The Blade Pro is the most premium laptop in Razer’s lineup, complete with a big 4K display and Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics, but its $3,999 price tag keeps it out of the grasp of many gamers. Because of that, Razer is offering a middle ground solution that keeps the high-end chassis, but makes some sacrifices to dial back the price. The result is the new Blade Pro with a GTX 1060 and a 17-inch 1080p screen. At $2,299.99, it’s much less expensive than the original, though not exactly cheap. You can get a laptop with a slightly beefier GTX 1070 graphics card at this price, but the Blade Pro delivers solid HD gaming performance in a slim form factor with a premium design. It all comes down to this question: Do you have an unlimited budget and want to squeeze higher frame rates out of your pricey gaming laptop? Or do value a top-notch, slim build and other features more? If you lean toward the latter, especially with a limited budget, the GTX 1060 Blade Pro is worth considering.
Same Look, Smart Changes
The idea behind the less expensive Blade Pro is delivering the same premium chassis at a lower price, so it’s identical to the higher-end version. Built with quality all-black aluminum and a green Razer logo on the lid, this model measures 0.9 by 16.7 by 11 inches (HWD), same as before. Due to the internal changes, however, it weighs about a pound less at 6.78 pounds, which is light for a 17-inch laptop. The GTX 1080-bearing Origin EON17-X (2017) and the Alienware 17 R4 weigh 8.6 and 9.8 pounds, respectively, so the Blade Pro acquits itself well. It’s still fairly large for frequent travel and would take up more bag space than you’d probably want on a commute, but it is on the slimmer and lighter side for a desktop-replacement.
One casualty of the reduced price is the excellent low-profile mechanical keyboard you get with the $4,000 model. Typing still feels comfortable, though, and the keys deliver a good amount of travel. Each key is still individually backlit, as well, so you’re not giving up the fun customizable lighting and effects Razer is known for, all manageable through the included Synapse software. The touchpad, placed off the right of the keyboard rather than below it, also feels sturdy. The volume scroll bar, an inclusion seen on some fancier desktop keyboards, is something I now miss when it’s not around, so it’s great to have on a laptop in a convenient place. The speakers, while not booming or bassy, provide loud and clear audio that doesn’t distort at higher volumes.
The gorgeous 4K touch display becomes a non-touch 1080p screen on this version of the Blade Pro. The glossy finish is replaced with a matte one, which cuts down on reflections, but yields a duller picture. The screen is still vibrant when gaming, and 1080p is a sweet spot for smooth game performance, especially with a GTX 1060 card. The display does offer a 120Hz refresh rate, which is another appealing feature for gamers looking for the smoothest gameplay.
It’s worth noting that, in many ways, the fully featured Blade Pro is aimed not just at gamers, but artists and designers. The 4K version’s screen is superior for these tasks, with THX certification and high color accuracy, which you don’t get in this version of the laptop. As such, the GTX 1060 Blade Pro loses some of its other utility and more firmly establishes itself as a high-quality midrange gaming laptop. It still has discrete graphics and a fast processor for completing media tasks, so it’s not suddenly incapable, but it is less of a artist’s system.
There’s just one storage option for the less expensive model. The laptop comes with a 256GB M.2 SSD and a 2TB 5,400rpm hard drive, which should be plenty of space for most users. The lowest storage option for the premium version is a 512GB SSD (it can go up to 2TB), so you’re getting a lot more space here by default, even if less of it is speedy SSD storage. As for ports, the offerings are the same on both laptops: There are three USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, a USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3, an Ethernet jack, and an SD card reader. That’s plenty of connectivity for peripherals, external storage, and virtual reality headsets. The Blade Pro integrates dual-band 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.1. Razer supports the Blade Pro with a one-year warranty.
HD Gaming…at a Premium
Even if it’s not the full-powered version, this Blade Pro’s 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor, GTX 1060, and 16GB of memory mean it’s no slouch. Its PCMark 8 Work Conventional score, which simulates general productivity speed, was on the higher end for laptops. Demanding 4K screens lower the scores for this test, so this is one area that this Blade Pro beats the more expensive model and its slightly faster processor. Normalcy is restored on the multimedia tests, where the 4K version is a bit faster all around, but this unit can still whip through your average tasks and do some content creation on the side without much holdup.
While the GTX 1060 is a capable, well-priced card, it doesn’t fare as well in head-to-head comparisons in this price range. The Blade Pro’s slim premium build and other features bump up its price before you even get to the graphics—most laptops at this price point are getting you a GTX 1070. As such, the performance is going to be less impressive than other laptops you may spend between $2,000 and $2,500 on, so it may be hard to justify dropping that much on a GTX 1060, which often comes in laptops priced less than $2,000. Razer’s own 14-inch laptop, the 2017 Blade, includes a 1060 for $1,899, and that’s with paying extra for the form factor. Another good example is the Acer Aspire V17 Nitro, a 17-inch GTX 1060 laptop that’s only $1,699.
That said, this Blade Pro posted solid 1080p numbers on the Heaven and Valley tests set to ultra-quality settings, averaging 65 frames per second (fps) and 72fps respectively. Newer, more demanding titles may require you to turn down a few settings to not dip below 60fps or look choppy, but for the most part you can play games at or near maximum in HD. The HP Omen 17, priced similarly to this Blade Pro, scored 90fps and 83fps on these tests, demonstrating the increased headroom a GTX 1070 gives you for more bells and whistles or more demanding games.
Like the PCMark score, battery life is also improved by the drop to 1080p. A 4K screen drains a lot of power. This unit lasted for 7 hours and 1 minute on our rundown test, as opposed to the 4K model’s short 3:46 time. 7:01 is a great showing for anylarge-screen gaming laptop, most of which typically run out of juice much faster. On the same test, the Alienware 17 R4 ran for 3:30, the Omen 17 for 3:14, and the EON17-X for 2:17, so the Blade Pro is well ahead of the group here. The V17 Nitro is an exception here, with similar results at 7:28. The battery life helps sell the portability aspect of the slimmer design, since you’ll actually be able to use it off the charger for a while if you do bring it with you.
This less expensive Blade Pro delivers on its promise of the attractive build of the orginal model for less money, though I have some reservations about the price considering the graphics card choice. A GTX 1060 card at $2,300 is a bit hard to swallow, but at the same time, it’s boosted by thoughtful features, and this laptop is perfectly suited to 1080p gaming. This lower-price Blade Pro is an appealing option, but if you value the extra frames you’ll get with a GTX 1070 over the design, roomy storage, and 120Hz display, you can do better. Alternatives like a conservatively configured Alienware 17 R4 or Origin EON17-X (or perhaps a smaller 15-inch laptop, like the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming) will get you more performance for your dollar.