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Razer Blade Stealth review – probably the best ultraportable $999 can get you

Razer Blade Stealth review – probably the best ultraportable $999 can get you
By Derek Sullivan , last updated on May 30, 2016
Summary: For $999, the base model of the Razer Blade Stealth could be an excellent buy. It gets fast hardware, a QHD display, a Chroma keyboard and a nice trackpad, all tucked inside a compact and strongly built aluminum unibody. On the other side, you'll have to live with a shallow stroke keyboard and only average battery life, but I can live with these and overall I think this is for sure one of the best ultraportables available out there right now.
Rating: 4 / 5   Price range: $999-$1599

THE GOOD

Excellent build quality; Splendid screen; Great trackpad; Solid performance; Cool keyboard features; Right price for the base QHD model

THE BAD

Shallow keystrokes; Battery life could be better; Screen brightness too low for outdoor use

Razer has always been one of those companies where I just want all their stuff. Their hardware is usually top notch in terms of quality and the performance is stellar too, whether we’re talking about laptops, mice or keyboards. Specifically, with laptops, they have been able to emulate Apple very well, which I kind of like. To me, Apple is the gold standard in terms of being minimalists and maintaining excellent build quality and so far, Razer has been the only company that even comes close to matching that.

The only problem I have with Razer is one of the same issues I have with Apple – their prices are typically really steep! Their worst offender is the Razer Blade Pro, which is a 17” ultra-thin laptop which carries a 960M, a Haswell i7 quad-core CPU and a 1080p TN panel(yikes). Besides the screen, it’s a pretty decent laptop until you get to the $2500 price tag. At that price you could buy the top MacBook Pro model, with dedicated graphics and a retina screen. The 14” Razer Blade is a slightly better deal with a 970M and a QHD+ touch screen, but still carries a base price of $2200.

So needless to say, when I heard about Razer’s entry to the ultrabook market with the Razer Blade Stealth, my first question was: “How much?”. Well, when I found out the base price was $999, I just couldn’t help but give it a shot. With the base specs, I immediately assumed that if Razer can match their level of quality and performance like in the 14” Razer Blade, $999 is a real bargain. So the big question is, did they skimp on anything or is this a true competitor to the MacBook Air or even the MacBook itself? My thoughts below will describe my impressions after using it for the last few days.

I want to briefly make something clear before continuing. I’m going to rate this ultrabook as an ultrabook by itself. I realize the Razer Core is their selling point for entering the ultrabook market, but I don’t want to influence anyone over vapor, especially since Razer hasn’t included many details, a release date or even a price. I’ll discuss what I know and what I hope for in a section below, but until I get a Core to review myself, I don’t want that to influence my opinion of the laptop by itself.

Update: My review of the Razer Core is available over here.

With that out of the way, let’s get started!

The specs sheet

Razer Blade Stealth
Screen 12.5 inch, 2560×1440 resolution, 10-finger multi-touch, IGZO(4k optional)
Processor Intel Skylake Core i7-6500U CPU, dual-core 2.5 GHz(3.1Ghz boost)
Video Integrated Intel HD Graphics 520
Memory 8 GB LPDDR3 1866Mhz
Storage 128GB M.2 PCIe (Samsung PM951)
Connectivity Wireless AC, Intel Bluetooth 4.1
Ports 2x USB 3.0, Thunderbolt 3(USB Type-C), HDMI 1.4b, mic/earphone combo
Battery 45 Wh
Operating system Windows 10
Size 321 mm or 12.6” (w) x 206 mm or 8.1” (d) x 13.1 mm or .52” (h)
Weight 1.25 kg or 2.75 lb
Extras RGB-Chroma backlit keyboard, 2MP webcam, TPM 2.0

Design

I was immediately won over with the build quality on this machine. The entire laptop is made of an anodized aluminum unibody. Not only is it really thin, but it’s got the perfect weight, if you ask me. It’s similar to the new MacBook, although a little larger and heavier, but it’s noticeably smaller and lighter than the MacBook Air. The similarities in design between Razer and Apple are astonishing.

This is the Razer Blade Stealth: a thin, light and well built 12-inch ultrabook

This is the Razer Blade Stealth: a thin, light and well built 12-inch ultrabook

The entire ultrabook is black in color and, thankfully, there are little signs of branding and markings on it as a whole. The only touch of color is the Razer logo on the lid, which is green. It’s naturally lit by the backlighting on the screen, so there will be a subtle green glow coming from it. Unfortunately, there’s no way to turn it off completely, which might be a deal breaker for some. Razer also included an option to intensify the lighting, making it glow bright enough to see in daylight hours.

Razer has a history of being minimalists on ports and this is no exception. On the right side, there is a single HDMI and a USB 3.0 port. The left side also has a USB 3.0 port, as well as a headphone/mic combo and a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port. The USB-C port also doubles as a charge circuit. I’m not really bothered with the lack of connections considering it’s such a small ultrabook. The Thunderbolt 3 connection really makes up for everything, especially considering you can connect it to a dock, with all the remaining connections you might need.

Speaking of the connections, they are all pretty well placed, but I have to admit they are hard to find by feel and really hard to see in the dark. This is especially true for the USB-C connection. Overall, it’s something to get used to, but I think in the long term many users will scratch the areas around these ports, which will be pretty obvious considering the laptop is black.

One other thing I wanted to mention was the single indicator light on the front of the laptop It’s off the whole time while the lid is open, but when closed, it will pulsate white when the laptop is in sleep mode and shine green when the laptop is on. It also turns red when the battery is critically low.

The Razer Blade Stealth is pretty impressive looking from the sides. There is no gap at all between the lid and the palm rest. The edges are incredibly smooth and uniform in size, all around. There’s a cut out portion on the front lip with is plenty big enough to put your finger in to lift the lid. Speaking of that, lifting the lid is a flawless task. I was able to lift it easily with one finger, which was great considering the laptop is so thin and light. The only other laptop I’ve dealt with that was this thin and light was the Acer Aspire S7 and it was nowhere near this easy to get the lid open.

Underneath the hood there’s obviously the screen, keyboard and trackpad, which I’ll cover in more detail in the sections below. There are front facing speakers on the left and right sides of the keyboard, which falls in line with Razer’s previous designs and is a really nice feature. The keyboard keys sit flush with the palm rest with incredible accuracy. The trackpad is also as big as it can get, really.

