Razer Book 13 Review – The ULTIMATE Ultraportable Laptop?
This is the Razer Book 13 and it’s Razer’s response to the thin-and-light laptop market. What do I mean by that? Well if you think of Razer as a brand, they have always focused on delivering gaming products like keyboards, headsets, mice, laptops, toasters (just kidding), etc. The Book 13 is meant to compete with other thin-and-light laptops like the XPS 13 from Dell, the Spectre series from HP, the Zenbook lineup from ASUS. Basically, they are trying to create a separation between gaming and productivity.
That is a huge market to play around with, and Razer has to get a lot of thing right, like having a good quality display, a nice keyboard and trackpad, solid build quality, and an attractive design. Most importantly though, really good battery life is key. Now I have had this thing for a couple of weeks and I have some thoughts, so let’s just dive right into it.
The first thing I’m going to get to is the price, it starts at $1,200 USD and for that you get an Intel Tiger Lake Core i5-1135G7 quad-core/eight-thread CPU, 8GB of dual-channel memory, a 256GB NVMe SSD, built-in Iris Xe graphics, and a 1200P non-touch 60Hz display. This is the sample that I have right now, but you can spend an extra $400 to get a Core i7 CPU, twice the memory, and the same storage and display. But if you want to bump that up you will have to spend even more, which is the top trim and that also gets you a 4K touch display.
Now when you look at the Blade 13 from the outside it’s practically the Blade Stealth 13 in Mercury White with a few exceptions, which I will get to in a moment. You are still getting the boxy design with a unibody chassis CNC milled out of aluminum. The build quality is right on par with the XPS 13. It’s solid and I love the feeling of picking it up first thing in the morning when the surface is cold to the touch. Honestly, Razer laptops have been known for having amazing build quality and they haven’t really cut corners on the Book 13. The hinge is also nice and smooth, there is barely any wobble when I’m typing on a surface or when this thing on my lap. Also one interesting that I noticed is that when I opened the lid, it actually elevates the keyboard at a slight angle, it isn’t as noticeable as say something like the Zenbook series from ASUS, but it should help with air flow just a little bit. Another cool thing that I noticed with the Book 13 is that on the edge Razer actually added a rubber strip at the very bottom, and they did this so that when this thing actually makes contact with the surface it actually helps the laptop does stay in place. It actually doesn’t move, this thing just sticks to any surface, which is awesome.
As for size, it is a little bit smaller than the Blade Stealth 13, but it still maintains the same 0.6 inches/15mm thickness and it only weighs 2.95 lbs. When it comes to portability and ease of use this model checks all the boxes. The power adapter is nice and compact, and while it’s great that this laptop charges via USB-C I’m not a huge fan of the braided cable since I’m pretty sure this is going to wear off over time.
The keyboard layout is once again a copy and paste from the Blade Stealth, even the keys feel the same. There is a good amount of travel distance, but there is just something missing with this keyboard. I don’t know if it has to do with the feedback that it provides or maybe I’m just too spoiled by the keyboard on the XPS 17 and the XPS 15 and the XPS 13. Another thing I want to mention is that as I was typing up notes and emails I noticed that sometimes some keys just don’t register. It just skips that one letter that completes that word ad it happened to me multiple times. It just got so frustrating and annoying to a point where I actually just completely gave up. Now I’m not sure if this is just my sample, but I thought that was worth mentioning. The keys also feature a Razer’s Chroma lighting, and honestly I don’t know if it makes sense to add RGB lighting to a productivity laptop. I think Razer is just trying to implement this because they want to make sure people know that this is a Razer laptop. They do have one of the best RGB lightings out there, it is per-key so you can customize each key to the color that you want. But I mean do you really want RGB on a productivity TV laptop? I don’t know, let me know what you all think.
The trackpad is awesome as always, Razer has one of the best Windows trackpads out there. It is a glass surface with support for Position drivers, and the integrated left and right buttons have a nice satisfying quick. It’s just so good here.
Moving on to the display, Razer opted to go with a 16:10 aspect ratio on the Book 13. What that means is you get a resolution of 1920×1200, which is exactly the same found on the XPS 13 from Dell. I really appreciate this approach since you get more vertical screen real estate to work with, and I think it suits laptops that are geared towards productivity. It is a really good quality display too as it covers 100% sRGB, 76% Adobe RGB, and 79% DCI-P3. It is good enough to edit photos and watch videos, but compared to the XPS 13 the Book 13 still needs to catch up because this panel only gets as bright as 277 nits compared to the 500 nits craziness on the XPS 13. If you value screen brightness, especially on a thin line, then maybe consider another option because this display just doesn’t get super bright. Perhaps the 4K model has a brighter screen, but that is something that I will have to test when I get my hands on that top trim. Overall, it’s a good screen, I love the aspect ratio, but I feel like the XPS display is remarkable.
This is the webcam test on Razer Book 13, the quality is pretty good and it should get you through most business meetings and all that stuff. The microphone also sounds nice, it is definitely a lot better than the XPS 13 so that is another checkmark the plus category. The dual front facing speakers on the Book 13 are good, I like the audio projection. Razer does claim that this model features 360 degree spatial audio, and honestly it is all right, but there is not a lot of bass so don’t expect that. I think it’s more emphasized on the higher frequencies, which might sound a little bit too harsh but it makes vocals crystal clear. overall, it is definitely better than bottom facing speakers.
