Gamers aren’t a monolith, and neither are the systems they game on. Some prefer more barebones systems that aren’t much more than a collection of components, while others seek out beastly desktop replacements that light up like a battleship. But when it comes to premium gaming notebooks, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced fits the description better than anything else. And while there are a few bumps that often come with a high-end gaming machine, the experience you get is hard to recreate on Razer’s less expensive rivals.
For 2021, Razer hasn’t changed much about the Blade 15's exterior, which is definitely something I’m not complaining about. You still get a gorgeous unibody aluminum chassis with Razer’s signature Chroma lighting and backlit RGB keyboard. The overall typing experience is just as crisp and bouncy as before, while Razer’s well-placed stereo speakers ensure audio always sounds full. Now technically, Razer says the Blade 15 is about 4% smaller than before, and while I appreciate every bit of weight savings, that size reduction is still rather difficult to notice in person.
Instead, most of the upgrades on the refreshed Blade 15 come on the inside and along its sides, with Razer now offering configs with up to a 360Hz display, Nvidia RTX 3080 GPUs, and a range of 11th-gen CPUs from Intel. Internally, Razer even redesigned the Blade 15's storage slots, so now the system can support up to two M.2 SSDs, while also including a new HDMI 2.1 port (which you’ll need if you want to output high-res/high refresh video to an external monitor), and a full size SD card reader on higher-specced Blade 15 Advanced models.
On our $2,600 review unit, we got a good mix of components, including 2560 x 1440 240Hz matte non-touch display, an Intel Core-i7 10875H CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and an RTX 3070. Aside from the 1TB SSD (which you could bump down to 512GB or less if you wanted to save money), one thing I like about this config is that its GPU is a good match for its 2560 x 1440 240Hz display. This is something that often gets overlooked, as people sometimes like to spend extra on certain components like GPUs without considering how the entire system works together.
By going with an RTX 3070, I found that the Blade 15 can easily hit high frame rates in a lot of AAA titles with all the graphical bells and whistles turned on, while still being able to max out that 240Hz display in more competitive games like CS:Go or Overwatch, where those extra frame rates might get you a small advantage. When I ran Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 1920 x 1080 and highest settings, the Blade 15 hit 112 fps, which isn’t far behind the 118 fps we got from MSI’s GP66 Leopard. And in Far Cry, it’s a similar story, with the Blade 15 hitting 109 fps at 1920 x 1080 and ultra graphics, compared to 120 for the GP66.
While some might be dismayed that a cheaper laptop, the GP66 Leopard, holds a 5-10% advantage in performance, this comparison really highlights the difference between different types of gaming notebooks. Because even though the GP66 has very similar specs and costs hundreds less, it doesn’t have anywhere near the same level of polish as the Blade 15.
Razer’s build quality is significantly better, with a stiff chassis that doesn’t flex even when pressed hard, and a battery life of 7 hours and 10 minutes on our video rundown test compared to just 4:35 for the GP66. This makes the Blade 15 a much better daily companion, especially for times when it has to pull double duty doing boring stuff like not playing games. And with its understated design, the Blade 15 often feels like it would rather show you how well it runs instead of letting its design bark loudly about the power inside. It’s a more grown-up take on a gaming laptop, designed for more mature gamers with money to pay for all of its luxuries.
Really, my main complaints about the Razer Blade 15 boil down to three relatively minor things. First, in our testing, the Blade 15's 240Hz display topped out at 301 nits, which is totally fine when gaming indoors. But 300 nits is pretty average for a laptop this pricey, especially with a lot of ultraportables delivering 400 nits or more, which makes screens easier to read outdoors or at a sunny cafe. That said, if you care more about image quality than high refresh rates, Razer does offer a Blade 15 config with a vivid 60Hz OLED display.
Another small annoyance is that under load, the Blade 15's fan can get a bit loud, emitting a somewhat high-pitched whir that’s hard to ignore, doubly so if you’re not the person playing games. Thankfully, you can adjust the Blade 15's fan speeds in Razer’s Synapse app, but if you don’t think about it ahead of time, that won’t stop people from looking around and trying to figure out where that whine is coming from if the Blade 15's fans spin up in the wild.
My last grievance is that for some reason, Razer is one of the last remaining gaming laptop makers that doesn’t offer any AMD-based configs, both on the CPU and GPU side. It’s a bit frustrating consider how well AMD’s CPUs do in gaming, but I guess that’s one of the pitfalls of a luxury machine.
So while the Blade 15 is more expensive than a lot of its competition, it also offers a lot of small touches and creature comforts you don’t get on other gaming systems. It’s got a great selection of ports, no bloatware, extra room inside for a second SSD, and a beautiful aluminum design that’s closer to what you’d get from a MacBook Pro than anything you’d get from one of its gaming rivals. So in the end, the Blade 15 is the definition of getting what you pay for. Sure, a well equipped Blade 15 ain’t cheap, but if you appreciate little details and the finer things in life, it’s worth it.