After reviewing our fair share of Razer laptops in recent years, we were thrilled with the Razer Stealth more than once as the design has become something really premium and neat. But that's not a gaming laptop. That's what we looked at the Razer Blade 15 for last year, but we got away with it unimpressed. We were able to praise what was arguably the best gaming laptop on the market, but it was slower than expected and ran hot and loud while playing, making it difficult to recommend.
But it is now 2019, we have new components from Intel and Nvidia and we were excited to see if a new Razer design could improve the previous generation. We are not looking at the direct successor of the Razer Blade, but have expanded a size class. Today's review focuses on the new Razer Blade Pro 17 with 9th generation Intel CPUs and RTX graphics.
All new Blade Pro 17 models are powered by the new six-core Core i7-9750H that we tested earlier. The GPU is one of three options: RTX 2060, RTX 2070 Max-Q or RTX 2080 Max-Q, depending on how much you want to spend. Our test device was equipped with the mid-tier option 2070. We also have 16 GB dual-channel DDR4, 512 GB PCIe memory by default, both upgradeable, and a 17.3-inch 1080p 144 Hz display.
The base model with the RTX 2060 starts at $ 2,500 and increases to $ 2,800 or $ 3,200 if you want the RTX 2070 or 2080. We will continue to discuss the value in our conclusion.
One of the main reasons to buy a Razer laptop is its design. The Blade Pro 17 for 2019 is as elegant and well made as never before. A fantastic unibody made of metal covers the base and the lid. The minimalist, completely black design is the best slim and light laptop design at the top of the food chain, at least from a visual point of view. Though a bit like a fingerprint magnet, it looks really awesome and is made of quality materials that match its price.
Razer doesn't seem to be as laser-focused on size as it used to be. We believe that they have realized that they cannot be the slimmest or lightest gaming notebook to achieve what they want to achieve. The Blade Pro 17 is by no means massive, but its 6.06 pound weight is average by modern standards, although the 20mm chassis is certainly impressive.
In terms of functionality, we appreciate the updated hinge design, which is sturdy, strong and smooth. There are narrow frames around the display (the webcam is placed correctly) and supports Windows Hello, which is always practical. For ports we get 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet, a nice addition that is not common for gaming laptops, as well as three USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports, a Thunderbolt 3 port, another USB 3.2 Gen 2 type C-Port, HDMI 2.0b and an SD card reader.
I can't say I'm a big fan of the new keyboard. The travel distance is neither long nor the overall tactile feeling. The layout looks a bit cramped, as the spacebar is cut off, as is the left control, mainly to fit the arrow keys. We like the RGB backlighting per button, but we don't think this is a typical laptop. An obvious omission is the lack of a number pad. Most 17-inch laptops offer this, with Razer instead accommodating large speakers on either side of the keyboard. The speakers are suitable for a laptop and the massive trackpad is excellent, one of the best available on a laptop.
To improve performance, we would first like to mention the various options that Razer offers through its Synapse software. The default mode is balanced, which actually keeps the CPU in a down-configured 35 W TDP state compared to the standard 45 W for the i7-9750H. While the CPU specifies the PL1 and PL2 limits as 60 W and 80 W, in practice, this mode is limited to a PL1 of 35 W and a PL2 of 45 W. The GPU has RTX 2070 Max-Q watches in its 90 W configuration in stock, so it is clocked a bit higher compared to "normal" RTX 2070 Max-Qs, and Junge Nvidia has assigned a number for these parts .
In this balanced mode you have the choice between automatic and manual fan speed. We haven't noticed a big difference in performance. If you limit the fan speed to reduce the noise level, the GPU clocks will drop slightly due to GPU Boost. This is the only real change you can make with the fan controller.
The other option you have is a custom performance mode, where you can choose either Low, Medium, or High for CPU and GPU. Medium is the default option. So if you put it high, things get interesting here. The performance limit of the CPU increases significantly compared to other i7-9750H game systems to around 54 W PL1 and 75 W PL2. The GPU in this mode gets 100 MHz overclocking in both core and memory.
