Razer has long been known as a manufacturer of gaming peripherals and high-end consumer laptops. With the Razer Book 13, however, they conquer the lucrative market for business and productivity laptops. To be successful in this area, IT pros must be convinced that your laptop will make their workforce more productive. Let's see how Book 13 is structured.
Razer calls the Book 13 an "Ultrabook Productivity Laptop" that has also received Intel EVO certification. This is a continuation of the Project Athena initiative to standardize the ultrabook market. The requirements include an 11th generation Intel CPU, Wi-Fi 6, a battery life of more than 9 hours, fast wake-up times and Thunderbolt 4.
The specific build I'm going to be checking out today costs $ 1,600 and has the following specs:
- Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU (4C / 8T)
- Integrated graphics from Intel Iris Xe
- 13.4 "1920×1200 touchscreen with an aspect ratio of 16:10
- 16 GB LPDDR4x, 256 GB M.2 PCIe SSD
- 2x Thunderbolt 4 ports, Wi-Fi 6
- 55Wh battery
This configuration is Razer's mid-range model in the series. If you resort to the lower model, you get an i5-1135G7, a touchless display, 8GB of RAM, and a price tag of $ 1,200. When you upgrade to the higher model, you get a 3840 x 2400 UHD + touchscreen, 512GB SSD, and it's priced at $ 2,000.
Processing quality and material design
Let's take a look at the actual laptop as all the tech specs are out of the way. The shell is made of CNC-coated aluminum, which gives the Razer Book an extremely robust premium feel. However, this also increases the weight compared to plastic or carbon fiber alternatives.
The book weighs 1.4 kg, which is about half a pound heavier than the Dell XPS 13. Honestly, the very first thing I thought about when I took the laptop out of the box was how tight it was is. You get some serious sturdiness for that extra half a pound. To me, this compromise for superior build quality is worth the extra weight. For someone who carries their laptop around on a regular basis, this may be something to think about. In terms of size, Book 13 is 15.15mm high, 295.6mm wide and 198.5mm deep.
The screen is flush with the base on all sides and looks slightly box-shaped. It feels like there are some magnets around the edges that hold the screen in place when it is closed. This can help prevent damage when the laptop is in a bag. It works fine, but it was too good for me. With such a small indentation at the front, book 13 is difficult to open. There is simply no way to get leverage in the front and it almost always takes two hands to open it. The alternative is to dig your fingernail into the small groove in the front. This could be remedied by using a slightly less powerful magnet or a larger finger cutout in the front.
The overall material design is reminiscent of the older MacBook Pro style. The lighter ring on the edge is a nice touch to break the "solid aluminum block" look. In terms of branding, there's a mirrored Razer logo on top and that's it. Nothing special. I think it's a very subdued but pleasant look. I could also see that some found it too boring.
Connectivity is very good for a laptop in this category, which means that you can do without a dongle in many scenarios. On the left is a Thunderbolt 4 port, a USB 3.2 Type-A port, and a 3.5mm combo port.
On the right we find another Thunderbolt 4 port, a full-size HDMI port, and a microSD card slot. This full-sized HDMI port is really nice and is often missing on laptops in this segment. This saves you from entering that important meeting without your dongle desperately trying to figure out how to show your presentation.
Both Thunderbolt 4 ports support USB-C power supply, so you can charge the laptop flexibly. At the top of the screen you can see the 4-way microphone array and built-in 720p webcam with IR and Windows Hello support. The microphone quality was really solid and sounded pretty crisp, if a little compressed.
I was mostly impressed with the webcam. It has great color rendering without an overworked look. It would occasionally lose focus when there were multiple people on the screen. Hopefully this can be fixed in a future firmware update. If I'm picky, it would be nice to see the industry switch to 1080p webcams with the rise in teleworking and video conferencing. There's no reason a $ 500 phone should have a better front camera than a $ 1,500 laptop.
The bottom of book 13 has two rubberized pads to ensure proper airflow to the two fans. The exhaust for the fans is located directly under the display hinge. The mesh that covers the fans is deepened and thin. If you lay the laptop on your knees or apply pressure to this area while picking up the laptop, you could inadvertently make contact with the spinning fan case. No funny sound to be heard. I think a thicker mesh or a slight lift above the fan blades could have helped to mitigate this. Fortunately, the fans don't come up much as the laptop's metal case acts as a single large heat sink.
