Razer Blade Steath 13 (Late 2019) Razer Steps Up The Ultrabook Gaming Scene
Razer Blade Stealth 13
Since Razer entered the laptop scene they have continued to evolve their lineup based on feedback from users from their biggest to the smallest. The Razer Blade Stealth line jumped on the scene to be their entry into the Ultrabook playing field and because of the form factor at the time had to ditch the dedicated graphics card and go CPU and iGPU only thus removing itself from the gaming market. Accessories like the Razer Core sought to make it a more viable option since you could add a docked graphics card at your desk to the mix and make it a portable yet gaming capable setup. Earlier in 2019, Razer introduced a model of the Razer Blade Stealth 13 with its first dedicated graphics card in the form of a GeForce MX150, while not quite the gaming grade graphics cards an enthusiast gamer would hope for it could get down a bit at 1080p with esports titles. For a top tier priced ultrabook that just simply would not do.
That brings us to late 2019 and Razer has refreshed their Razer Blade Stealth 13 to become the world's first truly capable Gaming Ultrabook. They've moved the CPU to Intel's latest 10th Generation Ice Lake based Core i7-1065G7 paired with 16GB of insanely fast DDR4 3733, which is unfortunately soldered and non-user serviceable) and the option to have it with a GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q. That combination sets this us as the most powerful Razer Blade Stealth yet.
The configuration that Razer sent over for us to evaluate is as follows;
- Quad-Core 10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 Processor 15w Configuration 1.3GHz base 3.9GHz turbo
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 with Max-Q Design (4GB GDDR5 VRAM)
- 13.3" 4K Touch w/ 4.9mm slim side bezel
- 512GB NVMe SSD
- 16GB dual-channel (fixed) DDR4 3733
- 53.1Wh Battery
- Single-zone RGB powered by Razer Chroma keyboard
- Anodized black finish, tone on tone Razer logo
- Measuring 0.60" x 11.99" x 8.27" / 15.3mm x 304.6mm x 210mm
- 100w USB Type C charger
- Price as configured $1,999.99
Build and I/O
Solid and dense is how I would describe the Razer Blade Stealth 13 when it comes to holding it. It is only a 13" Ultrabook but in the hand, it feels so much more substantial and weighty, but not heavy. The entire frame is made of CNC-machined aluminum so you're not going to be running your hands across plasticky bits on this one and the finished is topped off with a very consistent and durable anodized black finish (also available in Mercury White in one model). The result is a very solid machine and even the lid lifts with a satisfying motion and absolutely minimal flex. Speaking of the lid, you'll find a very classy two-tone logo rather than a backlit one that Razer is dubbing tone on tone design. The bottom of the unit has two dense rubber feet running the length of it resulting in ample airflow to the two cooling fan intake vents towards the rear. I/O is a bit on the minimal side here in order to keep the design clean and understated resulting in the left side sporting a USB-C Gen 2 power port, a USB-A 3.1 port, and a combo audio jack. Swing around to the right side and you'll find the Thunderbolt 3 port along with another USB-A 3.1 port, what you won't find is an SD card reader and maybe I'm in a minority here but that seems like something getting missed more and more in laptops these days.
The Razer Blade Stealth 13's display size is a bit on the nose with its naming scheme coming in at 13.3" and a very slender 4.9mm bezel surrounding it. There are two options available for the screen when using the GTX 1650 Max-Q variant of this Ultrabook; one is a Full HD 1080p or the 4K Touch panel that was provided in the one we received, another note is that both are limited to 60hz. There is a pricing discrepancy between the two with the 1080p panel being $200 less expensive but you will be giving up touchscreen capabilities, it's a tradeoff that will be dependant on what you want as a user. Razer claims both are 100% sRGB factory calibrated and based on our tests we found it to be within the margin of error at 99.4% sRGB and 68.5% Adobe RGB, at full brightness we measured at 391nits in the center of the screen. Ghosting during gaming was not an issue and the colors were vibrant and responsive, easily one of the better panels I've worked and gamed on. The image below shows the viewing angles are excellent for the IPS screen with only downward viewing at around 45* giving a bit of a wash to the image that is otherwise excellent from every direction. My opinion with the screens is a bit of a mixed bag, while I can appreciate the crisp image of the 4K panel thanks to the pixel density, I find that the scaling you end up using to get a comfortable experience lands you right in the same ballpark of usable desktop space as you would get with the 1080p variant, and since the only other benefit is the touchscreen component I would suggest letting whether you want or need touch screen to be the deciding factor on whether the upcharge is worth it to you.
