Razer was kind enough to lend me one of their new Razer Blade Pro 17 models – this one with an RTX 2080 Super!
I’m very interested to see just how well it stacks up against the model I reviewed last year, as well as my current Razer Blade 15 which has a 2080 Max-Q.
Between the performance, build quality and screen, I gave that 2019 Razer Pro model a good grade, and this new one is no different. At the time, though, I was critical of the price, sub-par battery life, and annoying keyboard layout.
The good news is the keyboard layout has definitely improved, yet I can’t say the same for the other two categories, though. Regardless, this is a solid laptop choice if you’re willing to spend the money, and you’ll see why in my detailed review below.
Specs as reviewed – Razer Blade Pro 17
|Razer Blade Pro 17 2020|
|Screen||17.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, IPS-grade, 300 Hz, matte, Sharp LQ173M1JW02 panel|
|Processor||Intel 10th Gen Coffee Lake i7-10875H CPU, octa-core 2.3 GHz (5.1 GHz boost)|
|Video||NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q with Optimus|
|Memory||16 GB DDR4 2933Mhz (2×8 GB DIMMs)|
|Storage||512 GB M.2 NVMe (Samsung PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ)|
|Connectivity||Intel Wireless AX201, Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||3x USB-A 3.2 gen2, 1x USB-C Thunderbolt 3, 1x USB-C 3.2, headphone/mic, ethernet, HDMI 2.0b|
|Battery||70.5 Wh, 230 W charger|
|Size||395 mm or 15.55” (w) x 260 mm or 10.24” (d) x 19.9 mm or .78” (h)|
|Weight||2.75 kg (6.06 lbs)|
|Extras||individually lit RGB keyboard, large clickpad, HD Windows hello webcam, stereo speakers, SD card reader|
Design and first look
Considering so much is similar to the model I reviewed last year, I’d like to just refer you to that article and I’ll merely point out things that have changed. Really though, almost nothing has changed. It’s still a great design and there’s little or nothing to complain about.
It’s the same unibody construction and the overall dimensions, including the weight, are identical to last year. It’s not the lightest 17” laptop available, but it’s certainly better built than most of those lighter models.
I still wish they would do away with the glowing green logo and go with something more subtle, like on their Stealth model. Especially for a “Pro” model – it’s hard to be taken seriously with that logo and almost everyone I know covers theirs up with a wrap.
Another minor complaint is the lid is still a little stiff to lift with a finger. On the bright side, at least the hinge is really strong. Considering those are my only two complaints, it’s really not all that bad.
Although the IO options are the same, there is an added feature with the USB-C port and that’s the ability to use it for charging, at up to 100W. This won’t help you when running games, you’d still have to plug in the main power brick for that, but it’ll certainly be useful for traveling or if you forget your charging brick.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard is also something that hasn’t changed much, except for one VERY important aspect.
The typing experience is pretty much identical to before. All the keys are properly spaced apart, have decent travel and good feedback. In short, I have no difficulty typing on this machine.
If you’re new to Razer Blades, you might be expecting to see a Numpad, especially since it’s a 17” laptop. But that’s not Razer‘s style, as they’ve never had one as far as I know. To be honest, though, I think it’s better to have a centralized keyboard to leave room on the sides for the speakers, rather than the squished layout I’ve seen on other 17” models.
My typical typing test yielded good results at 58wpm, which is a little above average for me. Keep in mind that I’ve been typing on a Razer Blade 15 for the past year and a half, though, so I’m a little biased, as I’m very used to typing on these machines.
The “key” improvement(pun), which I mentioned before and Razer made, was with the keyboard layout though. Quite frankly, a constant irritation I’ve had with my current and all Razer Blade models up until now has been with the small right-shift key and the dreaded up arrow that was placed between it and the ? key. Fortunately, that is no more, as Razer moved the up arrow to a split design and increased the shift key size properly.
Seriously, I can’t tell you how many times I accidentally hit that up arrow on my 2019 Razer Blade 15. It got to a point where I had it reprogrammed in order to prevent it from happening. So this is a welcome improvement for me. I’m actually tempted to trade up to this model, but it’s kind of hard to justify the cost. Maybe next year.