The power button is very subtle and is centrally located just above the keyboard. As stated before, the cooling vents are in the gap between the screen and the top of the keyboard. If you look close enough a little higher, you can see a faint branding underneath the screen with the text “Blade”.

The bottom of the laptop is pretty much what you would expect. It’s merely a metal cover held on with Torx screws. There are a couple openings for ventilation, although the bulk of the airflow traffic appears to come in and out at the screen hinge. There are two footpads on the bottom which extend over the length of the laptop and provide good grip on a flat surface.

Bottom point, I’ll give credit where credit is due – Razer did a really nice job with the construction of this laptop. If there’s anything I can ding them on though (and I always do) it’s the bezels. They are not early 2000s bad, but they are certainly larger than what I would expect for 2016. It would have been nice if they would have squeezed a 13.3” screen in there, considering they had the space to do so.

UPDATE: I suspected there was a reason for the bezels and Razer confirmed it. It was a choice of function over form due to the full gamut panel they chose. Webcam, microphone and speaker placement also tied into the decision. With that being said, I can certainly understand why they did it and think it’s a worthy trade-off.

One thing I’d like to mention is how much of a fingerprint magnet this thing is. It’s pretty bad, but no different than the Razer Blade 14 and Pro, and something I’ve learned to expect from black metallic laptops. It cleans off, but you’d have to do it daily unless you have a way to keep your hands oil free all the time. After an hour of use, I noticed marks on the palm rest and by the end of the day the lid had fingerprints too.

Keyboard and trackpad

The Razer Blade Stealth has probably one of the most interesting keyboards I’ve ever seen. It’s a Chroma keyboard, which is Razer’s branding for LEDs that emit light in a full color spectrum. What makes it stand out from the competition though is the fact that each key has its own LED and can be controlled independently. Yes, that means each key has 16 million color options – wow!

Once I got the laptop set up, I’ll admit I spent a good 20-30 minutes just fooling around with the keyboard color options. By default, all the keys slowly cycled through the spectrum, but I quickly changed it to a solid blue. The lighting is insanely bright, so you will definitely see the colors outdoors. At full brightness during night time it’s almost blinding though, so you’ll want to turn it down.

The software allows to create different profiles that can be changed using Fn-# keys. They can be also bound to applications and automatically launched when playing certain games or running certain programs. Thus, if you wanted to create custom zones or highlight special keys for that game you play, now you can do so. The possibilities are endless, which I think is a huge bonus for this keyboard and will keep things fresh for a long time.

In a way, it’s almost comical how many keyboard effects they included, because I can’t think of any situation where I would use some of them. One option actually lights up random keys at random intervals and is extremely distracting. Another just cycles random colors for all the keys at once, in a very fast pattern. It’s cool to show your friends for a few laughs, but not the friendliest to type on a regular basis.

The keys themselves feel nice and are made of a high quality plastic. Unlike the normal Razer Blades, the font on the keys is normal – a good move on their part. I really like the key layout, as it’s one of the most intuitive ones I’ve seen in a long time. They also took it the extra mile and added a second Fn key, so hotkeys can be performed 1-handed anywhere on the keyboard. These are definitely things other manufacturers should pay more attention to.

Another interesting feature about the keyboard is the fact that hotkeys light up when holding down the Fn key. So there’s no mistaking when you’re hitting that Fn key. The only thing they messed up on though is the lighting only fits the F-numbers and not the symbols themselves. So if you’re typing in the dark and want to turn down the blinding backlit keys, you have to memorize that it’s Fn-F10 or deal with trial and error.

To make it worse, the secondary keys on the numbers and punctuation are also not lit ($ % ^ & : < >). So you need to have those memorized or else you’ll be typing the wrong symbols a lot. It would be nice if they kept the contrast the same but they actually chose to make the secondary keys a grey color, so it’s almost impossible to see those at night. Typists won’t need to worry about this of course, but those that hunt for keys by sight while in the dark might will find this very annoying.

On to how this types, I was originally hoping for a similar experience as I had with the Razer Blade 14″. Unfortunately with the Razer Blade Stealth, it’s not quite as good but it’s still a pretty decent keyboard. Some might struggle with this one as the travel is extremely short, but the feedback is decent, so at least you know you’re hitting the keys. At first, I had a hard time typing quickly on it without making errors, but after a couple hours I started to get the hang of it. It’s just something to get used to.

The struggles I had with the keyboard are pretty reminiscent of the Acer S7 actually, but I had far more errors on the S7 and was never able to adapt(even after months), so this is a step-up to some extent. I wish the key travel was better because that would certainly solve 90% of the problem, but I’m guessing they had to sacrifice it to keep the ultrabook as thin as possible. FYI, I also thought the same thing about the new MacBook, but friends have told me that they learned to like it over time. Again, it takes getting used to.

Update: I’m adding this note at the end of typing this review and I can definitely reiterate that the typing experience gets better over time. I’m fully accustomed to this keyboard after only a few days now and I think I am finally able to type without making many errors.

The trackpad on this one is actually really nice. Razer opted for a buttonless one, which is another good move in the right direction. They pretty much made it as tall as possible, leaving little or no gap between the edge and the keyboard. The surface is very smooth and it feels really good in quality. Tracking was very accurate and I was able to initiate multi-touch gestures with ease.

I really can’t complain about the trackpad at all actually. I used it a few days and never had a single problem. It’s Synaptics and the drivers are up to date with many different options to make the experience to your liking. All I had to do was increase the pointer speed a couple ticks and I was fine with it. I wish all laptop manufacturers would quit trying to cheap out and just use a quality one like Razer has.

Screen

The screen on the Blade Stealth is absolutely fantastic. The unit I got carries a 12.5” QHD screen, which specifically packs a maximum resolution of 2560×1440 px. It’s a Sharp IGZO panel, which is something I was a little skeptical of since the one on the Razer Blade 14 lost color at extreme angles. But have no fear, the viewing angles on this panel are perfect.

