, which I preferred compared to others that have it as part of the keyboard, so far less chance of mispressing it. The glass precision touchpad clicks down anywhere and is one of the best I’ve used. It’s quite large and makes use of the available space well, and it just feels extremely smooth and nice to press. The black matte finish makes the Blade quite the fingerprint magnet, even light touches show up easily. It’s not too hard to clean as a smooth surface, but occasionally I had to give it some extra elbow grease.
On the left from the back there’s the power input, two USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A ports, USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port and 3.5mm audio combo jack. Hardware Canucks noted in their review that the power cable can cover the USB slot, but like if that’s an issue just don’t plug it in that way. I liked the right angled design as it gets the cable running straight out the back and out of my way. On the right from the front there’s a full size UHS-III SD card slot, I’m glad to see that here, a Thunderbolt 3 Type-C port, third USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A port, HDMI 2.0b output and Kensington lock. The blade can also be charged with either Type-C port, and both also offer DisplayPort support. Both Type-C ports along with HDMI connect directly to the Nvidia GPU, bypassing the Intel iGPU, no surprise there as we can disable optimus.
The back appears clean, until we look underneath, we can see the air exhaust vents are hidden back here, meanwhile the front is clean with just a status LED on the right and a gap to get your finger in to open the lid.The razer logo on the lid lights up green, it’s separate to the screen's backlight so it stays on when the lid is closed, and I didn’t see a way of modifying it through software. Underneath is also pretty clean, just some air intake vents towards the back directly above the fans and rubber feet down the front and bottom which did a fair job of preventing sliding around when in use. Getting inside was easy enough after removing 10 screws with a TR5 bit, and the 4 down the front are shorter than the others. Inside we’ve got the battery along the front, a single M.2 storage slot above it on the left, two memory slots in the middle, WiFi 6 card towards the right, and the vapor chamber cooler up the back.
Unlike some others with this same CPU like the Lenovo 7i, Razer is running the memory at DDR4-2933 rather than 3200 speed, and I wasn’t able to change this in the BIOS. The advanced model of blade 15 is powered by a 80Wh battery, and I’ve tested it with the keyboard lighting off, background apps disabled and screen at 50% brightness. The results seem reasonable for a laptop of this spec, lasting for just over 7 hours in my YouTube playback test. I’ve also tested it but with Optimus disabled, and it was now lasting for about half as long 3 and a half hours in the same test as the Nvidia graphics uses more battery. Let’s check out thermals next.
I’ve got a whole review covering this topic in depth, I’ll just summarise the important parts here.
The Razer Synapse software has a default mode called balanced, but you can also select custom which lets you modify the CPU and GPU performance independently of each other. The CPU can be toggled between four levels, low, medium, high and boost, while the GPU has three modes, low, medium, and high. It doesn’t seem that we get fan control in custom mode, though we can change it a little in the default balanced mode if we set it to manual. None of these modes applied any overclocks to the GPU, however the Blade does make use of Nvidia’s new Max-Q dynamic boost, but that said I never saw it boost above 90 watts with a GPU only load running.
I haven’t tested undervolting, as I’m using the latest 1.04 BIOS at the time of testing which has apparently disabled this. I didn’t test the older BIOS, but could at least confirm that it’s disabled in the current verison with no option in the BIOS to enable it.
The idle temperatures were ok with a 21 degree Celsius room, stress tests were done with Heaven and Aida64, while gaming was done with Watch Dogs 2. Temperatures increase in the higher performance modes, and there was some thermal throttling with the CPU Boost mode in use. We can see how the power limits are modified with these different modes here, so never above 90 watts on the 2080 Super Max-Q which was hit with the GPU set to high, and around mid 50s for the CPU best case. These are the clock speeds seen from these same tests, pretty similar to the Lenovo 7i with the same processor best case not counting its undervolted results.
CPU only performance was where I noticed an issue. With a CPU only stress test running and the GPU now idle, we’re seeing 55 watts being hit in the best case boost mode, pretty similar to what was possible with the GPU active in the results we just looked at. This does mean that it’s not getting hot when we’re smashing the processor though, but this comes at the expense of less performance, we’re only just hitting 3.2GHz over all 8 cores in this test which is honestly quite weak.
This becomes clear when we look at how the Blade compares against other laptops. Keep in mind that this is an 8 core laptop, but the multicore result is more in line with what we’re seeing from 6 core options. The single core result is at least better than those 6 core options, but when compared to most of the other 8 core laptops above it’s still not anything special.
