Cutting-Edge, or Way Beyond the Edge? A Razer Blade (2.0) Mini-Review

Razer is a company long known for producing gaming peripherals, both as desktop and laptop parts. Earlier this year, though, the company released its very first entry into the gaming PC market: The imaginatively-named (and you take that description as you will) Razer Blade.

While it didn’t exactly make a huge splash, the Blade was nevertheless a respectable (albeit overpriced) release. Razer is quick to react to the few criticisms, though, and has released a follow-up just six months later.

Same Look

This new iteration of the Razer Blade is, um, also called the Razer Blade. Since its screen is also the same size as the original one, and it’s also released in the same year, I am left with no recourse but to unofficially dub it the Blade 2.0 for distinction’s sake.

The 2.0 sports the same matte black aluminum finish as the original Blade. It also has the same huge power button, the same backlit keyboard, the same aforementioned 17.3 inch screen, and even the same placement of the green Razer logo.

New and Improved Guts

The Razer laptop parts powering this beast have been significantly upgraded, though. From the dual-core 2.8 GHz Intel Core i7-2640M CPU, we now have the quad-core 2.2 GHz Core i7-3632QM processor. From 8 GB of 1,333 MHz DDR3 RAM, we now have the 8 GB of memory operating at a much higher rate of 1,600 MHz. And from a 256 GB solid state drive, we now have a much more spacious and versatile 512 GB 7,200 rpm hybrid hard drive with 64 GB of SSD.

Most significantly, the original’s NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M GPU has been swapped out for a more new-gen-gaming-capable 2 GB GeForce GTX 660M video card. Furthermore, the 2.0’s dedicated GPU is backed up by the Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics of the Intel HM77 chipset.

The Concept Feature

What sets the Razer Blade (both iterations) apart from the rest of the desktop replacements (and laptops in general, for that matter) is its Switchblade UI (user interface) feature. Razer introduced it with the original Blade, and brought it back for the 2.0.

The Switchblade UI is a substitute touchpad (you’ll notice that regular touchpads are missing from the laptops’ palmrests) that actually doubles as a second screen for apps that make use of it. The UI also has ten programmable “hot key” buttons at the top.

While you can assign virtually any program to the hot keys, only a select few actually make good use of the second screen feature. Staples like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter have second screen functions, but they are no different from the mobile versions of these programs that you see on tablets and smartphones.

As for games, forget about it. Razer is touting that future games will make use of the second screen feature; but everyone with half a brain knows that this is largely up to the manufacturers of said games. Unless game companies see the second screen feature implemented as hardware staples, or unless they allow Razer to develop in-house apps to tie in with their games, expect the Switchblade UI to be a novelty feature and nothing more.

To be fair, a few games like EA’s Battlefield 3 and Valve’s Team Fortress 2 do have Switchblade UI compatibility, but the functions are very limited. As it stands, second screen as a gaming tool is reserved for console-specific games whose platforms sport the hardware, like the Wii U, or a PS Vita-PS3 link-up.

OK Computer

The Radiohead reference might be lost on many readers; but suffice it to say that the Razer Blade is good for what it really is: A gaming laptop. Its laptop parts and its surprisingly slim build (the slimmest in the desktop replacement category, in fact) might just make Blade converts yet, regardless of what they think of the Switchblade UI.

About Colleen Northcutt:

Colleen Northcutt, from Reno, Nevada, is a blogger and web promoter for laptopaid.com. She mainly writes about laptops, although her topics sometimes do include a variety of tech-related subjects.

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