As the performance junkies we are, we set the Razer Blade Pro 17 to "high" performance mode according to our standard practices. We honestly didn't notice a big noise increase with this selected mode. The fans did not seem to start up more than in "auto" fan mode, but the performance is significantly higher, so we recommend this to all players.
We covered the Core i7-9750H in detail in a special article. In this test, we will therefore only summarize the performance of the CPU of the Blade Pro 17. For a complete performance breakdown for a variety of tasks, it's worth reading this CPU review.
The good news is that the Blade Pro 17 works in high-performance mode similar to other 9750H test systems we looked at earlier. It was slightly slower in some tests, but the differences varied depending on the test, and overall it is close to the margin of error types. We would say that the Blade Pro 17 works as expected here.
The Blade Pro 17 is about 6 percent faster than our average Core i7-8750H test results. A small increase in performance compared to last generation models. However, since performance varies between laptops, it cannot be guaranteed that this 9th generation system will offer a significant upgrade over the 8th generation. For most people, I would play it safe and suggest that you shouldn't expect improvement if you are thinking of upgrading to a single generation.
And as always, here's a quick comparison to older quad-core laptops that use the Core i7-7700HQ. With the i7-9750H with six cores, we want to achieve a performance improvement of over 50% and a double-digit increase in single-thread performance in some multithreaded tasks. If this is the upgrade you are doing, it is definitely worth it.
Things get really interesting in the GPU. We have criticized the RTX 2070 Max-Q in the past. In its standard configuration, the 2070 Max-Q is significantly overclocked compared to the full laptop version, which is underclocked even compared to the desktop card. The bottom line is that while it bears an RTX 2070 name, it's 30 percent slower than desktop gamers and frankly not much faster than last generation 1070 Max-Q systems.
However, the Razer Blade Pro 17 is far from a typical RTX 2070 Max-Q laptop. The higher clocked 90 W version of this GPU is used as standard. If the GPU is then set to high performance mode, an additional overclocking of 100 MHz is achieved.
When you add all of these gains, the GPU gets a nominal boost clock of 1405 MHz. This is significantly more than the 1185 MHz that you get with the standard RTX 2070 Max-Q, and just under the 1440 MHz of the full laptop version of the RTX 2070. We are still clocked 13 percent lower than the desktop Card, but that's it A big improvement over the RTX 2070 Max-Q standard.
How should a normal buyer know that the Blade Pro 17 comes with this overclocked 2070 Max-Q? We have discussed this many times and unfortunately it is confusing with 80W and 90W versions that deliver different power levels.
The Blade Pro 17 is impressive in terms of actual performance. On average, it offers the same performance as the full RTX 2070 laptop variant. Despite the Max-Q branding, this system in its best configuration offers performance that is not throttled, restricted or overclocked due to Max-Q. This is a huge benefit for buyers who may be nervous about slowing the performance of this Max-Q laptop compared to full RTX 2070 systems.
To show how big the difference between the Blade Pro 17's standard RTX 2070 Max-Q and overclocked 2070 Max-Q 90W, the power breakdown shows a 20 percent advantage. 20 percent! For two GPUs of the same name! Not a good situation for people who have to choose between different laptops, but good news for buyers of this laptop: it is much faster than expected.
We can't be sure how the RTX 2060 is specifically configured in the Blade Pro 17, but compared to previous laptops we've tested with this GPU, the RTX 2070 Max-Q 90W OC is 26 percent faster on average. This corresponds to the difference between the laptop variants 2060 and 2070, since this Razer laptop naturally offers basically the same performance as the GPU of the 2070 laptop.
We also expect 10 percent better performance than the standard RTX 2080 Max-Q. Yes, that's right, this RTX 2070 Max-Q actually outperforms a GPU that has a higher product name and should perform better.
