The Blade Pro 17 (starts at $2,499; $2,799 as tested) is Razer’s largest gaming laptop, an upsized version of its flagship Blade 15, our favorite 15-incher. The two now have more in common than ever, sharing a redesign that cuts a cleaner, slimmer, and more modern look. The footprint is down significantly from the original 2016 Blade Pro’s, and the “17” in the name is a new addition. Expect some features removed, however—indeed, the 2019 take is more of a gaming machine and less of a professional content creator’s laptop. It still boasts a rich-feeling build and cutting-edge components for high-frame-rate HD gaming, and it now costs less. It’s a solid reboot, but not a standout: If you want something more portable and just as fast, check out the MSI GS75 Stealth, while the Editors’ Choice Alienware Area-51m is our pick for big-screen pure power.
A Trimmer Big-Screen Beauty
Unless you’ve spent a good amount of time looking at the original Blade Pro, like I have, the Blade Pro 17’s redesign may not seem that obvious. Having seen both, the trimmer overall size and new shape are clear. Add to that the fact that this model adds more power and some new features, and the impressiveness of the redesign comes into sharp relief. It’s also worth noting that the Blade Pro did get a slight update in 2017, but it was more of a feature and component change than a wholesale alteration of the physical design.
This 2019 remake measures 0.7 by 15.6 by 10.2 inches (HWD) and weighs 6.1 pounds, reasonable for a 17-inch power laptop. How much meat did the redesign trim off? The original measures 0.88 by 16.7 by 11 inches (HWD) and weighs 7.7 pounds, a much heavier (and slightly chunkier) laptop. This is a pretty significant slim-down.
Of course, I’m hardly saying that the Blade Pro 17 is a lightweight—6 pounds isn’t exactly an ultraportable, but it is decent for a 17-inch laptop. Among such systems, only the MSI GS75 Stealth really makes the Blade Pro seem chunky, since it’s a class-best 0.74 by 15.5 by 10 inches and 5 pounds. Still, we’ve seen some 6-pound 15-inch laptops in our time (just recently, the Dell G5 15 SE), so it’s respectable for its screen size and metal chassis.
And what a nice chassis it is. As with all Razer Blade laptops, the outside is entirely sleek milled aluminum, and it feels high-end and solid to the touch. No doubt, Razer could have opted for some lighter materials, but I can’t blame the company for sticking with one of the highest-quality builds out there.
The changes extend past the size to two other main visual elements. The chassis cuts a much more modern look, visibly squarer with sharp, rather than rounded, corners. This follows in the path of the flagship Blade 15 model, which debuted this style this year. The other big change is to thin display bezels, which played a big part in trimming down the laptop’s size. The thick borders of the past are gone, and it makes the Blade Pro 17 look much more up-to-date. The original Blade Pro model looked slick in its time, but this much sleeker model makes it look borderline outdated.
As for the screen itself, you get the same display across all configurations of this laptop. It’s a 17.3-inch panel with a full HD resolution (1,920 by 1,080 pixels) and a 144Hz top refresh rate, ideal for AAA or competitive esports gaming. The display looks sharp and can crank up plenty bright, while a matte finish cuts down on reflections. It also offers 100 percent Adobe RGB coverage, which should appeal to content creators.
Some enthusiasts may sneer at “just” a 1080p resolution, but the reality is that higher resolutions are very taxing on the hardware in most gaming laptops. You’d really be shooting yourself in the foot in terms of performance, so I feel Razer made the right call here. That said, the creatives out there (for whom the Pro 17 is also ostensibly built) may appreciate a higher-resolution panel option for media work, but have no such option. The original model included a 4K touch display, so Razer’s sticking to 1080p is a fairly big departure.
Features and Configs: A Less “Pro” Pro
The rest of the build leaves me with mostly positive impressions, and some minor quibbles.
The smooth, roomy touchpad is exquisite, still one of the best on any Windows laptop. The speaker quality is good, not great, offering a high maximum volume level and a modicum of bass. (It is slightly tinny when cranked all the way up.) One of my least favorite aspects of Blade laptop designs is still present: the speaker grilles. I’ve said it before (maybe it’s just me, and I hardly expect to change Razer’s design with my solitary opinion), but the look of the grilles running down the sides of the keyboard mars the otherwise sleek chassis. To my eyes, they look slightly outdated and out of place on the smooth, slick finish of the rest of the laptop. (Your eyeball mileage may vary.)
