Nvidia released its Turing line of GPUs late last year, but its only in 2019 that they are making an appearance in most systems that most of us can afford. The 2019 iteration of the Razer Blade 15 isn’t too different from last year’s award-winning laptop, with the same design, same display options, it even uses the same 8th-Gen Intel Core processor.
In fact, what the 2019 edition does is introduce Nvidia’s new RTX ‘Turing’ graphics cards which brings with it a beefy frame rate boost, in addition to ray tracing capabilities as a breather to those visuals. The neoteric technology doesn’t come cheap –$2,999.99 at Amazon to be precise, at least for the RTX 2080 model I’m reviewing here.
It will take a lot of convincing to buy one laptop at that price, considering that you can easily buy gaming laptops with Nvidia 10-Series cars for at least a grand, or even less. So, does the performance boost and RTX features justify the massive hike in price?
Why alter an already perfect Blade? This is clearly Razer’s mantra since it hasn’t changed a single dime about this gaming laptop’s physical appearance. The new model still has the same ultra-thin black aluminum chassis and the signature illuminated green logo on the lid. At some point, I’m convinced to look at the 2019 iteration as an additional model rather than a new addition in the Razer gaming lineup.
Maybe you anticipated an overhaul in 2019, but the stagnated design shouldn’t worry you at this time when impossibly thin screen bezels remain steadily trendy. Compared with the likes of the Asus ROG Zephyrus S, the Razer Blade’s top bezel is still thick and looks dated, but it’s a good compromise to accommodate the 1-megapixel webcam – not that you’ll be excited to use the webcam with its finicky video quality, but it still had to be there.
While the new model keeps the same design, there is a difference in dimensions between each model, with the base GTX model being slightly thicker than the RTX range. Having looked at both models, I think the difference in size is perhaps due to the base model’s dual-storage SSD option, that provided for 1TB of more storage space for your games and downloads.
By not tweaking the design, Razer promptly brings back a couple of flaws from the older models, mainly the fingerprint-savvy exterior surface. We had reservations over last year’s models being fingerprint pickers even when carried for a few seconds, sadly the new model gets smudged all over the casing, something that leaves the laptop looking dull.
Ports and Speakers
I/O ports remain unchanged, with the chassis accommodating Thunderbolt (Type-C), USB 3 and HDMI mini-DisplayPort. That wraps up the ilk of ports you expect in a laptop this thin, in addition to a headphone jack before you can grab Bluetooth headphones.
On both sides of the keyboard are two up-firing speakers. It is a tradition for Razer laptops to boost impressive audio quality, and this one lives up to the norm. Here, you can crank up the volume to the extremes, and the drivers will still accommodate the hybrid booms and explosions during gaming sessions. While at it, I’d still recommend a pair of headphones instead though.
Keyboard and Trackpad
The moment I accept that I’m to spend anything north of $3000 on a gaming, I expect everything to be stellar. Of course, we don’t expect a gaming laptop to have the same travel and crunchy feel of a mechanical keyboard, but I somehow expect it to be tactile and convincing. Sadly, the Razer Blade 15 fails to impress with its shallow keys, that would be forgiven if it were a budget Ultrabook.
Come on, this is a high-end gaming laptop that I don’t think has enough travel to hammer the WASD keys during shoot-outs. Razer claims that most gamers will probably buy an external gaming keyboard anyway, and while that’s true, I don’t think it’s a nice idea when you’re on the go.
It is possible to customize the RGB keyboard lighting, a nice feature that you only see in gaming desktops. Thanks to Razer Synapse 3, it is possible to even sync up the light show to your matched Razer peripherals, meaning tour gaming mouse ad headset can adorn the satisfying glow across the board.
Yes, the glass touchpad bounces back. I’m a big fan, especially the super smooth and crisp responsiveness. If you’re a pro-gamer, you might need more accuracy for fast paced games, so getting an external mouse is a good idea as well. Still, when stacked against rival gaming laptops, this is certainly my favorite trackpad.
