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  • Cheryl Tan

Razer Blade 15 Optical Review: World’s First Optical Keyboard Laptop!

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

A little bit of a backstory, but my first ever gaming laptop was actually a Razer Blade. The second revision of the original 17” with a GTX 660M back in 2012 to be specific.

So I do have a little soft spot for Blades. But, things have changed a lot since then, and we have the latest from Razer, the Blade 15 with the optical keyboard.

If you’re familiar with the Blade, then I believe you can guess where it got its design inspiration from. It’s basically an all-black Windows MacBook. And that’s not to say it’s bad. In fact, it’s great!

The entire laptop is made up of aluminium and the whole thing is just really well put together. The corners are nicely rounded off, you can open the lid easily with one hand and it feels really robust, sturdy and premium.

Of course though, with the semi-matte black finish all around, it gets smeared with fingerprints and oil rather easily and if you do chip it by accident, the underlying silver will show, so definitely take note of that.

There is also one other thing I noticed. Although this is the Advanced Model, this variant with the optical keyboard has roughly the same thickness in terms of the chassis as the Base Model. But the Base Model has the RJ45 Ethernet Port while this doesn’t. It’s also slightly heavier, coming in at 2.3 kilograms while the other variants of the Blade come in at 2.15 kilograms and below.

But in all, it’s a really minimalistic design and wouldn’t look out of place in a business meeting, while still being relatively lightweight.

Another highlight of the Blade 15 is the display. Here we have a 15.6” 1080p IPS display that has a 240Hz refresh rate. It covers 100% sRGB and comes factory calibrated by Razer. The brightness however is slightly lacking, coming in at roughly 250 nits.

With that said, the display is still really awesome, with good viewing angles and vibrant colours, but the real kicker is the buttery smooth 240Hz display. If you’ve never used a high refresh rate display before, go get one now. Once you’ve experienced it, it’s really hard to go back.

Up top, you get a standard 720p webcam with support for Windows Hello, which is a nice welcome, especially given that the previous generation did not have it.

Moving down, we have the keyboard, and this is where this specific model of the Razer Blade stands out from the rest.

As far as I’m concerned, this is pretty much the first gaming laptop at the moment to feature an optical keyboard.

For those of you who don’t know what an optical keyboard is, it’s basically similar to a mechanical keyboard, except instead of a traditional mechanical switch actuating your input via metallic contact, an optical keyboard enables actuation via light.

To get to the point, optical keyboards generally have a longer keystroke lifespan, and to a certain degree, faster response. So how does the optical keyboard on the Razer Blade 15 fare?

It’s honestly really enjoyable. I found myself really liking the keyboard, and I felt that the overall typing experience was similar to the Microsoft Surface Laptop. Not the feel, mind you, but the experience, I felt, was similar.

The keys are nice and tactile, and require just the right amount of effort to register strokes. I feel most of you out there will enjoy it.

But it’s not all great. The keys themselves are fine, but the layout needs some work. As many others have pointed out, the position of the right Shift and question mark key is just odd. And it’s that way because Razer wanted full-size arrow keys, which is fine, but I would say more people would use the question mark then the arrow keys.

It’s something that you will get used to for sure, but even within Razer’s own family of products, only the Blade has this layout. So if you have a desktop PC at home, you might find yourself readjusting every once in a while.

The other thing is that the secondary icons on the function and number rows aren’t backlit. It’s minor, but I wish it was.

Past the keyboard, we have the trackpad, and I’ll say it right here. This is the best trackpad for a Windows Laptop, hands down. The only thing that beats this trackpad is none other than the MacBook Pro. But honestly, I’m still amazed no other manufacturers are able to provide a trackpad experience like the Blade or MacBook Pro.

The trackpad is nice and large, with a smooth glass surface, and of course, runs Precision. You can use it with ease with your thumb, and palm rejection is excellent. It’s just a joy to use.

As for speakers, they are not bad, but definitely won’t amaze you. It gets the job done.

In terms of I/O, on the right, you get MiniDisplay Port, HDMI 2.0, standard USB Type-A 3.2 and a USB-C which supports ThunderBolt 3.

On the left, you get your proprietary power jack that’s reversible, standard USB Type-A 3.2, a USB-C port and your headphone/mic combo jack.

A good variety I would say. I would like an SD Card Reader, but I guess that’s where the Blade Pro 17 comes into play.

We now move on to what this laptop was designed for. Gaming.

Our Razer Blade 15 comes equipped with an Intel Core i7-9750H, 16GB of RAM, an RTX 2070 Max-Q along with a 512GB NVMe SSD.

So I took the machine through its paces, a few modern titles and a few older ones, and in short, the Razer Blade 15 will pretty much handle anything you throw at it, and with that high refresh rate, you’ll definitely enjoy the experience too. Also to note is that the laptop will get warm, but the area around the WASD keys are much cooler, so that’s a good thing.

Gaming aside, this laptop is also pretty great for creative work, as well as for Cinebench R20 and DaVinci Resolve.

For those of you interested in the read and write speeds of the NVMe SSD, sequential read speeds are near 3GB per second while writes speeds are just shy of 2GB per second.

Temperatures are also really well-maintained, especially for the form factor. The CPU hovered around 86 degrees celsius while maintaining clock speeds around 3.8GHz, while the GPU hovered around 80 degrees celsius or less while clocking around the 1500MHz mark.

One last thing to touch on is battery life, and the Blade 15 is actually not bad on that front. On the better battery setting, I could get six and a half hours of actual usage, which was a mixture of documents, web-browsing and even Lightroom, with the screen brightness at 50% and at 240Hz as well. The only thing I turned off, was the RGB backlit keyboard. But even so, I was pleasantly surprised.

So it goes without saying that the Blade 15 is one really powerful piece of hardware, and of course, it comes with a price to match.

At this point in time, only the RTX 2070 variant has the option to choose the Optical Keyboard, and this specific configuration will set you back S$4,099.

It’s definitely not something anyone can afford. But you know Razer, when have their Blade laptops ever been affordable? To round things up, the Razer Blade 15 is a really nice gaming laptop.

You get great performance, in what I would say has to be the most professional looking chassis for a gaming laptop, and the optical keyboard offers a great typing experience, not the mention the 240Hz screen and the trackpad.

I would say, if you’re a fan of Razer, you’ll definitely be happy should you purchase this. If you aren’t, well, there are definitely many other options out there, but if you want something minimalistic, you can keep the Blade 15 in mind and of course, the price as well.

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