• Justin-Rey

Review: Late 2019 Razer Blade Stealth w/ GTX 1650 Max-Q


Our everyday devices are getting smaller but are becoming more powerful and laptops are no different. Each year, new models come out with more powerful components in a smaller package. But there has never been an Ultrabook that can adequately play video games, until now. Razer’s late 2019 Blade Stealth is the FIRST to feature a GTX-class graphics card in a 13.3-inch laptop. Prior to this release, MX150 and MX250 GPUs were found in 13.3-inch laptops while GTX-class GPUs started in 14-inch laptops.


OK OK… enough with the introduction, let’s dive in to see if this is really a gaming Ultrabook.


*Update*

Click HERE for eGPU results.


Specs as reviewed

  • Display – 13.3 inch 60 IPS Display (Matte, Sharp 14B8 panel)

  • CPU – Intel i7 1065G7

  • GPU – Nvidia GTX 1650 Max-Q, 4GB

  • RAM – 16GB DDR4 3733MHz RAM (Dual Channel, Soldered)

  • Storage – 512GB Lite-On NVME

  • Wireless – Intel AX 201 w/Bluetooth 5.0

  • OS – Windows 10 Pro (November 1903)

  • Weight – 3.13lbs (4.36lbs with charger)

The 3 main differences of this model vs the early 2019 models are:

  1. Intel i7-1065G7 vs i7-8565U

  2. 16GB LPDDR4 3733MHz vs 16GB LPDDR3 2133MHz

  3. GTX 1650 Max-Q (4GB, 35w) vs MX150 (4GB, 25w)


Build

Upon taking out the laptop from its packaging, I immediately noticed how sturdy it felt in my hands.… and how much of a fingerprint magnet it is. It’s also super thin, measuring at .6 inches for the laptop itself, about .7 inches including the rubber feet. Below are pictures comparing the laptop to a GS65 and a iPad Pro 11-inch. The Razer charger is also photo'd next to a 230w charger and a iPhone X for size comparison.

On the lid is the Razer insignia. It’s glossy but doesn’t shine or stand out. In fact, you can’t see it in certain lighting which makes it stealthier in public.


Moving on to the left side is a USB-C port (3.1, Gen 2), USB-A (3.1) port, and a combo headphone/mic jack. On the right is the Thunderbolt 3 port and a USB-A (3.1) port. Both USB-C ports can be used for charging. I’m sure that some people are frowning that there isn’t an SD card reader or general display ports available, but I guess that’s what docks are for! They don’t include a USB-C to DP/HDMI by the way so you’ll need to provide your own if you plan on using an external monitor. At the rear of the laptop are the exhaust vents and at the front is a recessed notch to easily open up the laptop along with a small LED to show the charge status.

At the bottom of the laptop are 2 strips of rubber feet, the rear being thicker to allow more air to reach the fan grills. Opening up the laptop was very easy but requires a TORX T4 driver. Under the cover, you’ll find the 53.1 wHr battery, a single slot for an NVME drive, the Intel wireless card, and the cooling solution for the CPU and GPU. 16GB of RAM is soldered onto the motherboard and cannot be upgraded. Razer also doesn’t have any options outside 16GB.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the sound-card or amp for the headphone jack underneath the cover, but I’ll talk about headphone sound quality later in this review.

Opening the laptop with a single finger, you’re greeted by a beautiful 13.3-inch matte screen with 4.9mm thin bezels on all sides. Above the screen are an IR sensor, a 720P, and the array microphone while “RAZER” is found at the chin of the screen. Although it’s a minor thing, I appreciate that there isn’t a gap under the chin. The power button is located at the top right and requires a 1-second hold to power on the laptop. The single-zone RGB keyboard SLOWLY lit up, a nice touch in my book since my MSI laptop just abruptly turns on the backlight.

The screen is bright and vibrant. Razer claims the screen is custom calibrated from the factory and is 100% sRGB. Unfortunately, I don’t have the tools to verify this claim, so I’ll take Razer’s word for it.


