Razer Blade 14 Review – Pocket Rocket

For years, consumers have cried out for Razer to make an AMD Ryzen laptop for all its benefits of power efficiency and performance. The Razer gods finally answered and have bestowed up on us the Razer Blade 14 — a tiny powerhouse that puts bigger size laptops to shame. It’s a marvel that Razer has managed to take their classic Blade design which was already pretty damn skinny and make an even tinier chassis stuffed to the gills with insanely powerful hardware. I’m talking Ryzen 9 5900HX, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 and a beautiful 165Hz QHD panel.

The Blade 14 costs $4,999 and while some of you will immediately close this tab and move on, I urge you to read on because this little thing is a marvel of modern engineering. It’s hard to believe that something so small doesn’t choke at running modern games at 4K 60fps comfortably. After two weeks working and playing on this machine, I’ve learned that it’s not all rainbows and unicorns but I am really pleased with what Razer have built. Let’s begin.

Razer Blade 14 Review

The triple headed snake logo is a dead giveaway of the Blade 14’s true nature

The Blade 14 is near identical to it’s bigger siblings sporting the same rigid CNC Aluminum body and that infamous ‘MacBook’ aesthetic. It’s a gorgeous in Anodized Black that gives an air of sophistication and class that’s not yet really matched by other major brands. I’m not the biggest fan of the coating though as it loves smudges that quickly get unsightly. Keep a micro-fiber cloth handy at all times.

The Blade 14 maintains the family’s good looks and tiny waistline at just 16.8mm thick and about 30% smaller than the average 15-inch gaming laptop out there. Point is, it’s small but it’s 1.78Kg weight makes it feel substantial and dense. That might disappoint some who want a featherweight Ultrabook for all day carry.

In spite of its diminutive size, the Blade 14 has all the right ports. On the left side are the power port, a USB Type-C which supports charging and DisplayPort output and a 3.5mm audio combo jack. On the right, you get an HDMI 2.1 for 4K 120Hz video, a USB 3.2 Type-A and another USB Type-C similar to the one on the right. Rest assured, you’re not likely to need an extra dongle with this little beast which is great.

The Blade 14 has all the necessary ports to avoid that dongle life

Opening the lid reveals how Razer had to squish things together on the keyboard deck to keep full-size keys and a relatively big touchpad. Using the board, I never felt any different to using larger laptops which is good. Keys have good travel and typing was good. Razer’s own optical-mechanical keyboard would be much more welcome but this board gets the job done.

Like its siblings, the keyboard has some excellent per key Razer Chroma RGB lighting that is vibrant and colorful. Razer does some of the best lighting on laptop keyboards and if that’s your cuppa tea, you will be happy with the Blade 14. Likewise, I’d have loved to see Razers capacious touchpads from the Blade 15/17 here but there simply isn’t enough space in the chassis. Nevertheless, it’s still one of the best touchpads on any gaming laptop — its smooth, responsive and a pleasure to use.

Looking up at the display, we have a 14-inch QHD display with 165Hz refresh. As an IPS panel, color accuracy is great with everything looking crisp and vibrant. At 100% DCI-P3 coverage, doing professional work is definitely worthwhile. Also, watching content is a delight but its games where the panel shines. Not only do colors pop and sizzle, but that fast refresh rate makes everything look buttery smooth with no tearing or stuttering.

Sitting on either side of the keyboard are speaker grills through which the Blade 14 shoots out THX Spatial Audio at you. I’d love to say it sounds great but honestly it’s just ok. Razer had to reduce the size of the drivers to fit in the smaller chassis and it shows(or sounds??). But we all know you’ll be using headphones anyway, especially when gaming, am I right?

A welcome addition to the Blade 14 is Windows Hello via a built-in IR webcam. It works great and I rarely encountered failure to recognize my face. Once you’ve used biometric sign-in on a laptop, punching in complex passwords or tedious PIN’s becomes a nightmare best forgotten.

Vaporizing the competition

But lets get into the meat of things. Razer calls the Blade 14 the most powerful 14-inch laptop and with good reason. Every model ships with the mighty AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX mobile APU with 8-cores and 16 threads of horsepower that eats through everything from multiple Chrome tabs to 3D rendering with relative ease. Razer combines this processor with a RTX 3080 GPU, albeit limited to 100W TDP.