It’s either the nature of IGZO or Razer’s build quality, but there is absolutely no backlight bleed on this panel at all. Blacks are also pretty black, bottoming out at .13 nits just before the contrast ratio starts to break. So there will be no distractions while watching movies in low light conditions.

I measured the color accuracy of the panel with a Spyder4Pro. The results were very good, with sRGB – 99%, NTSC – 71% and aRGB – 76%. This is as good as it gets for a normal gamut screen. If you want more, Razer also offers a 4k wide gamut screen. I don’t have specifics, but considering they claim 100% aRGB, that’s probably the case.

This QHD touchscreen is great, and the 4K options is even better, with a wide gamut panel

This QHD touchscreen is great, and the 4K options is even better, with a wide gamut panel

The maximum brightness I measured was 290 nits. This is pretty much the bare minimum I would expect for a high end panel, but it’s still good enough to see the screen in almost any indoor environment. I also measured the brightness distribution, which can be seen in the table below. The contrast ratio was measured at 700:1 in most brightness levels, so that’s good at least. If you want to look up more details on the panel itself, the panel model is Sharp LQ125T1JW02.

The screen is touch capable as well, which is very appropriate for a machine of this size. I find myself using the touchscreen more on models under 13-inch more often than on 13-15 inchers.

Razer nailed it with the hinge, as it does a good job supporting the screen on taps. There’s very little wobble. I might even ding Razer on the hinge being too still, because it actually takes a little more effort than normal to close the lid, but I’d rather deal with that than a wobbly screen though.

Tl;dr? The screen is really nice!

Below is a chart showing the brightness distribution of the screen and some of the details mentioned before, grouped together. You can also find the calibrated color profile here.

  • Panel HardwareID: Sharp LQ125T1JW02;
  • Coverage: 99% sRGB, 71% NTSC, 76% AdobeRGB;
  • Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 290 cd/m2 on power;
  • Contrast at max brightness: 730:1;
  • White point: 7600 K;
  • Black on max brightness: 0.38 cd/m2.

screen-brightness-coverage

Hardware, performance and upgrade options

The Razer Blade Stealth comes standard with an Intel Core i7-6500U processor and 8GB of LPDDR3 ram. As mentioned before, you get the choice of screens with either the QHD or UHD models. You also get the choice of what size PCIe SSD you want as well, ranging from 128GB to 512GB. The SSD on this model is upgradable but the ram unfortunately is soldered onto the board and there is no extra slot.

I’m going to assume the SSD I got is as slow as it is because it’s the 128GB version. The read speeds are pretty good, but the write speeds are very slow. Check my CrystalDisk results for more details. Still, the real life differences between this SSD and others I’ve tested are pretty minimal. I think many who get this model will be looking to upgrade their SSD immediately, so this is a moot point.

I was able to capture a number of benchmarks, but there’s a catch to my results. Something is terribly wrong with this launch laptop and both myself and Razer have yet to determine the cause. What’s happening is the laptop is throttling the CPU to 300Mhz whenever any OpenGL program is running – but only while charging. On battery things work fine.

So my results below, including gaming, are all while on battery. The good news is, the results are pretty consistent with a Skylake i7 on battery. But they fall a little short of your typical Skylake i7 while on the charger. As soon as Razer corrects the issue (which I hope to be soon), I will update this section. UPDATE 2/5/16: Razer says they have a software fix coming soon, so stay tuned. See below in the final thoughts section for their statement on the matter.

UPDATE 2/11/16: Originally I was having issues with throttling while on on the charger but Razer has updated the firmware to correct the issue. I retested all the benchmarks and everything seems to be working just fine while on the charger now. If you are struggling with throttling while on the charger, Razer has the updated firmware available here.

Below are some of the benchmarks I ran.

  • 3Dmark 13: Ice Storm – 48306 , Cloud Gate – 5475 , Sky Diver – 3189, Fire Strike – 787; Mac CPU temp 95C
  • 3Dmark 11: P1464
  • PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 2531, Accelerated – 3031 with 86 C max temp
  • CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 36.25 fps, CPU 3.37 pts, CPU Single Core 1.06 pts;
  • CineBench R15: OpenGL 40.59 fps, CPU 300 pts, CPU Single Core 112 pts.

I also got a chance to try some games. Here’s what I got:

Title/Graphics settings 720p fps
1080p fps
Tomb Raider – normal 40-45 22-26
Tomb Raider – low 57-60 30-42
Borderlands 2 – medium 30-50 18-25
Borderlands 2 – low 35-50 20-30
Portal 2 – high 60 45-60
Portal 2 – medium 60 60
StarCraft 2 – medium 50-60 41-46
StarCraft 2 – low 100-125 75-90

The CPU can reach pretty high temperatures when playing games. I got readings as high as 97C, but never experienced thermal throttling as the cooling fans were able to keep it under control.

Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers and others

The fans (yes, there are two of them) on this laptop are practically silent during normal use. If you put your ear up to the fans, you can hear them, but very faint. Under load, they kick on slightly, but they’re still very difficult to hear. Really, the only time I noticed then fans was when playing a game and only because I had the sound muted.

fans-interior

I took noise readings at my ear level and near the fans while playing a game. The ambient reading was 22dB. With the fans on as high as I’ve witnessed, the sound reading was only 3dB higher at ear level, while at the fans, I got a reading of 35dB. Not bad at all!

As for heat, this laptop gets a little warm, but that’s pretty much the case with any metallic ultrabook with an i7 in it. At no point was it intolerable though, even when gaming. I was actually kind of surprised how similar the temperatures were between normal loads and gaming.

There are two intakes on the bottom of the laptop, but I think those are secondary intakes and the primary comes in through the vent at the screen. The exhaust is also at the screen. Overall, Razer did a good job with the cooling on this machine. I barely notice it, which is what I like. Hopefully it stays that way, long term.

I took some temperature readings on the keyboard and underneath during some conditions. Here were my results:

temperatures-dailyusetemperatures-load*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in Edge for 30 minutes
*Load – playing Tomb Raider for 30 minutes on medium FHD settings

The speakers on this laptop are pretty average to say the least. They are located on each side of the keyboard and are facing upward, which is a huge plus. The sound emitted from them lacks bass, so the music quality is a little lacking.

