Today Razer is overhauling its biggest and baddest machine, the 17.3-inch Razer Blade Pro, with a formidable spec sheet and probably the best keyboard ever attached to a laptop.
Specced to be a true “desktop inside your laptop,” the new Blade Pro starts off with a 2.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor. It’s last year’s Skylake architecture, not the freshest Kaby Lake silicon, owing to Intel not yet having any seventh-generation quad-core parts — but fear not, it will be fast. More blistering speed comes courtesy of an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 — the desktop card, not a mobile version — and a choice of PCIe M.2 SSD storage that ranges from 512GB to 2TB, all of which will be even faster than the usual SATA solid state drives. 32GB of 2,113MHz DDR4 RAM is the standard provision, you don’t get a choice in the matter.
Not enough speed? Razer has also included a Killer DoubleShot Pro network interface card, which handles up to 802.11ac wireless connectivity and a Gigabit Ethernet pipe. Killer NICs are famed around the gaming community for their ultra low latency and pro gamers swear by them. Another port getting the extra throughput love is the USB-C one on the right of the Blade Pro: it doubles as a Thunderbolt 3 jack, allowing bandwidth as high as 40Gbps.
The display is a 17.3-inch 4K (3840 x 2160) IGZO panel with Nvidia G-Sync support and multitouch. Razer also fits in an HDMI output, three USB 3.0 ports, and an SD card reader, but no optical drive. Because even 17-inch behemoths don’t need those anymore. But all of that spec maximization would be for nothing if Razer hadn’t handled the fundamentals of input well, and that’s where the company’s new Blade Pro truly shines.
The mechanical keyboard built into the 2016 edition of the Blade Pro is the same one that we reviewed and loved as an iPad Pro accessory. I hadn’t laid my hands on it until my preview of the Blade Pro this week, and it immediately charmed me with its tactile responsiveness and agility. Just pushing its buttons is a joy, even if you have nothing to type and no one to frag. I’d go so far as to say it’s the number one reason to buy this laptop, as crazy as that sounds. As someone habituated to the short travel of Mac and laptop keyboards, I always have to go through some adaptation returning to the cavernous travel of full-sized mechanical keyboards, but Razer’s low-profile keyboard doesn’t require that. It might just be the perfect blend of flat portability and the substantive tactile feedback of old-school keyboards.
Razer spent a lot of time and money on this keyboard. Company CEO Min-Liang Tan tells me “developing this keyboard was as good as developing a whole laptop in terms of cost.” A whole new production line had to be set up for it, and even though this isn’t the first mechanical keyboard to ever grace a laptop, I can say with confidence that it’s the best-executed implementation.
Sitting beside the keyboard like an Apple Magic TrackPad, and roughly the size of an Apple Magic TrackPad, is Razer’s oversized touchpad. It doesn’t do anything special, but its position allows it to be enormous and thus much more comfortable to use than the conventional one that’s tucked into the wrist rest. You’ll just need to ditch the habit of fingering the surface under the keyboard, which I wasn’t able to do in my brief time with the Blade Pro. But I totally see how the enlarged trackpad will be more useful and versatile; it just needs some getting used to.
Despite the insanity of its specs and the space required for its mechanical keyboard, the Razer Blade measures a svelte 0.88 inches (22.5mm) in thickness and weighs a reasonable 7.8lb (3.54kg). This is the thinnest laptop with a GeForce GTX 1080 inside it, but if you buy Razer’s pitch that it’s a desktop inside your portable computer, it’s orders of magnitudes thinner and more portable than the thing it replaces.
The Razer Blade Pro starts shipping in November for a price of $3,699, €4,199, or £3,499. That puts it out of the reach of most aspiring gamers, but as company chief Tan puts it humorously, “with great technology comes great price.”