Premium build quality. Beautiful 4K touch display. High-end gaming performance.
Loud fans. Minor audiovisual difference from non-THX version. Short battery life.
- Bottom Line
The New Blade Pro is a modest improvement on the previous iteration, with a THX-certified panel and audio alongside a slightly faster unlocked Core i7 processor.
Last year's version of the Razer Blade Pro blew us away with its high-quality build and stunning display, delivering top-end gaming capability in a premium (though pricey) package. This year's update ($3,999) is identical, but has a new Kaby Lake processor inside, and the screen color profile and audio are certified by THX, the audiovisual company famously founded by George Lucas and now owned by Razer. The increased benefits for multimedia, plus the speed boost from the new processor, make this a modest refresh of a fantastic gaming laptop. The changes aren't revolutionary, however, so you shouldn't upgrade from last year's Blade Pro, and the competition is only getting more fierce. If you prefer slightly more power and a lot of storage over the sleeker, but still sizable, form factor of the Blade Pro, the Alienware 17 R4 is an appealing alternative, while the Asus ROG Zephyrus is a truly portable high-end option.
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Same Sleek Silhouette
As with the previous iteration, the Blade Pro is one of the best-feeling pieces of hardware I've ever held. It just feels like a premium product. This version is physically identical to the last, with the same sleek black all-aluminum body, which measures 0.88 by 16.7 by 11 inches (HWD) and weighs 7.72 pounds. It's still one of a kind given the power it holds.
But the competition is getting closer. The Alienware 17 is just over an inch thick, but weighs 9.77 pounds, but the gap is starting to close much more quickly thanks to Nvidia's Max-Q technology. Used to design laptops like the ROG Zephyrus, Max-Q enables high-end graphics cards to fit in much smaller bodies by managing their heat and power demands through performance caps and new thermal solutions. Max-Q laptops will challenge Razer's place atop the powerful, thin gaming laptop pyramid, since they can offer greater power in smaller bodies than Razer's current offerings. Razer could create Max-Q laptops of its own, however, which is an exciting proposition.
That said, some may still want the sprawling 17-inch screen the Zephyrus lacks, and the Blade Pro's is gorgeous. In fact, it's the main beneficiary of the THX integration, as the color and display profile is customized before shipping. The 4K touch display of the previous generation is brilliant, with indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) technology for vibrant colors and 100 percent Adobe RGB color coverage. The THX-certified panel improves it further. According to Razer, the screens are tested for resolution, color accuracy, and smooth video playback. Some profiles artificially alter colors by going for a certain look (think of your TV's Theater or Sports modes), but comparing before and after with THX's color profile, the effects seem largely related to color vibrancy, which could perhaps be oversaturated for some.
As for what a 4K resolution means for content consumption, it's the same as with the previous Blade Pro. The screen shows photos with high detail, and you can edit and view 4K footage in its native resolution. For gaming, it's not particularly ideal, even with the Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics card here. Most less-strenuous games will run at 30 frames per second (fps) in 4K, but reliable 60fps performance is beyond almost every single-GPU computer. You can turn down the resolution to QHD when playing modern titles to achieve 60fps, or dial down some visual effects, but I prefer the former since it will still look plenty sharp.
The THX certification also extends to the audio jack, optimized for what Razer describes as a "flat response and high output signal with low distortion." Note that this does not apply to the internal speakers, just devices connected to the audio line, whether they are headsets or other speakers. My ears were unable to detect too much of a difference, so it depends on how much THX signing off on the hardware means to you and your work. Outside of the headset audio, its speakers are unchanged, and still perform admirably. They're loud and clear, if a bit lacking in bass, but they don't distort at high volumes. I'm still not a fan of the speaker grilles' look, as they slightly blemish the Pro's sleek aesthetic for me, but it's a minor complaint.
The keyboard's customizable backlit keys are mechanical, and are low profile enough to not jeopardize the laptop's slim form, but have more tactile feedback than standard keys. The keyboard feels excellent, and the touchpad (also trimmed in customizable lighting) is equally well-built and tracks smoothly. Its position to the right of the keyboard re-creates the typical mouse and keyboard desktop (though is unfortunate for lefties), and I got used to it after short adjustment—I don't try to type and pan simultaneously, anyway. The volume scroll wheel located just above the touchpad is also handy.