The speakers are plenty loud though. I measured a peak level of 80db at ear level while playing a song on YouTube. For reference, the ambient noise in the room was 22 dB. I noticed a slight distortion at full volume, but it wasn’t too bad. All in all, I could certainly live with these speakers, especially since the sound isn’t facing downward.

Dolby software comes preinstalled, but like previous laptops with this software, it has a limited effect. You can change presets for movies and games, which somewhat helps with the voices , but I wasn’t able to make the bass sound any better.

The WiFi card on this laptop is one of the strong points. I was able to max out my Internet connection (85Mbps) from the far corner of my house. That’s about 50 feet away and 3 walls between myself and the router. All of this was unplugged too.

The only other notable piece of hardware to discuss is the 2MP webcam. It’s nothing special but has decent low light correction. I was able to see myself very clearly in a dimly lit room. Of course the picture was a little grainy but that’s to be expected in low light. In good lighting, the image is pretty crisp.

Battery life

My battery test consists of using the stock “Power Saver” power profile, 30% brightness (85 nits), WiFi off, Bluetooth off, and running a 720p movie in a continuous loop at full screen with the volume muted. I start the clock when it’s unplugged and stop it when the unit performs a self- shutdown. The Razer Blade Stealth lasted 7 hours and 15 minutes before shutting down. It’s not as high as other laptops out there, but it’s to be expected considering the rather small battery they used.

In the following test, we’ve set the screen’s brightness at 50%, which is about 140 nits. Also the keyboard backlighting was set to minimal.

  • 5.2 W (~ 8h 39 min of use)– idle, Power Saving Mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi OFF;
  • 9.3 W (~ 4 h 50 min of use)– light browsing and text editing in Microsoft Word, Balanced Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 8.5 W (~ 5 h 18 min of use)– 1440p full screen video on YouTube in EDGE, Balanced Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 7.3 W (~6 h 10 min of use)– 1080p full screen .mkv video in Movie App, Balanced Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 14.2 W (~3 h 10 min of use)– heavy browsing in EDGE, Balanced Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 31.4 W (~1 h 26 min of use)– heavy gaming in 1080p, Balanced Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;

Again, these results are lower than some of the competition because Razer decided to use a 45 Wh battery to keep the size and weight low. All things considered though, the numbers are pretty average.

If you’re considering the 4k panel though, think about how it will affect battery life. There’s no specifics yet, but Razer already announced that the 4k model is going to last less than on the QHD model.

Also included in the box is a pretty compact 45W charger. It’s a little taller and longer than my Surface Pro 3’s charger, but is about half the width and smaller in volume as a whole. Considering it’s 45W, this is pretty impressive. The cord is also extremely long (about 10 ft) and very well built, so I plan on keeping this one a while. Of course, the big bonus is it connects to USB-C, so there’s no extra connection on the laptop. Charging time from 0-100% took me 2 hours and 10 minutes.

Razer Blade Core

It’s not released yet, but the main hook for Razer entering the ultrabook business was the companion Razer Core. This is similar to the Alienware Graphics Amplifier and other external graphics card docks, except it utilizes the Thunderbolt 3 connection and not a propriety connection.

The dock is meant to house a graphics card of your choice, which will connect to your monitors. Also included in the Core is a Gigabit Ethernet connection and 4x USB 3.0 ports. The Core contains a 500 watt power supply and connects to power via a standard desktop power cord. The 500 watts powers up to a 375 watt graphics card and leaves room to power and charge the laptop as well.

The Razer Blade will dock to the Core via the Thunderbolt 3(USB-C) and utilize the graphics and the peripherals. The laptop will also charge when hooked to the Core, so there’s no need to connect another wire. This is the ideal experience for those that like docking their laptop to external monitors from time to time – no more fuss connecting power, monitor 1, monitor 2 and the USB hub.

Hooked to the Razer Core, the Blade Stealth can tackle games and other tasks that require serious graphics power

Hooked to the Razer Core, the Blade Stealth can tackle games and other tasks that require serious graphics power

Razer’s intent with the Core was to eliminate the need of a desktop for some. The Blade can be used for work, consumption and light gaming, but when connected to the Core, it can be used for heavier gaming and serious work, to some extent. I’m a little skeptical as to what the i7-6500U can handle for gaming/productivity, but it should match up well with a GTX 960.

One thing to consider is the Razer Core is not using a proprietary connection, so technically you should be able to connect it to any laptop with Thunderbolt 3 port. There might be some drivers involved of course, but Razer would be smart to make it easy for all laptops to utilize it. The Core could easily become the central dock for a family of laptops.

I can spout off my opinions on the Core all day, but until Razer releases more info it’s just guessing. I hope to get in contact with Razer soon to get a review unit. Until then, we’re in the dark of how it will perform with the Razer Blade Stealth.

Update: The Razer Core is now available in stores, for $499 or $399 if you also buy a Razer laptop. Our detailed review is available here, in case you’re interested.

Price and availability

The Blade Stealth unit I got is the base model available and has a price tag of $999. $200 more will buy you a configuration with a 256GB SSD. The 4k model starts at $1399 with a 256GB SSD included, and goes up to $1599 with 512GB of storage. All these come with 8 GB of RAM and configurations with no 16 GB memory option available.

Now, the latter versions are more like what I would expect from Razer in terms of pricing, but I was actually shocked with the $999 model. To me, that’s the best value they have offered to date. If you’re comfortable upgrading your own SSD or OK with 128GB of storage space, this version is the way to go.

Availability is pretty limited at this point. The laptop is only available for sale on Razer’s website for the time being, and they announced the Microsoft Store will also get it in the coming weeks. Hopefully other retailers will sell it soon thereafter. I’ll try to keep you updated as it becomes more available.

The Blade Stealth starts at $999 and offers plenty for that kind of money

The Blade Stealth starts at $999 and offers plenty for that kind of money

Final thoughts

I’m really impressed with the amount of performance and quality they have to offer, considering the price. The base model gets a Core i7 CPU, 128GB PCIe storage, 8GB RAM, a QHD touchscreen, a decent backlit keyboard with a nice trackpad. Also, it’s incredibly thin, pretty light and excellently built. Add in the pretty cool keyboard features and the $999 price tag and you got a great value bundle.

