The Razer Blade 15 is a mainstay among gaming laptops, the trailblazer for a category of thin and attractive mobile machines in the 2010s. The competition has caught up in many ways, but the premium look and feel of the classic Blade 15 design is still top-class. The 2020 version of the Blade 15 Advanced Edition boasts mainly internal upgrades—our pricey review unit includes an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super (Max-Q) GPU and a 300Hz display—while some smaller tweaks iteratively improve the design. The performance doesn’t stand a level above competitors, but none can quite match the combination of aesthetics and performance. Those with deep pockets will enjoy its premium feel, power, and long battery life, but the Editors’ Choice Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 is a better value, and the Acer Predator Triton 500 delivers similar performance for less.
THE PROVEN BLADE DESIGN, WITH TWEAKS
This 2020 update is mostly internal-component upgrades and modest exterior tweaks, so most of what you re seeing is the tried-and-tested Blade 15 design of past models: a sleek, portable chassis that feels high- quality thanks to its fully machined aluminum build.
The Blade 15 has consistently one of our favorite gaming-laptop designs, and while others have caught up to this trend-setter, it’s still one of the most premium options available.My only design quibble is an ongoing one with the lid logo, which remains lime green. I much prefer the understated black-on-black etched version used on the latest version of the company’s Blade 13 Stealth.I know Razer wants to stay loyal to its long-serving symbol, but I can’t help but feel the color choice clashes with the Blade 15’s sleek, all-black look and undermines the style.
Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition
Best-in-class metal build. GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q can play AAA games at 60fps-plus. Can leverage 300HZz display in less- demanding games. Performance modes add frame-rate gains.
Pricey as configured. A smidge heftier than its competitive set.
The Razer Blade 15 combines some of the most powerful laptop components available with a slick all-metal design that stands above the rest. though the top configurations are very pricey.
In terms of build, Razer didn’t prioritize thinness above all here, since the extra few millimeters are worth way more in terms of thermals and performance than they are in portability. (Many manufacturers have relaxed on relentless trimming as the main goal, in some cases even slightly increasing thickness. ) For laptops that aim for top-end power, it’s a worthwhile trade-off. More specifically, the Blade 15 Advanced Model measures 0.7 by 14 by 9.25 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.73 pounds, which is slightly heftier than (and about the exact size of) the 2019 version.That doesn’t make it the lightest slim gaming laptop, in part due to the metal chassis, with the Acer Predator Triton 500 (4.63 pounds), the Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 (4.55 pounds), and the 14-inch Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (3.52 pounds) weighing less. Even the dual-screen Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 manages to be lighter. These are ultimately all in the same tight weight class, and we do love the ROG Zephyrus G14’s size and style and the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15’s innovation, but the Blade 15 still retains its place as a top-notch build.The 2020 Blade 15 Advanced Model does have some physical changes, though. Chief among them is a slightly updated keyboard layout, which we saw reflected in the most recent Blade 13 Stealth, too. The older layout featured full-size arrow keys, which necessitated a half-length Shift key on the right side. When I used this unusual design, I often hit the Up arrow when I was intending to reach for Shift, and it was a common enough issue that Razer has heeded the cries of its users and changed to a more standard layout.The new design shrinks the arrow keys in favor of a full-size Shift key on that side, since they’re lesser-used keys for most users anyway, and it fixes the mis- hit problem. Otherwise, the keyboard is very comfortable to type on (if slightly on the shallow-travel side), and each key is individually backlit with customizable lighting. The touchpad remains best in class, among the most comfortable to use on any Windows laptop, with extremely smooth panning and a quality feel.There are more external changes in the form of ports. The 2020 version includes a UHS-III SD card reader as well as USB Type-C ports that support charging (in addition to the power jack and brick that charge the laptop).In total, the Blade 15 includes two USB Type-C ports (one with Thunderbolt 3 support, and both with 20-volt PD 3.0 charging), three Type-A USB 3.1 ports, an HDMI connection, and the SD card reader. That’s a generous mix.