Internals and performance
With the removal of 10 Torx T5 screws we are in the belly of the laptop. It is immediately noticeable that half of the space is taken up by the battery. That doesn't leave much room for user upgrades. In fact, the RAM is soldered to the circuit board, leaving the SSD as the only upgradeable part. The Book 13's mid-tier configuration, which I think most people will love, comes with just a 256GB SSD. While most large files in a business setting are stored on network shares, 256GB is still too small in my opinion. I would have expected the mid-tier version to come with 512GB and the top-tier version with a 1TB drive.
The built-in SSD was a mixed bag in our tests. I measured cold start times of 10.8 seconds. That's not bad, but it only tells half the story. While the read performance was good at ~ 2.7 GB / s, the write performance fluctuated between fast SSD speeds, but then plunged into mechanical drive speeds in some tests with an embarrassing speed of 90 MB / s.
When we looked up the drive, it turned out that our Book 13 review unit came with an unnamed drive, while other reviewers report that their laptops came with Samsung drives. With the prices of the latest generation NVMe SSDs so low, there are no valid excuses. We reached out to Razer to clarify and will update the track as soon as we hear anything.
We have already tested the Intel Core i7-1165G7 (Tiger Lake) CPU that powers this laptop so that we don't spend too much time on performance benchmarks here.
In summary, it is one of the better mobile CPUs from Intel, based on the latest in mobile technology. Compared to Intel's previous 10th generation chip, it is around 20% faster in multi-thread performance and 30% faster in single-thread scenarios. Compared to AMD's competing Ryzen 7 4800U, the i7 does better on single-threaded workloads, while the Ryzen usually wins on multi-threaded applications. For the kind of workloads you'd likely be doing on an ultra-portable laptop like this, our review found that Intel usually wins.
Also noteworthy is the huge leap in graphics performance compared to previous Intel laptops. In many games, you can do just fine with low to medium settings at 1080p.
If you need discrete GPU performance, Razer offers the Core X Thunderbolt 3 external GPU system. We'll be reviewing that shortly so stay tuned for this review.
Since the laptop is basically a solid piece of aluminum, it tends to heat up when it is used heavily. The writing surface becomes noticeably warm. That's both a good and a bad thing. If you're not a fan of warm laptops, you can adjust the cooling and performance settings in the pre-installed Razer Synapse. On the upside, however, this additional cooling helps free the CPU of the thermal throttling that would otherwise affect the performance of other laptops. The fans are noticeable under full load, but in my tests they helped to keep the persistent full load temperatures below 75 ° C.
When it comes to performance, battery life is just as important with a laptop like this one. The 55Wh battery is decent, but not record breaking. Of course, battery life will vary based on usage, but I recorded a little over 14 hours of idle time and around 9.75 hours of video playback. It is difficult to give numbers for typical usage as it depends entirely on your job. However, for more active work, expect a few hours less. These tests were performed with a screen brightness of around 125 nits. While these are traditionally impressive numbers, there are many other laptops on the market with more than 3 hours of extended battery life.
Just browsing the internet or reading / writing documents will likely get you through a full day. However, if you're a little more intense, you should recharge at some point.
With the included 65W USB-C charger, it will take you around 1.5 hours to get a full charge from an empty battery. This corresponds to approximately 1% per minute or 1 hour of service life on a charge of 10-15 minutes. In a nutshell, you'll probably be fine for the day, but if all-day battery life is a must, you might want to look elsewhere. Speaking of the charger, it's one of the smallest I've seen, and the braided USB-C cable feels very high quality.
Input of surface and touchpad
We're going to put everything back together and now switch to the keyboard. It's clear that Razer made keyboards in the past because they felt very good. The keys have a firm initial resistance the first time they are pressed, resulting in a much stronger actuation than I expected. Not muddy at all.
The slight bump in the overall thickness of the laptop allows for a much better typing experience than other ultrabooks. The power button in the upper right corner has an additional resistor and a press delay to prevent accidental shutdown. I think that's a nice feature that all laptops should have.
As you'd expect from a Razer, the keyboard is entirely RGB. The Synapse software allows you to adjust the lighting per key. You can also configure keyboard shortcuts, macros, and various profiles. Not particularly useful for a business / productivity laptop, but nice to have the option nonetheless. However, I was a little disappointed with the quality of the backlight, especially with the wider keys.
The individual key markings are almost completely transparent and little or no diffuse. This concentrates the light in the middle of the key and does not illuminate the full width. While it is particularly noticeable with the "Enter", "Caps" and "F4" keys, it is fine with most of the other keys. Adding a light diffuser or a second LED for these buttons would have been nice. It's no big deal, it just gives Book 13 an unusually unpolished look for a Razer product.