Of course, like everything out there, you’ll make some sacrifices when going for an ultrabook this thin. The small battery and shallow keystrokes are the top two weaknesses that come to mind. If you don’t mind dealing with either of these, then it’s worth having the extra thinness and lighter weight.

I didn’t get to review one, but there’s also the 4k model out there. It carries a hefty price tag though so you might want to do a little research before buying. From what I understand, it will make battery life worse than it already is, and that alone might be enough to look somewhere else. Frankly, with a 12.5” screen I really doubt anyone could tell the difference in pixel density anyways, so the only reason to get the 4k screen is the full gamut panel, but only a select group of people would actually need one.

So to wrap up, I’m extremely pleased with what this laptop has to offer. The more I use it, the more I like it – even with some of the minor flaws. What kills the deal though is the major flaw with the throttling while plugged in. In fact, I would highly recommend that you steer clear of this one until they confirm it’s fixed. This notebook it’s on backorder until the end of Feb right now, so there’s plenty of time for them to get things right.

UPDATE: As of 2/5/16, Razer contacted me back and said they have a fix that is currently being validated and should be available on their website soon. That implies it’s a software issue, so that’s a good thing. I’ll keep you informed as soon as I know more. Here’s their statement:

“We have received reports that performance of the Razer Blade Stealth is reduced when connected to AC power (there is no issue on battery power). We have determined the root cause of this issue and are currently validating a fix for both existing units and future production runs. A firmware update to correct the performance issue will made available soon on our support website. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.”

If Razer does get the issue fixed, I plan on keeping this one in place of my Surface Pro 3. It’s actually the same thickness and only slightly heavier, so it’ll be a good move for me. I also almost never use the Surface as a tablet anymore, so it’s kind of pointless for me to keep it anymore.

I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on Razer’s progress with the problem and will also keep this article updated with anything new. Additionally, I will review the Razer Core in the future – can’t wait to see what that has to offer!

UPDATE: As of 2/11/16, Now that the throttling issue has been resolved, I can (in good conscience) say that this ultraportable is a really good buy. I’ve been using it 2 weeks now and it’s easily my favorite one thus far. Without a doubt, I’m selling my Surface Pro 3 and keeping this one for a while. I’m really excited to get the Core now and see what it has to offer when paired with the Blade Stealth. Even if it’s not that good though, I still plan on using this ultrabook by itself in the long term.

I must say that Razer handled the bug situation very well and I have to compliment them on it. Their customer service reps kept myself and others in the same situation in the loop on a regular basis. Their president also addressed the issue directly on Twitter. On top of that, they managed to fix the issue in a little over a week. As an early adopter, I frequently see bugs at launch but it’s rare to see it handled and resolved in the way I just did.

UPDATE: As of 3/25/16, In the essence of transparency, I wanted to disclose the experience I’ve had over the past month. Unfortunately, I’ve given up on the laptop completely and here’s why. On my initial unit, I eventually noticed that one of the foot pads was a little bit off so my laptop would wobble just a tiny bit on flat surfaces. It was hardly noticeable but enough to annoy me, over time. Razer quickly accepted my exchange and gave me another unit.

With my second unit, I immediately noticed an abnormal noise. A light clicking sound would come from the laptop while at idle, which was likely one of the fans. The temps were very elevated from the first unit, which also proves that it was probably a fan issue. Sent it right back to Razer for another exchange.

My third unit I actually had for a couple weeks. It wasn’t until just the other day that I noticed that my left USB port was almost totally non-functional. Only 1 out of 5 USB devices I tested with it worked. Frustrated, I just returned it outright. Dealing with as many laptops as I do, I’ve certainly seen my fair share of defects, but three in a row is a bit much.

All I can say is to be aware of this. I really like this laptop and would still recommend it, but you need to be cautions of the potential quality issues. If you do take the plunge, make sure to fully test it and hopefully you won’t see any of the issues I did. From reading the forums, there haven’t been that many complaints, so this could just be me being VERY unlucky.

So that concludes my review – I really hope you enjoyed it. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below. I’ll be happy to help with anything I can.

In addition to being a tech enthusiast, Derek has a career as a biomedical engineer. He enjoys taking things apart, figuring out how they work and finding ways to make them better. His other hobbies include spending time with his family, "Do it yourself" projects such as home automation and running.

42 Comments

  1. Brock

    February 4, 2016 at 2:33 am

    You talked about customers upgrading the SSD, what is about RAM upgradability?

  2. Joshua

    February 5, 2016 at 6:27 am

    Am planning to buy this once it gets released in my country in March/April, but one key thing I’d like to know is the SSD upgrade. Razer recommends you not do it due to potentially voiding the warranty, but no one who has had it for review has tried upgrading yet. Would be great if you could have a small section where you look at that and see if it’s an easy job for the average person, or if it’s only worth doing if you’re a professional/or warranty has ended.

    • Derek Sullivan

      February 5, 2016 at 11:11 am

      I plan on upgrading mine once I’m satisfied I won’t have to RMA it. When I do, I’ll likely do video of it. I can say up front, it’s not to bad of a task. Once you get the cover open, you’ll see an L shaped silver ribbon cable, just under the fans. The SSD is underneath that. All you have to do is pop off the ribbon cable(maybe with a plastic opening tool or spudger) and then remove a screw holding the SSD in. It’s a tight fit, so it’ll take a little patience getting it out.

      I personally don’t believe Razer would enforce voiding a warranty over replacing a SSD, but I could certainly be wrong. Their CS reps will tell you it “may” void it but I think they are just referring to the risk of damaging something during the repair, which of course would be your responsibility. It’s more likely they will void the warranty on your SSD, that ribbon cable and any physical damage to the internal components if you decide to upgrade it. There’s no warranty stickers or warnings anywhere on the laptop and the fact it has screws pretty much implies that is serviceable, in my opinion. I think they are just vague about it in order to discourage it.

      • Circuit.Board

        February 5, 2016 at 2:52 pm

        Thanks for the great infos, man! I already ordered UHD 256GB, $1400 model but have worried about warranty seal or sticker, or something similar.
        And also I’d like to inform you about that stuff. The SSD in your $999 model is Samsung PM951, M.2, NVMe supported SSD but pretty more inferior than SM951 which is high-end, applied on MacBook Pro 13″. But I don’t know whether Razer applied PM951 on all of their lineup($999 to $1599). I’ll notify you when I received mine.
        And the Wi-Fi and BT module in the stuff is Killer 1535, M.2 interface.