Keyboard and Trackpad
The screen is one thing, but getting characters to show up in a document and moving your in-game character around on that screen is just as important. The keyboard and trackpad are just as much a part of the experience as the build and screen quality and Razer delivers in most all ways here. the keyboard is solid but has very little keystroke travel. The short travel of the keys might be a bit worrisome to heavy typers who are used to a bit more travel that you get full-size keyboards or larger, but quite a bit of that is made up for in the resounding and satisfying click each key delivers. The location of the power button on the top right proved itself to be a bother on several occasions where it was struck when I was instinctively striking what I was presuming to be the 'Backspace' key, I found the enter key to be a bit cramped, and the right shift key was simply too small to make room for the arrow keys, not sure how that one could be remedied without ruining the aesthetic of the Stealth.
The trackpad was an absolute pleasure to work with, large and in charge is how I would describe it. 25% larger than previous models the Windows Precision Touchpad compatible trackpad is smooth as can be thanks to its glass surface. Clicks provide solid feedback and the gestures within Windows work as expected, nothing to complain about here.
What about Chroma you ask? The keyboard does feature Chroma RGB but it's limited to single-zone color selection which isn't an issue but you'll not be setting up crazy light shows here. The backlighting is bright enough for you to find all the keys but not so bright that it will be distracting the person next to you in a meeting, and they've updated it so that all characters on keys are illuminated making it easier to find secondary functions on keys. Of course, you'll control all of this through the Synapse software
Audio is often a throwaway ordeal on laptops, especially in the Ultrabook segment of the market. Razer took a bit more time with their solution and the result was a welcome step up. Flanking the keyboard are two banks consisting of two speakers, the result is that the audio is always coming from a stereo position and sounds the same regardless of surface type. Sitting the Stealth on your lap? It sounds the same as if you're working at your desk at home, and that alone is worth recognizing. Now is that sound quality going to make you leave your headset or speakers to rot? Not even close, but they get loud and are solid performers to get the work done. Don't expect studio level sound signatures out of these tiny workhorses and you won't be disappointed.
CPU Performance And Cooling
The Intel Core i7-1065G7 Quad Core is one of the latest to come from Intel, and if you haven't been keeping up this is a 10nm CPU with their new Iris Plus graphics, which is the key reason Razer went with this CPU rather than the new 6-core Comet Lake U parts. While those would have offered up similar, or sometimes better, performance to the 15w or 25w variant of the Ice Lake part they could simply not keep up in the graphics department. Something to keep in mind with the Core i7-1065G7 is that is has a configurable TDP of 15w or 25w, if you get the model without the GTX 1650 Max-Q you'll be greeted with a more robust 25w variant but the one we're testing today is limited to 15w due to the shared cooling arrangement with a dedicated GPU.
We found the frequency of the Core i7-1065G7 to be quite variable based on loads, but we also found that right out of the box the performance was less than optimal but after updating all drivers and Windows we found the performance to be much more favorable, while still not a leap over the previous parts the security mitigations and improved iGPU for those who want the CPU only version should be welcome additions.
Cooling is handled adequately by a triple(?) Heatpipe design where one large heatpipe is shared by the GPU and the CPU and each component gets its own individual heatpipe as well. Interestingly the memory modules also share in the cooling via copper plates. The thermals under load are actually really good, while the CPU can spike to ~90C momentarily before the surprisingly quiet fan curve catches up we find combined workloads for the CPU and GPU resulting in operating temperatures of 73C for the CPU and 63C for the GPU, both of these make me question if the limitation on the components was based on power delivery and not cooling because these numbers are impressive for the form factor. While the GPU maintains higher clock speeds throughout all testing the CPU would drop as low as 1800MHz at times but stayed over 3GHz under lightly threaded workloads and right around 2GHz under all-core loads.
Storage and Battery Life
Storage and battery life are very important in an Ultrabook, you want it to be responsive as well as hold up for quite some time since you're likely going to be working off of one while you're on the move. Storage all models with the i7-1065G7 feature an NVMe drive made by Lite-On, a rather competent storage media company, and the performance is quite solid resulting in Sequential Reads of 3151MB/s and Sequential Writes of 2034MB/s. The only thing to keep in mind here that there is only a single M.2 slot that is available for storage so if you want more internal storage you're going to have to buy a larger capacity to replace this drive with, but unlike the memory, it is at least user-serviceable.
