Razer’s most basic Blade 15 is the one most gamers should buy

Razer recently launched a drastically redesigned version of the Razer Blade with thin bezels, the latest hardware, and a profile just 0.66-inches thick. Our review heaped praise on it, but there’s one major downside. The price. Starting at $1,900 with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q and a 256GB solid state drive, it’s not exactly affordable.

Well, good news! Razer now offers a less expensive model. At a starting price of $1,600 for an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q, 128GB SSD, and a 1TB mechanical disk, it’s no budget laptop, but it’s obtainable for gamers seeking a mid-range rig. The base Blade 15 does make sacrifices, however. Do they dull Razer’s edge?

The same, but thicker

The entry-level Razer Blade 15 is an odd one because, unlike most laptops that share a name, the chassis differs depending on how much you spend. Everything above the keyboard, including the display and lid, appear identical to the more expensive variant, but the lower half is different. The Razer Blade 15 Base, as we’ll refer to it, is thick.

How much thicker? The profile grows from 0.66 inches to 0.78 inches, or just barely more than one tenth of an inch. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Yet it’s noticeable. The Razer Blade 15 Base feels a bit old-fashioned, while the more expensive edition feels sleek and modern.

Old fashioned isn’t always a negative, however. The Base offers a regular gigabit Ethernet port, which isn’t available on its sibling. Port selection is otherwise the same, so that’s a win for the Base model. Saving money means losing the Chroma RGB keyboard backlight for a more standard backlight, but you won’t lose sleep over that.

The difference all comes down to the GPU – and how it’s used.

There’s little difference between models in day-to-day use. While the Base is a bit thicker, the keyboard and display look the same between all models. It’s hard to tell them apart when they’re not side-by-side. That’s good, because it means Base buyers don’t miss out on most the Blade 15’s strong points. The lack of a 144Hz display (it’s replaced by a 1080p 60Hz screen) is a bummer, but also matches the Base’s capabilities, as it’s only sold with a GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics chip.

It looks similar, but does it still perform?

Looks, of course, are part of the equation. Performance is a more serious concern.

In theory, the Razer Blade 15 Base shouldn’t sacrifice much in pursuit of a lower price. The Intel Core i7-8750H processor is used among all Blade 15 variants, so there won’t be much difference there. You’ll even enjoy 16GB of RAM which, again, stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its pricier peers.

Razer Blade base model compared

The difference all comes down to the GPU – and how it’s used. The Base model is only available with the GTX 1060 Max-Q. You can grab that same GPU in the least expensive slim model, but most slim configurations have a GTX 1070 Max-Q. That bumps the price up to at least $2,400. Razer says the Base version doesn’t have the more advanced vaper-chamber cooling design of the slim version.

That does make a difference in games, but the gap is smaller than you might think.

We saw a consistent story across most scenarios. The slim Razer Blade 15 with GTX 1070 Max-Q was 15 to 25 percent quicker than the Base model with GTX 1060 Max-Q. Rocket League on Performance settings was one exception, but only because both laptops hit the game’s engine cap of 250 frames per second. We also saw a virtual tie at medium detail in Civilization VI, though the slim Razer Blade 15 earned back a lead at ultra detail.

All our game benchmarks occurred at 1080p resolution. While the slim Blade 15 can be equipped with a 4K screen, it’s not a great fit, as the GTX 1070 Max-Q isn’t powerful enough to keep up with 4K resolution in demanding games.

There’s no shame in being basic

You’ll spend $1,600 on the Razer Blade 15 Base. You’d need at least $1,900 to buy the slimmer version, although right now the least expensive model is $2,200 (with a 512GB SSD – lower capacities have sold out). Stepping up to the GTX 1070 Max-Q demands at least $2,400.

Razer Blade base model compared

Should you go basic? To answer that question, ask yourself another. Are you buying the Blade 15 mostly to play games, or are you buying it because it can do everything well?

