Razer Blade Stealth Review (2019): Better Graphics and Battery

For years, Razer has attempted to meld high-end performance with ultralight portability, with its Blade Stealth laptop the culmination of that work. In 2016 the Stealth was a 12.5-inch notebook, expanding to 13.3 inches in 2017. For 2019, Razer’s biggest switcheroo is the inclusion of higher-(ish)-end graphics in the form of Nvidia’s new GeForce MX150 processor.

For those unfamiliar, the MX150 is a dedicated graphics chip designed with portable machines like the Stealth in mind. It’s also intended to be a more affordable way to add better graphics to any laptop. The upshot is that graphics performance with the MX150—be it video editing or playing games—is dramatically improved over systems with integrated graphics (including the prior versions of the Stealth). Nvidia claims a performance boost of 4X over integrated-graphics machines. In my testing of both the 2019 Stealth and other MX150 units, the reality is closer to 3X.

That means that on the Stealth 2019, gaming is possible, it just isn’t great. That’s because a 3X improvement over integrated graphics still keeps things a far cry from Nvidia’s higher-end GPUs. On a system like the Razer Blade 15, which features an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070, graphics performance is about triple that again of the Stealth. Graphics aside, performance is solid. General business and productivity app benchmarks outpaced the 2017 Stealth by a solid 15 percent in my testing.
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Game Change

Of course, the story here isn’t all about gaming and graphics. Other components have also been boosted, with the new Stealth featuring a 1.8-GHz Core i7, 16 gigabytes of RAM, and a 256-GB SSD. The screen is still 13.3 inches, but touch has been jettisoned with this configuration; resolution remains at 1920 x 1080 pixels. The new Stealth has a chassis that, at 14.8 mm thick, is 1 mm thicker than the old version but a tenth of a pound lighter at 2.9 pounds. It’s also $100 cheaper than the 2017 Stealth was at introduction, now running $1,599 for this midrange configuration. An extra $300 gets you 512-GB SSD and a 4K touchscreen, or you can drop down to a $1,399 model, ditch the MX150, and trim back to 8 GB of RAM.

Other features have also changed, some subtly, some less so. While the keyboard still features 16.8 million colors of backlighting, you’re now limited to a single zone, so those rainbow effects that let you set color on a per-key basis are no longer an option. I also really hate the new positioning of the power button in the top right corner, right next to the delete key. While it takes (slightly) more force to press it, it’s still subject to accidental taps when you’re in a hurry. Razer also says it has redesigned the thermal system of the laptop, but things still felt a bit hot during my time with the device.

 

Ports have been tweaked a bit. The new unit features two full-size USB 3.1 ports and two USB-C ports, both of which can be used for charging the laptop. The old Stealth’s HDMI port has been dropped in favor of the second USB-C. Still no card reader, unfortunately.

Here’s some even better news, though: Battery life has improved quite a bit over the years, from 4 hours, 10 minutes in 2016 to 5 hours, 25 minutes in 2017 to 7 hours, 30 minutes today. That’s flirting with a legitimate “all-day running time” mark—and that’s even taking the still-dazzling, ultrabright LCD on the Stealth into account.

The bottom line is that the Stealth still outperforms most of its competitors across the board, and while it costs a few hundred dollars more than most competing machines in this class, that power combined with its solid build and good looks can probably justify the outlay. And don’t even think about picking up the low-end version: Even if you’re not an avid gamer, the MX150 offers a compelling enough performance story to merit keeping it in the mix.

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