The Razer Blade 15 Base Model 2021 is a cool-looking, CNC-milled, black, anodised aluminium laptop with sharp lines and high-contrast, green colour accents… just as it was when it first appeared in 2018. The latest 2021 model has updated innards but in the highly competitive world of high performance laptops, is it still competitive?
Key Specs of the Razer Blade 15 Base Model
15.6-inch, matte, 2,560 x 1,440, non-touchscreen, matte, 165Hz, LCD; 2.6-5GHz Intel Core i7-10750H processor; 16GB RAM; 512GB NVMe HDD; Nvidia RTX 3070; 65Wh battery; 2.1KG. SKU: RZ09-0369BEA2-R3U1. Full specs here.
Design and handling
The Razer Blade 15 Base Model’s black, milled aluminium chassis is still as solid as it is striking. The sharp lines and backlit, fluorescent green logo on the lid are striking without looking too ostentatious although you might raise a few eyebrows in a corporate boardroom. We must note that it’s something of a fingerprint magnet though.
The lid provides good protection for the UHD screen and flexes very little when pressure is applied to the sides. The upper bezel is a little thicker than the 5mm sides but sports an HD webcam and dual, digital microphone array.
The keyboard might not be for everyone though. The keys have very little travel yet offer a reassuring click when pressed. We found it very accurate to type on but others may struggle not to hit more than one key at a time. They’re not the largest keys either and they’re spaced out which made our fingers feel a little stretched when typing. The ‘up’ and ‘down’ arrow keys are half height and there’s no number pad. The glass trackpad is large and very sensitive. It’s also very close to the base of the palm rest meaning we frequently had our palm touching it which sometimes executed an unintentional multi-touch gesture tather than an accurate mouse pointer movement, but this improved over time.
The keys are individually backlit but there’s significant light-bleed visible from underneath when you’re not looking directly down on the keyboard which looks a little less-than-premium but this is a minor niggle.
Razer includes its Synapse software to control the lighting effects and its Central app for core performance tweaks. To be frank, it’s not the most intuitive layout but it does provide access to customisable lighting, basic overclocking and fan control plus macro recording. It also allows you to use Razer Ultimus technology to switch between the discreet Nvidia GPU and embedded Intel CPU to improve battery life. A recent glitch which bricked the device when switching between the two has recently been fixed due to a driver update.
The Razer Blade 15 Base Model’s screen itself is impressive. The high resolution makes it sharp for highly detailed multimedia and office work alike. The matte, anti-glare coating keeps away reflections and glare. Colours are vibrant and contrast is good – you can see a respectable amount of detail in dark and bright areas alike. It still sports a 15.6-inch 16:9 resolution whereas rivals are ‘upgrading’ to slightly wider 16:10 displays but we’re not missing the minor boost in screen real estate yet. It also has a fast, 165Hz refresh rate which keeps fast and frantic games rendered silky smooth.
The speakers are also impressive. They get loud and deliver a well rounded-audio – helped somewhat by their up-firing placement to the sides of the keyboard. However, bass isn’t as punchy as it could be and treble rich content can distort a bit. We are nit-picking though as they’re some of the best sounding laptop speakers we’ve heard.
Inside the 2021 Razer Blade 15 Base Model is a tenth generation, hexa-core, Intel Core i7-10750H which runs from 2.6GHz to 5GHz. It’s flanked by two sticks of 8GB DDR4-3200 RAM and a 512GB NVMe PCIe drive (there’s room for another). The GPU is Nvidia’s RTX 3070. These combined to score 6,496 in PCMark 10 which UL benchmarks tells us is just behind a 2020 gaming desktop PC and ahead of most laptops. Meanwhile, in 3DMark Time Spy it scored a decent 8,428 which is an average of 57fps. In Fires Strike Extreme it scored 51fps. In the Port Royal ray tracing benchmark it scored 5564. We’ll add more context to these scores as we add reviews to this site.
For renderers we ran CineBench R15 and R23 and saw scores of 1060 and 5980 respectively – all in line with the Hyperthreaded hexa-core processor.
Ultimately, the Razer Blade 15 Base Model has got speed where it counts and will only struggle at UHD resolutions with the toughest, AAA games with full detail settings. The cooling system also kept reltaively quiet while doing so which impressed us.
In terms of connectivity, on the left is Gigabit Ethernet, a USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 port, USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port and a 3.5mm audio jack. On the right is HDMI 2.1 output, two more USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports and a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port. They are a bit close together though which might cause issues if you’re filling them up with chonky plugs. Inside there’s Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.
At 2.1KG the Razer Blade 15 Base Model is not the lightest machine but considering the components, screen and robust chassis, it’s a powerful machine that can can be lugged around without worrying whether it will fall apart. The power supply is a bit of a brick but the strengthened cabling is robust and helps prevent tangles.
The battery isn’t the largest with its 65Wh rating and indeed it only lasted 5hrs 13mins (in the low-powered, Intel-GPU-based, Ultimus mode) in PCMark 10’s Modern Office test. That’s mediocre even for a gaming laptop but the target market is unlikely to care.
Should you buy the Razer Blade 15 Base Model?
It’s still a lovely laptop but the competition is also impressive. At $3,199 it’s not cheap but it’s still well built and fast where it counts – even though some of the internals are just the wrong side of cutting edge. The Acer Predator Helios 300 for instance costs $2,499 and has similar specs although the GPU is a lesser RTX 3060 and it’s less well constructed. Nonetheless, the all round quality of the Razer Base is not to be sniffed at.