  3. Brandon

    February 7, 2016 at 12:52 am

    Hi! Great review! I’m curious as to whether or not you think the UHD 4K screen would be worth the extra money? I do a lot of photo and video editing for school, and would be pretty content with the base model QHD screen, but do you think it necessary for “future proofing” to purchase the UHD model instead?
    I do game a bit on the side, but I doubt any kind of graphics card would be able to push high settings and 4k on the laptop with the core attached, not that I know much about graphics cards in general though.

    Do you think its worth the extra money? or is QHD sufficient enough?

    • Derek Sullivan

      February 7, 2016 at 1:59 am

      It’s tough to say for sure because I don’t have it for a direct comparison. I can say that my wife is a serious photographer and has never had any issue using a normal gamut screen with sRGB 90+%(equates to aRGB 70%). I personally have never cared for more color either but maybe I just don’t know what I’m missing. Many factors killed the deal for me on the UHD screen though.
      1) cost
      2) battery life – Razer explicitly states the QHD gets up to 8 hours but he UHD only gets 6.
      3) scaling issues
      4) UHD and QHD are virtually indistinguishable at the viewing distance I typically am at(see here: http://isthisretina.com/)
      5) Gaming at UHD is not practical while QHD is to a point.

      I still want to see one for comparison and see what all the hype is about. I’m also interested if the max brightness is better because that might sway my opinion somewhat.

      • Matt

        February 11, 2016 at 2:51 pm

        Great review. I have the UHD 256 model and agree with everything that was said (though note, there is an option in Synapse to turn off the lighting to the logo on the lid). My issue with the UHD is that the Windows desktop is so tiny, as is the text in some apps that don’t scale (Synapse) that I can hardly read it at times. Also, screen refreshes occasionally seem taxing for the 520 (ie., tabs in Firefox, but maybe that’s a browser issue I should test). So I am considering RMA to exchange for the QHD since it seems that screen is adequate, probably more readable, plus a boost in battery life. Question is do I have the patience to return it and wait all over again… I ordered on day 1 so believe I got one of the first to ship, but it was still an agonizing 3-4 weeks. Thanks again for the super thorough and quality review.

        • Derek Sullivan

          February 11, 2016 at 3:00 pm

          Yeah, the RMA process will probably take a while considering it’s still on backorder. Might be best to wait a week or so and see if other options open up. Thanks for the feedback on the UHD screen though – that’s what I was thinking the issues would be. I’m curious if you can tell the difference in colors as opposed to a normal gamut IPS screen?

          Can you also please tell me where the option to turn the logo off is? I saw the option to turn something off but it only turns off the LED. The backlight still illuminates the logo for me though. It’s a LOT dimmer than the older Razer Blades which I like but if there’s an option to turn it completely off, I would rather have that.

          • Matt

            February 11, 2016 at 7:35 pm

            My bad, you are correct. The option for logo illumination is in the chroma lighting tab of Synapse, however I didn’t realize the screen backlight kept it lit (dimly) even if turned off. I had to go into a dark room to confirm. Unfortunately I don’t have a normal gamut IPS screen to compare against, but honestly not sure my eyes are good enough to discern anyway. I gambled on the UHD since there were no reviews or comparisons at the time and didn’t want to regret getting an inferior screen later if that was the case. Oh well. Now i just need to decide quickly if i can live with the type. Going to call Razer now for that firmware update though.

  4. John G

    February 8, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    Ahh I really need some help from you guys! So right now I am typing from my Samsung Ativ book 9 spin which I just recently bought, and I really like it………………….but I am not sure if I want to keep it or not.

    Sorry for commenting on the wrong post, but I saw this is your latest article and has your last comments.

    So price is really not a huge issue, although the $1300 price tag for the book 9 spin was a bit more than I wanted to pay. Overall I really think this laptop is awesome, but I am not sure it it exactly what I am looking for.

    I been following your guys reviews for a while now and I got to say there is no other review site out there that does a better job! I guess my only criticism (and really this is if I am reaching) is that you guys haven’t done many reviews on the laptops that are just now coming out in the new year and at CES. I think this is part of why I am a bit hesitant to keep this laptop. I am not sure if this is the best product for me and I am not sure if I should wait a bit and stick with my current laptop to upgrade.

    So a bit about my current laptop…this thing is a mammoth. It weighs in at around 11 lbs, but it is pretty maxxed out spec wise. It runs kind of an older i7 but still does the job. I upgraded the ram (to 16gb) and ssd (to 512gb) on it as well.

    My whole reason for upgrading was to try and bridge the gap a bit between portability and performance. I think something under 5lbs is probably where I would max out, but really I think my preference is under 4. This is where I am starting to have some issues. So I am really looking for something that is as good/better performance wise from my current laptop but is way less bulky.

    I landed on the book 9 spin after reading a ton of your guys articles/comments. I was looking at the yoga 900 and the hp spectre as well which seem like similar builds, but overall it seemed like the book 9 spin was the “winner” in the most matchups between the 3.

    I have had this laptop for about a week now and I gotta say this thing is pretty cool. I am almost amazed at the performance for how light it is! But this is where things are starting to get a little tricky for me. After having my mammoth of a laptop I was ready to do a complete 180…aka look for something as small as I possibly could while still being able to handle very high performance.

    My old laptop ran this: cpubenchmark.net/cpu.php?cpu=Intel+Core+i7-2630QM+%40+2.00GHz
    and the spin has the 6700u: cpubenchmark.net/cpu.php?cpu=Intel+Core+i7-6500U+%40+2.50GHz

    Technically my old computer’s processor runs faster which I wasn’t really happy about. I guess if I had to bottom line it, I am looking for something that outperforms my old laptop, has one of intels skylake processors (probably would need to be a quad core or a 6700u), and is under 4 lbs.

    Can you guys please pleaseeeee help me here? I would so much appreciate anything you can do to point me in the right direction. Sorry if I went off on random tangents there, but I just want you guys to see where my head is at when I am looking at these newer laptops. Thanks for taking the time to read all this as well!

