The Razer Blade offers truly innovative features in an exceptionally portable package, and Razer believes the Blade is the world’s first “true gaming laptop”. At PAX 2011 I had a chance to talk to Robert Krakoff, president of Razer, who took me on a tour of the Blade and talked a little about what lies ahead for the peripheral maker-turned PC maker.
One thing is for certain: the Blade is sleek, impressive, and expensive. But
Meet the Razer Blade
According to Krakoff, Razer has been hard at work collaborating with Nvidia and Intel for the last year to produce a laptop that offers no-compromise gaming performance but in a much sleeker, more portable package than typical gaming laptops. Many gaming laptops are just heavy desktop replacements with lots of power and bling.
“You could look at a lot of the hardware and argue for more of something or different components, but in the end it all came down to balancing performance with portability,” says Krakoff.
The Blade, however, combines cutting edge PC hardware with Razer’s innovative ‘SwitchBlade’ technology to make it a unique entry into the laptop market. It’s also less than an inch thick and a little less than 7 pounds. The rest of the Blade’s specifications are as follows:
- Lightweight aluminum chassis
- 2.8GHz Intel® Core™ i7 2640M Processor
- 8GB 1333MHz DDR3 Memory
- 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x Ethernet connector, 1x headphone/microphone connectors
- 17.3″ LED Backlit Display (1920×1080)
- NVIDIA GeForce® GT 555M with NVIDIA® Optimus™ Technology
- 2GB Dedicated GDDR5 Video Memory
- Built-in HD Webcam
- Integrated 60Wh Battery
- 320GB 7200rpm SATA HDD
- Wireless Network 802.11 b/g/n Compatible
- 16.81″ (Width) x 10.9″ (Depth) x 0.88″ (Height); 6.97lbs (Weight)
Krakoff says battery life for the Blade should be around 6+ hours idle and 2-3 hours for gaming, although power settings will affect your bottom line on both counts.
The only thing missing from this impressive array of hardware is a Blu-Ray or DVD drive of any kind. This shouldn’t be much of a constraint thanks to digital distribution, and if you’re really in a pinch a sleek portable USB drive will do the trick (and set you back another $75 or so).
Not just a desktop replacement
As you might expect, Razer doesn’t just stuff high-end components into the Blade and call it good. The Blade features some additional gaming-centric tech as well.
The Razer Blade’s keyboard, for example, doesn’t rely on the typical membrane-style key connectors used in most laptops. Instead, each key has its own dedicated switch, complete with anti-ghosting technology for superior gaming-grade responsiveness. And like typical Razer gaming keyboards, every key is programmable and macro-capable.
But the real ‘star of the show’ is the Blade’s integrated LCD screen that doubles as a trackpad, and the 10 tactile, user-configurable LCD buttons—features derived from Razer’s Switchblade technology. The touchscreen can display game-specific information for those games that support it. You can also use it to do other things—view pictures, check email, look up a walkthrough on the Internet, etc. without leaving your game.
This same technology is also featured in Razer’s upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO gaming keyboard, due to release when SWTOR launches next year.
According to Krakoff, Razer plans to distribute an SDK (Software Development Kit) around the time the Blade is launched, and then later release the SDK to the community so enterprising programmers can make their own apps for the Switchblade technology.
The Razer Blade is just the beginning
Launching at a suggested retail price of $2799, the Razer Blade is both exciting and irritating gamers. Razer’s Facebook page is already rife with commenters complaining about the high price tag.
“Anytime you enter a new market, you need to make a splash and take some risks,” Krakoff says.
Launching high-end, shiny technology at equally high prices is par for the course for technology companies. Razer was one of the first-ever companies to launch a mouse (the original Boomslang) at a whopping $90 (or so). The first iPhone launched at a $500-$600 price point. Nvidia and ATI routinely roll out new flagship video cards every couple of years sporting prices north of $500.
But as time goes on, new products based upon the flagship product emerge at different (and often lower) price points—and according to Krakoff, Razer will likely follow suit. I asked Krakoff if Razer planned to eventually release additional models and sizes at different price points.
“Yeah, sure. The Blade is just the beginning. This will not be the last product like this from us. And we’re ramping up our support right now and plan to hire 1 support person for every 100 Blades we sell. This is a big step for us,” Krakoff says.
So even if you can’t afford a Blade today, rest assured that Razer is just getting started—and may have something a little more down to earth for us in the future. (Until then, I’m trying to figure out how to pitch Razer for a “review unit”.)
The Razer Blade will be available Q4 2011 in North America for $2799, and Q1 2012 globally.