The battery takes up quite a bit of the space inside the shell resulting in a 53.1Wh battery that keeps the Razer Blade Stealth 13 powered for quite a bit. Thanks to the updates to PCMark10 we're able to get a better battery test than we've been able to in the past. We set the laptop to batter mode in Synapse software to see how it performed based on Razer's configuration and used the Modern Office Battery Benchmark as it cycles through real workflows that you might use while on battery with an Ultrabook like this one, the result wasn't bad but wasn't as good as I hoped for coming in at 6 hours and 9 minutes from full battery to standby mode. If you're more worried about battery life I would likely skip the model with the GTX 1650 Max-Q and 4K screen and aim for the Core i7-1065G7 only model with the FullHD screen instead.
This is a new one for this class of Ultrabook. Before Razer used the anemic MX150 in their Blade Stealth 13, and while it was a substantial boost over the UHD Graphics 620 that was found in the 8th Gen Intel parts it was paired with it was far from a 'gaming' GPU. This time around they've managed to stuff a GTX 1650 Max-Q with 4GB of GDDR5 inside! While it might be limited to a 35w power draw the GTX 1650 Max-Q is still able to deliver very solid 1080p gaming performance in this form factor that you're simply not going to get elsewhere. The gaming performance at 1080p Medium presets, even High in some games, results in a fairly consistent experience. Some of the much more heavy games do fall short of the 60FPS desired target but there's still room to turn settings down on those games. I understand how crazy that may sound in suggesting to turn settings down on an $1800-$2000 Ultrabook but you have to remember this is an Ultrabook first that CAN game and do it nicely, not a Gaming Notebook that happens to be sorta small.
Should you buy it? That's a tough question to answer because this is not a mass appeal product. It's easy to look at the price tag and think it's expensive and that's because it is. The Razer Blade Stealth 13 is not a cheap and cheerful laptop. If you're looking for similar power in a cheap form factor look at something like my ASUS TUF Gaming FX505G with an i5 9300H and regular GTX 1650 that can be had for less than half the price, but I can tell you the quality between the two isn't comparable. The Razer Blade Stealth is for the person who is on the go, a lot, and wants a full capable all-around system that doesn't have to try to squeeze by on integrated graphics while trying to get their game on after a meeting across the country. This Ultrabook acts as an excellent companion piece for someone who wants small, sleek, and fast but, as I said, wants to actually play games in their spare time. It's not for everyone nor was it ever intended to be that way, the Razer Blade Stealth is a niche product for the person looking for exactly what it delivers. As far as this model? I'd have a hard time picking this one up over the FullHD version for a couple of hundred bucks less, we're talking 10% savings for giving up very little since you'll need such ridiculous scaling on the 4K panel to make it readable. Not a gamer but want that small form factor and the rest of the features the Stealth 13 offers then there's always the version sans GTX 1650 Max-Q that lets the Intel Core i7-1065G7 run at the full 25w and you still have the much improved Iris Plus graphics, which is why Razer went with this CPU anyway. There will always be talks of 'why didn't they go with the 6 Core Comet Lake U parts' but the reality is with more niche products like this there have to be careful design choices and since they yield similar results in other laptop designs it makes sense to go with the CPU with the stronger graphics component when you're going to be offering SKUs with and without a dedicated GPU. Also, the version without the dedicated GPU will save you a smooth $500 over this model. Razer has done a bang-up job with the Razer Blade Stealth 13 by delivering a well build and well designed Ultrabook that can really get its game on!
Products mentioned in this post
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While the Razer Blade Stealth 13 is not a product for everyone, those who can see its value and where it stands in the market will find it to be a solid, well made, and competent contender for being a real Gaming Ultrabook.
- Excellent build quality
- Comfortable gaming experience
- Cool and quiet operation
- Decent battery life
- Bright screen
- Precalibrated and accurate panel
- Thunderbolt 3
- Large and responsive trackpad
- Easy to access internals for cleaning
- Fast NVMe storage that is easy to replace
- 4K on 13.3" is hard to justify
- No 120hz options
- Soldered Memory