    • Andrei Girbea

      February 9, 2016 at 5:27 pm

      Hi and thanks for the kind words.

      What exactly are you running on that laptop and are you sure the Core i7-6500U is not enough to handle it?

      There are plenty of options with Core i7-6700HQ processors out there, but not in 13-inch form factors, so not as light or as sleek as that Spin. One of the most compact ones is the Dell XPS 15 9550, but you can find other options in here: http://www.ultrabookreview.com/8162-skylake-ultrabooks/ . You’ll also sacrifice battery life or have have to pay a hefty premium for the sleekest 15-inchers with HQ Skylake processors.

      So my advice: don’t count on a benchmark that much and base you decision on what this laptop needs to run. Also, there’s more to take into account that just the CPU’s raw performance, there’s also the GPU, Storage…

      • John G

        February 10, 2016 at 9:19 pm

        Obviously I have some commitment issues here :p. I guess I just have really really high demands for what I want and it’s kind of hard to put into words. I want a laptop that’s light, powerful (cpu), decent graphics (which is kinda why i was aiming more towards the i7 hq because of the integrated intel iris vs whats on the i7 6500u), and has at least 8gb ram (although 16 is preferred). Memory wise (and I am assuming you mean harddrive memory) I guess is just not really a huge concern to me…memory is cheap/easy, and I can put stuff on a portable HDD if I need to. (Actually what I really loved about the spin was the fact that the mem card is flush w/ the laptop so I can just grab a huge microsd card and use that if needed).

        What really turned me off on the spin (and again I am just being picky which is what’s causing me so much stress in deciding) is it’s graphics capabilities. So I don’t really play many games, but I will boot up the occasional game of civ 5 etc. Also I end up connecting to an external display a lot of times and when I did that with my spin, it was a bit choppy playing video.

  5. Tae-Hun Yun

    February 13, 2016 at 10:21 am

    I just received my UHD 256GB model stealth and confirmed below:
    1. Samsung PM951 SSD
    2. UHD panel name is SHARP LQ125D1JW33
    3. Audio Codec is Realtek ALC298

  6. Matt

    February 15, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    Just posted on the Insider forum and thought I would share:
    FWIW, I’m at the end of my two week return period so I just RMA’d my UHD model and exchanging it for a QHD. When I ordered I thought the 100% gamut would be key, but it doesn’t really matter if I can’t even read the text on some apps that don’t scale (ie., Diabo 3 launcher… have to literally put my eyes right up to the screen to barely be able to read). That, plus the overall better battery life others are reporting on the QHD made the [difficult] decision for me, because otherwise I really love this thing, have no bugs, and don’t want to go through the RMA process and wait 3 weeks to get a replacement with the chance that it may have other bugs. Se la vi.

    • Derek Sullivan

      February 15, 2016 at 6:36 pm

      Yep, I’ve experienced the same stuff with UHD which is why I try to avoid them now. Even on a 15″ it’s tough, so I can only imagine what 12.5″ is like. To this day, the launchers for Origin and Blizzard are still not hiDPI compatible. It’s been that way for over 2 years now… On top of that, if you use older Windows apps, the scaling makes them impossible to use. Flashtool for smartphones for example.

      • Matt

        February 15, 2016 at 7:13 pm

        Thanks for your feedback, Derek. Can you at least confirm these would be “better” on the QHD? Hate to go through all this just to find out I’ll have the same issue. This is my first foray into hiDPI screens as I’ve always had 1080P on a minimum of 15″ screens up until now and never had to deal with scaling issues.

        • Derek Sullivan

          February 15, 2016 at 7:24 pm

          The QHD is fine for me. I’ve always found that 240-250ppi is the top limit of my toleration for Windows scaling. That’s why I’ve disliked the 4k screens on 15.4″ laptops and even Razers QHD+ screen on the RB 14″. Everyone’s eyes are different though. If you have a store nearby, go look at a 1080p 10″ screen laptop – it’s about the equivalent for the RB Stealth QHD in terms of scaling. I use this website for decision making on screens: http://isthisretina.com/ It really gives a better understanding on whether or not higher dpi screens are worth the plunge.

  7. Matt

    February 15, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    OR is it reasonable to expect that the industry will catch up with the ubiquity of 4K screens now and these issues will resolve over time? In which case the frustrations with UHD scaling my be shorter term.

    • Derek Sullivan

      February 15, 2016 at 8:32 pm

      Well a couple years ago I assumed Blizzard and Origin would update their launchers to compensate. I also assumed Solidworks would update their libraries. I also assumed Windows 8.1 and then Windows 10 would fix the issues. Fast forward two years and the issues still exist. So I’m not going to assume anything anymore. :) Solidworks says they will have hidpi support in 2016 though.

  8. Gavin

    February 20, 2016 at 5:35 am

    Hi Derek,

    You seem to love this, you seem to love the Yoga 900…

    Want to lean one way or the other for me?

    Thanks

    • Derek Sullivan

      February 22, 2016 at 1:14 pm

      I’ve never actually handled the Yoga 900 – That might have been Andrei. Both are really good machines but I’ve had some issues with Lenovo in the past in regards to the input aspects of the laptops. So I’d be a little more skeptical of the Yoga 900, but if the customer reviews were good I might still give it a shot. It seems kind of pointless to have a laptop like that and not have pen support though.

      • Gavin

        February 22, 2016 at 11:15 pm

        Thank you. Leaning toward the Razer. I have an older lenovo with some quality issues

  9. Duncan

    February 26, 2016 at 8:42 am

    Hey! Fantastic review.

    I was looking at the various options within the Stealth Family, but was originally leaning towards the 4K 512gb version (mostly for the storage…)…

    But after reading your review above, I’m thinking of rather saving some cash, going with the base 128gb and getting a bigger SSD to throw into it.

    Any suggestions as to what model/brand to use?

