Razer Blade 17 (2022) review: faster and cooler than ever

Razer Blade 17 (2022) review: faster and cooler than ever

Editor’s Note: We originally published this review under the impression that the Blade 17 we tested was a final production unit. Razer has since informed us that it was running preproduction BIOS and firmware. We’ve updated our review unit to the production version and retested it, getting similar results to our original tests. The original review follows below.

If you’re after a minimalist, dead-serious-looking gaming laptop, Razer’s Blade is still the one to get. Its aluminum-clad design looks more akin to Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 4 than a laptop that was made for gaming. The Blade line is also untouchable to the competition when it comes to build quality, port selection, and for having an excellent keyboard and trackpad combo.

Razer has a range of Blade gaming laptops now, at a variety of sizes and price points. But for people who want the biggest, most powerful Blade in Razer’s knife block, the 2022 Blade 17 brings the heat without bringing too much actual heat.

Though the Blade 17 (which used to be known as the Blade Pro 17) looks similar to prior versions from the outside, Razer’s improvements to its fans and cooling system keep it running cooler and quieter than before. That’s despite the fact that it has even more powerful specs now. For 2022, that includes faster DDR5 RAM, faster RTX graphics, and a faster Intel 12th Gen processor.

Additionally, this Blade 17 showcases a couple of new form and function additions that are available in all of Razer’s 2022 models, like bigger keycaps and laser-cut speaker grilles. And just like late-2021’s iteration of the Blade 17, this one has Razer’s fingerprint-resistant coating and a 1080p Windows Hello webcam instead of a 720p camera.

The Blade 17 starts at $2,699.99, but the model that I tested costs a whopping $3,999.99. For those keeping track, that’s the same price as MSI’s even more powerful GE76 Raider, which has a faster Core i9 processor and faster RTX 3080 Ti, along with more storage, but an FHD / 360Hz refresh rate display instead of a QHD panel that’s built-in with the model that I tested.

The Blade 17 has a black aluminum chassis that feels as cohesive and high-end as it looks. If you need proof of just how little Razer has changed its design over the years, compare these pictures to those from our 2019 review and from our 2020 review. There are hardly any splashes of color or edgy etchings on the case, aside from the company’s three-headed snake logo on the display’s lid and RGB backlit keys. Otherwise, this laptop is the physical manifestation of dark mode.

Razer Blade 17

The anti-fingerprint coating is an improvement, but it doesn’t resist everything.

Just like I noted in my review of the thinner-than-ever 2021 Blade 15 Advanced, the new fingerprint-resistant coating works as advertised — the bar was low, admittedly. It’s now easier to keep a presentable-looking laptop, whereas before, Blades would often look like I had rubbed my face directly on them after normal use. Still, the Blade 17 still picks up some fingerprints and smudges after a day of use. If you’re someone who takes breaks and runs their fingers through your hair or over your face, that right there is a grease multiplier that’ll turn your Blade’s matte finish into a shinier one.

As for the 17.3-inch display, Razer offers a variety of panels with different resolutions and refresh rates, letting you cherry-pick the right screen spec for your gaming or creative needs. Some video and photo editors may find their mouse pointers gravitating toward the 4K / 144Hz screen option, but for gamers, the QHD / 240Hz G-Sync panel in our review model is the sweet spot. It provides a hearty boost in detail above FHD without costing anything to upgrade (it’s the same price as the FHD / 360Hz display option, which I’d only recommend to the most competitive gamers), and more games will run well at its native resolution than they can at 4K.

Razer Blade 17

DLSS pushed every game that I tested on this Blade 17 well over 60 frames per second.

The screen’s speed notwithstanding, the matte display is great, like the many other Blade laptops that I’ve tested. It’s full of detail, with accurate colors and satisfying contrast. Razer says that the QHD panel supports 100 percent of the DCI-P3 color space (the FHD panel fully covers the sRGB gamut, while the 4K option has 100 percent coverage of the Adobe RGB color gamut). While the screen loses luminance when you aren’t looking at it straight-on, the colors and contrast mostly hold up, so watching a movie or gaming with a buddy on the couch should be fine. It has a peak brightness of 300 nits, which is bright enough for indoor use. That number is par for the course with other gaming laptops but well below the 500 nits of brightness that the MacBook Pro and Dell XPS 13 can each provide, to name some examples.

