The 2016 Razer Blade Pro Reviewby Brandon Chester on March 6, 2017 8:00 AM EST
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- Razer Blade Pro
At this point Razer's industrial design is fairly well understood. One of the things about most Windows laptops that bothers me is that even expensive models use a fair amount of plastic in their construction. For example, I often see Dell's XPS laptops mentioned as good high end options for users that are disillusioned with Apple's MacBook Pros, but the bulk of the chassis is carbon fiber reinforced polymer, which is still plastic no matter how you put it. Razer's laptops are definitely not cheap, but the quality of the aluminum chassis on their laptops is arguably second to none among Windows computer manufacturers. The only other devices I can think of that come close are Microsoft's own Surface products which are made of magnesium.
The Blade Pro is essentially a larger version of the standard 14" Razer Blade. The matte black finish is striking, and you'll seldom see another device made from aluminum with such a dark color. The only issue is that every single fingerprint and spec of dust is visible, and eventually I just gave up on trying to keep the chassis free of smudges because it's a never-ending battle. From the top you can see Razer logo, and Razer continues to have the center section of the top cover slightly lower than the sides, which creates two distinct lines when light shines on it.
The right side of the Blade Pro has an HDMI 2.0 port, a standard USB 3 Type-A port. a Thunderbolt 3 port, and an SD card reader. The left side has two additional Type-A ports, a 3.5mm audio port, the increasingly endangered ethernet port, and the connector for the power supply. The assortment of ports should be enough for any user, although in a perfect world I'd ask for another Thunderbolt 3 or USB Type-C port. Aesthetically, the ethernet port looks a bit weird because it's actually larger than the sides of the laptop, and the Thunderbolt port would look better if it was center-aligned like it is on the Blade Stealth.
Razer continues to put their intake fans on the bottom of the laptop. To make this work, there's also two rubber strips that act as feet to elevate the laptop slightly and prevent it from scraping against the surface it's placed on. From an aesthetic perspective, it would probably be better to hide the screws underneath the rubber feet, like Google does with the Chromebook Pixel. On the other hand, exposing the screws does allow access to the laptop's internals, although the Blade Pro isn't a laptop with as many removable and upgradeable components as a DTR, so you'd likely be accessing it to keep dust from building up inside.
The Blade Pro has a unique layout for the trackpad and keyboard. Most laptops have both the trackpad and keyboard centered, with the trackpad below the keyboard. The Blade Pro takes advantage of its large width by placing the trackpad to the right of the keyboard. Whether you'll like or dislike this is a matter of opinion. On one hand, the layout has some interesting ergonomics, but on the other hand you lose the possibility of having a full keyboard layout which could be troublesome for gamers that tie macros to their keyboard's numpad.
The previous Blade Pro had what was called the Switchblade, which was basically a capacitive touchscreen that functioned as a trackpad and as a way to display custom function buttons and other controls. It's not clear to me exactly why, but the new Blade Pro has gone back to a typical trackpad. This again poses an issue for games that rely on macros, as you don't have a numpad and the ten custom keys from the Switchblade are now unavailable as well.
Razer's trackpad is quite good as far as Windows laptops go. It has a smooth glass surface, and quite a satisfying click, although some users may find that the force required to register a click is too high. I find that the cursor acceleration curves in Windows are still not as good as macOS for trackpad use, and gestures aren't as responsive either. I've also had some troubles with the cursor moving slightly when I click. After so many years of trying out various Windows laptops I've basically accepted that this is just how things are always going to be, and the Blade Pro is truthfully one of the best I've ever used, but I still find myself hoping for more.
As for the keyboard, it uses Razer's custom-designed mechanical laptop switches. I've had experience with these in the past on Razer's iPad Pro typing case, and while I'm not going to act like my opinion on them is some absolute truth, I do have to say that I'm not a fan of the keyboard. Aesthetically, I find that the very angular fonts used on gaming keyboards are unsightly. As for the layout of the keyboard, I find it quite annoying that the unique trackpad position means that such a large laptop still has to compromise the position of keys. In particular, I think putting the right shift key to the right of the top arrow key is a terrible layout decision, and I've completely lost track of how many times I've hit the up arrow when I mean to hit shift.