You can see the benchmarks for yourself but suffice to say, while the Blade 14 is impressive, I hesitate to call it the most powerful. My games did run great but it was clear that the Blade 14 was holding back. Quick comparisons with other RTX 3080 laptops I’ve tested showed the Blade 14 to be noticeably slower — 20-23% slower. I noticed the GPU never ran at full power but maxed out at 90W under load.

This was clearly a decision implemented to keep temperatures in check, which I understand but it’s worth calling out here so you aren’t disappointed. Speaking of which, the Blade 14 keeps cool by using a combo of advanced Liquid Vapor Cooling and powerful fans to keep the laptop from cooking itself inside out. While I did see the rare spike to high 90’s on the CPU, it mostly stayed below 80C under sustained load. Same for the GPU which hovered around 75-77C during intense gaming.

The metal chassis certainly got toasty and I wouldn’t recommend keeping it on your laps while you game. Furthermore, the keyboard deck was uncomfortably warm under my left hand that I use for WASD movement. Still, it’s not bad overall though I did notice some thermal throttling. The CPU showed degrading results in back-to-back runs of Geekbench and though the GPU is rated for 100W, I never monitored it go above 90W.

And those decisions altogether make for a rock solid system which is impressively quiet, I swear if I wasn’t seeing the performance metrics from MSI while gaming, I’d believe the fans weren’t even on. It’s that quiet and is possibly the quietest gaming laptop I’ve used all year. Clearly, Razer had to reign things in to manage overall thermal performance but to be honest, it never hindered my enjoyment in anyway.

However, I will say this. Clearly, Razer had to reign things in a lot to manage overall thermal performance of the Blade 14. 20% performance difference is significant and if you’ve paid $5000 for a laptop, you really want the absolute best performance out of the components. While it never hindered my enjoyment in anyway, some might take issue with that.

Return of the battery woes

The Blade 14 is great for working away from home

And from there, things go from shaky to downright disappointing. I expected great battery when I saw an AMD chip on the spec sheet but I was utterly disappointed when the Blade 14 barely managed 3 hours of light use. Even my PCMark10 battery drain benchmarks yielded similarly poor results and that’s after turning off all Chroma lighting, dropping the display to 50% brightness and setting power mode to Battery Saver.

Razer uses a 61WHr battery which is understandably small considering the size of the chassis but I’m still not sure whether I’m doing something wrong and I suspect most buyers will feel the same confusion. I am a reviewer and I’m supposed to push and prod machines to the limit but the average customer shouldn’t have to tweak BIOS and software settings to get the advertised battery life. Especially when you are paying so much for the thing.

More than ever, I really feel let down as the Blade 14 is actually a laptop I’d want to carry around with me on trips and commutes. Knowing that the battery can’t even get me through half a work day is simply unacceptable for something this expensive. The cheaper Asus Zephyrus G14 will handily outlast the Blade 14 and is much cheaper.

Verdict

The Blade 14 is surprisingly tiny and portable for the amount of power it holds.

The Razer Blade 14 is a mightily impressive little gaming laptop. While I can’t substantiate Razer’s claims that it is THE most powerful 14-incher out there, I’d say it’s definitely one of the best all-round gaming and productivity laptops money can buy. It’s such a great combination of exceptional build quality, size, performance hardware that make it perfect for professionals who love to game away from the office(and even in it, we don’t judge).

But despite it’s tiny size, it will leave a much more sizeable hole in your finances to get one. At almost $5000, this just isn’t a reasonable amount of money to spend on a such a device. What’s worse, Australia only gets the one RTX 3080 model where you’d save hundreds by changing to a 3070 model. I certainly hope Razer considers offering a configuration with a cheaper Ryzen 5 5800HS and say an RTX 3060 for under $3500. That, I’d recommend in a heartbeat.


Razer Australia kindly loaned us the Blade 14 for the purpose of this review.

Razer Blade 14 Review
LIKES
Razer quality design and build
Excellent performance
Beautiful 14" QHD Display
Portability and power combination
DISLIKE
Disappointing battery life
Throttled performance
Very, very expensive
9

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Kizito Katawongahttp://www.medium.com/@katawonga
Kizzy is our Tech Editor. He's a total nerd with design sensibilities who's always on the hunt for the latest, greatest and sexiest tech that enhances our work and play. When he's not testing the latest gadgets or trying to listen to his three whirlwind daughters, Kizzy likes to sink deep into a good story-driven single player game.

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