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Razer Blade (2016) review: Incremental upgrades make it a good laptop for the moment

Hayden Dingman | July 25, 2016
If systems with GTX 10-series GPUs start appearing later this year, the 2016 Blade will have a tough time competing.

Another year, another Razer Blade. Just swap out a few of the internals, tweak the design, and presto—you’ve got yourself a new-ish computer. Don’t expect huge surprises or massive leaps in power. This here is what we call an “incremental upgrade.”

Details, details, details

Most people won’t notice or won’t care about the kind of visible (and tangible) changes Razer has made to the 2016 Blade. At the very most, they’re adjustments that might elicit a muttered “Ah, cool” as you read this. They include:

A new typeface: Razer made this update on its peripherals and the Blade Stealth earlier this year, and now it’s come to the Blade. Gone is the heinous “gamer-friendly” typeface that Razer used to slap on its products. In its place is a lightweight sans-serif that looks—dare I say it?—completely normal and inoffensive.

Changing up the typeface on the keyboard isn’t the most amazing year-over-year change, but it’s absolutely an improvement. It’s probably the 2016 model’s most notable aesthetic difference, too. Razer has always tried to position the Blade as a gaming-friendly MacBook, and now those comparisons seem even more apropos.

Oh, and it lights up: One more keyboard-centric change, and then I swear I’ll be done: Like the Blade Stealth, the 2016 Blade features Razer’s per-key Chroma lighting, aka 16.8-million color RGB. Is it completely unnecessary? Sure. Does it look nice? Sure.

razer blade 8
Razer

USB-C: Okay, enough about keyboards. This year’s Blade packs a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port. However, the system still charges through a power brick with a conventional barrel plug. This is in stark contrast to the Blade Stealth, which charged with the USB-C cable only.

Me? I’m happy with this state of affairs, as I didn’t love the USB-C charger on the Blade Stealth. It does make the Blade a bit less portable, though.

So what’s the USB-C port for, if not charging the laptop? Presumably, it's for the Razer Core (Razer’s external video card shroud)—provided you can get your hands on one. A handful have shipped to people who pre-ordered, but if you want one right now, the next round won’t ship until the end of August.

Of course, it’s also a future-proof port, so expect to use it for all sorts of peripherals in the coming years. The Core is just Razer’s big USB-C selling point. In the meantime, you’ll likely get more use out of the three USB 3.0 Type A ports, headphone jack, and HDMI port also on the Blade.

Cooling: This update gets into the nitty-gritty of “things most people wouldn’t notice unless you told them”—Razer redesigned the cooling in this year’s Blade to keep heat away from the keyboard. Why? Well, with past Blade models, the aluminum strip between the keyboard and screen would get hotter than the surface of the sun during gaming.

 

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