Finally, the keyboard. For starters, it’s back to the exact center of the chassis, with the touchpad below, unlike the right-shifted touchpad of the original. The keys are individually backlit, meaning you can customize the lighting colors and effects for each key. This feature appears on most, if not all, high-end gaming laptops these days, and Razer’s Synapse software makes customization intuitive. The typing experience is also comfortable, feeling much like other Blade keyboards. These are among the better-quality laptop keyboards around, offering comfortable travel and fine feedback.
While the keyboard is still good, it does represent a change from the original that, for me, feels like a downgrade. The old model boasted a semi-mechanical keyboard with satisfying, clicky feedback, which is entirely gone here. Whether a casualty of the new form factor or just a design decision, I’m not sure, but it was an uncommon feature that made this high-end, larger laptop feel like an even better desktop replacement. If you never used the previous version, you won’t miss it, but I think the changes peel off some of the appeal. Similarly, the last model’s useful volume roller is gone, replaced with the standard volume buttons in the function-key row.
On the whole, several of the design choices lead me to think this machine is less suited for creatives and professionals than the original model was, despite the “Pro” in the name. In 2016, for example, Razer offered a free download and full license of FL Studio 12 Producer Edition with each unit, and there’s no similar offer here. Small factors like that, plus the removal of the volume scroll bar, the special keyboard, and the 4K screen option, make the Blade Pro 17 a less distinctive multipurpose laptop, and more focused on just gaming. (This carries through to the performance, as well.)
In terms of ports, the Blade Pro 17 has about everything you need, and then some. Other large laptops include ports around back, usually the video-out connections, but Razer’s design doesn’t lend itself to this, so everything is on the flanks. On the left side, you have two USB 3.1 ports, a USB-C port, an Ethernet jack, and a headset jack. The right edge holds another USB 3.1 port, a USB Type-C port with Thunderbolt 3, an HDMI output, and an SD card reader.
Parsing the configurations of the Blade Pro 17 is fairly simple. Razer offers three models, distinguished entirely by which GPU is included. All three models include a 9th Generation Intel Core i7-9750H processor, 16GB of memory, and a 500GB SSD. Our $2,799 model is the middle SKU, which comes with Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics. The lowest-cost option, at $2,499, nets you a GeForce RTX 2060, and the top-end model is $3,199 for an RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU. Those are very different tiers of graphics performance, and are priced as such, but all else is equal.
Now Testing: Meeting the Performance Bar, Not Resetting It
For performance testing, I compared the new Razer Blade Pro 17 to the latest, most relevant competing gaming laptops out right now. This excludes the previous version of this laptop, because most shoppers are not upgrading from that machine, and by now we know what to expect between generations. It’s more valuable to look at what your other options are now. Here’s a cheat sheet of the configuration basics of my comparison machines…
The Alienware Area-51m represents the best in not-very-mobile 17-inch laptops, a beast of a machine that actually takes a desktop-grade CPU. The Razer Blade 15 is on the opposite end of the spectrum, the lone 15-inch laptop included here to demonstrate what a smaller machine can do. In between those two are the MSI GS75 Stealth, an excellent and very portable 17-inch laptop with a better GPU (RTX 2080 Max-Q) than the Blade Pro 17, and the Digital Storm Avon. The latter is included because it’s a rare gaming laptop that is using the standard RTX 2070 mobile GPU, rather than a tuned-down Max-Q version. (As a result, the chassis is significantly thicker.) This provides a good look at the effects of deploying a Max-Q GPU versus the GPU’s full power.
Productivity and Storage 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 work, web browsing, and videoconferencing. PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a specialized storage test that we use to assess the speed of the PC’s boot drive.
Barring the exceptionally powerful Area-51m, results were very even across both tests. The Blade Pro 17 did hold an edge over the rest on PCMark 10, to its credit, so it’s the “slightly fastest” among already-quick machines. This less-demanding test isn’t a full measure of the system’s top speeds, but it’s always comforting to know it can power through everyday tasks with ease. The SSD speeds, meanwhile, are consistent across these systems, essentially identical in three cases. Fast boot times for everyone!