COMPONENT CHECK: BLAZING FAST DISPLAY AND HIGH-END PARTS
There’s one more major physical change on our model, and while it is visible, you d be forgiven for not noticing it on first look. The full HD (4,920-by-1,080- pixel) display now boasts a blistering-fast 300Hz refresh rate, a feature that began making its way into a batch of high-end gaming laptops this year. It’s certainly a feature for enthusiasts, since only hardcore competitive gamers even seek out 120Hz or 144Hz displays.A 300Hz refresh rate kicks it up a major notch. While you may see diminishing returns as you get above, say, a 144Hz screen, you can really benefit from the upgrade in competitive multiplayer games with low visual fidelity. Higher frame rates mean smoother gameplay, though the GPU and processor need to be able to push a game that high. We’ll see how the new Blade 15 is able to perform in these scenarios a bit later in the performance section, but first let’s see what we re working with.The Blade 15 technically comes in two flavors, the Base Edition and Advanced Edition. As mentioned, ours is the latter, and they are technically different laptops due to differences in both chassis and internal design.
The Base Edition starts at $1,599, a much more affordable entry point, but we’re focusing here on the more premium Advanced Edition.The Advanced Edition starts at $2,599. With that, you get an Intel Core i7- 10875H processor, 16GB of memory, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super (Max-Q) GPU, a 512GB SSD, and the 300Hz full HD display. Our review configuration is the next step up, which is $2,999 for the same processor, memory capacity, and display, but also includes an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super (Max-Q) GPU and a 1TB SSD. Two more content-creator-focused versions above ours include professional features such as a 4K display and/or a Quadro GPU. But our test machine is at the reasonable pinnacle for PC gamers, so let’s see how our configuration performed.
PERFORMANCE TESTING: COMPETING AT THE TOP LEVEL
For the sake of performance comparisons, I pitted the 2020 Blade 15 against some equivalent competition. These are all 15-inch-screen laptops that fall somewhere within the high-end price range, all over $2,000, varying by the particular configurations we received for review at the time. They are the Acer Predator Triton 500 (2020), Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 (GX550), Asus ROG Zephyrus S (GX50w), and Razer Blade 15 (mid-2019, OLED).It’s worth noting that the other Blade 15 used in these comparisons is the OLED-screen-bearing version that came out a bit later in 2019, rather than the first model launched last year. It was chosen because its processor was updated from the first 2019 model, and it matches the GPU in the 2020 version, and so is more relevant here. You can attribute a large part of its extra-large price tag to the (gorgeous) OLED screen.
Productivity, Storage, and Media Tests: PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet jockeying, web browsing, and videoconferencing. PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the system’s boot drive. Both tests yield a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better.The 10th Generation Intel processor does well here in a close-run contest, with the Triton 500 pulling ahead. The 2020 Blade 15 is plenty capable at multitasking, though this test really serves as confirmation of the minimum expectations for a laptop of this caliber. It’s fully capable of everyday multitasking given its game- ready components, and it can certainly serve as your general-use machine. The SSD is snappy as well, which will make both your files and games load faster.Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.Cinebench is often a good predictor of our Handbrake video-editing trial, another tough, threaded workout that’s highly CPU-dependent and scales well with cores and threads. In this test, we put a stopwatch on review systems as they transcode a standard 12-minute clip of 4K video (the open-source Blender demo movie Tears of Steel) to a 1080p MP4 file. It’s a timed test, and lower results are better.The 10th Generation Intel processor does well here in a close-run contest, with the Triton 500 pulling ahead.We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and add up the total execution time. As with Handbrake, lower times are better here.Other than the Core i9-bearing Zephyrus Duo 15 clearly outperforming the lesser 17 processors, this is a very close group due to the processor similarities. The 2020 Blade 15 is the second-most-expensive laptop here, and its step-up CPU should be the second-best performer behind the Core i9. That doesn’t bear out 1:1 in these three tests, though it is among the more efficient performers on each. They’re all so closely matched, though, that the takeaway for all is the same. They can handle occasional media jobs with little to moderate lag or wait time, but none is quite as effective as a dedicated media-minded pro machine. Pros should look for a mobile workstation or a higher-tier processor.
Graphics Tests: 3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which are suited to different types of systems. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is more suited to midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores.Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes. In this case, it’s rendered in the eponymous Unigine engine, offering a different 3D workload scenario for a second opinion on each laptop’s graphical prowess.This is a seriously powerful batch of laptop GPUs, and on these synthetic tests, the results are bunched very close together. Much like the processor situation, some of Nvidia’s Quadro GPUs may be better bets for professional media jobs than these gaming GPUs, but they’re very capable for 3D tasks and GPU- accelerated workloads. To get a clearer sense of gaming-specific performance, let’s move on to the next tests.
