The Razer Blade Stealth is the best 13 inch gaming ultrabook currently available, I’ll show you why in this review. I’ve got the top end spec here with quad core ice lake CPU, 16gb of memory in dual channel, and most interestingly the latest 2020 version offers a 120Hz 13” screen and Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q graphics.
In terms of design, the Blade Stealth 13 is no different from razer’s larger offerings, it’s made of a solid aluminium unibody with a clean matte finish. The build quality feels amazing for a machine this size, though the front edges could feel a little sharp if you rub up against them, no problems during normal use though. I weighed the Blade Stealth at 1.4kg or 3.1lb, then with the 100 watt power brick and cables for charging we’re looking at under 2kg or 4.36lb all up, so quite portable. This thing is small, just over 1.5cm or 0.6 inches thick, and the smaller footprint results in 5mm thin screen bezels on the sides. The 4K model weighs a little more, as it has a glass touch screen.
This is the first 13 inch screen I’ve seen with a refresh rate above 60Hz, I’m guessing there just isn’t that much good panel selection due to the limited number of 13 inch gaming laptops out there. This probably explains the 29ms average grey-to-grey response time, with many transitions between 30 and 40ms, so not great. When we look at how this compares against other laptop panels, well, it’s one of the slowest I’ve tested so far.
I was able to notice some ghosting or blurriness while gaming and I don’t think I’m that sensitive to it, so it’s definitely something to consider.
I’ve tested the screen with the Spyder 5, and got 96% of sRGB, 67% of NTSC, 72% of AdobeRGB and 72% of DCI-P3. It was just under 400 nits at full brightness, so it’s able to get fairly bright, and the 1060:1 contrast ratio was good too, so it does look nice, response time aside. I didn’t have any backlight bleed, it was looking super clean in this worst case scenario, but this will vary between laptops and panels.
There’s a 720p camera above the display in the middle, and it’s got IR for Windows Hello support which worked well.
The keyboard has a single zone of RGB backlighting, so effects are limited through the software, but there are about 16 different levels of brightness available, and all keys and secondary key functions are illuminated. Typing was alright, though the keys didn’t feel like they had much travel, not too surprising from a thinner machine though. I was just happy that my wrists comfortably fit onto the machine rather than the edges, as that was the case with the 13” HP Envy x360 I recently tested.
Although the power button is part of the keyboard, an accidental press doesn’t put it to sleep, you have to hold it for a little to trigger that, there’s not really much other space to put it elsewhere. The glass precision touchpad was quite large for a 13 inch machine, it’s making good use of the available space. It feels extremely smooth to the touch and is satisfying to click.
There are front facing speakers on either side of the keyboard, they weren’t amazing but definitely above average for the size of the machine, there was a little bass and they got more than loud enough, and the latencymon results were looking alright.
Unsurprisingly, the matte black finish is a huge fingerprint magnet, even light touches show up easily, though it’s not too hard to clean with a microfiber cloth. There was some flex to the lid, but it felt quite rigid due to the metal build, it’s a similar deal when pushing down hard on the keyboard, either way no problems at all there during regular use. Despite the smaller design, it was easy to open up with one finger and it just feels satisfying to close, the lid doesn’t slam down like others.
On the left there’s a USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port, USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A port, and 3.5mm audio combo jack.The right has a second USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A and and a second Type-C port, this one supports Thunderbolt 3 with 4 PCIe lanes, so you could use it with an eGPU to increase performance. Both of the Type-C ports can be used to charge the machine, and both also support Display out, though both are wired to the Intel integrated graphics.
There appears to be nothing on the back, air is exhausted underneath, and that long rear rubber foot should help prevent the hot air coming straight back in. The front just has a status LED on the right, and an indentation in the middle for getting your finger in to open the lid. The razer logo on the center of the lid has a glossy black finish, it can be hard to see depending on the angle of the light, you might even say stealthy.