Media Processing and Creation Tests
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.
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, at the end, add up the total execution time. This stresses CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters, so systems with powerful graphics chips or cards may see a boost.
These are where a processor is really put to the test, and the Blade Pro 17 does…okay. Despite the fact that all of these CPUs (aside from the desktop-class Area-51m) are either the same or older than the Blade Pro 17’s chip, it doesn’t blow us away on either benchmark. The margins are slim on the Photoshop test, but it fell well behind the other 17-inchers on Cinebench R15. You can still crunch through medium-strain workloads on this system without waiting ages for it to process, even if it’s not quite up to professional or workstation grade, or even some of the other gaming machines here. While it’s still an objectively fast machine compared to the average consumer laptop, it’s a bit disappointing the Blade Pro 17 doesn’t fare better on these tests.
Synthetic Graphics Tests
Next up: UL’s 3DMark suite. 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 suited to laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores.
The following chart is another synthetic graphics test, this one 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 done in the company’s eponymous Unigine engine, whose different 3D workload scenario presents a second opinion on the machine’s graphical prowess.
The story is roughly the same on these benchmark tests. The Blade Pro 17 did fairly well, outpaced by the beefier GPUs, but not by a huge margin (save for the Alienware, of course). It hung pretty close to the non-Max-Q 2070, which is a good sign. The systems perform along the lines of their power tiers here, without anything clearly overperforming or underperforming due to thermal constraints. (The Blade 15 suffers the most from this, given its smaller chassis size.) The numbers suggest that you’re not giving up too much for opting for a Max-Q model. But does that hold up in actual games? 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 AAA titles with built-in benchmark schemes. These tests are run at 1080p on both the moderate and maximum graphics-quality presets (Normal and Ultra for Far Cry 5; Medium and Very High for Rise of the Tomb Raider). Far Cry 5 is DirectX 11-based, while Rise of the Tomb Raider can be flipped to DX12, which we do for that benchmark.
The Blade Pro 17 is capable of full HD gaming at well beyond 60 frames per second (fps), which you’d certainly expect for the price. These figures are comfortably above 60fps, so you won’t have to worry about dipping below for a long time.
For AAA gaming, you’re not getting the absolute most out of its 144Hz display at maximum settings (though frame rates of 90fps or 100fps do take some advantage), but you can say that of almost any gaming laptop. Only the hulking Alienware Area-51m would hit that threshold in this group. That said, this system can push less-demanding competitive multiplayer titles much higher than AAA games, especially if you lower some settings (a common practice among players of competitive esports titles).
Also, these results further show the difference between the Max-Q and standard RTX 2070 (via the Digital Storm Avon). You’re not losing too much performance for Max-Q in these games at the higher presets. The biggest gap in our graphics tests was on the 3DMark benchmarks.
Battery Rundown Test
Finally, the battery-life testing. After fully recharging the laptop, we set up the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) 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 Blender Foundation short film Tears of Steel—with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system conks out.
The battery life isn’t chart-topping, but it’s respectable. This is far from an ultraportable, many of which exceed 15 hours of battery time (some are over 20 hours), but it’s useful enough for a gaming machine. This will get you some time off the charger for general use (if you want to carry the 6 pounds with you), and as you can see, no other 17-inch laptop in this bunch (or, for that matter, among 17-inchers PC Labs has tested in general) lasts significantly longer.
Solid for Big-Screen Gamers
The Razer Blade Pro 17, like its predecessor, is a high-end laptop that looks and feels premium. We just wish Razer didn’t excise a few of the creature comforts that set it apart.
Gone is the clicky keyboard, the nifty volume roller, and the 4K panel option, and its performance, while no slouch, is a tad less “pro” than we might have expected. Still, it boasts an excellent build, and the new overall look is on the whole an aesthetic win. And the pricing is reasonable compared to the competition.
If you’re enamored with the look and feel, and a little less concerned with pure value, this new Blade Pro 17 is a very appealing and effective option. If you want something more portable and just as fast, check out the MSI GS75 Stealth. And if money is no object and/or pure power is your main concern, throwing portability to the wayside, the Editors’ Choice Alienware Area-51m reigns supreme.