Razer Blade Pro 17 (2019) review

Don’t be fooled. The Razer Blade Pro 17 is for gamers only

Razer Blade Pro 17 (2019)

“The Razer Blade Pro 17 is a big laptop for serious gamers.”
  • Fantastic cooling
  • Great gaming performance
  • Lots of ports
  • Good speakers
  • Delightful keyboard and touchpad
  • No Core i9 option
  • Lacks portability

A 17-inch laptop is not for the faint of heart. 15-inch options are where most people start, especially if they want to take their gaming laptop to work occasionally. The smaller chassis, though, can result in some performance limitations.

In theory, a beefier gaming laptop like the Razer Blade Pro 17 can make up for those shortcomings. Our review unit came with a six-core processor, an Nvidia RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics chip, and 16GB of RAM.

That’s a lot of hardware, but $2,800 is a lot of money, even for a gaming laptop. Is this Razer Blade worthy of its “Pro” pricing?

Less interesting, more practical

Razer is determined to streamline its design language across its lineup of laptops. It started with the Razer Blade Stealth earlier this year, which looks like a miniature version of its 15-inch sibling. Now, the Razer Blade Pro has stretched that design out to a 17-inch screen.

Unlike the Stealth, the updates to the Blade Pro are a drastic change from what came before. The shape of the 2017 Razer Blade Pro was rounded, but that’s now ditched for a boxier look. The Pro also comes in a matte black finish, which is as prone to picking up fingerprints as ever.

2019 Razer Blade Pro 17
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

The new Blade Pro 17 trims some fat, too. It’s cut down from 0.88 inches to 0.78 inches, which now matches the base model 15-inch Razer Blade. It is, however, a bit heavier. The difference of 6.1 pounds to the Razer Blade’s 4.5 pounds is noticeable, and even the MSI GS75 Stealth beats it, coming in at five pounds. As a gaming laptop, it feels manageable enough, but there’s no guarantee it’ll fit into your standard backpack, and you’ll feel the weight when commuting. Unlike the Razer Blade 15, the Pro 17 will have a hard time blending in at a meeting.

The port selection is similar to the Razer Blade Base Model, including just about every important port you could imagine. There’s HDMI, three USB-A, a Thunderbolt 3 port, a standard USB-C port, a full-size SD card slot, and even an RJ-45 Ethernet port. The standard Razer Blade 15 doesn’t include the extra USB-C port and RJ-45, both of which are nice additions to the larger model.

Go ahead, type away!

I love typing on this keyboard. Razer has nailed the balance of click actuation, without the hollow feel of the MacBook Pro’s keyboard. Though key travel is short, typing still feels precise. The RGB lighting, of course, is top of the line, illuminating each of the letters evenly in the dark. It has fifteen levels of brightness sensitivity, far more than the three levels found on most laptops.

The RGB lighting is beautiful and lights each letter evenly.

My only gripe with the Razer Blade Pro’s keyboard is the position of the shift key. To squeeze in full-size arrow keys, the up-arrow key lands right between the Shift and question mark key. For someone who spends a lot of typing on his laptop, regardless of whether it’s intended for gaming, it’s an inconvenience. The full-size arrow keys, though, are great for gaming, which makes the compromise in typing understandable. The Razer Blade Stealth uses the same layout, but because it’s not a dedicated gaming laptop, it’s harder to forgive.

The previous iteration of the Razer Blade Pro 17 featured a touchpad shifted to be horizontal with the keyboard. But that and the corresponding scroll wheel have been uprooted and put in a more conventional location below the keyboard. The touchpad is fantastic. It’s wide, responsive, and supports Windows Precision drivers. I did notice the palm rejection wasn’t perfect, but the placement is nowhere near as awkward as the MSI GS75 Stealth, which puts the touchpad right where your palms should rest.

2019 Razer Blade Pro 17
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Also new to the Razer Blade Pro 17 is an IR camera up top with Windows Hello support. Most gaming laptops leave out the feature, so I was  happy to see Razer bring it not only to the 15-inch Razer Blade, but also the Pro model.