Underneath is also pretty clean, just some air intake vents towards the back directly above the fans, and those exhausts at the back. Getting inside was very easy, just take out 10 TR5 screws and the panel comes right off. Inside the internals look the same as last gen, with the battery down the front and single M.2 storage slot and WiFi 6 card above it on the right hand side, as is typically the case with smaller machines like this, the memory is soldered to the board and is not user upgradeable, but 16 gigs in dual channel should be decent for gaming.
The Blade Stealth is powered by a 53Wh battery, same as last gen. I’ve tested it with keyboard lighting off, background apps disabled, and screen at 50% brightness. It lasted longer than the older Stealth in gaming, but didn’t last as long in the YouTube playback test, which I suspect is due to the higher refresh rate screen, we could save some battery if we manually set it to 60Hz.
Let’s check out thermals next. The Razer Synapse software has different performance modes, I’ve focussed my testing on balanced and gaming, and both of these also let you leave the fan on auto, or you can manually adjust it. None of these modes applied any overclocks to the GPU, though CPU undervolting did not appear to be locked, but I had to use Throttlestop as XTU wasn’t supported.
I’ve tested with a 21 degree Celsius ambient room temperature. Idle results down the bottom were fine. Above that are the worst case stress tests, which were done by running Aida64 with only Stress CPU checked and with the Heaven GPU benchmark running at the same time, while gaming was tested with Watch Dogs 2 as I find it to use a good combination of CPU and GPU. You’ll notice that temperatures aren’t getting too hot at all, I wasn’t even seeing above 80 degrees Celsius in these long term tests. The specs aren’t exactly high powered, but hey it’s still good to see, and the cooling pad was able to give a nice drop to temps.
These are the clock speeds from the same tests just shown. Going from balanced mode to gaming mode improves CPU clock speeds a fair bit, then undervolting gives the next boost. Interestingly the cooling pad further helped raise speeds here, and this was despite thermal throttling not being reported by software, so not sure what the deal is there, Razer might actually be setting a lower thermal cap.
These are the power limits reported, the 1650 Ti Max-Q was able to run at its 35 watt limit without issue regardless of the modes being used and the workloads being run. The CPU power limit seems to be capped to 15 watts in balanced mode, then it raises up to 25 watts in gaming mode, though we only see it increase as we improve cooling, so more evidence that perhaps there was a low thermal cap in place.
We can see these same limits when looking at a CPU only workload with the GPU now idle. It’s worth noting that this is a nice improvement over the last gen Blade Stealth, by default the 2019 model with same CPU capped the CPU power limit to 15 watts, it was only possible to boost to 25 watts by disabling the Nvidia GPU in device manager, but now the 2020 model can boost to 25 watts in gaming mode without doing this.
This test results in a 2.5GHz speed over all 4 cores at stock, then the small undervolt almost boosts it by 200MHz. I tried a -0.1v value, but it crashed.
Again the temperatures aren’t bad at all, setting max fan speed dropped 4 degrees.
Here’s what we’re looking at in a CPU only test, Cinebench R20.
Now the last gen blade stealth is a little ahead, but that’s because I was able to undervolt it a little better, it’s luck of the draw. I also had its Nvidia graphics disabled to hit that score, otherwise it would do much worse due to the lower power limit, as just discussed.
The keyboard was in the mid 30s when idling, the metal wrist rest felt warmer than most other plastic machines as it better conducts heat. With the stress test going it’s just a little warm in the middle with balanced mode stepping up to gaming mode with the fan still on auto mode is a little warmer, makes sense as this boosts the CPU power limit. With the fan at full speed it’s similar, perhaps just a touch cooler.
It sounded silent to me at idle. It was still on the quieter side with the stress tests running, and gaming mode only rose by a couple of decibels over the default balanced mode. Full fan speed was then a further 3 decibels higher, still though, far quieter when compared to most 15 inch gaming laptops out there as those more powerful specs presumably need more cooling.
Now let’s check out how the 2020 blade stealth actually performs in games and compares against other laptops.
