Razer Blade Stealth (13.3" QHD+, Early 2018)
It wasn’t long ago that we reviewed the 13.3-inch Razer Blade Stealth, an excellent refreshed version of the non-gaming ultraportable that bumped up the screen size from previous versions. Now another update has arrived, with the changes coming on the inside in the form of an eighth-generation “Kaby Lake R” quad-core Intel processor. This new Blade Stealth ($1,499.99) and its two extra cores bring improved performance, especially on media tasks, and are worth the added $100 if you’re deciding between the two. New competition has arrived on the field since the last review, however, and the Dell XPS 13 (9360) takes the spot as our top ultraportable. The Dell retains the Editors’ Choice award since it’s less expensive and slightly faster, but the Stealth offers a higher resolution display with touch for the extra cost, and both laptops are excellent options.
Keep What Works
Since the upgrades to this model are internal, it looks identical to the last Blade Stealth I tested just a few months back. That’s not an issue, though, as the design and build are a high point for this PC. The aluminum build feels solid, looks sleek, and is imperceptibly heavier and thicker at 2.98 pounds (up from 2.93) and 0.54 inches (up from 0.52). The screen is unchanged as well, which should also be music to your ears. The same beautiful QHD+ (3,200-by-1,800) touch display is included here, as is the customizable individually backlit keyboard. Port options aren’t numerous, but the basics, including a USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3, are covered. One thing to note, though, is that the USB-C port also serves as the connection for the charger, so you won’t be able to use it and charge the laptop at the same time. For more details on the features, including a full rundown of the port offerings, check out the review of the late 2017 Blade Stealth with the seventh-generation Intel processor.
As a point of comparison, the XPS 13 is cheaper, but its display is only 1080p and lacks touch capability. The Lenovo Yoga 920 also has a 1080p screen. That resolution should be adequate in most cases, but the Stealth’s display is sharper. As far as portability goes, they all fall within the same ballpark: The Yoga 920 is slightly heavier at 3.03 pounds, and the XPS 13 is the lightest at 2.7 pounds.
The 256GB storage capacity is the same as well, though as with most Razer laptops, you can choose different sizes online when ordering. Both the black and gunmetal versions are available with 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB SSDs. Adding more storage gets pretty pricey since solid-state storage is still relatively expensive, so jumping up to 512GB brings the price to $1,699, and the 1TB model is a much costlier $2,099. 256GB isn’t a lot for big files like game installations or large media projects, but since the system isn’t especially built for those tasks, it should be enough for general use. The new Blade Stealth includes 16GB of memory, which is the same as the previous model.
More Cores, More Speed
Performance is where the new Blade Stealth should make a case for itself, as the fresh processor is the star of the show. Its Intel Core i7-8550U CPU has a 1.8GHz clock speed, but don’t let that relatively low number fool you, as its quad-core build is more efficient. This is demonstrated on multithreaded tasks like encoding video, rather than everyday general-use jobs that don’t lean on multicore performance. As a result, its PCMark 8 score, which measures general productivity, isn’t off the charts, but it still beats the seventh-generation Blade Stealth. The XPS 13 is rocking the same eighth-gen processor, but its less-demanding display allowed for a higher score on this test. The Blade was speedy on our multimedia tests, as expected, but as you can see in the table, the XPS has the advantage on these tests. As with the previous version, it also runs quietly, which is a bonus as it won’t bother you or those around you with revving fans.
As with almost all ultraportables, 3D and gaming performance on the Stealth is an afterthought. These lightweight laptops nearly exclusively pack only the graphics built into the processor, not discrete cards dedicated to powerful 3D performance. As a result, only the most simple games run on the Stealth, or some midrange titles with settings turned low. This was demonstrated on the Heaven and Valley gaming tests, which measure frame rates: Even on lowly 720p resolution and medium settings, the Stealth couldn’t average 30 frames per second (fps). That’s not abnormal for the category, so just know going in that this machine is not intended for gaming, despite being a Razer product. Check out our full review of the previous Razer Blade, though, to see how you can use the Razer Core, an external graphics enclosure, to turn this into a more powerful gaming machine.
Battery life is something of a mixed bag. The Stealth’s time of 8 hours and 36 minutes on our rundown test is not poor, and that duration should get you through the day. Its QHD+ screen is draining, though, and in comparison the 1080p XPS 13 lasted for 15:56 on the same test, while the Yoga 920 ran for a whopping 22:38. Long-lasting battery life is a big portion of the appeal of an ultraportable, so you may want to look at one of those longer-lasting models if you’re going to travel a lot and use your laptop off the charger.
This refreshed Blade Stealth doesn’t bring major changes, but it’s undoubtedly faster than the model touting a seventh-generation processor. If you’re deciding between the two and are concerned about speed, I’d recommend you go for the newest processor. It’s $100 more, but the added cores bring a performance advantage and help future-proof your buy. The XPS 13 remains our Editors’ Choice, however, as it’s faster and less expensive while offering a nice build of its own, even if you do forgo a higher-resolution touch display.