The display isn’t necessarily hurt by it being a 16:9 aspect ratio since it’s so big, but I’d love to see Razer move to the taller 16:10 aspect ratio, as it does in the smaller Razer Book. More gaming laptops are shifting to this aspect ratio with 16-inch screens, which is better for reading content, browsing the web, or for anything else you want to do short of watching movies. If that spec means changing this laptop’s name to the Blade 16, then so be it.

The Blade 17 I tested comes close to being the top-of-the-line model, and it easily shows in just about every use case. It has the 14-core Intel Core i7-12800H processor, 32GB of DDR5 RAM (removable, clocked at 4,800MHz), 1TB of NVMe storage (with one M.2 slot to spare), and Nvidia’s new RTX 3080 Ti graphics chip.

Razer Blade 17

A peek under the bottom panel reveals one of the M.2 slots, as well as both memory slots.

Razer Blade 17

And over on the right side, here’s the empty M.2 slot for additional storage.

Additionally, Razer upped the power envelope considerably for the new RTX 3080 Ti graphics chip. Compared to the late 2021 model that had an RTX 3080 with 130W of total graphics power, the RTX 3080 Ti in this laptop goes all the way up to 165W, with a boost clock of 1,395MHz, according to the Nvidia control panel app. Thicker laptops can go a little harder, but I was impressed that Razer raised the power — and initially a little frightened of what it might mean for producing heat and a lot of fan noise. Though, as I mentioned earlier, neither of those stuck out as much of an issue here. Listening to games through the built-in speakers, the fans didn’t eclipse the game audio. Of course, they were louder without game audio to mask them, but it’s not as loud as some other gaming laptops I’ve tried, which warrant concerned glances from others at home.

As for heat, plenty of warm air comes out of this Blade 17, but the aluminum chassis doesn’t feel like a giant heatsink, holding onto too much heat during gameplay, like some of the previous models we’ve tested. Even so, I wouldn’t recommend using it on your lap unless you have a lap desk, as its bottom does get toasty, and that’s where some of its intake fans are located.

Starting with Red Dead Redemption 2, with its benchmark running at QHD resolution and ultra graphics settings, the Blade 17 ran at an average of 72 frames per second (FPS). With Nvidia’s DLSS supersampling tech that can increase the fps with little-to-no image degradation, the performance went up to 83 frames per second. For a relatively thin 17.3-inch laptop, I’m impressed with these numbers at QHD resolution. The game looks fabulous on a screen that allows for the crisp details to shine through, and it gets extra points for running well above 60 fps.

In Cyberpunk 2077’s new graphical benchmark that was released within the game’s long-awaited 2022 update, the Blade 17’s limits were more apparent. At QHD resolution with ultra graphical settings (including ultra ray tracing settings) and no assistance from DLSS, the benchmark ran at an average of 25 frames per second. That’s a somewhat laughable number, but it’s not a total failure considering that this is one of the most system-intensive games available right now.

Razer Blade 17

Here’s the Blade 17 next to a Nest Audio smart speaker for scale.

Performance gets a lot better with help from DLSS. With those same maxed-out settings and DLSS in “auto” mode, the benchmark ran at an average of 67 frames per second. Turning only the ray tracing feature off, the graphics performance boosted to an average of 81 frames per second.

The feats continue: in QHD resolution and without any assistance from DLSS, this Razer Blade 17 could pull off running Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s highest settings at 70 frames per second. With DLSS on “balanced” mode, performance went up to 105 fps. Horizon: Zero Dawn’s benchmark ran at an average of 94 frames per second and 101 fps with DLSS. Across the board, it’s just really impressive.

The trade-off for all of this power is size and weight. The Blade 17 is thicker and considerably heavier than Razer’s 15-inch models, and its 6.06-pound weight makes it a bit of a chore to move around or travel with. You’ll also need to make space for its hefty 280W power adapter, which weighs a couple more pounds.

Razer Blade 17

The left side features a power port, ethernet, two USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports, a Thunderbolt 4 USB-C port, and a headphone jack.

Razer Blade 17

Over on the right side, there’s a UHS-II SD card reader, a Thunderbolt 4 USB-C port, one USB-A port, and an HDMI 2.1 port.

