You may remember that I just recently reviewed the Razer Blade Stealth 13, Quartz edition. With the MX150 GPU, I thought it was adequate for most purposes, although a little pricey. It wasn’t much of a gaming laptop though, which is certainly what Razer is known for.
This time Razer has sent be something better though. A Razer Blade Stealth 13 late-2019 with an Intel Ice Lake i7 and a GTX 1650 inside! On paper, this GPU falls between a GTX 1050 and 1060, so it’s certainly gaming material.
I’ll admit, when they first announced it, I was very skeptical of how well it would stay cool. To my surprise though, they did a good job keeping those temperatures down. But there is a cost, which I’ll get into in more detail below.
Since I just wrote the review on the previous model, most of my opinions are the same. So if you want my full thoughts on the build, screen or typing experience, I would ask that you please refer to that article, as I’m going to cover just the changes between the two models below.
Specs as reviewed – Razer Blade Stealth 13
|Razer Blade Stealth 13|
|Screen||13.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, IPS equivalent, 60 Hz, matte, Sharp LQ133M1JW41 panel|
|Processor||Intel 10thth Gen Ice Lake i7-1065G7 CPU, quad-core 1.3 GHz (3.9 GHz boost)|
|Video||Intel UHD G7 Iris Plus and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 35W with 4GB GDDR5 VRAM|
|Memory||16 GB LPDDR4X 3733 Mhz (soldered)|
|Storage||512 GB M.2 NVMe (Samsung PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ)|
|Connectivity||Intel Wireless-AX 201 Wifi 6, Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||2x USB-A 3.1, 1x USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, 1x USB-C 3.1 Power port, headphone/mic|
|Battery||53.1 Wh, 100 W charger|
|Size||304.6 mm or 11.99” (w) x 210 mm or 8.27” (d) x 15.3 mm or .60” (h)|
|Weight||1.42 kg (3.13 lbs)|
|Extras||single-zone RGB keyboard, large clickpad, HD Windows hello webcam, stereo speakers|
Design and build
As I said, since the design is so similar to the pink model I reviewed earlier this year, I point you to that article for the details, as my opinion is no different than before.
In short, it’s a very well designed and excellently built machine. Unlike the previous review unit that was the Quartz Pink version, this is the standard Black variant, and also a bit heavier and thicker. All that is ok though, as I could barely tell the difference in size and it’s still a light and small computer. The color is also more to my appeal, although this model is certainly more fingerprint prone.
If you’ve seen a Razer Blade Stealth in the past couple years, this late-2019 variant it’s just as you’d expect. That’s a good thing, because there’s little or nothing I would improve. For me, this is the ultimate ultrabook as far as the build and design are concerned.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard and trackpad are also identical to the previous model I reviewed, so I won’t go into too much detail and ask that you read my previous comments, as they also have not changed.
I’m still going to be critical about this keyboard, as the size of the right shift key, the oddly placed up arrow and the power button location are not normal to me. As a Razer Blade 15 owner (for about a year now), I still struggle with accidentally hitting the up arrow instead of Shift, and require the key to be reprogramed in Synapse when I’m typing for long periods of time.
The trackpad is still really nice though, so no complaints about keeping that the same. It can’t get any bigger, and if they made it wider, I would probably struggle to type.
This Razer Blade Stealth 13 has the same 13.3-inch IPS panel with FHD resolution and 60 Hz refresh rate as the previous version. It’s made by Sharp, with part number LQ133M1JW41. Overall, it’s a great panel, with sharp images even at steep viewing angles.
It’s the same panel as before, but I’m going to rewrite this section since I changed the tool and method on how I measure the specs.
The max brightness I was able to achieve was 417 nits, which is just awesome. The contrast ratio was also excellent, topping out at 1226:1 at maximum brightness. Again, like the last time I saw it, I detected almost no backlight bleed on my unit.
This time I took some measurements on my upgraded xRite i1 Pro sensor and here’s what I got:
- Panel HardwareID: Sharp SHP14B8 – LQ133M1JW41;
- Coverage: 98% sRGB, 68% NTSC, 70% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.2;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 414 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1226:1
- Native white point: 6900 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.34 cd/m2.