Connectors include two USB 3.0 ports, an Ethernet port, and the audio jack on the left, with another USB 3.0 port, an HDMI connection, an SD card slot, and a USB-C with Thunderbolt 3 port on the right. Inside the laptop, there's Bluetooth 4.1 and KillerDoubleShot Pro, which prioritizes different programs' use of the Ethernet connection and the 802.11ac wireless.
Our unit is the base model, which comes with 512GB of storage via two 256GB SSDs in a RAID 0 array. You can order the 1TB version (two 512GB SSDs) for $4,399 or the 2TB model (two 1TB SSDs) for $4,899. Other than the storage sizes, everything else is equal across these models. Razer supports the Blade Pro and all its laptops with a one-year warranty.
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The New Blade Pro's processor is the other big change from the last model, jumping from a last-generation Intel Skylake chip to a Kaby Lake Core i7-7820HK CPU. Its base clock speed is 2.9GHz, with a 3.9GHz Turbo and 4.3GHz overclock potential, which is great to have in a laptop if you need the extra speed, and it keeps the same 32GB of memory from the previous model. Given that the jump from the last-generation Intel CPU to the current one isn't massive, the gains over the 2016 Blade Pro are modest, but scores were consistently better across general productivity benchmark PCMark 8 and the multimedia tests. Compared with competition like the ROG Zephyrus and the Alienware 17, the New Blade Pro has the edge, though the Origin EON17-X 10 Series (overclocked out of the box) leads the pack.
In terms of 3D and gaming aptitude, the Blade Pro is still a top performer. The new processor doesn't change results too much in this area, and the numbers largely fall in line with the previous Blade Pro. That's good news, though, as the GTX 1080 is a very capable graphics card, and it's nice to have in such a sleek system. The Zephyrus is much smaller thanks to the Max-Q design, but its GTX 1080 is capped to prevent overheating in its compact body, so the Blade Pro's full version has the performance advantage. The EON17, with its higher-clocked processor and bigger body (for more cooling), leads the pack, but the Blade Pro is right behind. It averaged 118fps and 120fps on the Heaven and Valley gaming tests at 1080p on ultra-quality settings, and 29fps and 38fps on those tests at 4K. If you need to lower some titles to QHD resolution to get more consistently smooth frame rates, that's an easy fix, but it will be able to play less-demanding games (and easily handle VR) at or above 30fps at 4K.
I will say, as with the previous version, the fans get very loud under load. They are bottom-facing, and, whirring at high speed to keep the large chassis cool, they make a consistently loud noise while playing. Most gaming laptops make noise, but the ROG Zephyrus gets credit for being especially quiet as a result of its thermal solutions and Max-Q graphics design, tweaked to consider acoustics.
Battery life isn't a strong point: Due to the system's high-end components and power-hungry 4K screen, it lasted 3 hours and 46 minutes on our rundown test. That's virtually identical to the previous Blade Pro (3:48), and while it's not long battery life by any means, it is better than the EON17 (2:07), the Acer Predator 17 X (GX-791-758V), and the ROG Zephyrus (2:34).
Great Laptop Gets Better, but So Does the Competition
The New Blade Pro delivers audio, visual, and performance improvements over the previous version, and makes a generally excellent laptop even better for about the same price. It's not a huge upgrade, but it does refresh one of the best 17-inch options on the market. It's slimmer than other 17-inch laptops, if you need a high-powered, 4K machine to take with you, but it's still not exactly portable compared with 15-inch systems. If more power and storage are more important than portability, the Alienware 17 R4 is your best bet for less money, while the much-less-expensive Asus ROG Zephyrus takes size and power in the opposite direction for a truly portable GTX 1080 laptop.
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Matthew Buzzi is a junior analyst on the Hardware team at PCMag. Matthew graduated from Iona College with a degree in Mass Communications/Journalism. He interned for a college semester at Kotaku, writing about gaming. He has written about technology and video game news, as well as hardware and gaming reviews. In his free time, he likes to go out with friends, watch and discuss sports, play video games, read too much Twitter, and obsessively manage any fantasy sports leagues he's involved in. More »
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