In Battlefield 5 I’ve got the Blade highlighted in red.For some reason the performance was down when compared to the last gen of Stealth 13 I previously tested, I’m really not sure why as I test in the same part of the game. I took an average of 5 test runs here, a couple of them were similar to the old blade, but yeah most were lower and this is the average result.
These are the results from Far Cry 5 with ultra settings in the built in benchmark. This time the newer blade 13 is at least ahead of its predecessor, though not by a large margin, I’d call the performance fairly equivalent all things considered. If you recall earlier, I noted that the new blade stealth runs with a higher CPU power limit over that older model, this is more of a CPU heavy test so it may explain why the new one is ahead, but I would have expected it to win in battlefield 5 too.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider was also tested with the games benchmark tool with the highest setting preset. The newer Blade Stealth was 1 FPS behind the last gen one, again not really sure why as we’d expect the 1650 Ti to do better than the 1650, but that’s not the case in these tests.
I’ve also tested the Blade Stealth in 15 games at all setting levels at both 720p and 1080p resolutions.
These are the scores from 3DMark FireStrike and TimeSpy, let me know if you still find these useful, I can stop doing them if no one cares. I’ve used Adobe Premiere to export one of my laptop review videos at 4K and the blade stealth was one of the slower results as expected, though it was still beating three larger machines with higher wattage GPUs. I’ve also tested Premiere but with the Puget systems benchmark which also accounts for things like live playback rather than just export times. The blade stealth received the second lowest score out of all machines tested.
In Adobe Photoshop the blade stealth was the lowest now, probably as this is a CPU heavy test, and when paired with that 35w GPU it’s just not doing as good as others, though the Surface Book 3 does have the same processor.
It was tied for last place with the Alpha 15 in DaVinci resolve this is more of a GPU heavy test, so it was interesting that the higher wattage 5500M was scoring the same.
I’ve used Crystal Disk Mark to test the 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD, and the results were excellent.
As for updated prices, in the US Razer are selling this configuration for $1700 USD on sale, though there’s currently a better sale for $1500 USD at Amazon, so look around. Interestingly this puts it cheaper than the 60Hz model, I haven’t tested that panel but it would be interesting if the response time is better Meanwhile here in Australia we’re looking at $3750 AUD, so yeah a huge price premium for a lower specced machine.
High end specs in a smaller footprint always costs more money, that’s just the way it works, and Razer are cramming some impressive specs into this 13 inch machine, so a higher price is going to be expected. I would absolutely love to use this machine when travelling, but as I only did that once a month back when we were allowed, it made more sense for me to buy something cheaper. You could easily pay less money and get a slightly larger laptop that will easily outperform it, even Razer’s own base model blade with 6 core i7 and 1660 Ti is in a similar price bracket and it will run way better in games.
Based on these factors, I think the key thing to consider is how much you value portability. If you are willing to prioritize a smaller and thinner machine for on the go use but still need some level of reasonable GPU power for gaming or other tasks, then this is one of your only options at the moment. You’ve also got the option of attaching an external GPU when docked at home for extra performance.
In terms of actual game performance, you’ll either need to run at 1080p low settings in most games, or 720p will let you boost the settings a bit and still get higher frame rates, and honestly I didn’t think 720p looked too bad at this smaller 13 inch size. The 120Hz screen sounds nice on paper, but due to the low response time ghosting is an issue that even I noticed, and I don’t think I’m particularly that sensitive to it. Unfortunately I’m not sure how the 60Hz option compares, as I haven’t had one to test since buying the response time measuring tools.
Pretty much everything else about the Blade Stealth 13 screams premium, it’s easily the best 13 inch laptop I’ve ever tested all things considered, but it is also probably the most expensive too, so you’ll have to decide how much you value that portability. It’s also worth considering that Razer are likely to refresh this thing with the new Intel 11th gen processors, it’s yet to be seen how much of an improvement that will offer.
Let me know what you thought about the Razer Blade Stealth 13 gaming laptop down in the comments.