Razer Blade 15 – A Long Term User Review
I have been thinking about doing this video for a really long time, but given the number of notebooks that are coming into the studio I just never got the chance to compile my thoughts and share my experience of using the Razer Blade 15 Advanced for more than a year. Now I do need to be very transparent here for a second, Razer is a channel partner, but this video is not sponsored by any means. They are not paying us a single dime to talk about this laptop. I just wanted to share my thoughts, highlight some of the issues that I have had with the Blade 15 Advanced, and then how Razer has addressed some of them over the course of the year.
My Computing History
I think it’s important for me to set the stage for you as to what I have been using for the past 10 years or so. My very first laptop was an HP G60. When I first moved to Canada about 10 years ago, I needed a laptop to get through high school, and so after researching a ton my mom and I went to Future Shop, which is a now defunct electronics store here in Canada. We finally pulled the trigger on it and I enjoyed using that laptop. It wasn’t a gaming powerhouse, but it was able to get me through high school just fine. Then it upgraded to the XPS 15 L502X, which was a legendary machine that came with a quad-core processor and a discrete graphics card. I remember editing my very first short film on that machine, and I even made a few component upgrades as well.
Fast forward a few years later, and I started working for Hardware Canucks where I was introduced to this whole new realm of the PC Master Race, where I got to build desktop PCs. I built my very first desktop PC on the channel and I just started using desktops ever since then just because of the raw horsepower that it was able to deliver compared to a laptop. However, then I had to go to shows like CES and Computex, so I ended up using a EUROCOM laptop. It’s a Canadian brand, and it had the specs to back up the workflow that I used to do, but it wasn’t the best laptop. It didn’t have the greatest build quality and it felt cheap, but it had the power and it got the job done.
Next I switched over to my very first Mac, that’s right… I bought myself a 13-inch MacBook Pro, one of those models that had actual ports, and I loved it. The display was great, the trackpad was amazing, and the keyboard was awesome, and it was compact enough to easily take to shows with me. Unfortunately, it didn’t have the performance that I needed because the 13-inch MacBook Pro didn’t come with a discrete graphics card, and since I was using Adobe Premiere at the time the lack of GPU really hampered rendering times and all that stuff. However, there’s no doubt that battery life and portability was the best part about that machine.
Finally, Razer hooked us up with one of their first Blade gaming laptops. It was one of the ones that came with a 14-inch display and a discrete graphics card, specifically the GTX 1060. To me it was just a perfect upgrade coming from my MacBook Pro 13-inch, because I wasn’t losing a lot in terms of form factor and size, but it had its own issues. For instance, it ran hot, it was too loud, and battery life wasn’t that great. Also, a lot of users were reporting battery bulging issues, although I didn’t encounter any of them, and Razer’s customer support was pretty terrible back then. A lot of you were vocal about that, especially when it was a common issue.
A Bumpy Start
Fast forward a few years later, and Razer comes up with the Blade 15 series. I got myself the Blade 15 base model, it was a welcome upgrade over the previous generation, because it came with a bigger display. The design was refined a little bit, but the boxy look is still pretty reminiscent of current generation, and I was able to upgrade the memory. It also came with a secondary hard drive slot, which I was able to populate with an SSD. Overall, I really enjoyed my time using that machine for about a month… until I started experiencing a number of BSODs. Both myself and Dmitry encountered a huge number of BSODs on our Blades, and it was really frustrating. I actually remember a time during Computex that I wasn’t able to edit a video properly on my Blade 15 base model because within 10 minutes it would BSOD. I had to restart, edit a video – but not edit it properly since I had to rush – and then it would just crash on me again and again and again. I was almost a point where I wanted to throw that laptop out of the window, and we were all pretty mad at Razer at the time. I actually remember just going out to the show floor and to see if we could find a competitor like ASUS or Gigabyte to loan us a sample so that we could temporarily get work done. It was really that bad.
Fortunately, we were having in-depth conversations with Razer to really find out the culprit of these crashes and BSODs. I ended up replacing my base model with the Advanced model and it just kept happening. BSODs just kept happening over and over again, so we were honestly pretty close to giving up and switching entirely to a different notebook… until we diagnosed the problem. We narrowed down the issue to Razer Synapse. Basically, Synapse had trouble communicating with NVIDIA Studio drivers, which caused the machine to crash. Razer rolled out an update and magically everything just worked. I completely stopped experiencing BSODs on this machine.
Keyboard & Display
There are certain things that I don’t like about this laptop. The first being the keyboard, and that is largely because the travel distance is very short. I feel like the competition has better keyboards than this one, notably the ASUS Zenbook 15, the Dell XPS 15, and even the ASUS TUF A15 is better than this in terms of feedback. With that being said, I love the LED backlighting on the Blade. Razer has just nailed it on this model, there is very little spill around the keys and it gets really bright, so that’s awesome.