The keys are individually backlit and are Chroma enabled, so if you want to customize the keyboard lighting with some pretty cool designs, you’ll be able to do so through the Synapse software. I really like this aspect, as it offers a unique touch to the laptop to make it your own.
The glass trackpad, thankfully, hasn’t changed a bit. It’s still the best trackpad I’ve used on a Windows laptop and there’s literally nothing I would do to change it. All my multitouch gestures worked fine, the pointer tracked perfectly and I had no problems in its usage whatsoever.
It’s large and is a clickpad, so the integrated buttons are underneath the bottom corners of the pad. The only weird part about this clickpad is if you push on the upper portion of it, it doesn’t depress at all. It’s really not that big of an issue though, because once you move down about 20% of the way, you’re able to click.
To sum up, with the keyboard layout fixed, I can honestly say that this keyboard/trackpad combo is about as good as I could want. I think the only potential improvement they could offer would be to add their optical switches that they had in one of their Razer Blade 15 models last year. But not at the expense of the key backlighting, like I saw! Regardless, I’m very happy with what I tested here.
The 2020 Razer Blade Pro has a matte 17.3-inch IPS grade panel with FHD resolution and 300 Hz refresh rate. It’s made by Sharp, with part number LQ173M1JW02. It’s technically not IPS, but it’s just the same in my book. Viewing angles are perfect.
The max brightness I was able to achieve was 350 nits, which is pretty good, although it was not in the center of the screen. In fact, the brightness distribution on this unit was a little off. Fortunately, I didn’t notice it under normal use. Zero backlight bleed on my unit, by the way.
I took some measurements on my Spyder4Pro sensor and here’s what I got:
- Panel HardwareID: Sharp – LQ173M1JW02(SHP14DB);
- Coverage: 99% sRGB, 72% NTSC, 77% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.2;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 316 cd/m2 on power;
- Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 16 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1215:1
- Native white point: 7527 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.26 cd/m2.
- PWM: No.
This is a very impressive looking screen. Not only with the refresh rate fast, but the color coverage and contrast ration are about as good as it gets for fast FHD screens. Razer also calibrates the screen fairly well, but that default White Point is rather skewed.
One thing that’s similar to the previous model is the fact it uses Optimus, and not GSYNC. I rather prefer this, as 300 Hz makes it kind of pointless to even need Gsync and it’s better to use the iGPU for better battery life. You do have the ability to disable Optimus in Synapse though, so that’s a nice touch at least.
My only criticism about the panel is the pixel density. At 17”, you can start to make out the pixels, which makes it feel kind of dated. But at 300Hz, any higher resolution makes it kind of difficult to push the limits, even with a 2080 Super. I would have preferred a QHD panel at 120Hz, to be honest. I think the GPU would be able to drive that resolution adequately and the pixel density would be ideal.
If you do want a higher pixel density, you do have the option to buy a 4k touch model. The main benefits are that it’s a full gamut screen, which would be ideal for content creators. What makes it stand out from the rest is the fact that it’s 120Hz. I’m sure the 2080 Super will provide enough horsepower to game at 4k, but I don’t think you’ll be pushing 120Hz a lot.
Hardware and performance
This configuration of the Razer Blade Pro 17 comes equipped with an octa-core i7-10875H processor and 16GB of RAM. The RAM comes in two 8GB sticks and is upgradable, if needed. For typical day to day tasks, this CPU is overkill, but it’s great for demanding multi-threaded loads and even games.
Paired with the CPU is an Nvidia RTX 2080 Super GPU. Interestingly enough, they did away with the 2060 option this year and the only other GPU option with the octa-core CPU is the 2070 Max-Q (non Super).
The NVMe drive on this model is 512GB and is also upgradable. It’s actually a pretty good Samsung PM981 drive. See my Crystal disk mark benchmark for the speeds.
Upgrading the drive and RAM is very easy. The bottom cover is held in by Torx screws and is easily removed. Once opened, you have easy access to SSD slots and the Ram. By the way, there’s a second SSD slot if you wanted to just use that.
