Razer Blade Pro 17 (2019) hands-on review

Without 4K or Core i9, the new Razer Blade Pro trades features for polish

The Razer Blade Pro 17 keeps its performance, but is it still a Pro?
The Razer Blade Pro 17 keeps its performance, but is it still a Pro?
The Razer Blade Pro 17 keeps its performance, but is it still a Pro?

Highs

  • Thinner, more modern design
  • Next-gen CPU and GPU
  • Updated cooling system
  • Great keyboard and touchpad

Lows

  • No 4K model
  • Lack of “Pro” features

The Razer Blade 15 is on a tear. The newest models have advanced features like a 240Hz refresh rate and even an OLED display.

But 15-inch screens aren’t a one-size fits all. Some people want that extra screen real estate while gaming. Razer has always had an answer to that, though you may have forgotten it exists. Razer’s Blade Pro, the company’s larger 17-inch model, hasn’t been updated in almost two years.

Razer has finally come around to spread the love. We had hands-on time with the laptop in advance to see if the 2019 Razer Blade Pro is still worthy of the “Pro” label.

Less interesting but 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. In the same way, the Razer Blade Pro has stretched that design out to a 17-inch screen.

Unlike the Stealth, it’s a drastic change from what came before. The shape of the 2017 Razer Blade Pro was rounded, which been traded out for a boxier, look. It also now comes in a matte black finish, as prone to picking up fingerprints as ever. The green Snakehead logo on the lid didn’t light up green when held it, but Razer ensured us full production models would.

The new Blade Pro 17 trims some fat out 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.

2019 Razer Blade Pro
Riley Young/Digital Trends

But the larger changes come on the keyboard deck. The 2017 model featured a touchpad that was located to the right of the keyboard, and even had a programmable scroll wheel. The new version is far more conventional. That might feel like a step backward, but we think it’s for the best. If you miss the novelty of the old input setup, you’ll find a familiar design on the Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701.

The old design was meant to replicate the feeling of using a keyboard and mouse on a desktop. But as Razer pointed out to us, most gamers used a mouse anyways. The large Windows Precision touchpad and per-key Chroma-lit keyboard are directly pulled from the Razer Blade 15. That’s a good thing, as these are some of the best inputs you can find on a laptop.

The Razer Blade Pro 17 might be less visually interesting than before, but we think it’ll provide a better overall experience. Content creators have turned to the Blade lineup for its subdued design and impressive power, and that’s a demographic Razer wants to serve. The new Blade Pro 17 accomplishes that.

A gaming laptop, through and through

Razer serves up a matte 1080p 17-inch screen with a 144Hz refresh panel, and clearly has gaming in its crosshairs. It’s a gaming laptop, after all, and the hardware here should be able to easily push most games into the range of using that refresh rate.

A 4K model is absent, which may have been an attractive choice to both gamers and content creators. Razer offers the screen in its 15-inch variety, so why not on the larger model? Razer explained that panel suppliers are the bottleneck. That leaves hope for a 4K model in the future if supply issues subside, but Razer isn’t making any promises.

It’s less visually interesting than before, but that’s for the best.

Still, it looks like an excellent 1080p display. It’s not OLED or 240Hz, but Razer screens have always had a reputation for achieving impressive color accuracy and brightness in the past. We didn’t get a chance to test the screen with a colorimeter, but Razer did ensure us that it would support 100% of the sRGB color space and brighten up to 300 nits. From the naked eye, you can see some pixels on 17-inch 1080p screen, but the trade-off for the fast refresh rate will be worth it for most people.

The speakers have also been moved up to the keyboard deck from the side of the chassis, which allows for crisper and louder audio. They’re a different set of speakers from the Razer Blade and the previous Pro — a bit larger, but similar in sound quality.

As for ports, they’re similar to what was offered in the past, only updated for 2019. On one side, you have a gigabit ethernet jack, two USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports, and a headphone/mic combo. On the other side, you’ll find a USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port, an additional USB-A port, HDMI 2.0, and a full-size SD card slot.

Next-gen performance

Razer supports the full range of 20-series mobile GPUs, from the RTX 2060 on up to the RTX 2080 Max-Q. Alongside these powerful graphics cards is a new Intel processor, the six-core Core i7-9750H. It’s not a big jump up from last year’s 8750H. It does benefit from a higher base clock speed and a Turbo Boost frequency of up to 4.5GHz. Missing from Razer’s lineup is an implementation of the Core i9-9880H, a new eight-core Intel processor. This might have given the Razer Blade Pro more of a productivity boost over the 15-inch model.

But even without the Core i9, the more cooling the better. For thermals, Razer is using the familiar “vapor chamber” cooling system, which blankets this entire area of the motherboard in one massive heat sink. The system was introduced in the 2018 Razer Blade, keeping internal temperatures low given the size of the chassis. The Razer Blade Pro 17 is similar in thickness to that laptop, so we can expect similar results here. The 15-inch Razer Blade could feel hot on its external surface, so hopefully the Pro manages heat even better.

Can we expect better performance in games from the Blade Pro than from the Blade? Not necessarily, though you might see better internal and surface temperatures.

All versions of the Razer Blade Pro come with the 9750H, as well as 16GB of dual-channel RAM. Storage is stuck with a 512GB of NVMe SSD. That’s a change-up from the previous version, which allowed for up to 2TB and started at 256GB. Hopefully we’ll see Razer offer some other configurations, but at the launch date, it’s being kept simple. Fortunately, the SSD Razer includes will no doubt be fast, and you will have access to it for upgrades if you need some more capacity, maxing out at 2TB with the extra M.2 slot that comes empty. The same goes with the RAM, which can go up to 64GB.

2019 Razer Blade Pro
Riley Young/Digital Trends

The Razer Blade Pro comes with a 70.5 watt-hour battery. That should give it around five hours of light usage, though we won’t know for sure until we can test it out ourselves. When we reviewed the 2017 Razer Blade Pro, we had the 4K model that came with a maxed-out 99 watt-hour battery. It still only lasted a few hours in our battery tests.

How ‘Pro’ is it really?

Because of its design and performance differences in the past, the “Pro” designation on the older Razer Blade Pro made some sense. It was the preferred choice for power users — for people who valued exclusive gaming features and unbridled high-level performance.

Calling this system a “Pro” feels a little disingenuous.

But this new Razer Blade Pro? It doesn’t make as much sense from that perspective. In fact, calling this system a “Pro” model feels a little disingenuous. Don’t get me wrong — I like that the 17-inch model looks more like the 15-inch. I’ll always be in favor of streamlining laptop lineups to make buying decision easier for the average person.

As smaller laptops become more and more powerful, however, Razer needs to deliver added features or performance to justify the Pro branding, whether that’s an overclockable GPU or the new Core i9 processor. The older Blade Pro did that with unique keyboard and touchpad features, which the new model lacks, and the 4K screen option is gone for now.

The Razer Blade Pro currently sits toward the top of the high-end of Razer’s new laptop lineup. The RTX 2060 model is priced at $2,499, while the 2070 Max-Q is $2,799. The most expensive model with the RTX 2080 Max-Q will set you back $3,199.

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