    • Derek Sullivan

      February 26, 2016 at 11:44 am

      I was planning on getting the 950 Pro, p/n MZ-V5P512BW

  10. michael montelibano

    March 7, 2016 at 11:57 pm

    i have the 4k 256 model… i love this thing..
    but if i turn the brightness below 30 % the screen flickers alot…. it will show whatever is on the screen but it goes bright dark bright dark etc…. does it need to be RMA… or is it a driver issue i hae done updates on it

    • Derek Sullivan

      March 8, 2016 at 1:12 pm

      It shouldn’t flicker. I’d RMA it for sure

      • michael montelibano

        March 8, 2016 at 6:13 pm

        Damn that sucks I got this for the sole purpose of using it for my programming class… Thanks tho

        • Derek Sullivan

          March 8, 2016 at 6:20 pm

          There are some Intel graphics settings that are power related that might also cause it to fluctuate. Nothing I would describe as flickering – more like subtle fluctuations. Try disabling them and see. I think they only apply while on battery too.

  11. qwertzy

    March 9, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Do you know the Delta E?

    Does a lower number means better picture quality since it has more realistic colors?

    • Derek Sullivan

      March 9, 2016 at 5:00 pm

      I think you just want it to be close to 1, which means it’s hard to tell the difference between the colors. My tool doesn’t measure it afaik, sorry.

  12. S

    March 9, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    Got the 4K model from microsoft store.

    a) CPU throttles at full load (hovers around 2.6ghz most of the time)
    b) Color gamut is too wide, making everything super saturated.
    c) Key travel is almost nil. Maybe slightly better than 12″ macbook though..
    d) Battery BARELY LASTS 3 HOURS. I repeat, 3 HOURS.
    e) Bezel too large… the laptop could easily house 13.3″ screen.
    f) Whole case is fingerprint magnet. I literally had to wash my hands every time I touch the laptop.. and it still gets dirty (which is VERY noticeable unlike other laptops)

    I wonder why they put core i7 (which throttles and has no advantage over i5), crazy high resolution display (meaningless at tiny 12.5″ screen), wide gamut display (everything’s oversaturated, and it’s too underperforming for serious RAW work anyway)

    It’s a nice laptop to show off (I like the design and colorful backlight) but really not practical at all.

    • Derek Sullivan

      March 10, 2016 at 1:46 am

      Thanks for posting all that. I was wondering about how the 4k screen worked and how the battery life was. That’s terrible though. You can probably fix the saturation a little in the Intel settings, but that’s just how wide gamut is from what I’ve read. Razer claims that panel uses a lot of bezel space though, which is why it’s so large. I kind of wish they just picked a normal panel considering the 4k model comes with so many sacrifices.

      I’ll have to look into the throttling more but I don’t think I’ve experienced it much. In your case, turbo is just turning off though. Have you tried turning them up with HWmonitor to see if that helps? I’m really hoping Razer starts opening up the fan control. They actually advertise that we will have control of the fans but there’s nowhere to control them from except through third party software.

      • S

        March 10, 2016 at 7:32 am

        XPS 15 4K model also has wide gamut display (100% adobe RGB) with almost no bezel at all, so their excuse is just a excuse. And I saw the cpu clock *briefly* hit 3Ghz for a very short time when I ran prime95.

        It would be great if they have put i5 processor, 13.3″ FHD display and slightly larger battery instead.

        • Derek Sullivan

          March 10, 2016 at 1:44 pm

          Ahh, that’s why I didn’t see what you were seeing. I stopped using Prime95 to benchmark Ultrabook CPUs so I never did it on this one. After reading your comment yesterday, I did take a closer look with some games. I was able to hold at 3.1Ghz for the most part but it did turn turbo off a couple times for a second and dropped to 2.6Ghz. It wasn’t due to heat though unless it’s designed to kick off at 70C.

          Have you typically had good success with Prime95 on ultrabooks? My experience it is heats up the processors very quickly and is unrealistic since no normal programs will ever draw that much power.

          • S

            March 12, 2016 at 11:52 pm

            I always run prime95 to test whatever laptop/tablet I buy. Most laptops do not throttle at full CPU load alone. Adding 100% GPU load makes most laptops throttle though (some good gaming laptops – like asus ones – do handle 100% CPU and GPU load!)

            I tested Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book (both i5 versions). SP4 did not throttle, and SB throttled very little (kept 2.8-2.9Ghz out of 3.0Ghz max turbo) which was incredible considering the extremely thin case.

  13. Joseph C Castrence

    March 23, 2016 at 9:47 am

    8mb ram…..what is this 2006?

    • Derek Sullivan

      March 23, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      8GB is pretty much the standard for Ultrabooks, but yeah, it’s kind of low if you intend on using it for gaming a lot. I wish they would have at least put an extra slot in there…

  14. mike

    March 24, 2016 at 9:32 am

    Thank you for such a thorough review! It’s much appreciated, and the best I’ve seen yet. About to buy one of these, I believe!

    • Derek Sullivan

      March 26, 2016 at 2:40 am

      Good to hear! I just added a small update at the bottom on some quality issues I had, if you want to take a look.

  15. Naql99

    March 26, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    I bought the new Razer Stealth ultra book for my college aged son. First USB-C charger had a defective tip. Just wouldn’t snap in and charge. The tip fell out of the replacement they sent within two weeks. I assumed it was my son’s fault and ordered another. Tip fell out of that charger within 3 days. So, for most of the first month and a half he’s had it, the laptop has mostly been an inert brick, since it could not be charged. Now, they refuse to replace the last one. Apparently we are expected to keep shelling out $140 a pop for chargers. Not going to happen, nor will I buy anything else from them. These chargers have a build quality defect and their support sucks. Buyer beware.

  16. Bob Fritz

    May 11, 2016 at 8:15 am

    Great review and THANK YOU for being honest, so much hype about these systems…

    I did HEAPS and HEAPS of research into my next laptop before I finally decided between a Dell XPS 13 or a Razer Blade Stealth – loved the look of the Stealth but there was WAAAAY too many complaints about this system – heating issues, fan noise whine, plugs falling out, random crashes etc etc. In an interview the CEO mentioned how they devote heaps of resources to QC so no idea why these QC issues are not being picked up. Despite that I went cash in hand to my local electronic retailer only to be advised they WILL NOT stock Razer systems due to complaints regarding overheating issues and poor QC…I eventually got the DELL and have not looked back..sure DELL might have duds but they are a bigger company and seem to fix problems quicker / replace etc.

    Do your research and if you insist on getting this system do it thru Microsoft Store as their after sale support is great (imo).

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