The keys are fairly shallow when compared to the MSI GS65, but they feel fine in my use. I also didn’t notice any keyboard flex in my use. One thing that really bugs me is how the UP key is where the SHIFT key should be. This was one of my gripes with the Blade Advanced and it shows up on this model too. I would have preferred to have the keys switched since I use the right shift key fairly often while typing.

The glass touchpad takes up a large portion of the bottom half but is sized perfectly in my opinion. While typing, my palms didn’t rest on the touchpad at all. Clicking is solid and you can actually register "left-click" about an inch down from the top of the touchpad. For "right-click", you’ll need to actually press at the bottom right. You can also do tap gestures to control the cursor. Rounding out the sides of the keyboard are 2 speakers per side. Based on the picture showing the components inside the laptop, the speakers aren’t as long as the grill are. It’s more for aesthetics.


Overall, the Blade Stealth is a very well-built machine with the bare minimum of ports. The aluminum unibody and paint coating attracts fingerprints like crazy, but it's worth it for such a stealthy and solid-feeling device.


Software

To control many of the laptop’s features, you are REQUIRED to have Synapse running, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. Within the software, you can make adjustments to the keyboard, choose a performance mode, control fan speeds, and create macros to name a few things.


If you happen to have other Razer products, they can all be configured within Synapse as well.

There is a performance portion in Synapse to adjust the capabilities of the laptop. Battery Saver and Balanced do as they are named while Gaming Mode allows the process to use more wattage consistently (25 watts vs 15 watts) when plugged in. If unplugged, the laptop will revert to balanced mode until it’s plugged in again.


Other built-in software I found includes Dolby Atmos and the Realtek Audio Console. Both of these apps control the audio capabilities of the speakers and headphone jack.


Dolby Atmos is a popular sound processing software that’s used in theaters and some games to create 3d positioning with speakers and headphones. You can find it built into some games, like Overwatch. The Realtek Audio Console is your main app to control the sound quality of the speakers and audio jack. Unlike the MSI GS65, the Realtek Audio Console doesn’t have the option to choose the power output of the headphone jack and can’t sense the headphone impedance.


The software package is good overall. I do wish Razer baked Dolby or Realtek control into Synapse so it could be a one-stop-shop for controlling the laptop. I also wish that Razer had a manual fan control that allowed me to choose the fan speeds based on temperature. Oh well, maybe in a future Synapse update.


Performance

The Razer Atheris mouse and Kabuto mousepad, a perfect match for the Blade Stealth

Before we dive into performance, I’ll go over some adjustments I made.

  1. In the Nvidia Control Panel, I switched Texture Filtering to High Quality. I didn’t want any performance optimizations on the driver side to interfere with scores and benchmarks.

  2. I used a combination of DDU, a driver slimmer (pictured right), and CCleaner when installing drivers. The driver slimmer will allow you to install certain portion in the driver package. I personally saw increased performance when using it.

  3. "Gaming mode" was chosen in Synapse. It'll automatically switch to Balanced mode when on battery.

  4. I kept the system on Auto Fan mode. I was hoping there would be a fan curve built into Synapse so adjust fan speed at various temps but Razer sadly didn’t incorporate it.

  5. Applied +100MHz core overclock to the GPU via MSI afterburner


Now, onto the benchmarks!

Wow, this Ultrabook can actually put out good frame rates for many games, even on battery! Graphically intensive titles can be played at 30FPS or more (between medium and ultra-quality settings) while faster-paced games like Overwatch and Apex Legends can hit 60FPS+.


Quick note on my cinebench score. Running CB R20, it will activate the dGPU which causes the CPU to throttle down to 15w instead of sustaining 25w (when plugged in). Click HERE to read about this weird discovery. I had to force CB to use the iGPU and that allowed me to complete the test with a higher score. Thanks to /u/Thysanopter on REDDIT for the info!

