Earlier this year, I took a look at Razer’s first foray into gaming systems, the Blade notebook. I came away pretty impressed overall, particularly with the level of design and engineering polish. Considering it was their first notebook product, they got a lot of things right, but there were a few missteps. It was a relative lightweight when it came to performance - with only a dual-core Core i7 and Nvidia GeForce GT 555M graphics, it couldn’t really be considered on the same performance plane as the ASUS RoG and Alienware notebooks, not to mention the powerhouse systems from Clevo. And there were some fundamental issues with the Switchblade UI panel. It was a cool idea, but it was really, really buggy, and though it had the “wow” factor, it didn’t have that much utility even when it wasn’t crashing all over itself. Also, at $2799, the Blade was priced out of the realm of reality. Even so, Blade sales were brisk (their first run sold out in 30 minutes, though no word on volume) and established Razer as a serious hardware manufacturer.

Razer has set about fixing the issues we had, and a year after the original Blade was announced, they’re releasing the second generation Blade. It’s better in every conceivable way - they’ve seriously upped the performance quotient, with a quad-core IVB quad, a GTX 660M, and a 500GB hard drive paired with a 64GB SSD cache. I’m a little bit disappointed by the switch from full SSD storage, but with the size of games these days I completely understand the need for more than 256GB of disk space, and with a cache of 64GB, there’s enough space for Intel’s Smart Response caching tech to store basically everything. The biggest change in addition to the performance is the price drop, to $2499. It’s still not cheap, but when you consider the major performance upgrades, the value proposition is definitely improved.

The industrial design has remained predominantly the same, and the gorgeous 17.3” 1080p display is still there, so the parts about the first Blade that we love are for the most part untouched. To fit all of this into the Blade’s 6.4 pound, 0.8” thick frame, Razer needed to redesign the cooling system, and in the press images we can see some definite changes to the lower venting near the rear of the system. Other changes include a third USB 3.0, redesigned mouse buttons, and a Switchblade UI that’s said to be significantly improved. Razer has been rather aggressive in pushing new content and updates to Switchblade, so it’s gotten better in the six months since I had the Blade.

We’re going hands on with it later today at PAX Prime, and I'll update then with hands-on-post.

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  • p_giguere1 - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    Ouch, this is even worse than the first iteration considering the time and current competition (rMBP).

    The change from SSD to a mechanical hard drive is a huge move in the wrong direction, especially considering we're talking about a $2.5k laptop in 2012.

    Basically, you're getting a thicker and uglier plastic rMBP with a mechanical hard drive and worse screen for more. Plus, a rMBP isn't even really suited for gaming, and this is even worse.

    Who the hell would buy this?

    I'm trying to find, but apparently nothing justifies the price. This should be $1000 less to sell.
  • bunnyfubbles - Saturday, September 1, 2012 - link

    having 64GB of SSD cache is nice, but its still a complete waste for a $2500 laptop NOT to be purely SSD. SSD cache is just way too big of a compromise for a laptop that is supposedly trying to not compromise on anything (whether its power/weight/portability/etc)

    insult to injury is the HDD they pair with it is only 500GB...if Razer is going to nickle and dime us out of a 512GB SSD, at least give us a 750 or 1TB laptop HDD to be paired with SSD cache
  • MrSpadge - Sunday, September 2, 2012 - link

    I'm personally using a 60 GB SSD cache in my dekstop and I like it a lot. Much more so than shuffling programs around between SSD and HDD. However, for such a machine it probably should have been a 1 TB or at least a 750 GB 7.2k rpm HDD. At this price you can expect them to offer at least some raw power.
  • Impulses - Saturday, September 1, 2012 - link

    How many other 17" consumer laptops are there with similar IPS displays? It's gotta be a short list...
  • VivekGowri - Saturday, September 1, 2012 - link

    Neither R1 nor R2 Blade has an IPS display...I actually had that conversation with Min, to find out why the Blade has a TN panel (it's one of the best TN panels I've used in recent memory, but it's still a high-end TN panel in a world quickly moving to IPS), but I'll probably expand more on the topic in the full review.
  • flyingpants1 - Saturday, September 1, 2012 - link

    The Lenovo Y580 seems like a better deal for pretty much the same specs.

    Intel Core i7-3610QM 2.3GHz
    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M
    6GB Memory
    750GB HDD

    $799 after rebate.
  • Roland00Address - Saturday, September 1, 2012 - link

    But if you can give up those two things this is a pretty good deal. Also the Y580 motherboard has a msata slot so you can always add an ssd to it.
  • flyingpants1 - Saturday, September 1, 2012 - link

    Get the better Lenovo Y580 for another $200 and you can have 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD, Blu-ray writer (I don't know if the Razer has Blu-ray), and 1080p display. Add a 64GB mSATA SSD for $85 and you have a laptop with practically identical (and in some cases, better) specs for $1085. That's more than a $1400 difference. WTF?

    It's also smaller and lighter (15.6" and 5.95lbs). And it's available on Newegg right now.

    So where exactly does the extra $1400 come from on the Razer? The display? The case? The CPU?

    I'd really love if Anandtech could review the Y580. We need someone pushing for budget laptops. The only possible drawback I can see is that the Lenovo cooling system might be inferior. The 660M and 3610QM have a combined TDP of about 100W which is quite a bit for a budget laptop.
  • Roland00Address - Saturday, September 1, 2012 - link

    The Lenovo y580 has a height of 1.4" tall. The Razer is almost half the height with a height of .88"

    The Razer also has a larger screen while keeping the weight within 10% of each other. Some people care about this.

    Is it worth $1400 more? I don't think so. Then again alienware charges a similar amount of money to the razer for their 18" with the 660m if you do not get their 18" on sale.
  • nerd1 - Saturday, September 1, 2012 - link

    No way, m17xr4 with VASTLY more powerful 7970m are being sold at around $1800.

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