The Razer Blade Stealth quickly became one of our favorite all-time Ultrabooks, and it’s only getting better with age. In the middle of 2017, the formally 12.5-inch laptop moved up to a larger, 13.3-inch display, putting it on an equal footing with other notebooks in its category. Recently, Razer upgraded its Ultrabook with Intel’s latest, 8th-generation Kaby Lake Refresh processors.
Thanks to these improvements, the Razer Blade Stealth has never looked better, with slimmer screen bezels and the best performance numbers it has ever produced. While it offers slightly shorter battery life than its predecessors, this 13-inch laptop is well worthy of consideration alongside the MacBook Pro and Dell XPS 13.
Price and availability
Starting at $1,449 (about £1,454, AU$2,329), the Razer Blade Stealth is more expensive than it has been in years past, but that’s partially thanks to its elevated specs. At the bare minimum, each of these Ultrabooks comes rocking a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor with integrated Intel UHD graphics, QHD+ (3200 x 1800) resolution display, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.
And the Razer Blade still looks like a bargain compared to an equally well-equipped Dell XPS 13 and 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, which retail for $1,749 (£1,749, AU$2,699) and $2,299 (£2,199, AU$3,499), respectively. Outside of the US, the Dell XPS 13 only comes with 8GB of memory when going with the Intel Core i7/256GB SKU priced at £1,349 or AU$2,499.
If you elect to double your storage capacity, an option our review unit offers, the Blade Stealth further hones its more affordable edge over its competitors. The configuration you see above rings up for $1,599 (£1,609, AU$2,559), whereas Dell charges $1,899 (£1,449, AU$2,999) for its competing Ultrabook when specced accordingly. Apple is by far the most expensive option, with the Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro priced at an eye-watering $2,499 (£2,399, AU$3,799).
Despite the bump up in screen size, this 13.3-inch Razer Blade is no larger than its 12.5-inch predecessor. It maintains most of its original dimensions, measuring 12.6 x 8.1 x 0.54 inches (32.1 x 20.6 x 1.38cm). That makes it 0.02-inches (0.7cm) thicker than last-generation models, but it’s still thin enough to give the 0.59-inch (1.49) thick MacBook Pro a run for its money while still offering full-sized USB 3.0 ports to boot.
Unfortunately, the latest Kaby Lake Refresh update also bumps up the weight to 2.98 pounds (1.35kg), making it the heaviest version of the Stealth that Razer has ever released. Comparatively, the Kaby Lake-powered, 13-inch refresh tips the scales at 2.93 pounds (1.33kg), and the 12.5-inch Razer Blade Stealth weighs in at 2.84 pounds (1.29kg).
These fractions of a pound/kilogram increases are likely due to additional cooling needed for the Stealth’s new quad-core processors. While it isn’t dramatically heavier, this Ultrabook is getting dangerously close to weighing more than three pounds.
Aside from the screen bezels, the biggest aesthetic change Razer has introduced is the new gunmetal version of its Ultrabook. Synonymous with its name, the Stealth has always been the company’s most understated laptop, and the new color adds to that quality.
Gone are the RGB keyboard and light-up lid logo. Instead, the gunmetal version features a simpler white backlight on the keys. Meanwhile, the ‘tone-on-tone’ printed triskelion symbol is actually hard to miss unless you’re turning the laptop from side to side, like one of those old holographic prints.
The result is a professional-looking Razer Ultrabook design. However, its off-gray paint job still sets itself apart from the pack of black rectangles in the room. Of course, if you’d rather have all the RGB lighting and the jet-black look, the regular version of the Stealth is still available.
Bigger and brighter than ever
It’s remarkable that Razer has squeezed in a bigger display without making the laptop any larger. It did this by simply reducing the size of the bezels on all sides by 50%. Whereas the black bars around the display once measured nearly an inch wide, they now look barely larger than a single centimeter.
On top of the added screen real estate, the Razer Blade Stealth features a sharper 3200 x 1800-resolution panel that’s sits above the previous, default 2560 x 1440 display. Unfortunately, there’s no option of getting a 4K display on this Ultrabook other than going with the older, 12.5-inch model.
To our eye, the QHD+ screen on the latest Razer Blade Stealth resolves plenty of detail as is, and we don’t really miss having an Ultra-HD resolution on a screen this small. That said, if you absolutely must have 4K on an Ultrabook, there are the Lenovo Yoga 920 and HP Spectre x360.
According to Razer, the new display also boasts 100% sRGB color coverage and up to 400 nits of brightness. We can confirm that the screen is much brighter now, outshining even rays of sunlight streaking through our office windows. Razer’s IGZO displays have never lacked in color rendition, and the added color depth helps the screen resolve more distinct shades of hues.