I still love this screen. It has great colors, brightness and viewing angles. However, I said before that I wouldn’t change a thing, but now with the upgraded GPU, I think they should start looking into a faster screen.The laptop uses Optimus, so GSYNC is disabled. It’s for the best though, because the advantage of using Gysnc with this GPU is minimal and it’s best to have decent battery life.
Maybe I’m spoiled, but the large majority of the screens I’m seeing on other (larger) laptops is 120+Hz, so this screen just feels inferior in comparison. Especially since this CPU/GPU combo is perfectly capable of going past 60Hz for many games. There just isn’t anything out there available at 13.3” yet, but settling for a 60 Hz panel on a gaming ultrabook still feels like compromising to me.
Hardware and performance
This Razer Blade Stealth comes with a quad-core Intel Ice Lake i7-1065G7 processor and 16GB of LPDDR4X RAM. On paper, this is slower in intensive loads than the CPU they used on the previous generation, but we’ll talk about the actual performance differences in a minute. FYI, the RAM is soldered, so you’re stuck with what you get here.
Paired with the CPU is an Nvidia GTX1650 GPU, which is definitely a step up from the MX150 from the last version. Now we’re talking – as this should perform more to a gamer’s standards, better than every previous Razer Blade Stealth. It is nonetheless a 35W Max-Q variant, similar to what you can find on some 15-inch gaming ultrabooks as the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme or the Asus ZenBook 15 UX534FTC.
For storage this gets a 512GB Samsung PM981, which is a pretty fast drive. See my Crystal disk mark benchmark for the speeds. There’s only one slot though, so if you need more space, you’ll have to settle for replacing the current drive.
Like last year, the only things that are upgradable are the SSD and the Wifi module, and doing so is easy. The bottom cover is held in by Torx screws and is easily removed. Once opened, you have easy access to both M.2 slot and the Wifi module.
I’d like to say the performance is superior to the last model, but it’s actually a mixed bag for me. For normal day to day tasks, it has actually been perfectly fine. Even for gaming, it’s pretty good, especially if you’re directly comparing to the previous model.
But if you’re upgrading from the previous model, there’s a catch with the CPU – it’s actually significantly slower! It’s not noticeable with normal light tasks, but with the heavier CPU taxing programs, there’s a pretty noticeable drop in performance.
Let’s start by taking a look at the synthetic benchmarks I took while in the highest performance Gaming mode. Here were my results:
- 3DMark 11: 9342 (Graphics – 11188, Physics – 6489);
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 6780 (Graphics – 7862, Physics – 8716);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 2946 (Graphics – 2998, CPU – 2686);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 1641;
- PCMark 10: 4258 (E: 8186, P: 6976, DC: 3670);
- GeekBench 5.0 64-bit: Single-Core: 1191, Multi-core: 3304;
- Cinebench R15: CPU 511 cb, CPU Single Core 168 cb;
- CineBench R20: CPU 1081 cb, CPU Single Core 423 cb;
By themselves, these benchmarks are pretty good. It’s only when you start comparing them to the results of the previous model that you can see what I’m talking about. With all the CPU related benchmarks, you’re looking at a 20-25% drop in performance compared to the Core i7-8565U.
I also ran some testing on games. All gaming tests were done on the Auto fan profile and Gaming mode.
|Skyrim (Default Ultra settings, 1080p)||60 fps|
|Doom (High, OpenGL 4.5, 1080p)||72-84 fps|
|Doom (Ultra, OpenGL 4.5, 1080p)||65-77 fps|
|Final Fantasy XV (Average presets, 1080p)||24-40 fps|
|Final Fantasy XV (Average presets, 1080p)||51-58 fps|
|No Mans Sky (Medium, 1080p)||35-46 fps|
|No Mans Sky (Medium, 720p)||51-60 fps|
|Witcher 3 (Medium, 1080p)||57-72 fps|
|Witcher 3 (High, 1080p)||42-52 fps|
As you can see, the gaming results are much better than the MX150 model and it’s exclusively because of the more powerful GPU. Perhaps these results could be a little better with the i7-8565U, but I don’t think it’ll be all that much.