I have no complaints about the daily performance of this machine. Pretty much everything I threw at it opened and operated quickly. Games and professional loads are about the only things that you’ll actually need this much horsepower.
I took a number of synthetic benchmarks. For these tests, I left the fan profile in Auto and the profile in Synapse was set to Balanced. Here were my results:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 17867 (Graphics – 22812, Physics – 16841);
- 3Dmark 13 – Time Spy: 8241 (Graphics – 8392, CPU – 7482);
- 3Dmark 13 – Port Royal: 5169;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 16731;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 5420;
- PCMark 10: 5167 (Essentials 8940, Productivity 8560, Content 4892);
- GeekBench 5 64-bit: Single-Core: 1274, Multi-core: 6161;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 144.72 fps CPU 1172 cb, CPU Single Core 197 cb;
- CineBench R20: CPU 2623 cb, Single Core 464 cb.
I also retook some more benchmarks with the profile in Synapse set to max CPU and GPU. Here were my results:
- 3Dmark 13 – Fire Strike: 20711 (Graphics – 24378, Physics – 21445);
- 3Dmark 13 – Time Spy: 9419 (Graphics – 9352, CPU – 9819);
- 3Dmark 13 – Port Royal: 5683;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 18030;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 5885;
- PCMark 10: 6850 (Essentials 9715, Productivity 9073, Content 9897);
- GeekBench 5 64-bit: Single-Core: 1319, Multi-core: 7691;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 163.21 fps CPU 1585 cb, CPU Single Core 206 cb;
- CineBench R20: CPU 3420 cb, Single Core 460 cb
Finally, is the testing at max CPU and GPU with a -120mV undervolt of the CPU:
- 3Dmark 13 – Fire Strike: 20792 (Graphics – 24422, Physics – 21615);
- 3Dmark 13 – Time Spy: 9365 (Graphics – 9354, CPU – 9428);
- 3Dmark 13 – Port Royal: 5712;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 18317;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 5914;
- GeekBench 5 64-bit: Single-Core: 1296, Multi-core: 7926;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 140.98 fps CPU 1795 cb, CPU Single Core 201 cb;
- CineBench R20: CPU 3756 cb, Single Core 460 cb
These benchmarks alone are pretty good, but if you dig a little deeper and get some sustained benchmarks from the CPU, it’s a slightly different story. Running 15 consecutive runs of Cinebench in both Balanced mode and max-settings yields different results, as expected. You can see this in the graphs and comparisons below.
What I can gather from these results is that Razer set the power limit for the CPU to be lower than the competition (54+W in this case, vs 63+ to 70+ W with others) and it results in slightly poorer performance, when compared to the Asus Zephyrus S15 and the Gigabyte Aero 15 specked with the same CPU.
Undervolting helps a little with the sustained load tasks. I was able to achieve a stable -120mV undervolt to do my testing. Not only did it slightly improve the CPU’s frequencies and performance, it also helped with gaming temperatures. More on that below.
The good news is that games, in almost all scenarios, are probably not going to be affected by the lower power limits Razer set. You’ll see more on this shortly, but for every game I tested, the CPU usage was far below 100%. In fact, most games ran between 20-60% of CPU utilization. So for any game you play, you likely won’t see any performance drop when compared to other laptop models with similar specs.
What this will affect is stuff like video rendering and batch processing, which will utilize all 8 cores closer to 100%. For stuff like that, expect to see a 3-12% drop in performance compared to the Zephyrus and Aero laptops that we previously tested, both with stock voltage and when undervolted. If this is the kind of stuff you primarily will be doing with your laptop, you might want to consider those as alternatives, especially for cost reasons as well.