Razer’s Blade 17 continued its tear with our video export test in Adobe Premiere Pro, where we see how long it takes to export a 5-minute, 33-second 4K file. We’re seeing a trend with the handful of 12th Gen Alder Lake-equipped laptops that we’ve reviewed: they’re extremely fast at exporting video. This one clocked in at two minutes, 29 seconds to complete the export. MSI’s GE76 Raider, which has a faster Core i9-12900HK processor, predictably has a faster export, taking just one minute, 56 seconds. But even the Core i7-12700H in Alienware’s 14-inch X14 is fast with its 3-minute, 1-second export time. If you’re a creator, you may want the fastest CPU available, but perhaps it’s assuring to know that we’ve had good experiences with several options at this point. For another set of performance metrics in Premiere Pro, the Puget Bench benchmark on the Blade 17 performed nearly as well (an 842 rating) as it did in 2021’s thicker, more powerful Alienware X17 R1 (872).

I wasn’t expecting much out of the battery life. Our previous reviews from 2020 and 2019 had the Blade Pro 17 sitting at under three hours. But since then, Razer has increased the battery from 70.5Wh to 82Wh. And yet, I managed to get just about three hours of productivity from this new one. All that was running was about 12 tabs within Microsoft Edge, which included web versions of Slack and Spotify. In other words, if you’re traveling with the already-hefty Blade 17 and plan to game, don’t forget its 280W power brick. Otherwise, it can get a charge via one of its USB-C ports at up to 54W through a PD wall charger. Keep in mind that it won’t be able to run at full power without its full-size power adapter. Also, 54W wasn’t powerful enough to keep the Blade 17 from depleting battery capacity as I used it, so I’d only rely on this charging method to top it up while it’s sleeping.

Razer Blade 17

This year’s Blade laptops have laser-cut speaker grilles instead of having them inset.

Razer Blade 17

The keycaps are noticeably bigger, which desktop users in particular may appreciate.

On the keyboard, Razer increased the size of the keycaps by a small but noticeable amount. I can’t say that it impacted my experience in a significant way, but striving to deliver a typing experience that likely won’t feel as foreign for desktop users was a productive endeavor. The keyboard layout is mostly unchanged from last year’s model, aside from moving the power button from its previous location (nested within the right speaker grille) to a dedicated spot above the backspace key. I’m not entirely sold on it being a necessary change, but the enlarged keycaps kept me from accidentally hitting it.

Razer deserves a little credit, as it at least added more resistance to the power key than the others. I noticed this in Alienware’s X14, as well, but it was still a little too easy to press with the Blade 17. That quibble aside, Razer’s keyboard remains one of the best in the business. Its keyboard feels familiar and comfortable to use, even though months go by between my testing of each of Razer’s laptops. As for whether I’ll warm up to the new power button location, it’s not likely.

As is usually the case, Razer’s port selection is at its best on this big Blade 17. Along its left and right sides, it includes Ethernet, which you won’t get on the Blade 15 and below. Other ports include HDMI 2.1, a UHS-II full-sized SD card reader, three USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports, two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, a headphone jack, and a jack for its 280W power plug.

Razer is touting better speaker performance in its 2022 Blade 17. Under the speaker grilles that flank the keyboard (which are laser-cut instead of being slightly inset on the chassis, as it previously was), there are four tweeters and four subwoofers that claim to power better stereo sound, especially with its THX spatial audio app built-in. For music, I preferred the sound quality with the setting off. I felt similarly about game audio. The spatial audio, when played through the speakers, removes some of the mids, leaving music and games sounding too airy and shrill.

As for the subwoofers, I’m not entirely convinced that whatever is inside of the Blade 17 should be allowed to share the name. While the sound overall is pleasant for those rare moments when I don’t feel like grabbing my headphones, I don’t agree with Razer that sound quality is one of the Blade 17’s defining qualities.

Razer Blade 17

Some of the speaker hardware is visible once the bottom aluminum shell is removed.

Razer Blade 17

Here’s where the 1080p webcam lives, along with the IR sensor and microphones.

Touching on the last year-to-year change that you might frequently use, Razer’s 1080p Windows Hello webcam has received some noticeable improvements. While it still produces a grainy image that struggles with exposure, the color accuracy, white balance, and detail are good enough to rely on in a pinch. It’s a noticeable improvement over the 720p cameras that Razer previously used, but it’s relative. Most laptop webcams are still bad, but this one’s much less bad than before. Still, you may just want to get a better webcam if you live in Zoom during the workday.

A buying decision for a big, expensive gaming laptop usually weighs heavily on how powerful it is and how much it costs. But if your list of criteria also includes a laptop with an appealing and thin design, a stellar keyboard and trackpad, alongside a bunch of power, the Blade 17 is one of a few options out there at all to meet your needs. And thankfully, this year’s model is a particularly good, if still quite expensive, one.

Photography by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge