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Hands-on with Razer Blade and Blade Pro, new 14- and 17-inch gaming laptops

After getting hands-on with Razer's new gaming laptops at E3 2013, we found that those who love the metallic unyielding one-piece sleekness of a MacBook and everything that a PC laptop offers may want to raise an eyebrow in the direction of Razer's new 14- and 17-inch gaming laptops, the Razer Blade and Blade Pro, respectively.

The Blade measures 0.66 inches thick and weighs 4.14 pounds. Its guts consist of a fourth-generation Intel Core i7 processor — Intel's "Haswell" chipset — and 8 GB of DDR3L memory. It also touts a 2 GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M video card and Intel HD4600 integrated graphics. The 14-inch display is a 1600x900 screen with an LED backlight. According to Razer, the Blade offers as many as six hours of battery life and is "the thinnest, most powerful" laptop in its 14-inch class.

The Blade Pro boasts a 17.3-inch 1080p LED screen, and Razer will offer the laptop in models with a 128 GB, 256 GB or 512 GB SSD. The Blade Pro weighs 6.5 pounds at 0.88 inches of thickness. After having the 14-inch resting on my lap, it looked like I had a flat screen TV floating on my knees, but it certainly didn't feel like I had an-old school phone book resting on lap — like most performance laptops do.

It also has Razer's Switchblade interface resting next to the keyboard, which consists of an LCD trackpad and ten keys to give users quickly access to creative software such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere Pro and Maya. Ease of access to well used programs and apps is all good, but the question is how long the sensitivity on the LCD trackpad will last or even how long it will work for before it becomes deadspace? With both laptops, the finish didn't have that plastic Fisher Price toy feel, nor did it have the almost scratchy rough surface feel of a MacBook's brushed aluminium surface.

"So this is the Blade Pro, we actually launched it about two years ago and we have taken a totally different direction from other gaming laptops which tend to be 2-inches thick, 10-pounds," Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan. "So our focus has been to get really performance and portability at the same time. So two years ago we launched this, we recently updated this to the latest Intel Haswel CPUS."

The demo had Metro Last Light running on the machine, which ran smoothly and quietly, zero fuss from the machine. "So on top of this GPU so it runs all of the latest games it has an incredible frame rate and stuff. We are not trying to put all of the power in there because it would get insanely hot to really get it into a really powerful laptop that runs the latest games that runs at beautiful resolution. This is 17-inches and this is as hot as it gets, it has been running all morning."

Although, in my experience, track records with performance laptops dishing out crotch burn after a few months of service is not uncommon. The intakes are around the back between the body and the hinge, so it is out of the way of the user. "Even the thermal problem with performance laptops is that they get really hot. Now this gets really hot too, but what we did was get a propriety cooling system in there and we focused it getting it hot in areas that would generally be out of the way, so if you use it for gaming it will be perfectly fine."

"What we have discovered is that hardcore gamers really like this but a lot of them said that we want something better with a smaller footprint," said Tan. "And you know we looked at the 14-inch laptops and again they really tend to be either really thick and have like gaming laptops but I really like the MacBook Pro because it was really thin and light. This is the most laptop with the smallest form factor ever."

The machine's keyboard was responsive, light to the touch. There was no need to pound the keys for it to register a keystroke nor was the keyboard awkwardly spaced out. "We spent a lot of time on the keyboard, making sure there is enough travel we didn't cheap out on the keyboard, which some guys do," he said.

We closed the machines lid and it registered a muted thwump which caught Tan's attention. "We put this in a chamber to get the sound of this perfect," he said. "We put this in an actual volume chamber with little mics all around it and we built a little robot just to be able to do that."

According to Tan, it has great battery life if it was running on general work, about six to eight hours for a single charge, but has a lot shorter life when gaming.

Pre-orders for both machines opened June 3, with the three Blade Pro models will cost $2,299, $2,499 and $2,799 for 128 GB, 256 GB and 512 GB of storage, respectively. The Razer Blade's pricing begins at $1,799. At the machines' unveiling last month, Razer announced that is offering more than 50 percent off for creative professionals, such as design students, game developers and Kickstarter partners.

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