Temps were also good too, thanks mostly to the Conductonaut. On auto fan speed, temps never exceeding 80c on the CPU and 70c on the GPU. On battery, temps dropped a bit to 79c and 69c respectively, mostly from power throttling.


If you're curious, you can also see what temp the CPU is at during each power limit (PL) stage. PL1 is a higher turbo frequency (3.5GHz for all cores) over a short period of time. PL2 is a lower turbo boost over a longer period of time.


Speaking of power throttling, I did notice that the CPU couldn’t consistently hit 3.5GHz on all cores and throttled down to 2GHz at 15W during my gaming and benching sessions. If the dGPU is inactive, it can boost to 35w before lowering to a consistent 25w power limit. When gaming, it'll throttle down to 15w no matter what. Unfortunately, this seems to be a firmware design choice by Razer. Keep in mind though that the CPU can still hit 3.5GHz on all cores at 15w while gaming. It just depends on how much the game is utilizing the CPU.


If you're interested in removing this power limit, you MUST flash a modified BIOS. Click HERE to read up on how to do it. Also, please note that there is a RISK of bricking your system. Proceed with caution!


Going back to temps, the entire laptop got warm but it wasn’t uncomfortable, even around the keyboard which is right above the heatsink. The hottest point is right above the keyboard since the fan partially blows hot air at the chin of the laptop screen.


Another thing I noticed is that the screen has minor ghosting. To me, it’s not that bad, but it depends on the person’s tolerance to the ghosting. The screen was also tearing a bit more than I’m used to, but I’m also someone that has a Gsync monitor so I may be more sensitive to tearing now.


For sound, I tested a gaming headset (Sennheiser G4me One) and an audiophile headset (Sennheiser HD600). The gaming headphones were powered just fine at all volume levels which is pretty easy since they’re only 50-ohm drivers. The HD600, on the other hand, sounded lifeless from 30% volume and higher. Looks like 300-ohms is too much for this laptop.


Moving on to the speakers, they sounded pretty good in my opinion. For music and movies, they sounded great. The 4 speakers fire upwards unlike other laptops that fire downwards and rely on the surface it's sitting on to spread sound. Mids and highs sounded fairly clear and crisp to my ears. Bass was clean up to 50% volume, but don't expect any "thump" in your music. While playing Modern Warfare, sound cues (like enemies behind me) were there, probably due to Dolby Atmos. These are probably the best speakers I've heard on a laptop in a while.


The Lite-On NVME drive is pretty decent as well. It loaded up windows and games SUPER FAST. The stock drive is 500GB with no way to change it if you order direct from Razer. It would’ve been nice to have a larger drive since most games are 80+ GB now (COD: MW, I’m looking at you and your 112GB folder size!). If you want a larger drive, you’ll have to install it yourself or purchase from an online reseller.


Finally, let’s talk about battery life. In my testing, I got the following battery times:

Settings: 30% screen brightness, no keyboard backlight.

  • Word processing and light surfing – Just over 8 hours

  • YouTube 1080P – Just over 6 hours

  • Gaming – Up to 50 minutes

The battery is decent overall and could last an entire workday if doing general word processing. I’m sure it can also last the majority of a plane ride, if not the entire ride while watching videos. Gaming battery life is obviously not that great, but it can allow you to game on a short train or bus ride if you wish. A quick note, the battery performance scores are only valid when the battery charge is ABOVE 30%. Once you get to that point, performance greatly diminishes.


I’m happy with the performance of this laptop. It can truly be used as a productive machine and can also play games decently while on the go, even on battery!


Now, I heard of battery issues after a year or so with previous Razer Blade models. The main issue is that batteries bulge inside the laptop, which can be hazardous. It could be bad manufacturing of the battery, bad battery technology, or overcharge/excessive discharge by the user. While I haven't experienced it personally since I don't own any Razer laptops, my friends do and they had battery-bulge issues. As far as I know, there isn't a fix for this yet. If this every happens, contact Razer or your reseller to fix the issues.