The slim Blade 15 is a solid all-rounder. It’s easy to pack, has a bigger 80 watt-hour battery (up from 65 watt-hours), and has more solid-state drive capacity. In the end, it feels less like a pure gaming laptop and more like a MacBook Pro 15 or Dell XPS 15.

Gamers can stick to the Blade 15 Base. That may seem counter-intuitive. The slimmer model can have the quicker GTX 1070, true, but its price puts it in league with GTX 1080 laptops. The base model offers better value and balance. It’s quick enough for any game, and you don’t need to set up crowdfunding to buy it.

Sometimes, it’s okay to be basic.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Movies & TV

From ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to ‘Episode IX’: The most anticipated movies of 2019

This year is shaping up to be one of the biggest in a long time for Hollywood fare, with everying from Avengers: Endgame to Star Wars: Episode IX hitting theaters over the next 12 months. To make planning your theater calendar a little…
Computing

Problems with installing or updating Windows 10? Here's how to fix them

Upgrading to the newest version of Windows 10 is usually a breeze, but sometimes you run into issues. Never fear though, our guide will help you isolate the issue at hand and solve it in a timely manner.
Social Media

No yolk! A photo of an egg has become the most-liked post on Instagram

Until this weekend, the most-liked post on Instagram was of Kylie Jenner's baby daughter, which has around 18 million likes. It's now been knocked off the top spot not by a stunning sunset or even a cute cat, but by an egg.
Computing

Watch out for these top-10 mistakes people make when buying a laptop

Buying a new laptop is exciting, but you need to watch your footing. There are a number of pitfalls you need to avoid and we're here to help. Check out these top-10 laptop buying mistakes and how to avoid them.
Computing

Don't spend a fortune on a PC. These are the best laptops under $300

Buying a laptop needn't mean spending a fortune. If you're just looking to browse the internet, answer emails, and watch Netflix, you can pick up a great laptop at a great price. These are the best laptops under $300.
Computing

Dell XPS 13 vs. Asus Zenbook 13: In battle of champions, who will be the victor?

The ZenBook 13 UX333 continues Asus's tradition of offering great budget-oriented 13-inch laptop offerings. Does this affordable machine offer enough value to compete with the excellent Dell XPS 13?
Product Review

LG Gram 14 proves 2-in-1 laptops don’t need to sacrifice battery for light weight

The LG Gram 14 2-in-1 aims to be very light for a laptop that converts to a tablet. And it is. But it doesn’t skimp on the battery, and so it lasts a very long time on a charge.
Gaming

Take a trip to a new virtual world with one of these awesome HTC Vive games

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.
Computing

The Asus ZenBook 13 offers more value and performance than Apple's MacBook Air

The Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 is the latest in that company's excellent "budget" laptop line, and it looks and feels better than ever. How does it compare to Apple's latest MacBook Air?
Computing

AMD Radeon VII will support DLSS-like upscaling developed by Microsoft

AMD's Radeon VII has shown promise with early tests of an open DLSS-like technology developed by Microsoft called DirectML. It would provide similar upscale features, but none of the locks on hardware choice.
Computing

You could be gaming on AMD’s Navi graphics card before the end of the summer

If you're waiting for a new graphics card from AMD that doesn't cost $700, you may have to wait for Navi. But that card may not be far away, with new rumors suggesting we could see a July launch.
Computing

Is AMD's Navi back on track for 2019? Here's everything you need to know

With a reported launch in 2019, AMD is focusing on the mid-range market with its next-generation Navi GPU. Billed as a successor to Polaris, Navi promises to deliver better performance to consoles, like Sony's PlayStation 5.
Computing

Cortana wants to be friends with Alexa and Google Assistant

Microsoft no longer wants to compete against Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant in the digital assistant space. Instead, it wants to transform Cortana into a skill that can be integrated into other digital assistants.
Computing

Microsoft leans on A.I. to resume safe delivery of Windows 10 Update

Microsoft is leaning on artificial intelligence as it resumes the automatic rollout of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update. You should start seeing the update soon now that Microsoft has resolved problems with the initial software.