How the Blade Stealth extends gaming PC company Razer's reach

The finest ultrabook of this holiday season isn't the new Macbook or the hottest ASUS Zenbook. Instead, it's a slight, black three-pound portable machine from a company that's known for its gaming chops.

And yet somehow, it's affordable.

Meet the new Razer Blade Stealth, the newest and most versatile device in the Razer pantheon of gaming computers. For years now, the San Diego-based company has been delivering high-end gaming laptops, catering to the every need of the on-the-go gaming community.

But that isn't the target audience for the Blade Stealth, which is now in its second iteration. Razer aims its newest device squarely at the mainstream laptop user, daring to go head-to-head with the main players on the laptop market. But the company known for its aesthetic details and gamer-ready insides blows past the competition; the Stealth is the finest all-around ultra-portable laptop you'll see now, equal parts artistically elegant and powerful enough to handle nearly any ultrabook task.

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Here, Razer does what the likes of Alienware has not, delivering a device that both the masses and gamers alike can love. It's a strong tactical move into the mainstream, one that should draw more to appreciate the innovation of the company.

The versatility of the Stealth is what makes all this possible: It has the form factor that the general public wants in a laptop, with a bit more sizzle inside. It's small and light, with a 12.5-inch display and a slight 2.91-pound weight; that's slightly heavier than some other ultrabooks, but hardly beefy enough to encumber any user. There's solidity to the Stealth, too, moreso than other, more flimsy ultra-portables.

Using the Razer Blade Stealth in day-to-day, for basic web browsing, emailing, and writing, you won't come close to challenging its capabilities. This is a smooth and sleek productivity device, easily handling most everyday tasks.

The Stealth is strong enough to be durable, and I barely felt any concern using it in a crowded media room, or pulling it out for quick usage to write on the subway. It powers up swiftly (under a minute), driven by the same Core-i7 processor that's standard on every version of the Stealth, regardless of configuration. That means even a basic Stealth, starting at $999, will offer plenty of mileage to its users.

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The keyboard features the same individually backlit pattern available on Razer's slightly larger, more potent line of Blade laptops, although the keys are slightly smaller and flatter. Still, it's easy to type on the Stealth, so much so that I've used it for a handful of deadline stories (and this story) with nary an issue. The touchpad is also incredibly fluid; if you want to do some light gaming (more on that later), you may prefer a mouse, but that's hardly necessary. The speakers, meanwhile, are solid, but unspectacular: Like all laptop speakers, they grow tinny at the highest volumes.

A beautiful display backs the Razer Blade Stealth, again, no matter the configuration. In larger storage sizes (512GB and 1TB), a 4K display is available. A cheaper but still-solid QHD display is also available in lower-storage versions (256GB and 512GB), but boy, does the 4K setup pop, really bringing the pyrotechnics in, say, "Iron Man 3" to life. It's not a necessity, but if you're planning to watch films, it's a worthy, although pricey (starting at $1,599) addition. In any display, the bezeling is a little thick; other ultrabooks are closer to borderless these days, but Razer stays with a more classic thicker setup here.

It's all a terrific framework for an ultrabook, one that should appeal to those who want stand out just a little. The ASUS Zenbook, HP Spectre and MacBook are the devices everyone else has, but the Stealth is the device that will get a few oohs and ahhs, if only because of that light-up green Razer logo on the face and the colorful (and customizable) keyboard. Even these details are minimalist, though, just loud enough to make you smile, never loud enough to seem overly nerdy.

What makes the Stealth even more impressive, though, is that it can get somewhat nerdy. This is an ultrabook from a gaming company, after all, so it's hard not to expect a little bit of gaming ability. And the Stealth has some of that, both on its own and with a little help.

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To be clear, the Stealth is not meant as a gaming machine on its own virtues, but the Kaby Lake series of i7 processors are powerful enough for some light gaming. The likes of Hearthstone and Civilization VI, for example, run easily and fluidly, and older games such as Skyrim and Borderlands 2 handle well too. All look great on that stunning 4K display, although it's now that you may want to add a handy-dandy old-school mouse to the package.

The Stealth also benefits from a terrific idea from Razer, the Stealth Core, a $499 enclosure that's sold separately and allows an ultraportable device to tap the power of an external graphics card. This can be done with one of the Stealth's USB-C connections, and, to some extent, this should allow for further long-term sustainability from the Stealth. I haven't tested a Core yet, but there's potential here to create a complete gaming package, although things definitely can get pricey.

The end result is a terrific ultrabook that shows just what happens when a game company decides to push into the mainstream. Razer has established itself in the gaming community, delivering perfect product after perfect product for that audience.

It shows now that it can do the same for everyone else, too.

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