Real-World Gaming Tests:
The synthetic tests above are helpful for measuring general 3D aptitude, but it’s hard to beat full retail video games for judging gaming performance. Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider are both modern, high-fidelity titles with built-in benchmarks that illustrate how a system handles real-world gameplay at various settings. We run them at 1080p resolution at the games’ medium and best image-quality settings (Normal and Ultra for Far Cry 5 under DirectX 11, Medium and Very High for Rise of the Tomb Raider under DirectX 12).I’ll start with the basics. The Blade 15 and its Max-Q RTX 2080 Super push very high frame rates in these games, which bodes well for AAA gaming on this laptop. More-demanding modern titles will push that number lower, especially if you aim to run advanced ray-tracing lighting settings (which only RTX GPUs can do), but it’s good enough for 60fps minimum on most titles.
I also tested Rainbow Six: Siege as a representative of competitive multiplayer titles, due to its helpful built-in benchmark test. On the Low, Medium, and Ultra quality presets (all at 100 percent render resolution), the 2020 Blade 15 averaged 262fps, 244fps, and 200fps, respectively. All of those should be mouthwatering for hardcore players, and if you tend to play competitive games on lower settings to amp up the frame rates, you can truly make use of the 300Hz display. How much of a benefit that is over, say, 144Hz is up for debate and varies by the person, the game, and their skill level. But the components can live up to the presence of the 300Hz screen in practice.
Furthermore, the Blade 15 offers different performance modes via Razer’s Synapse app. You can use the Balanced performance preset for the CPU and GPU or manually set the CPU and GPU performance from Low to Boost. (The CPU has Low, Medium, High, and Boost presets, while the GPU has only Low, Medium and High. The default banks of tests were on Medium for each.)The fans are normally quiet while gaming (audible but not obnoxious, and better than some past Blade efforts), but the High and Boost settings definitely make them heard at all times, and the system gets much warmer. Using these presets did net some notable frame-rate gains, though. On maximum settings at 1080p, Far Cry 5 jumped from 95fps to 100fps, and Rise of the Tomb Raider from 112fps to 125fps. This is more than the usual improvement we see from these built-in manufacturer modes, even if using them doesn’t unlock a whole other level of performance.This leads me to the comparisons of this laptop to the others. The 2020 Blade 15 doesn’t lead in frames per second on either game, though the boosted numbers change that dynamic—if you don’t mind your laptop sounding more like a jet engine. With the normal performance mode, I was a touch disappointed, since this is the most expensive laptop on the list with the exception of the twin-screened ROG Zephyrus Duo 15, and you can’t point to thermal constraints, since it’s not any thinner or lighter than the competition.The Blade 15 is only 2fps to 5fps behind the Predator Triton 500 on these games, so we re not talking about much of a gulf—but the Blade 15 also has a step-up CPU, so I probably would have favored it. Given that the Triton 500 also includes a 1TB SSD and a 300Hz screen for $400 less, you’ll have to accept that you’re paying a premium for the Razer Blade 15’s build rather than for a marked performance gain.
Battery Rundown Test: After fully recharging the laptop, we set up the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) where available and make a few other battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off, putting the laptop in airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a video—a locally stored 720p file of the Tears of Steel short—with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system quits.The Blade 15 is clearly the best of this lot in battery life. While a couple of machines come very close, within the margin of error for battery runs, none lasted longer. Seven hours of runtime with a high-refresh screen and gaming- grade parts is a good result and promotes this laptop’s use on the go for long stretches. If you’re looking at this to be your general-use laptop and a frequent travel companion, it’s a promising result.
.THE MOST PREMIUM BUILD AVAILABLE
The 2020 version of the Razer Blade 15 isn’t much evolved in design, but the tweaks and added features make it a more powerful gaming laptop than before. Our review configuration is very expensive, and I don’t think most gamers need this lofty a loadout (the $2,599 one is a bit more reasonable for most shoppers). But perhaps better than any of the alternatives, it successfully marries top-end power with a slick, high- quality design.Value for your dollar matters less to shoppers in the far reaches of a luxury category, and this is the most envy- inducing laptop of the bunch, as long as you’re not seduced by the Duo 15’s twin screens. It’s not the elite, unique design it once was in the gaming-laptop market, and we think the Editors’ Choice Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 is a better value at $2,199.99. But we can recommend our Blade 15 Advanced Edition configuration when cost is a secondary concern and aesthetics and power are tops. That said, if you really have cash to burn and want something less traditional, also consider the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15, which is a one-of-a-kind design and an excellent innovation.Perhaps better than any of the alternatives, it successfully marries top- end power with a slick, high-quality design.