When I turned to the touchpad, I found that it performed solidly. It's about the size you can expect from a laptop this size with a smooth finish. Multi-finger gestures, palm rejection, and tap-to-click had no issues. I would say the click was a bit mushy and not as tactile as I would have liked, although it still does the job.
The sound quality from the stereo speakers was really good. It gets a lot loud with minimal distortion until you turn it all the way up. It's a bit thin with a lack of clear bass presence, but that's standard on thin laptops. Clarity and stereo imaging were quite comfortable. I would rate it A- and find that it is better than many other laptops on the market.
Razer uses a Sharp LQ134N1JW48 panel that is beautiful and vibrant to look at. As is so often the case with displays, however, this comes at the expense of color accuracy.
All display tests were performed using an X-Rite i1Display Pro meter and Portrait's Calman 2020 Ultimate software. I measured a peak brightness of 390 nits on my device after all battery saving functions were deactivated. In the standard power / power balance mode, you can expect around 200 nits at full brightness.
Book 13 pre-calibration performance in Portrait's Calman Studio
The built-in color accuracy was disappointing for such a premium laptop. Granted, this isn't marketed as a content creation laptop, but I still would have expected a bit better. The average DeltaE values of 4.4 for color and 8.8 for grayscale are well above the acceptable limit for color-accurate work.
Recalibration performance of Book 13 in Portrait's Calman Studio
After going through Calman's computer monitor calibration, I was able to bring the DeltaE values down to a more respectable value. For color, the display gave 1.5 for color and 5.6 for grayscale.
However, if color accuracy isn't your primary concern, then you'll love the display. It's bright, doesn't have a lot of glare, and has decent hiding fingerprints. It seems that Razer and Sharp have chosen a standard color profile that is designed to be visually appealing to the masses rather than being color-accurate for the few who need it. I am fine with this choice.
It's a great screen. The slight jump to an aspect ratio of 16:10 is a bonus and just offers a bit more space without making the laptop any bulkier. Although Razer offers a UHD + screen in the top tier configuration, I don't think that's necessary. On a 13.4-inch screen, FHD (1200p actually, since it's a 16:10 display) is very dense and you will barely notice the higher resolution.
For whom is that?
Finally, I was pretty impressed with the Razer Book 13. At $ 1,600 for the mid-range model I tested, it's not affordable, but it's not uncommon for business / productivity laptops. It's a bit chunky, though that extra weight gives it great build quality and sturdiness. While most of the other brands on the market have chosen a more curved and tapered design, Razer sticks to a rectangular approach and straight lines. This has the added benefit of allowing full-size HDMI and USB Type-A ports, which many competing models don't.
The performance is excellent. The i7-1165G7 does a great job and the built-in graphics are solid too. With the metal construction and a slight increase in thickness and weight, Razer can make the CPU run much faster than other laptops with the same CPU. The weak point here is unfortunately the SSD. I'm pretty disappointed that the Razer didn't run on a higher quality and bigger drive. That said, if you're in the market for a $ 1,600 laptop, an additional $ 150 for a true M.2 NVMe SSD isn't going to break the bank. The keyboard, touchpad, and speakers are great overall. The battery life is decent, but not as good as some other laptops on the market. The screen is instantly bright and beautiful, if not very color-accurate.
There are many great laptops in this price range and it can be very difficult to make a choice. Much of this depends on how you look and which one you can get a better deal on. I'd say the main competitors for the Book 13 at this price point are the MacBook Pro M1, HP ProBook 630 G8, Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, and Dell XPS 13. These are all standout laptops in their own right, but let's say a short one Second and compare them.
With the MacBook, you get a higher resolution screen and improved battery life for about the same price. It's difficult to directly compare performance between the i7 and M1 because the M1 is so new and uses a different ISA. The M1 wins handily in some tests and the i7 takes the cake in others. Don't forget that you need to consider the cost of a dongle once you've gone down this route.
If you look at the HP ProBook 630 G8, you can get up to 512GB SSD with an additional 32GB of Optane storage, but the screen is nowhere near as nice and you don't get any Thunderbolt ports. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon configuration in this price range also puts you on a 512GB drive, keeping the Thunderbolt 4 ports and losing a few ounces. It's more of a plastic construction, however, so it doesn't feel as high-end as the Book 13. Even so, the ThinkPad is a great choice if you prefer a more traditional look. Finally, we have the XPS 13. It also has a CNC coated aluminum construction, but a very limited choice of ports and its performance is hampered by a less robust cooling system.
Our final decision would come down to this. If thinness and portability are a huge concern for you, the Razer Book 13 might not be for you. However, if you sacrifice some of that for big performance gains and solid build quality, you will be very happy with Book 13.