Overall, awesome performance by the Blade Stealth in all categories!


My improvements

Besides MSI afterburner, I installed ThrottleStop to undervolt the CPU. Undervolting will reduce power at a given speed, which can reduce temps and improve performance overall. I recommend you install and configure ThrottleStop.

  • ThrottleStop Guide - Click Here

  • "How to take Full Control of the 8750H" - By Hackness of NotebookReview.com - Click Here

*Note* Only follow chapters 3, 4, and 5.


These are my settings:














Performance Mode (Plugged in)


Battery Mode

You’ll notice that I downclocked the CPU when on battery. When on battery, the CPU power throttled to 15w which showed as 2GHz in HWInfo64. With an undervolt, I was able to reach 2.4GHz at 15w, a 400MHz increase from default. Another benefit of a lower clock speed is that the laptop will use that lower speed to perform simple tasks such as word processing and video streaming, which will increase battery life overall.


IccMax was changed to 200 from 70. This will allow more current to flow to the CPU which will help reduce power throttling. In my testing, the CPU could hold 3.5GHz for MUCH longer and it shows in some CPU-intensive games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider. On battery, I left it at 70 since I didn’t want to tax the battery too much.


For the GPU overclock, I kept the +100MHz core overclock and didn’t push it further. I experimented with flattening out the voltage curve to reduce wattage but it didn’t make a difference in battery life. However, I decided to cap some games at 60FPS and 30FPS to reduce CPU and GPU load.


After making these adjustments, I was able to get the following performance improvements:

There was some performance improvement when plugged in and while on battery. When plugged in, the CPU is able to sustain a higher clock speed for longer instead of power throttling down. While on battery, there’s actually some performance increase in more CPU-intensive games but also a decrease in GPU-intensive games. I don't mind the small decrease in frame rates while on battery because...


Battery life improved overall for basic laptop functions. Here are my updated numbers with the CPU downclock and undervolt.

  • Word processing and light surfing, over 10 hours.

  • Watching 1080P video - ~7 hours

  • Gaming:

o Capped at 60FPS (COD Modern Warfare, All low settings) - ~50 minutes

o Capped at 30FPS (Gears of War 5, All low settings) - ~75 minutes


I gained an extra 2 hours of word processing and an hour of video streaming. Awesome!

Capping the framerate also helped improve battery life a bit. I used the in-game framerate cap but you can use GeForce Experience or Riva Tuner to cap the framerate. Geforce Experience would be the better option since it will automatically enable battery saving features when it detects power is coming from the battery. I suggest capping framerates based on the titles you play. High paced games should be at 60FPS while everything else gets capped at 30FPS.


Who should buy this laptop?

This laptop is definitely not for everyone. It’s not a powerful gaming machine, but it’s also not the most portable Ultrabook. So, who is this really for?


In my opinion, this laptop is meant for 3 specific types of consumers.

  1. A gamer that already has a powerful machine, usually a desktop, at home. They want a secondary device to do general surfing or word processing when on their couch or on the go. This device has to be small and portable while letting them casually game.

  2. A user who values portability but also wants to casually game. A good example is a student who takes this into their classroom to take notes, or to play Overwatch while the professor is lecturing them. They don’t care too much about high FPS but want something that can play games at various quality settings.

  3. Someone that wants a single device for everything and WILL commit to an eGPU setup. I was in this “type” years ago with the MSI GS43. I was able to play games anywhere I took the laptop since it had a GTX 1060, then I’d plug into a 1080Ti at home to continue playing with higher FPS. This is a VERY expensive option, but one that can potentially extend the life of the laptop. For the eGPU results, click HERE.

So, do I recommend this laptop? ABSOLUTELY, but only if you fit into the 3 types above. Also, you need to look at that price, which starts at $1,800. That's a steep price to pay, but there isn't a single competitor in this form factor that can run games like this so you will be paying a premium.