Port selection is decent and a lot better than the XPS 13, which expects you to use dongles for any USB, a portfolio you have. So on the left-hand side, you get a ton about four ports, which support for USB-C power delivery, full-size USB 3.2 Gen2, and an audio Jack switching to the right. There’s another thing about four port full-size HDMI and a microSD card reader. I’m not sure who would take advantage of it, but it is there if you need it.
When it comes to upgradability there is not a lot that you can change on the Book 13. As you can see the primary NVMe SSD is accessible and you can upgrade it up to 2TB according to Razer. The drive speeds are really, really fast, it is actually one of the fastest that we have seen on a thin-and-light laptop. The memory is soldered on so you can’t upgrade it.
With all of that out of the way, let’s talk about how the Razer Book 13 behaves over time. To me I think this is the most interesting part of any laptop review since it shows whether or not manufacturers is throttling performance in order to hit a specified thermal or power envelope. In this case, this laptop has 3 modes that built-in, which are Balanced, Battery Saver and High Performance. In a longer test like AutoDesk Maya, the performance mode is super impressive when it comes to clock speeds, it spends a few seconds around 3.8GHz and then drops to a really even 3.5GHz throughout the entire test. The crazy thing is Balanced has literally the same performance right across the test, which is pretty good news, but it also like to see Razer give it a bit of a differentiation between the modes. Battery Saver knocks clock speeds down by about 500MHz, which isn’t all that bad considering the Core i5-1135G7 still tops out at above 3GHz.
Power Over Time shows some interesting results too, since the Razer Book actually hits 25W – which is in the upper limits of its Core i5-1135G7 processor – and then eventually settles down to 20W. This is actually quite a bit higher than many of the other thin-and-light laptops that we have looked at, but it’s also normal for Razer since they are known for focusing on delivering consistently higher performance in their devices. As you might have already guessed based on clock speeds, Balanced uses a very, very similar power envelope to High Performance while Power Saver limits the input to about 15W. With that being said, have temperatures been sacrificed to attain higher clock speeds and power targets? Actually, no, not only is this one of the fastest running ultrabooks we have tested, but it’s also the coolest running since the Blade Stealth 13 that we tested last year. The thing that really surprised me the most was just how well everything is managed on battery saver mode since Razer is still pushing more power to the Core i5 chip, but both temperatures and clock speeds were some of the best that we have seen and super consistent too. Honestly, well done Razer.
Battery life does need a bit more of an explanation because Razer equipped the Book 13 with a capacity of only 55Wh. While that is still more than the XPS 13 we also can’t forget Dell’s competitor limits it CPU to lower power limits, whereas Razer is focused on pure performance. That leads to really respectable results for the Core i5-1135G7 in a lighter workload like this one, and that is good news for anyone who needs all-day battery life for basic tasks. However, even in Balanced mode, the Book 13 really doesn’t have the greatest results for a thin-and-light, and that is mostly due to higher power limits when there is a heavier load. While this model might only be rocking a Core i5, it still drinks down battery juice very fast. You see this laptop is really meant for light duty, and if you want to do something intensive you are much better off just plugging this thing in.
Now let’s move on to actual performance, and for that I do have to mention that I did set this to the high performance mode, which is what we do with all the other laptops that are in the charts. Starting off with real-world tests, and this needs a lot more of an explanation. In any multi-threaded programs like Cinebench the additional power given to the Core i5-1135G7 means it can convincingly beat an Core i7-1165 G7 that has been set to 13W like the one on the Zenbook. That is because it can sustain much higher frequencies over longer periods of time. Moving on to single core results, and you will see the exact opposite here because power limits don’t factor into the equation and the Core i7 surges out in front. Moving on, and the situation repeats itself over and over again with the Core i5 coming out ahead in any app that stresses the CPU, while the Tiger Lake Core i7 equipped on the Zenbook dominates in lightly-threaded programs. This also meshes really well into Razer’s targeted audience for the Book 13. It is meant to deliver great performance in rendering, transcoding, or other higher level productivity tasks for creators and other professionals in a thin and portable form factor… and that is exactly what it does!
Gaming isn’t something that is normally expected from these standard lights with integrated graphics, but now that Intel’s Xe graphics core is on the scene that is changing in a big way. Overall, the Book 13’s higher power limit allows the integrated GPU to deliver some impressive results… for an ultrabook. There are still some odd things going on though, like a massive score in DOTA, but that could be because Razer is running a newer verified driver than ASUS has approved for their laptop. But then again, this thing still refused to run Rainbow 6: Siege so there is obviously still some growing pains here.
The last thing that I wanna touch base on is fan noise. When you are doing lighter tasks the system is practically dead silent, but if you are pushing the CPU to 100% in anything intensive you are going to hear those fans. Thankfully, they don’t sound like a jet fan, so it’s tolerable and you won’t be forced to use headphones while using this thing so that is pretty acceptable.
I think it’s time to wrap up my thoughts for the Razer Book 13. As I was going into this review I thought that this laptop was an XPS 13 competitor, but then as I was testing I realized that it really isn’t because this model offers a lot of extra performance in the thin-and-light form factor. And it does so without sacrificing on build quality and design and that overall premium notebook experience. This is a great option because you are getting amazing frequencies without sacrificing on temperatures thanks to that really, really good vapor chamber cooling system. I really did not expect a Core i5 to perform this well, it is a little crazy to see what some extra power can do, and to be honest for $1,200 USD I would easily recommend this laptop. The only downside is that you need to remove that 256GB SSD because it’s not enough, it needs to be swapped for something a little larger. Overall though, this is fantastic laptop from Razer. That is pretty much it, let us know what you all think about the Razer Book 13, if you are in the market for a laptop would you consider something like this?