If you look at the raw performance, the Blade Pro 17's GPU configuration delivers approximately 6.47 TFLOPs compared to 6.45 TFLOPs for the 2080 Max-Q standard, so the units we tested compared to the locations where they were supposed to be slightly below average, but still showed great performance for the Blade Pro.
How for the 90W variant of the 2080 Max-Q? Still 6 percent faster, again the laptop we tested on this GPU may be underperforming, but it's still an impressive result for Razer.
If you're coming from a standard GTX 1070 Max-Q laptop, you can expect 36 percent better performance on average. Or you expect an enormous performance increase of 61 percent from a standard GTX 1060 laptop. These are big improvements and worth updating depending on how old your current system is.
We are pleasantly surprised by the thermal performance of this laptop. The Razer Blade 15, which we tested a year ago, ran hot and used an underclocked CPU and GTX 1070 Max-Q, reaching 81 degrees on the GPU while gaming and 88 degrees on the CPU. The Blade Pro 17 is not only faster, but also cooler. The GPU is a manageable 71 degrees, which is one of the best results we've seen with this generation of laptops. The CPU temperatures average 86 degrees.
Unfortunately, the Blade Pro 17 is still loud during operation. We wouldn't say it's louder than other laptops that offer similar cooling performance. It's roughly the same, but it's still not a quiet gaming system, and the high, cool whining gets annoying.
We are also pleased to announce that this new laptop design has not been throttled. We would like Razer Synapse to have better access to optimize the fan profile, which could allow some of the thermal headroom available in this design depending on the conditions. If you set the CPU and GPU to run in the best performing mode, you will lose access to the fan controller. So you can't just lower the fan speed at the top and run the GPU to 80 degrees instead of 71 degrees, for example. Many laptops have this functionality. However, if you want to get the best performance from the Blade Pro, you have no choice but to put up with loud fans. Ideally, we would have a better way of using thermal headroom. At least at reasonable component temperatures, the surface of the laptop doesn't get excessively hot in key areas like previous designs.
Some other relevant performance tips: The included SSD is a Samsung PM981 512 GB with good performance. If necessary, there is an additional internal M.2 slot for upgrades.
The display is a 17.3-inch 1080p 144 Hz IPS. This is a better than usual quality panel with a contrast ratio of over 1400: 1 and a ready-to-use color performance in the range of 2.0 to 2.5 deltaE, which is acceptable. Players will appreciate the top-end refresh rate that works well for the hardware inside.
As for battery life …
Overall, we are impressed with what the Razer Blade Pro 17 does from a technical perspective. The performance in the corresponding mode is better than advertised, especially for the GPU. Buyers should be really happy with the performance of this laptop in terms of productivity and gaming workloads.
Performance isn't the only technical hurdle that Razer has solved compared to last year's Blade 15. The thermal has been improved and the design is better than ever. 2.5 gigabit ethernet is a nice premium touch, and the 1080p 144Hz display is great. Our only fool is the keyboard, which leaves room for improvement.
In terms of value, we would argue that there are two perspectives … As far as well-built, slim and light gaming notebooks are concerned, we do not consider the Blade Pro 17 to be ridiculously expensive. At $ 2,800 for the model just tested, it's just $ 100 more than the similar MSI GS75 Stealth with the RTX 2080 Max-Q. While comparing RTX 2070 Max-Q with RTX 2080 Max-Q, we tested both laptops and the Blade Pro is 7 percent faster, even though the "slower GPU" is on paper. This can be enough to justify the higher price.
Given that the Razer Blade Pro 17 is essentially in the RTX 2080 Max-Q performance category or better, where most equivalent offerings are at least $ 2,500, this laptop is ours due to its design, performance, and feature set Strong performance in opinion. It's expensive, but you pay for what you get.
On the other hand, from a different perspective, you can purchase full RTX 2070 laptops with nearly the same performance as the Blade Pro 17 for less than $ 2,000. But generally they will be thicker and heavier systems with more basic designs. If you're short of performance, these may be the better option. However, if you appreciate the design and portability advantages of this notebook class, the Blade Pro 17 offers the best conditions.