The RTX 15 comes in different versions, all of them are available with a Full HD display with a 144Hz refresh rate, tuned for a super-smooth gaming experience when loading any modern title. If you need more, there is the option for Razer Blade 15 model with a 4K display with a 60Hz refresh rate bundled into the RTX 2070 model, in case you need to treat your eyes to as many eye-catching pixels as possible. Remember, that option will set you back a few more dollars.
It is disappointing that Razer didn’t include an option of an RTX laptop with a Full HD 60Hz display. If included, it would have been the best thing for gamers who fancy treating their eyes to the new ray tracing technology, but are not willing to cough up the extra bucks for the high-end offerings.
As is skipping a 60HZ option is not bad enough, not one of the RTX Blade 15 laptops supports Nvidia’s G-Sync. For those unfamiliar, G-Sync is a technology that syncs up the GPU’s frame rates to the display’s refresh rate, consequently preventing screen tearing. Cheaper laptops can be excused for not having G-Sync or FreeSync, but for a laptop costing just over three grand, I consider this omission reckless.
That aside, the display looks solid with the rainbow-spectrum Razer screensaver giving a glimpse into the Blade 15’s excellent gamut coverage. That isn’t true, though. The Razer 15’S sRGB score of 89.2% is high, but I expected that to be a little better considering that rivals are offering much better coverage for around the same price.
Still, this is adequate gamut coverage for gaming, although designers will have a hard time, incase they opt to edit photos on this laptop since it posts low Adobe RGB and DCI P3 scores of 62% and 64.5% respectively. Overall, the Razer Blade 15’s display isn’t particularly spectacular, but is decent enough for a great gaming visual experience. But for the price, I still can’t forgive the missing features such as Nvidia’s G-Sync.
For the much the Razer Blade 15 costs, you’d certainly expect the RTX 2080 model to deliver class-leading performance. Sure, the GPU and CPU yield where it matters, offering some of the best result you’d expect of a high-end gaming laptop. The outfitted Intel Core i7-8750H and 16GB of dual-channel RAM are sure-fire for remarkable result on the PCMark 10 score of 5136, with only the Asus ROG GL504 Scar II (5642) boasting a better performance.
So, what are these scores in relation to computing? These numbers point towards a Razer Blade 15 that is strong-willed to cruise through multi-tasking jobs, with enough processing power to burst through any video game. If you multitask a lot, you won’t be struggling with multiple browser tabs, while CPU-sipping titles like Civilization VI will greatly benefit from the newly acquired power.
The RTX 2080 iteration comes with a single storage option of a 512GB SSD. For some, it may sound like much with the allure of an SSD, but considering the price it’s a bit mean. If you figure it well, GTA V alone with set you back 70GB, and that tells you that it won’t take many AAA games before you need an external hard drive. It would be nice if they had an option to upgrade to a 1TB model.
A strong feature set paired with peppy GPU performance makes the Razer Blade 15 one of the most powerful gaming laptop out here, with a 3DMark Fire Strike sore of 14,052. Once again, the Asus ROG GL504 Scar II rocking an older GTX 1070 GPU triumphs over the Blade with a score of 14, 476. Still, the Razer 15 showcases its graphical muscle on some of the most GPU-demanding titles available: Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Ghost Recon Wildlands and Dirty Rally, managing 83fps, 59fps and 104fps respectively, with settings maxed out at 1920-by-1080 resolution.
The scores demonstrate around 10fps above the Alienware M15 on each title, but I’m not convinced if that justifies the over $1000, you’d shell out for the Razer Blade 15 RTX 2080. On that direction, Razer argues that apart from the frame rate boost, the system benefits from ray tracing capabilities and better speakers and superb cooling for a thin, laptop that packs a punch.
Ray Tracing – New Feature in Turing RTX 20-Series GPU
Apart from graphical frame rate boosts, RTX graphics cards bring a long a couple of special features over their predecessor the GTX graphics. Top in the list is ray tracing, a new concept adopted by Nvidia that enables for more realistic and reflection rendering. In testing, you can clearly see the reflection of derelict skyscrapers in Metro exodus, something you never experience if the GPU was whacky.