Sticking with 1080p

Unlike the Razer Blade 15, the Razer Blade Pro 17 comes in just one display option: 1080p at 144Hz. Though lacking a 4K option, the Razer Blade Pro 17 does have a beautiful IPS matte screen that’s bright enough to avoid reflections.

I was happy to see the Pro 17 takes a step up from the 15-inch Razer Blade in terms of contrast, landing at 800:1 at full brightness. That’s not as high as something like a Dell XPS 15 or the OLED Alienware m15, but it produces satisfying black levels in an atmospheric game like Battlefield V.

The same is true of the colors the screen can show. They’re reasonably accurate and cover a wide gamut, though  it may not be enough for professional photographers or videographers. That’s the reason Razer, Dell, and HP offer 4K solutions in their 15-inch laptops. Still, watching a movie on the Pro isn’t half bad thanks to its large screen size and bright, vivid colors.

The Razer Blade Pro 17 features a better set of speakers than you’ll find on most laptops. They’re upward-firing, provide ample volume, and you can even eke out a hint of bass.

Where’s the Core i9?

Ultimately, a “Pro” device should have something extra to justify the name. With the Razer Blade Pro, it’s not the design or the screen, nor is it the keyboard or speakers. All of that is just on par with the 15-inch Razer Blade (or, in the case of the screen, slightly less impressive).

The trump card, you’d hope, is performance. But instead of opting for an extreme processor, Razer has played it safe, sticking to the six-core Core i7-9750H and the usual 16GB of RAM.

I was disappointed to hear that, since even the super-thin MacBook Pro 15 features an option for the new 9th-gen eight-core Core i9 from Intel. The Razer Blade Pro seemed like a natural fit for this powerful processor, especially with the interest some content creators might have for it. Still, the Razer Blade Pro isn’t slow.

As you can see from the graph, this 9th-gen Core i7 isn’t a huge leap up from its 8th-gen predecessor. That’s a trend we’ve seen in other gaming laptops in 2019. The Razer Blade Pro does shows some impressive single-core performance in Geekbench 4, beating systems like the MSI GS75 Stealth and the Lenovo Legion Y740. The multi-core performance, however, is where the dip can be found.

Despite having the same number of cores, the Razer Blade Pro is a solid 21% behind the Lenovo Legion Y740. From that alone, you can tell this isn’t a laptop made with multi-threaded applications in mind. Content creators looking for a solid mobile workstation are better off with spending their money on either the 4K Razer Blade 15 or a laptop like the Dell XPS 15 or MacBook Pro 15, both of which come with an option for an eight-core Core i9 processor.

That’s reinforced when you look at our video encoding results in Handbrake. Transcoding a two-minute 4K video clip from H.264 to H.265 took just over three minutes. A lot of competitors finished at least around 30 seconds faster, and some even had the same processor. What gives?

2019 Razer Blade Pro 17
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Well, it’s all about cooling. Razer uses the same vapor chamber cooling as other laptops, but the larger chassis of the 17-inch model means airflow is significantly enhanced. There’s even a new set of vents along the hinge to help. The result is occasionally throttled processor performance, but in a laptop that stays relatively cool and quiet, even at peak loads.

The Razer Blade Pro 17 also came with a 512GB SSD, and it performed well. I tested the storage speeds in a random access test in CrystalDisk Mark, and the Razer Blade Pro 17 produced quick speeds in both reads and writes. The Samsung SVM memory is fast for everything from file transfers to opening apps, though you’ll find more raw power in the SSD included in something like the Alienware Area-51m.

A dedicated gaming machine

It’d be easy to ding the Razer Blade Pro 17 for its less than stellar processor performance. One of the Razer Blade’s strong suits is how well it adapts to different situations, whether that’s gaming, content creation, or portability for general usage. The Razer Blade Pro 17? Not so much.