*EDIT*

The price of the laptop dropped $300 to $1499 starting!


What about close competitors? There's the MSI Prestige 14! It has a 1650-Max-Q too with a 6-core processor! And it's cheaper!

The reason I'm reviewing the Blade Stealth over the MSI Prestige 14 is due to 2 reasons:

  1. I saw the cooling solution of the MSI Prestige 14. It's a single fan with dual heat pipes. I have NO CONFIDENCE that it will adequately cool a 6-core CPU along with the dedicated GPU at high load.

  2. The soldered-on RAM is is LPDDR3, not LPDDR4. While this doesn't matter too much for most people, I want DDR4 to improve CPU performance.

If you can look past that price tag, the potential battery-bulge issue and can appreciate what it brings to the table, then this is the laptop for you


Conclusion

I’ve been waiting for a laptop like this to exist since I sold my GS43 for a GS65. I missed having a smaller, lighter-weight laptop that I could game on, and the Blade Stealth fits the bill. It can play all the games I’m into with no issues, the battery lasts a long time, and it's MORE PORTABLE than my current GS65 and my old GS43. This is a huge plus for me since I’m always on the go. The build quality is OUTSTANDING and it doesn’t look like a gaming machine at all. While I don’t think this is a “Gaming Ultrabook” as Razer claims, I do think it’s an Ultrabook that can game. And I want one for myself now.


Pros

  • Awesome build quality – This thing feels PREMIUM without looking like a gaming machine.

  • Ultra-portable – At 3.13lbs, this laptop can be taken with you ANYWHERE. It’s VERY thin, super light, and pretty dang small.

  • GTX graphics – I could actually play all the latest games on this thing! If I wanted to be competitive in Overwatch or Apex legends, it could pump out over 100FPS+ at the lowest settings, even on battery life!

  • Great battery life – Over 8 hours doing word processing and over 6 hours of video streaming without an undervolt. Those numbers raised to 10 and 7 respectively when undervolted. Awesome.

  • Practically silent – Auto fan speed adequately cooled the laptop while being VERY silent. It was basically drowned out by the noise around me.

Cons

  • Right shift key – Razer needs to fix this. Swap the UP and SHIFT keys already! Luckily, you can adjust this in Synapse.

  • Ghosting – I consider this a minor issue, but it can be annoying to some people.

  • No included display adapter – Seriously, include a cheap USB-C to HDMI or mini display port Razer! I would have liked to play with my Oculus Rift S or use my external monitor!

  • No custom fan curve – Even though temps were amazing, I’d still like to create a fan curve with speeds that activate at various temps. MSI did it, Razer should too.

  • No access to advanced bios – This was my main gripe with the Razer Blade Advanced and it’s here again. If Razer unlocked their bios, I could have made adjustments to REALLY make this laptop perform.

If you’re in the market for an Ultrabook that can game, look no further. You’ll be able to finish a FULL DAYS WORTH OF WORK on a single battery charge, and you can play games with good performance as long as you adjust quality settings accordingly.


Lastly, I recommend you purchase from an online reseller, like HIDevolution. I know about the “bad Razer customer support” experience since I’ve lived it before with their other products. If you go with HIDevolution, they will deal with Razer on your behalf if any issues arise, even a battery bulge. Also, you can install a larger NVME drive and liquid metal to reduce temps. Get at LEAST 1TB and liquid metal installed and you’ll be GOLDEN.


Have fun!

-The Everyday Enthusiast


Product Link - Click here (No affiliate links!)



Disclaimer – I requested a review unit from HIDevolution. I was not compensated in any way and wasn’t persuaded to “speak good things” about this device. All thoughts are my own based on my experience with the Blade Stealth. I didn’t even have to reference HIDevolution, but I’ve purchased 2 devices from them in the past 2 years and was met with AMAZING customer service which is why I’m recommending them.

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