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Hands-on with the Razer Blade and Blade Pro Gaming Laptops

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One of the highlights of rAge 2013 for me was getting a chance to play on the Razer Blade gaming laptops. Both the Blade 14" and Blade Pro were on show for us to test out. The aesthetic differences between the two models couldn't be any more vast. System specifications however, were not as far apart as we assumed. Where the Blade Pro was the purpose-built desktop replacement with a Full HD IPS 1080p display, the Blade 14" was thinner than a Macbook Pro. Here's where Razer's baby ultrabook has a trick or five over Apple's pretty little supermodel - It can play games!

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Each of Razer's laptop lineup has a Core i7 Quad Core processor, SSD Hard Disks can can be upgraded to 512GB, 8GB of DDR3-1600Mhz RAM and HDMI ports. The main advantages that the Blade Pro has over its little brother are the faster processors, higher memory graphics chipsets, 17" Full HD LCDs and Multitouch LCD panels. You can assume that the bigger laptop has a higher wattage power supply to match it's higher-end components. Both laptops run Windows 8 64-bit and neither has an optical drive. Razer decision was to make these machines thinner than their predecessors after all.

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The next standout feature that impressed me was the SwitchBlade multitouch LCD that the Blade Pro came with. Not only could this little 800x480 pixel-wide screen display any game or application data that its apps support but it also functions as a four-point multitouch trackpad. Razer developed a custom controller for the little Synaptics LCD to make sure that games could be played with it. At the time of writing there were among others Adobe Premier, Unreal Developer Kit and Photoshop apps available for the Switchblade UI. A full list can be found here.

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I suspect that the Blade 14" will be the most logical choice between the two. Not only was the Blade 14" lower priced than the 17" Blade Pro, it's also capable of running for 6 hours on battery power. Combine great battery life, better mobility and strong 3D performance as compared to the larger, more powerful 17" unit and suddenly the smaller machine makes much more sense.

We were shown Metro: Last Light running on both machines at their maximum resolution, and there were no slowdowns. Due to its size and cooling requirements, the Blade 14" was running on a medium to high graphics level as opposed to its sibling, which was set to almost maximum detail. It also has to be noted here that the LCD panel on the smaller laptop maxed out at 1600x900 pixels. When comparing the visual quality of the two screens I'd say that Blade 14" was the victim of a little cost cutting due to it using a lower quality Twisted Nematic screen as opposed to a much better looking IPS LCD. Lacking display quality aside, I loved Razer's design that hid such monstrous processing power in such a minimal form factor.

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Another concern for me was the lack of connectivity options. While there were USB 3.0 and HDMI ports on both models there was no ethernet connectivity onboard. Yes, you have 802.11n WiFi to use but let's be honest - a wired connection is so much more reliable while gaming . That was just another sacrifice that had to be made to reduce the profile of both the Blade Pro and Blade 14" I suppose.

I asked about pricing and warranties next to get an idea of what we'd be getting once these laptops actually arrive in South Africa. The Blade 14" price starts at $1,799 (R17 654) and scales upward with any bigger hard disk option you take above it. The Blade Pro will set you back $2,499 (R24 526) before any extras. An extended warranty can be purchased for $299,99 (R2 944). This increases the warranty to two years as opposed to one which is standard on both laptops.

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There is no shortage of competition in the gaming ultrabook arena. Whether you consider other manufacturers such as Asus, Dell, MSI, Acer or even Sony you can easily find alternatives to Razer's gaming systems, especially if you have the money to spare. It does not mean you should ignore the Blade Pro or Blade 14" however. I was certainly surprised by what I saw, and considering that these two computers are the third generation of Razer's efforts in PC building - they're certainly going to be a PC manufacturer to look out for.

As to the question of when we'll be getting these laptops here in South Africa, I never got an answer but was assured that we are being considered to receive these systems in the future.

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd

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