Razer’s New Blade Laptop, the Multi-Part Review, Part 1

Last week, I traveled uptown to the Dream Hotel in midtown Manhattan to meet with Min-Liang Tan, the talented CEO of Razer, the people who make headsets, mice and computers for serious gamers. It’s not the casual gamer they’re seeking. If you’re core, they want you. You won’t see many Razer ads in magazines, and probably none on TV. That’s because the Razer fan who talks up the product he or she likes is the company’s biggest asset. If Razer has a new piece of technology that’s cool, the word gets passed along by its 1.7 million fans on Facebook – and from simple word of mouth.

In a small room at the Dream, Min talked at length about how crucial design is to the new Razer Blade laptop, which retails at a hefty $2,500. (That’s actually $300 less than the first version.) As we spoke, I got the feeling the computer’s design is as extremely important to Min as design was to Steve Jobs at Apple.

My job today (and beyond) is to tell you whether the design of Razer’s second laptop is worth the fancy price of admission. Razer loaned me one of the Blades and, as I write, I am currently putting it through its paces.

I’m not a big fan of unboxing videos; with their oohs and ahhs, they’re like free ads for the publisher. But when you get the mailing box home, you’ll open it to find another box. The box that holds the Razer looks expensive, like a box that holds an expensive, hand-tailored shirt, something you’d treasure during the holidays. Razer is trying to say, “We’ve thought about everything here, the complete experience. Even what you’ll store the Blade in took some serious thought.”

The Blade itself is less than one-inch thin. I really don’t care about the hipness of thinness. But I do care about the thinness to this extent: the lower the profile of a laptop, the less it’s going to worsen my carpal tunnel syndrome when I work on the keyboard. That’s key, so to speak, especially when I’m playing games.

The black plastic case itself has two slightly polished black slashes on top to give it a distinct identity. Min told me, “This design feature goes back to my days in the Boy Scouts. While pioneering, my friend gave me a carbide knife to use. It was so beautiful. That design made its way to the Blade.”

Then, I noticed an important but subtle feature. The side and bottom air ducts are angled in such a way that the air blows away from your hand and not at your hand. You want a hot hand to win at gaming, but not heat on your fingers that distracts you from playing.

Inputs for your devices are on the left side of the laptop only. You’ll see three USB ports, and HDMI port, Ethernet port and a plug for headphones. If you’re right handed, you’ll probably want to use a wireless mouse for shooters like Battlefield 3. You don’t want a wire looping around the Blade from the left side to the right side.

Finally, I really like the fact that the charger block isn’t big and heavy as a brick. It’s small, light and slim, about the size of a TV remote control. If this is supposed to be a truly portable laptop, it’s important to note that this very light power adapter takes ounces away from the laptop’s total weight in a laptop bag or in your suitcase.

-Harold Goldberg

In the coming days: More on the design, the keyboard, the gaming experience, the speed, the screen, the battery.

 

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