Most other laptops will boost the processor higher when the GPU isn’t using power and creating heat, but that’s not the case here. The keyboard area never felt hot, though the wrist rest was warmer than many other laptops when under load, which is likely due to the metal unibody design which conducts the heat. It did feel quite hot right up the back under the screen, but you don’t need to touch there so it shouldn’t be an issue. It was just audible when idling, but even worst case it’s not as loud when compared to many other laptops that I’ve tested.
Now let’s check out how well this higher end configuration performs in games and compare it with some other laptops.
In Battlefield 5 I’ve got the Blade highlighted in red. The average frame rate was quite decent when compared against others, it’s the highest result I’ve got from a 90 watt GPU so far, and this is likely due to the option of being able to disable optimus.
These are the results from Far Cry 5 with ultra settings in the built in benchmark. This time the Acer Triton 500 with last gen CPU and GPU was a little ahead, though this test is more processor intensive and the last gen Triton 500 has a CPU undervolt applied by default out of the box, and I suspect this is what’s giving it the edge. Shadow of the Tomb Raider was also tested with the games benchmark tool with the highest setting preset. This time the lower wattage 2080 Super Max-Q in the GS66 was 1 FPS ahead, though it does have a higher tier i9 processor with higher power limit, either way not too different all things considered.
I’ve tested the blade 15 advanced in 20 games at all setting levels, you can check it out if you want to see results in more games.
Now for the benchmarking tools. I’ve used Adobe Premiere to export one of my laptop review videos at 4K, and the blade 15 wasn’t doing as well as expected, my older Y540 with 6 core i7 and 1660 Ti is doing better here. I’ve also tested Premiere but with the Puget systems benchmark which also accounts for things like live playback rather than just export times. Again the blade wasn’t as good when compared to others with higher specs, the exception being the MSI Creator 17 which has a lower result too. In Adobe Photoshop the blade is now scoring quite poorly, and this is because this is a processor intensive test. As discussed earlier, processor performance is lower compared to alternatives, and that’s being reflected here. In a workload that’s more GPU heavy like DaVinci resolve though, the blade is scoring much better and is closer to the top of the graph as the processor seems to matter less here comparatively. I’ve also tested SPECviewperf which tests out various professional 3D workloads. I’ve used the OpenVR benchmark to test the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite, and the Blade was doing alright, near many other 2080 and 2080 Super machines, a little ahead of MSI’s GS66, likely as that one has a lower 80 watt power limit, regardless no issues running VR on this hardware.
I’ve used Crystal Disk Mark to test the 1TB NVMe M.2 SSD, and the results were decent, not super amazing for the writes though but pretty good. The SD card slot is basically maxing out my V90 card, which is great to see, and the card clicks in and sits most of the way into the machine.
In the US the configuration I’ve tested here goes for $2800 USD, but there are also much cheaper options depending on the specs you’re after. Meanwhile here in Australia we’re looking at around $6000 AUD for the top end spec, so quite an expensive option. With all of that in mind let’s conclude by summarising the good and bad aspects of the Razer Blade 15 advanced model to help you decide if it’s worthwhile.
Razer still has one of the most premium looking and feeling gaming laptops on the market, the all metal body and clean matte black finish is iconic for them at this point. The gaming performance is quite impressive when you consider that it’s just 0.7” thick, and the fans don’t get as loud as many alternative options, but this combination comes along with some compromises. The first is that there’s just one M.2 slot available inside for storage, making the upgrade process more challenging compared to just installing another SSD.
The next is the performance, despite having Nvidia’s Max-Q dynamic boost I wasn’t seeing much boosting. Performance in processor intensive workloads was also lower compared to most others, as Razer is limiting CPU performance to the same levels regardless of whether or not the GPU is active, despite there being thermal headroom available. Technically they could change this in a future BIOS update, and I hope they do as it would greatly improve performance in many tasks such as rendering and editing, though given undervolting was removed in a recent BIOS update perhaps it’s wishful thinking to hope for changes that improve performance.
The screen was decent in terms of response time and colour gamut, though a little lower in terms of brightness and contrast, but there is the OLED option for creators. It’s good that we’ve got the option of disabling optimus to boost performance, but next time I hope we see advanced optimus added so we can avoid rebooting, and G-Sync would have been a nice bonus at this price.
The camera was pretty bad, granted that’s kind of par for the course with most gaming laptops. The touchpad was excellent, keyboard good, and speakers alright. The blade 15 isn’t the most powerful, but was nice to use as a laptop during my testing, and as mentioned I think there’s some room for future improvements. If you work on processor heavy tasks you’ll want to consider looking elsewhere, but as far as gaming goes, if you can get by without G-Sync it does run games well.
Let me know what you thought about Razer’s Blade 15 Advanced gaming laptop down in the comments.