Still, the Razer Blade Pro 17 is a tried-and-true gaming laptop, and its focus delivers impressive results. Our unit came with the RTX 2070 Max-Q inside, which is the mid-tier option between the 2080 Max-Q and 2060.

Razer put all its eggs in its GPU performance, and that shows in gaming. You can make excellent use of the 144Hz refresh rate in games like Fortnite, where I averaged 129 FPS with Epic settings — gameplay feels fast, fluid, and responsive. Once I connected the Razer to a higher resolution display, the Pro 17 easily held framerates over 60 in 1440p in games like Battlefield V, and could even hold over 60 FPS in Civilization VI at 4K.

Because our unit wasn’t the most powerful model available, it’s a little tricky to see just how it compares to other gaming laptops we’ve reviewed. Across most games and resolutions, it’s neck and neck with the MSI GS75 Stealth despite the MSI having a more powerful RTX 2080 Max-Q inside. More powerful laptops like the Acer Predator Triton 500 or the Asus Zephyrus S GX701 leap out ahead of the Razer Blade Pro 17, but again, those had Nvidia’s faster RTX 2080 Max-Q.

The Blade Pro 17 does provide a small jump over the 15-inch Razer Blade. It only beat its little brother by 2% in the 3DMark Time Spy benchmark, but as much as 10% in 1080p Battlefield V. Again, it’s the thermals where the 17-inch Razer really shows its strength. By throttling the processor, which isn’t tapped out as much in games, the graphics card is allowed to flex without overheating the chassis.

Battery life doesn’t impress

Razer’s Blade laptops have always offered impressive battery life. The company has never used G-Sync, and so has avoided the poor battery life results that other gaming laptops suffer from.

The Razer Blade Pro 17, however, doesn’t follow that trend.

The Razer Blade Pro doesn’t opt for G-Sync, but the large screen sucks a lot of juice out of the laptop. It’s nearly an hour and a half behind the 15-inch Razer Blade in light web browsing, and around 45 minutes behind in local video playback. In gaming, the Razer Blade Pro 17 won’t last more than an hour and a half or so. Its closest competitor, the MSI GS75 Stealth, seriously beats the Razer, lasting almost seven hours in video playback.

There are worse options for battery life, such as the G-Sync-enabled Lenovo Legion Y740 17, or the Alienware Area-51m. Still, the Razer Blade Pro 17 can’t spend more than a few hours away from a power outlet.

Despite its similar look, the Razer Blade Pro 17 doesn’t feel like it’s aimed at the same demographic as the Razer Blade 15. It’s not much of a content creation tool, and it’s not a MacBook alternative.

That doesn’t take away from what it is — a powerful gaming laptop with excellent build quality and a great display. For most people looking for a 17-inch gaming laptop, that’s exactly what they want.

Are there are any alternatives?

The MSI GS75 Stealth is a close competitor to the Razer Blade Pro 17. It features similar options in terms of display, processor, and graphics, and comes in a few hundred dollars less expensive. The Razer Blade Pro 17 is built like a tank by comparison, with a better keyboard and touchpad. Razer also wins in game performance.

You can find many less expensive 17-inch gaming laptops with similar (or better) gaming performance, like the Lenovo Legion Y740 17. It doesn’t have the design ethos of Razer, but it’s not an ugly laptop, and is significantly cheaper at only $1,800 for a configuration with similar hardware.

Finally, if you want ultimate power at the complete compromise of portability, check out the Alienware Area-51m. It’s more expensive, but with desktop-grade components, it’s easily the most powerful gaming laptop you can buy.

How long will it last?

The Razer Blade Pro 17 is a well-built laptop with high-end components. It should last you more than just a few years. As a gaming laptop, important components like the graphics card and processor are locked in, which means it’ll eventually go out of date.

Razer laptops come with a standard one-year warranty. We’d like to see that be extended for these premium devices, but it’s become the industry standard.

Should you buy it?

If you like the Razer Blade aesthetic and want something for gaming only, the Razer Blade Pro 17 is a good choice.

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