At the very least, the improvements are quite sublimal and difficult to notice without being aware of them beforehand. Still, we are glad that ray tracing does offer an exciting insight into the future of video gaming and the caliber of visuals to expect, only that there are more negatives than positives in its current state.
Currently, there are only two games that can offer support for ray tracing: Battlefield 5 and Metro Exodus. Going forward, more games will come on board as they receive anticipated software patches, including Shadow of the Tomb Raider and probably Anthem, but that doesn’t equate the over $3000 you’re paying for a gaming laptop.
Then, there is the concern of ray tracing’s magical visuals taking a hit on the laptop’s overall performance. For instance, when ray tracing is activated on Metro Exodus, the 81fps performances is trimmed down to 64 fps. A concern right there, but the good news is that Nvidia’s DLSS technology is designed to remedy this by using AI to help shoulder the rendering workload of the CPU, thereby boosting the frame rates.
Sadly, DLSS does not work with this model of the Razer Blade 15
On paper, DLSS is technically supported by every RTX-enabled laptop, but Nvidia made a bizarre decision to block DLSS from working on an RTX 2080 graphics card when connected to a Full HD display. NVIDIA’s argument is that on RTX 2080 frame rates are beyond the standard 60fps, so you really don’t need additional performance boost.
As such, it goes without saying that the RTX 2070 Razer Blade 15 benefits from the magical frame rate-boosting powers of DLSS. Actually, the lower model offers a superior ray tracing performance than the pricey RTX 2080 version. Its is embarrassing that the RTX 2080 Razer Blade 15’s cheaper sibling offers better ray tracing performance out of the box.
However, some have argued that the lack of DLSS may not be as damning as you may think. It has been reported that while DLSS offers a frame rate boost, it allegedly makes the image fuzzy and less detailed. I haven’t noticed the same personally, but it remains to be seen as we move forward with detailed tests.
The Razer Blade 15 is slick, powerful, portable, stylish -and, pretty everything else. However, with such a solid feature-set battery life was most likely to take a hit. From experience, gaming laptops usually last about 5 hours on average. The Blade 15 will only muster about 4 hours of casual browsing and video playback, but it will of course get shorter when playing AAA games.
I’m always fascinated by Razer laptops and a big fan of the latest offering. They always strike a touch of class and a stylish design, while leveraging performance than triumphs over majority of the competition. That’s particularly true with the new RTX Razer Blade 15 lineup of gaming laptops., only that the added cost of the RTX graphics may not be easy to crack this time round.
If you’re not on a budget, the RTX 2080 Razer Blade 15 is certainly a solid landing ground for serious AAA gaming. It brings forward technologies like ray tracing that provides an extra polish to unexplored spheres like Metro Exodus and Battlefield 5. But since ray tracing is currently live on two games only, it negatively impacts frame rates without DLSS and is at times too decimal an effect to justify the price hike.
Once again, I’m not convinced that technology is ready to be a major differentiating factor in selling gaming systems and high prices. Simple, focus on newer features but ensure that they blend well with the existing industry needs. Razer has always perfected on that. It also means that the cheaper RTX 2070 model of the Razer Blade 15 boasts better ray tracing performance, which is quite surprising.
More importantly, it comes down to preference and how much you’re willing to shell out for the new features in town. If you’re happy to fling around three grand and fancy one of the most powerful gaming laptops on the market, the Razer Blade 15 (RTX 2080) or its other RTX 2070 version will give you a performance to brag about.
However, if you’re after value for money in a gaming laptop that will max out your gaming experience without being insanely expensive, there are many better alternatives on offer, including the MSI GS65 Stealth-002 or the Asus ROG Zephyrus S and, while at it you’ll save a few dollars.
The Razer Blade 15 boasts a quality and stylish design, while packing a strong feature set and performance that easily outguns the majority of the competition backed by forward-looking technologies like Nvidia’s RTX 2080 GPU, DLSS and ray tracing for butter-smooth playability.
- Over 60fps in Full HD on almost all video games
- Supports ray tracing
- Slick, premium design
- Lacks G-Sync
- DLSS not supported on external monitor
- Storage is lean for the price