Here are some of the benchmark testing on games. All gaming tests were also done on Auto fan profile with CPU and GPU settings maxed in Synapse.
|Battlefield V (DX 12 On, Ultra Preset, Ray-Tracing OFF) || 110-128 fps|
|Battlefield V (DX 12 On, Ultra Preset, Ray-Tracing ON)|| 65-75 fps|
|Battlefield V (DX 12 On, Ultra Preset, Ray-Tracing OFF, Synapse balanced mode)||109-123 fps|
|Final Fantasy XV (High)|| 85-116 fps|
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Ultra Preset, Hairworks Off)|| 125-138 fps|
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Ultra Preset, Hairworks On)|| 100-118 fps|
|Doom Eternal(Ultra Nightmare Presets)||200-250 fps|
So as far as gaming performance goes, I’d say this is pretty excellent. Even at max settings, I was pushing way past 90Hz on most AAA titles. For the record, I don’t play competitive FPS games, so I couldn’t tell you just how valuable it is to have a 300Hz screen, over let’s say the 120Hz one from last year. All I can say is it’s much better than having a 60Hz panel.
You can definitely see some performance gains over the RTX 2080 Razer Blade I reviewed last year though. If you already own that one, I’m not sure it’s worth a trade-up, but it’s certainly a significant improvement given the choice between the two.
One thing I can really appreciate is the “Balanced” mode in Synapse. After using this laptop a couple weeks, I think if I were to own it, I would keep it on this setting permanently. I’ll get more detailed in the next section, but it really does cut down on the thermal stresses, which results in a quieter experience… and not at a huge performance expense.
Emissions (noise, heat), Connectivity and speakers
Like most other Razer Blade models, this laptop has a vapor chamber cooling system to keep the CPU and GPU cool. This is all in lieu of using the more traditional heatpipes that connect the heatsinks to the fans. It actually does a pretty good job at keeping the internals cool.
On both sides of the chamber are two large fans, identical to last year. There are also two smaller fans located below the chamber, down near the palm rest. It looks like air is drawn up through the bottom, through all four fans and then exhausted up through the vent by the screen.
I think for this CPU/GPU combo, they might be onto something, as the temperatures I measured were pretty good. I did most of my testing with the CPU and GPU set to maximum, in Synapse.
While playing Witcher 3, I witnessed typical CPU temps between 78-82C, with spikes as high as 94C. The GPU faired much better, stabilizing at 70C. Framerates hovered between 100-118fps. These results are probably due to the slightly lower power limit they chose for their CPU as well.
Switching Synapse to Balanced mode helped a little, but not in all cases. The temperature ranges were close to the same as in max settings, but the CPU temperature spikes were eliminated, resulting in a max CPU temp recorded at 84C. My framerates were 90-100fps in this mode.
I also tested Doom Eternal, which was a little more demanding and I was pushing over 200fps. The differences between Balanced and Max-settings were less impressive with this game, but the average CPU temperature was 87C at max and 81C on balanced. The GPU hovered around 71-73C for both settings.
Undervolting also can help control those spikes. My -120mV undervolt helped eliminate the temperature spikes for both tests, and also helped lower the average CPU temperature while playing Doom Eternal.
Like I just said, if I were to own this machine, I would probably just keep it on Balanced. The performance hit is low, and cutting down on the thermal spikes is a significant plus. Thermal spikes in the 90s are something that my current Razer Blade 15 still does today and it drives me crazy. Undervolting helps even more, so I’d likely also do that on a normal basis.
Another nice thing about the balanced mode is cutting down on the fan noise. During normal use, I barely ever heard the fans kick on. When they did, it was a low hum, unless I was gaming. Even then it was tolerable.
But, as I touched on before in the previous section, Balanced mode cuts down on the CPU power limit even more so and will greatly affect your performance on high CPU demand programs. So if you’re using this for work reasons, you might be better off keeping the CPU on maximum settings.
I took some measurements during my testing. For reference, the ambient noise levels are around 28dB. With moderate use, the fans ramp up to 39dB at ear level and about 50dB at the exhaust. In custom mode, with the CPU maxed, you’re looking at 45dB/55dB with the same testing.
During heavy gaming, the laptop gets significantly louder, with the noise level hovering around 50-60dB at ear level and about 65dB at the unit itself. Pretty loud, but this is at least in your control, through Synapse. Worst case, you could activate Whisper mode in Nvidia Experience, but this cuts down on the performance a lot more.
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 – Netflix clip in EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing Witcher 3 for approximately 30+ minutes on ultra FHD settings
This wasn’t surprising and falls in line with the Razer Blade 17 model I reviewed last year. The palm-rest fans appear to help keep it somewhat cooler than other laptops, which is nice. But the underbelly gets extremely hot under heavy load, so you’ll want to limit how much gaming you do on your lap, unless you use a laptop tray.
