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Razer Blade Stealth 13 (Late 2019) review: This is what a gaming ultrabook looks like

By Koh Wanzi - 6 Dec 2019
Launch SRP: S$2899

A closer look

Razer Blade Stealth 13

Power in a tiny package

When Razer first came out with the Blade Stealth in 2016, I had many people ask me if it was in fact a gaming notebook. No, it actually isn't, I had to say, even though it's made by a gaming company. But while I couldn't quite call that Blade Stealth a gaming laptop, that isn't a problem this year. The new Blade Stealth 13 is truly a gaming notebook for gamers on the go, packing an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q into a svelte 13.3-inch body.

The Blade Stealth has gone through many changes over the years, most notably when it shed its rounded edges for a sleeker and more angular look just like the Blade 15. But this year's upgrade is probably the most exciting, since it's bringing a new level of gaming prowess to an ultra-portable form factor. The Blade Stealth 13 is the only 13.3-inch laptop I know of to feature a GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q, and it opens up a whole new range of possibilities for frequent travellers who can't bear to be away from their games.

Razer Blade Stealth 13

Outwardly, nothing much has changed, and you get the same blocky design and black, unibody aluminum chassis. Small adjustments have been made to accommodate the more powerful GPU, and the Blade Stealth 13 is slightly thicker than its predecessor, although not by much. It measures 15.3mm to the older model's 14.8mm, but it's also heavier at 1.42kg, compared to 1.28kg from before. 

The difference in weight is noticeable, but it's nothing to be alarmed at either, and I think it's a small price to pay for the extra graphics processing heft.

Build quality is excellent, just as I've come to expect from Razer's laptops. The aluminum chassis is really solid, with no discernible flexing anywhere. It all feels very premium, down to the smooth, fluid motion of the hinge. It can also be opened easily with just one hand, so the amount of resistance is just right. The hinge can't be pushed too far back though, so this isn't one of those notebooks where you can lay the screen completely flat.

Razer Blade Stealth 13

However, the matte finish does attract oil and fingerprints quite easily, so you might want to have a microfibre cloth handy to wipe the laptop down.

All things considered, I find this to be a very good-looking laptop. The design elements are simple and well thought out, and you don't get big empty spaces where you wonder if it could have been better utilised. For instance, the keyboard is framed on both sides by speakers, and the symmetry and decision to occupy the space on either side of the keyboard just makes for a more attractive product. 

Razer Blade Stealth 13

In terms of upgradability, the M.2 socket is easily accessible once you remove the bottom panel and the Torx screws holding it in place. However, the two sticks of RAM are soldered onto the other side of the motherboard, so it seems like you won't be able to add more memory if you want to. 

 

Display, speakers, and keyboard

Razer Blade Stealth 13

The display is easily one of the best parts of the laptop. I only have the 1,920 x 1,080-pixel IPS model, but it's bright and boasts 100 per cent coverage of the sRGB colour space. The screen also has a matte coating to help with reflections, but that fortunately hasn't really gotten in the way of how vibrant colours appear. The panel is framed by slim 4.9mm bezels on three sides, and the thin bezels help create an edge-to-edge look that feels more modern and immersive. Razer says the screens are also individually calibrated at the factory, which should help with colour accuracy and reproduction.

I like the display a lot, and it's plenty bright for me, at least under regular indoor lighting. In addition, the 720p Windows Hello infrared camera is located in the top bezel, so you can sign in without needing a password. There's no need to deal with awkward camera angles from a bottom bezel-mounted webcam either.

The stereo speakers are located on the left and right side of the keyboard. They're pretty good for such a small laptop, and I can't really complain. They are also surprisingly loud and clear, putting out enough volume to fill a bedroom.

Razer Blade Stealth 13

The keyboard itself is unremarkable – key travel distance is pretty shallow, but that's to be expected from a notebook of this class. However, it has a non-standard layout, featuring a tiny, 1U right Shift key that's separated from the '/' key by a similarly sized Up arrow key. If you're in the habit of using the right Shift to get a question mark out, this will take some getting used to. It's also compounded by the fact that all the arrow keys are the same size as the right Shift key, instead of being half-height, so there's no tactile feedback as to where the right Shift key is. You'll have to simply learn the position of the right Shift key and train yourself to use it.

This quirk was present on the previous Blade Stealth as well, and it's one of the biggest gripes I have with the notebook. It's possible that Razer went with this approach because having uniform key sizes just looks better, but I'm not sure if that was worth throwing a curve ball at users.

Razer Blade Stealth 13

That aside, the large Windows Precision trackpad is great, and it's even bigger than the trackpads you get on some 15.6-inch laptops. It doesn't feel cramped at all, and while my palm does rest on it while typing, the palm rejection seems to be working and I didn't experience any unwanted input. 

However, one feature that's missing is per-key RGB backlighting. The keyboard supports only single-zone customisations, so it's a little limited in this area. I do think that the Blade Stealth 13 with the GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q should have come with per-key customisations at the very least, even if Razer chose not to offer it on the Mercury White integrated graphics model.

Razer Blade Stealth 13

You can change the lighting effects in Razer's Synapse 3 software, where you'll also find options to control things like fan speeds and performance modes. The laptop lets you pick from three different modes – Battery Saver, Balanced, and Gaming Performance – so you can choose whichever best suits the way you intend to use the laptop.

 

What ports and connectors does it have?

The Blade Stealth 13 comes with a decent selection of ports for such a small notebook. You get both USB-C and USB-A ports, so it's a step above other ultrabooks, such as the 13-inch MacBook Pro, that dictate that you buy some sort of USB-C hub for more Type-A connectors. The Razer laptop features two USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type-A, one USB 3.1 (Gen 2) Type-C, and one Thunderbolt 3 port. That's mostly enough for me, since I can connect the laptop to a Thunderbolt 3 dock, plug a mouse in, and still have one Type-A and Type-C port left for an SD card reader or some other device.

Razer Blade Stealth 13

You can use both USB-C ports for charging, and since there's one on each side of the laptop, that provides more flexibility to better fit the layout of your desk. 

Razer Blade Stealth 13

I also like that Razer has coloured the Type-A ports its signature green, and it adds a really nice pop of colour to the otherwise stealthy chassis.

8.0
  • Design 9
  • Features 8.5
  • Performance 6.5
  • Value 7
  • Mobility 8
The Good
First 13.3-inch laptop with gaming-grade graphics
Excellent build quality and attractive design
Bright and vibrant display
Large, responsive trackpad
The Bad
Mediocre battery life
Non-standard keyboard
No per-key RGB customisations
Pricey