So does the drop in CPU performance matter? For most people buying this laptop, no. But for those that are planning on using it more for batch processing or content creation, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere for a better out of the box solution.
Also keep in mind that if you’re a Razer Core owner and like to use your laptop docked a lot, you’ll probably want to consider your options as well, as a CPU that is 25% slower is going to have much more of an effect on your performance.
So what gives? Well, the problem lies with the fact that the CPU’s TDP is locked at 15W. I don’t know what the reason is for this, but I have a hunch that the temperature spikes were probably pretty bad and Razer opted for something more stable.
Whatever the reason is, you can’t do anything about it because the CPU is locked. Not even Throttlestop can change the TDP. It would be nice of Razer to address this in the future and give users more of a choice. There’s certainly some room for more power, as the temperatures I was seeing in the CPU were very, very good.
There is one thing you can do to squeeze out some more power, and that’s undervolting. I was only able to achieve a -50mV undervolt on my machine and had to use Throttlestop for it, since Intel XTU isn’t compatible with this CPU.
I retook some benchmarks so you can see the effect it had:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 6753 (Graphics – 7643, Physics – 10228);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 3039 (Graphics – 2984, CPU – 3401);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 1637;
- PCMark 10: 4327 (E: 8238, P: 7424, DC: 3596);
- Cinebench R15: CPU 552 cb, CPU Single Core 167 cb;
- CineBench R20: CPU 1349 cb, CPU Single Core 427 cb;
Undervolting has a significant effect on the CPU related scores. They get closer to the i7-8565U model, but not quite there. To show the difference further, I took 10 consecutive Cinebench tests, both undervolted and at stock. It’s loud and clear that undervolting boosts the CPU performance significantly.
Usually, undervolting reduces temps and prevents thermal throttling, to provide some added stability in order to stabilize or raise benchmark scores. But this behavior is very different. Performance is being boosted because the voltage being supplied to each core is lower, but the wattage is the same. This allows the cores to run at higher frequency within the 15W TDP limit. It makes sense – it’s just unusual for laptops to have this limitation. Especially something marketed as a gaming laptop.
All I can say is do your research before investing in this CPU. Like I mention, the drop in performance won’t matter for most people. But if you’re sensitive to getting the most out of the components that you purchase, you might want to look at some of the competition to see if it’s better suited for you. There’s nothing this thin and light that has this GPU/CPU config yet, but options with 14-inch screens are available (like the MSI Prestige 14) and more will be launched early into 2020.
Emissions (noise, heat), Connectivity and speakers
The cooling system on this Razer Blade Stealth is very capable. Like the MX150 model, it uses a dual fan system and a reasonably sized heat sink on both the GPU and CPU. The difference this time around is they added a thicker main-heat pipe and larger transfer plates to compensate for the more powerful GPU. It was enough.
Under normal loads, I barely heard the fan operate and most of the time it was off. While gaming though, the fans ramp up to about 40dB and that’s noticeable, but still more than reasonable. I’m happy with the fans on this one as they clearly wanted to keep this machine as quiet as possible.
The peak CPU temperature I measured while gaming was 78C. Not too bad considering how small this is. Consider undervolting if you want to stabilize those CPU temps further. The GPU usually hovered in the low 70s, so no complaints there.
I took some readings on the outside of the casing, top and bottom, while under normal loads and also while gaming. Here’s what I got:
*Daily Use – streaming Netflix on Edge for 30 minutes, fans on Auto
*Load Use – playing Doom for 30 minutes, Gaming profile, fans on Auto (~40 dB)
A little hot on the lap, but overall these are pretty good readings considering how thin the laptop is. It’s also consistent with the readings I got on the previous model, which I was ok with.