For connectivity, the Intel Wifi 6 AX201 module is used in this model, which supports Bluetooth 5.0. I measured download speeds of 500Mbps (my max for my ISP) at distances of approximately 25 feet from my router, which is very good. I also didn’t experience a single drop in connection.
For audio, there’s an upward-facing speaker on each side of the keyboard, which sound pretty decent, but lack bass. I measured a max amplitude of 85dB on my sound meter and the bass was only detectable as low as 100Hz.
Above the screen is the same Windows Hello webcam that’s been on all the other Razer Blade models, the past couple years. It’s an HD webcam and takes decent pictures as long as your lighting is adequate.
The Windows Hello feature also works pretty well, but you may have to train it a little before it works seamlessly. I’ve criticized the low light ability of Razer’s webcam in the past, but I think drivers have improved this over the past year.
This Blade uses the same 70.5Whr battery that was used in the model last year. It’s unfortunate too because it’s not only smaller than the typical 99Whr that you see in most 17 inch laptops, it’s even smaller than the battery in the smaller Blade 15.
I did some testing to see how long the battery would last in certain scenarios.
- 10.7 W (~6 h 35 min of use) – idle, Best Battery Mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 17.4 W (~4 h 3 min of use) – 1080p Youtube fullscreen in Chrome, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 16.5 W (~4 h 16 min of use) – 1080p Netflix fullscreen video in Chrome, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 28.1 W (~2 h 30 min of use) – heavy browsing in Chrome, Better Performance Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 68.1 W (~1 h 2 min of use) – Gaming – Witcher 3, Maximum Performance Mode, 60fps, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON. 70.5
So as you can see, these results aren’t all that great. They’re consistent with the results I got on the last model, but I still would expect more. Even with Optimus enabled, you’re only looking at 3-4 hours of typical use.
After looking at the inside, I really think Razer should consider either shrinking the booster fans or removing them completely, in order to make space for a 99Whr battery. I understand that those fans keep the trackpad cool, but do they really need to be so large? It’s not like I’m using the trackpad while gaming, and the trackpad is insanely cooler than every part of the laptop – there’s definitely some wiggle room.
Price and availability
The Razer Blade Pro 17 is available at many retailers, including Amazon and their own Razer store.
There are only two graphics card options for the Razer Blade Pro: the 2080 Super version (this model) is listed at $3199. There’s also a 120Hz 4k touch model with this GPU, but it’ll set you back a whopping $3800. Finally, there’s a “budget” $2600 model, but it only has the RTX 2070 Max-Q(non Super).
So I liked it last year, and I like it even more this year. Razer not only kept the best parts of the laptop the same, but they also found a way to make some pretty good improvements that make the value that much better.
The performance of this laptop is just plain excellent, with the exception of CPU-heavy loads, where the slightly limited 8Core i7 implementation trails the competition. I actually feel like they pushed the internals as far as they should go and it’s not like it’s going to throttle like crazy either – the cooling system is built to suit the parts inside it.
Between that, the excellent keyboard and trackpad, the 300 Hz screen, and the stellar build quality, there’s little to dislike about this laptop. I’ve really enjoyed using it for the past couple weeks, and I certainly could see myself using it as a permanent daily driver.
The only thing that would hold me back is the battery life. If I’m going to carry a big laptop like this around for work, I would expect to get more than 3 hours out of it. My Razer Blade 15 gets better battery life, so if I had to choose again between the two, I’d probably still go with the Blade 15.
But if 17-inch laptops are your thing, and money is not an issue, this laptop should be on your shortlist. There is a little competition out there though, so do your homework and choose what fits best for you. Especially if this machine is more for work and less for games, you might want to look into other options that use more of the CPU capabilities. As far as other thin and light 17 inch laptops go, you might want to check out the Asus Zephyrus S17, the Gigabyte Aero 17, or the updated MSI GS75 Stealth.
That wraps up this review. Please post a comment below if you have any questions.
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