Monday, May 10, 2021

Razer Blade Stealth 13 (OLED) Full Review

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For the second time recently, I spent time with a variant of the Razer Blade Stealth 13. In early 2020, I reviewed Razer’s first gaming ultrabook with a GTX 1650 GPU inside, turning the nearly three-pound device into a full-fledged gaming device. Now, a year later I spent some time using the late 2020 edition of the Blade Stealth 13, which features Intel’s 11th gen i7, GTX 1650 Ti GPU, and my favorite part, an FHD OLED display.

Razer Blade Stealth 13 (OLED) Full Review

There are certainly trade-offs to packing so much power in such a small package, and I’ll get to that below, but the overall experience was superb. Let’s go dig.

Razer Blade Stealth 13 – Specifications

Here are the specifications of the Razer Blade Stealth 13 (Late 2020) that I tested:

  • Model: Razer Blade Stealth 13 (Late 2020) (RZ09-0327)
  • Display: 13.3 inch FHD OLED (1920 x 1080)
  • Processor: 2.8GHz 11th Generation Intel Core i7-1165G7 (12MB Cache, 4.7GHz Max Turbo)
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti with Max-Q (4 GB GDDR6)
  • Memory: 16 GB DDR4 3733 MHz memory
  • OS: Windows 10 Home
  • Storage: 512 GB NVMe M.2 SSD
  • Webcam: 720p, Windows Hello compatible
  • Ports: 2 x Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A, 1 x 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Connectivity: WiFi 6802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.1
  • Dimensions: 11.99 x 8.27 x 0.6 inches (WxDxH)
  • Weight: 3.26 pounds
  • Price: $ 1,999

Razer only offers two different versions of the late 2020 Blade Stealth 13. There’s the $ 1,999 model I tested with an OLED display, or the 120Hz model at $ 1,799. Apart from display differences, you get exactly the same version. In other words, you can save a little bit of money and get a standard screen with a faster refresh rate, or spend a little more and stick with a 60Hz screen, but an OLED panel for that.

Razer Blade Stealth 13 – Design

The best way, I think, to describe the design of the Blade Stealth is to say that it is underrated. It is actually a matte black plate of glass, plastic and aluminum. But it’s a very small black slab that has a premium feel that pushes on you the more you use it.

Even the usually neon green Razer logo is murdered on this Stealth, and it looks fantastic. The only color, on the outside of the backlit keyboard, comes from green inside two USB-A ports on either side of the deck. You know Razer was going to find a way to work that green in there, right?

The Blade Stealth 13 measures 11.99 x 8.27 x 0.6 inches, keeping its title as one of the thinnest gaming laptops I have already tested. To put this in perspective, the new MacBook Pro M1 (which uses the same design as the Intel version) measures 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.61 inches. That’s right, the Blade Stealth 13 is still slightly thinner than the MacBook Pro.

To be fair, it weighs slightly more than the MacBook Pro, weighing 3.26 pounds versus 3.00 pounds.

That difference of about a quarter of a pound isn’t likely to have a big impact on your daily use if you’re carrying it on a commute or at home. It’s there, sure, but using these two laptops side-by-side I can’t really tell the difference in weight.

Under the lid is a black keyboard with single-zone RGB lighting and a touchpad underneath. The screen has thin bezels on either side, measuring just 4.9mm according to Razer. Along the top is a thicker frame to make room for the 720p infrared webcam that works with Windows Hello to unlock your PC using facial recognition.

On the left side you’ll find one of the Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, a USB-A port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the other side, you’ll find another Thunderbolt 4 port, as well as the other USB-A port.

The two Thunderbolt 4 ports can be used to charge the laptop battery, leaving you three ports available for connecting accessories and peripherals. Indeed, there aren’t a lot of ports to hook up anything you’d probably want to play with, but that’s one of the tradeoffs for this type of design. At least there are only two ports left like the new MacBook Pro, right?

The OLED panel is reflective, not matt like the Blade Stealth I previously reviewed, so you’ll have to deal with glare. Having said that, I didn’t find them terribly bossy or intrusive. The touchscreen portion of the screen is something I tested, but reluctantly. The screen is gorgeous and the last thing I wanted to do was put my filthy fingerprints all over it. Alas, for testing purposes, I tapped and slipped on it and found no issues.

The keyboard is a joy to type, with each keystroke providing just enough feedback to let you know it’s been recorded, and then the keys snap back into place. I still wish the keyboard had individually lit keys, instead of a lighting zone. Another compromise for the smaller form factor I’m sure. The touchpad below is very responsive to gestures and clicks, but I’d like it to be slightly larger.

Razer really nailed the design of the ultrabook, even if it is somewhat reminiscent of a murdered MacBook Pro.

Razer Blade Stealth 13 – Performance and Games

Tucked inside the case of the Blade Stealth 13 is an 11th generation Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor, an Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti with a Max-Q graphics processor, 16GB of 3733MHz RAM, and a 512GB SSD. All of this kit combines to provide enough power for video and photo editing, as well as for slightly intense gaming sessions – as long as you’re willing to adjust your settings accordingly.

Here are the benchmark results for the Blade Stealth 13 (Late 2020) versus a GTX 1650 and Blade Stealth 13 that I reviewed earlier this year.

As you can see the performance, on the whole, is not that impressive. Yet another compromise you make for such a small design.

However, as is generally the case, benchmarks do not give a complete picture of overall performance. While there have been times when the Blade Stealth 13 seemed to hang or feel sluggish – especially during the initial setup when installing multiple games and updates – when it comes to gaming, the Blade Stealth 13 is more than capable of reaching 60 fps in most AAAs. Games.

In fact, I was able to get 60 FPS in Warzone and the new Call of Duty Black Ops. Of course, none of these games ran on Ultra or even high settings, but with medium settings 60 FPS was within reach – respectable for the ultrabook form factor. And to be honest, I didn’t see much of a difference between even medium and low settings. I think that’s partly because of the OLED screen.

I have a love hate relationship with OLED panels on gaming laptops. I love them because they look crisp and clear, and the colors are vivid and vibrant. I hate OLED screens because they make it really hard to go back to a standard LCD screen.

The speakers are found on both sides of the keyboard and provide plenty of volume and depth, even when you’re gaming. The fans, of course, kicked the moment I started a game, but they were never loud enough that I couldn’t hear what was going on in the game. I actually did. I was a little surprised by the general tranquility of the fans.

As for storage – 512GB isn’t a lot, so you’ll want to have an external drive for larger files to make room for games.

Razer Blade Stealth 13 – Battery Life

I put the Blade Stealth through our standard battery benchmark test of setting the screen brightness to 50%, turning off the keyboard backlight, and all additional wireless connections except Wi-Fi. I then ran the PCMark 10 Modern Desktop Battery Test, and it lasted 7 hours and 7 minutes before shutting down.

That’s good enough for a place close to the gaming laptops we’ve tested this year, and nearly enough to get through a full day of use without needing to be plugged in.

Razer Blade Stealth 13 – Software

Razer advises that the company does not pre-install any additional apps, services or software on its products. And that’s true. Razer’s Synapse software was preinstalled on this Blade Stealth, used to control keyboard lighting, fan speed, and power modes.

Other than that, only what Windows includes in a standard Windows 10 installation is on the Blade Stealth out of the box. It’s refreshing not to have to uninstall random crapware or antivirus programs on a $ 1,999 laptop.

As for Synapse, I’m still struggling to figure out how to use it properly. The tabs and categories at the top are just confusing to me. If you are a seasoned Razer user, you will feel right at home. However, if this is your first Razer product, there will be a learning curve.

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