I also wish the screen got brighter, because this 2019 model comes with a 240Hz display and it only goes up to 315 nits. That is perfect for indoor use, but as soon as you take it outdoors it gets a bit challenging to see what’s on the screen. Now I am aware that the newer models come with a faster 300Hz refresh rate, but honestly I think that’s just marketing bluff. I don’t think you necessarily need 300Hz unless you are an eSports player, but it just doesn’t really mean anything to me personally. With that being said, I love how colour accurate this display is. I can comfortably and confidently edit photos using Lightroom and Photoshop, and edit videos comfortably on DaVinci Resolve. This is a fantastic panel and I have absolutely no complaints when it comes to colour accuracy.
Performance & Benchmarks
Another thing I need to point out is that when I use this thing in battery mode performance takes a huge hit. The clock speeds no longer boost higher, in fact I have seen them go below 1GHz which is painfully slow. Due to NVIDIA’s Maximus technology the discrete graphics card is disabled in battery mode, so when you are doing casual stuff it doesn’t really kick in and instead uses the integrated GPU. I feel like it treats itself like an ultrabook to yield longer battery life. Obviously if you are looking to get the highest performance on any Windows machine you have to have it plugged in, which is exactly what I did on this laptop.
Speaking of plugging it in, I am super annoyed by the power connector on this machine. For some reason, Razer uses his thick braided cable, which is just really hard to organize. Also, if you have it plugged it in the wrong direction, it completely blocks the nearby USB port, so whoever designed the power cable really needs to go back to the drawing board and fix that because it is pretty annoying.
Now in terms of performance I’m actually pretty happy with this model. It’s not the fastest gaming laptop out there, and the i7-9750H is a peasant compared to the Ryzen CPUs that are available in the market right now. I’m hoping Razer will offer those AMD options sooner than later, because everyone seems to be begging for it these days. One thing that you will notice is that the scores that I’m getting now are lower compared to what I had before. The reason for that is I actually ran these benchmarks with some of the background applications that I use on a regular basis, so that includes my antivirus program, Adobe Creative Cloud, and a few other applications as well, including my wireless mouse software as well. Basically there is a lot of things happening in the background, which is why you are seeing those lower scores.
The gaming performance is also pretty good. It is not the fastest out there, but considering the form factor, the acoustics, and Razer’s efficient vapor chamber cooling system it is good overall.
Connectivity & Battery Life
The port selection is good on this machine, even though it is a 2019 model Razer equipped it with USB 3.2 Gen2 ports, which is the 10Gbps protocol. That is awesome because a lot of the other notebook manufacturers, even in 2020, fail to implement all of the USB ports with that standard, you probably might only get one or two, but in this case all of these USB ports are USB 3.2 Gen2. It also comes with a Wi-Fi 6 module, so I guess it’s still pretty cutting edge in 2020. The lack of an SD card reader is a bummer, but the 2020 models do come with one so that’s awesome.
Battery life is good, but not great. I’m only getting roughly 5 hours of use when I’m doing some casual stuff like browsing the web or writing out a script. If I switch over to something more heavy, I can only squeeze about one hours worth of use, which is respectable, but it’s not the greatest compared to some of the AMD offerings that are available in the market right now.
Design & Build Quality
The last thing that I want to talk about is the design and build quality, because Razer just nails it in that department. The unibody design is unlike anything that you can find with the competition right now. I have yet to find a laptop that can compete with the standard that Razer has set. You are getting a robust hinge mechanism, which is nice and solid, the keyboard layout is awesome, the trackpad is great, etc. It all just works, that is the beauty of this machine, and it is why I keep coming back to it. Not to mention the advanced cooling system inside does a relatively good job cooling the RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU and the Core i7 CPU. It doesn’t necessarily give you the fastest performance, but it’s overall a balanced high performance portable machine.
Future Possible Improvements
Now Razer if you are watching this video I would like you to improve on a few things with your Blade 15 notebooks. First and foremost, if you can implement a brighter screen with high refresh rate and better colour accuracy that would be awesome. A bigger battery would be highly appreciated too, because if you look at the competition MSI is coming out with 99.9Wh batteries on their slim chassis. I’m sure you can come up with something that can compete with those specs.
Also, if you could also improve the speakers that would be great. They are good, but perhaps add a subwoofer at the bottom to enrich the bass response. I think that would create a solid audio experience. Also perhaps look into AMD for your next revision as an option, because Ryzen chips are definitely faster and those chips are power efficient as well. Basically, figure something out with AMD, get something sorted, and then you will have an unbelievable laptop package.
Finally, and this is the most important one, I would like to see the customer support system be revamped a little bit, because a lot of you have been vocal about Razer’s customer support. And for the most part, it has been negative, especially when you look at issues from previous designs. Having said that, they have worked hard since the 2019 models to improve that perception. For example, there are some pretty critical videos out there with some legitimate concerns about internal build quality and poor resolutions by Razer’s technical team. Keep in mind that I have had very few issues, but that’s based on a single model.
On that note, thank you so much for following along. If you are an existing Blade 15 owner I want to know your experience using that machine, and if your time with it has somewhat resembled my experience.
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