The low-profile mechanical switches are the selling point here. I'm a big fan of mechanical desktop keyboards, and I lean toward either Cherry Blue and Cherry Brown switches depending on how often people in the surrounding area yell at me about the noise. My honest opinion about the Blade Pro is that the keys don't feel like mechanical switches, and I would argue that they're worse than the best scissor keyboards I've used. I find that the actuation force is too high for my liking, and it always feels like the keyboard is fighting back against me when I'm trying to type or play a game. I think the intent was to try and mimic a standard mechanical switch despite the reduced travel distance on a laptop keyboard, but it just doesn't work for me. The keys are also much more wobbly than I expected considering the design of the switch and the size of each key cap.
Again, these are just my own impressions, and I actually hope that most people disagree with them because having trouble with the keyboard on a laptop is obviously a problem. It's just that I've honestly used scissor-switch based keyboards with larger key caps that are more stable and are easier to press, and I think that would have been a better option than these mechanical keys.
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Notmyusualid - Tuesday, March 7, 2017 - linkLovely machine.
They should hire you for product development!
I'd add only this, the screen: 4k too high, 60Hz too low.
I think I could live with that CPU, but not the screen.
I'm on my 6th DTR, and I'm now longing for something like this...
scook9 - Tuesday, March 7, 2017 - linkOne issue I have with this review is the SUPER light touch when it came to the cooling performance. Razer laptops are super suave for sure and look great but for the last few years their cooling performance has been just about garbage. As you noted with the marketing driven design, cooling also suffers due to the need for "thinness" - I am speaking from painful experience here. I have a 2015 Razer Blade that I really liked except for when I had to use it.... Opening chrome would cause the fans to max and the CPU to throttle. It couldn't play Diablo 3 without my tuning the crap out of the CPU and game settings or else throttling and very unstable FPS would occur, never mind the nearly full speed fans at all times. I had to underclock and undervolt the CPU just to stop the throttling, fans were never great.
When you review a gaming laptop, saying the palm rest wasn't too hot is NOT at all acceptable for a "thermals" section. You should be running stress tests and showing us temperature readings from both software as well as your thermal camera. Then also include sound readings for the fan noise - thought this site used to provide audio recordings as well. And lately in my experience, the CPU throttling has been much more of an issue than the GPU - you mentioned this 0 times well commenting multiple times that the GPU didn't seem to be throttling.
Razer makes an undeniably pretty laptop but for me the thermals came across as an afterthought and that was not acceptable. They are simply trying to do too much in too little space with every laptop model except the Blade Stealth and they need to hear from the market that this is not going to cut it.
jsntech - Tuesday, March 7, 2017 - linkAgreed. I hunted all over for detailed thermal/noise info, and then actually re-checked the article title to make sure this wasn't one of their little previews. Odd that these mandatory metrics are glossed over. Especially important on gaming laptops, since these components produce far greater TDP than anything in non-gaming ones.
Zan Lynx - Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - linkI have a Razer Pro 2016. It is VERY loud. Wear headphones. It does not have throttling problems. It does have to drop the boost clocks but never below the CPU's speed rating.
SkipPerk - Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - linkThanks for the info. Would you say the thinner case is worth the noise or no? I would rather have a thicker case, but it does seem like some people need that thin factor.
yhselp - Friday, March 10, 2017 - link3.54 kg / 7.8 lbs :( That weight alone makes all the improvements irrelevant for users that want a sleeker, more portable premium 17-incher. Both the 17" MacBook and the old 17" Razers were ~6.6 lbs. Such a shame they chose to sacrifice weight the new model after a 2-year wait.
SkipPerk - Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - linkIsn't that all the GPU and cooling? How can you get that much GPU in a light weight notebook?