Originally reviewed in December 2017
Quad-core Kaby Lake Refresh processors have helped the Razer Blade Stealth make a huge leap in performance. While it’s a given that more cores usually lead to better performance, these benchmark numbers are impressive nonetheless.
For starters, the 8th-generation Intel processors deliver a more than 75% increase in multi-core performance compared to 7th-gen Kaby Lake. This in turn leads to correspondingly higher scores in Cinebench and PCMark 8.
What's most surprising are the graphical enhancements that Intel UHD Graphics brings, going by the 4% to 9% improvement in 3DMark scores at least.
You can fire up Overwatch on the Razer Blade Stealth for a smoother gaming experience with higher frames per second, but you’ll still be relegated to playing the game at awfully low settings. And that pretty much goes for most games you try to play on this Ultrabook.
Compared to other brand-new Kaby Lake Refresh CPU-powered Ultrabooks, the Blade Stealth keeps in step with the Dell XPS 13. Of course, it blows away the MacBook Pro due to that machine having a 7th generation Intel Kaby Lake chip inside.
That said, the Lenovo Yoga 920 leads the pack by a slight margin with the best overall benchmark scores.
While we’re seeing performance improve year-over-year, the Blade Stealth’s battery life has also taken a hit with every iteration. The latest version ran our movie playback battery test for five hours and 9 minutes, which was shorter than the five hours and 25 minutes of the previous Kaby Lake-powered edition – and that was already down from the five hours and 44 minutes result we saw from the 12.5-inch 2016 model.
The culprits behind these battery life decreases are the larger, sharper screen and the new quad-core processor. Going from the 12.5-inch model we tested in 2016 to the 13-inch refresh, the display is not only physically larger, but the screen resolution increased from 2560 x 1440 to 3200 x 1800. Likewise, the two additional cores on the Kaby Lake Refresh processor can’t improve performance without also consuming more power.
The Blade Stealth also lags behind its peers for longevity. The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar was able to run the same movie test for 6 hours and 37 minutes. Meanwhile, the Dell XPS 13 lasted for an remarkable 10 hours and 29 minutes. Of course, both these Ultrabooks feature lower-resolution screens. Had the Blade Stealth come with a Full HD display, it would likely last for seven or more hours.
Five hours of battery life – which we could easily stretch to six hours – isn’t terrible, but it also isn’t great. You’ll have to completely turn off the keyboard backlight and lower your screen brightness to get through a cross-country flight. We also wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing this Ultrabook to work without its charger.
Inputs and outputs
As with previous generations, the Blade Stealth comes with potently powerful speakers and a larger, more tactile keyboard than the MacBook Pro. What has changed this year is that Razer upgraded its Ultrabook with a Windows Precision Touchpad.
We didn’t have many complaints with the trackpads on previous models, but the direct-from-Microsoft drivers offer even better tracking and multi-touch gesture recognition. So, we’ll take the improvement on the laptop’s pointing device even if we felt it wasn’t absolutely necessary.
The Razer Blade Stealth’s smaller, 12.5-inch display and thick bezels always irked us before but, the inclusion of a full-on 13-inch screen fully levels the playing field against other Ultrabooks. The IGZO display also looks better than ever, with an even wider color gamut and higher maximum brightness. But what’s truly impressive is that this Ultrabook didn’t need to get any bigger to accommodate the larger screen.
In terms of performance, this is the most powerful Ultrabook Razer has released, keeping perfectly in step with its rivals. At the same time it’s also far more affordable, which should give you plenty of reason to consider it above its contemporaries.
The steady decrease in battery life we’ve seen with each successive Blade Stealth is a big disappointment. While we would have considered five hours of battery life as being pretty decent earlier in the year, we’re now seeing other Ultrabooks last for 10 hours or more, completely overshadowing this one.
This is still an absolutely portable laptop, but you’ll want to mind that battery meter more carefully than if you went with some other options on the market.
With the 13-inch screen and the latest 8th-generation Intel processors, the Razer Blade Stealth has matured into the Ultrabook we always wanted. The larger display and the half-sized bezels make this laptop look all the more attractive, while the brighter screen and Windows Precision Touchpad addressed our other, smaller, qualms from last year.
Aside from the middling battery life, the Razer Blade Stealth is completely on a par with, if not even better than, other similarly-specced Ultrabooks. For a reasonable price, it comes just as well-equipped, and performs equally, to the most premium offerings from Dell, Lenovo or HP.