For connectivity, there’s an Intel Wireless-AX 201 module which provides a great connection to Wifi and Bluetooth 5.0. I don’t have Wifi6, but my internet connection was maxed out at 480 Mbps, pretty much everywhere in my house.
The audio on the laptop is the same as last year, with a pair of upward-facing speakers on both sides of the keyboard. They are loud enough but lack bass. Impressive considering how small they are, though.
The Windows Hello webcam is exactly the same as the previous model as well as all of the other Razer Blades on sale today. It’s not the greatest in terms of quality, but it works and is better than nothing, especially for the added biometrics.
This Razer Blade Stealth 13 version gets a 53 Wh battery, the same battery as before. I retook my measurements since the GPU changed.
Here are my results:
- 4.3 W (~12 h 19 min of use)– idle, Best Battery Mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 6.5 W (~8 h 9 min of use)– text editing in Google Drive, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 7.3 W (~7 h 16 min of use)– 1080p Youtube fullscreen in Chrome, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.7 W (~9 h 17 min of use)– 1080p Netflix fullscreen video in Chrome, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.5 W (~8 h 38 min of use)– 4K fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 13.4 W (~3 h 57 min of use)– browsing in Chrome, Better Performance Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 40.8 W (~1 h 18 min of use)– Gaming – Witcher 3, Maximum Performance Mode, 60fps, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON.
It’s a pretty efficient laptop, which makes up for the fairly small battery. There was a negligible difference between the previous generation, except for the gaming results, which are a little worse. That’s to be expected with a more powerful GPU.
The charger this time around is significantly bigger though – about twice as large as before. It’s 100W, so it has to be. I still consider it to be very portable and I wouldn’t mind carrying it around at all.
Price and availability
Like before, the Razer Blade Stealth is available at many retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy and Newegg. It’s also available directly through Razer’s website.
Follow this link for updated prices and availability info at the time you’re reading the article.
At the time of this review, this model is on sale for $1500 at pretty much all of the retailers. The normal price is $1799. If you want a 4k touchscreen, you’ll have to pay a whopping $2000 for that model. I honestly don’t see a point in having a 4K 13” panel, but if you want touch that badly, you’ll have to pay the price.
Even with the Quartz pink version tested earlier, I thought that cost was an issue and this is no different. At this price point, you might as well get the Razer Blade 15, right? Well, I’m sure that’s the case for many of us, including myself, as I don’t think I could ever justify spending $1500-1700 on this laptop when the same amount of money can purchase a far superior 15” model with similar build quality.
But there is definitely a crowd out there that wants a smaller form-factor with good gaming abilities. And there really is nothing else out there right now that is this thin and light and packs the same kind of specs.
The last time I reviewed the Razer Blade Stealth 13, I went into a rant about the cost. That is still the case and I won’t repeat myself there. But with a GTX 1650 in this sort of a chassis, I think the added cost is somewhat more justified this time around, as you can actually play some decent games on this thing.
Besides the expense, the things you’ll have to get over are the underpowered CPU and the frustrating keyboard layout. Like I said before, the CPU performance is probably fine for most people, especially if you undervolt it. But Razer Core users that are currently using last year’s model should be very cautious about trading up to this model, else risk losing some performance while docked.
The keyboard, on the other hand, is something that can’t be fixed. I’ve read other reviews as well, and this appears to be a common complaint amongst reviewers. Users, however, are a little more forgiving, with many claiming they never even use the right Shift key. If this is you, perhaps you would get used to this keyboard better than I did.
All this said, I really really like this laptop. The build quality, the screen and trackpad are all great. The gaming performance is also stellar for such a small design. The sound is decent and it has biometrics. Heck, it even looks professional now that they removed that ugly green glowing logo on the hood.
That’s if you are looking for something ultra-portable that plays games pretty well and you have the money to spend (and you don’t use the right shift key!), perhaps this is the right model for you. But if you’re looking for more value and can sacrifice some added weight and size, I think you should consider the Razer Blade 15 instead, it’s more powerful, gets a fast refresh screen that makes a huge difference in games and lasts longer on a charge.
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