Even if Razer hasn’t significantly changed the Blade Pro design in a few years, I still think this 2021 update is a great gaming laptop in its class. The overall performance that comes from this form factor is good, and the cooling system does an excellent job of keeping everything stable. I’m most impressed with this new QHD screen, though, as I think it’s been a necessity for 17” for a long time now. At the same time, I feel that the battery life, audio, and keyboard could be improved, especially on a device that demands this sort of a premium.
It’s time again to review the Razer Blade Pro 17, Razer’s largest laptop in their lineup, and this time we’re looking at the early-2021 model.
The target audience for this laptop is clearly gamers who prefer 17” screens. But Razer also argues that this is the laptop designed for professionals, as the screen real estate is larger, there’s a spare M.2 slot, and also a full-size SD card reader.
But now that the Razer Blade 15 has a spare M.2 and SD card reader as well, there’s less reason to choose the Razer Blade Pro 17 over its smaller brother, unless of course, you want the bigger screen.
That all said, there are some pretty nice improvements over last year’s model, with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3000 series GPUs and new screen choices. Fortunately, my review unit has two unique features that we haven’t seen before: a 165Hz 17” QHD screen and a mobile RTX 3060 Laptop.
Considering how close the low TGP 3070 and 3080 have been performing, I was especially curious how this 3060 would do, this model having a similar TGP. To my surprise, it performs quite well, even when paired with a QHD screen.
After a solid two weeks using my review unit as a daily driver, I’m quite pleased with what Razer has to offer on their new 17-inch lineup. Sure it’s quite similar to last year (and the year before, and the year before) but the truth is there wasn’t a whole lot to improve.
Speaking of that, my thoughts below will be more focused on what’s new with the 2021 Razer Blade 17. So if you want more insights into my thoughts and opinions of the Blade Pro 17 lineup in general, please refer to my 2019 and 2020 reviews as well. My opinion has changed very little since then.
Razer Blade Pro 17 Specs
|Screen||17.3 inch, 2560 x 1440 px, IPS equivalent, 165 Hz, matte|
|Processor||Intel 10th Gen Comet Lake i7-10875H CPU, octa-core 2.2 GHz (5.1 GHz boost)|
|Video||NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 with 6GB GDDR6 VRAM (90-105W with Dyn Boost)|
|Memory||16 GB DDR4 2933Mhz (2×8 GB DIMMs)|
|Storage||512GB M.2 NVMe|
|Connectivity||Intel AX210 Wifi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2|
|Ports||3x USB-A 3.2 gen2, 1x USB-C with Thunderbolt 3(PD 3.0 charging support), 1x USB-C 3.2 HDMI 2.1B, mic/earphone, 2.5GB ethernet, SD card reader|
|Battery||70.5 Wh, 230 W charger|
|Size||395 mm or 15.55” (w) x 260 mm or 10.24” (d) x 19.9 mm or .78” (h)|
|Weight||2.75 kg (6.06 lbs)|
|Extras||individually lit RGB keyboard, Windows Hello HD webcam, stereo speakers, Kensington lock|
Design and build
There’s literally nothing new with the design this year. This is the 4th model to share this design which debuted in 2018. There’s nothing wrong with that either, as it’s a pretty solid laptop. So why fix it, right?
The overall construction is superb, being a unibody chassis cut from a single piece of aluminum. In all my handling, I didn’t notice any creaks of flexing at all. It’s a little heavier than my Razer Blade 15, but it’s still a reasonable weight as far as 17” performance laptops go, at a little over 6 lbs.
Handling the laptop is pretty good as there is adequate spacing underneath to put your fingers under. Holding it is fine, but I felt much better having my fingers grip one of the rubber feet. The reason is, both sides are very smooth and if your fingers are dry, it can be a little slippery given the weight.
The metal is an anodized aluminum, black in color, just like all the previous generations. No surprise here, but you should also expect to have to deal with fingerprints, as with all the other black laptops by Razer. I for one opted to put a Dbrand skin on top of mine, which not only prevents smudges but also hides the logo and adds some grip to the handling.
There’s a good amount of IO on the laptop. On the right, there’s a single USB-A slot, a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C slot, an HDMI 2.1B port, and a full-sized SD card reader. The SD card sticks out about 3.5mm when inserted, just so you know.
On the left is a 2.5GB Ethernet port, another two USB-A slots, a USB-C slot (not Thunderbolt 3), a headphone/mic combo jack, and a power port.
Note that the power port is oblong-shaped and not your typical round cylinder. It’s a little more limited since your cord either faces backwards or forwards, but it’s an overall more robust fit. To put it in perspective, I’ve been using this connection for more than 2 years and it feels just as solid on my older laptop as it does on a new unit.
I’ll also add that both USB-C ports support PD3.0, with 100W charging. It may not be enough for gaming but it’s certainly good to have that as an option, especially as a backup charger while on the road.
To sum up, I’m still digging this design. It’s solid and certainly works. But part of me wants to see some improvements, especially since this is the 4th model with the same chassis. I’d like to see an embossed logo on the back, rather than the glowing one. I’d also like to see the lip improved to make opening the lid easier. Perhaps even push the limit and shrink the bottom bezel even more.
Keyboard and trackpad
There’s really nothing new to see with both the keyboard and the trackpad either. They are exactly the same as in the previous models and also the Razer Blade 15 Advanced.
The keyboard has well-spaced keys and an intuitive layout. Not having a NumPad helps and the keyboard is central with the trackpad, so it’s pretty easy to type without accidentally touching the trackpad.
I can easily say my typing experience is good, but I have to disclose that I am a little biased as I’ve been a Razer Blade 15 owner for over two years now. Truth is, I’m already very used to typing on this machine, so it was no problem for me to pound out this review with little mistakes. In fact, this keyboard is a little better than on my unit, because the arrow keys are properly placed here.
But thinking outside the box a little, I do wish Razer would finally update their keyboard with either deeper key travel or refined feedback. This is especially so after reviewing some of the other 2021 models that are similar in thinness and have superior keyboards. Compared to models such as the Asus Zephyrus G15, this keyboard feels a little too light to the touch for me.
All in all, it’s not a bad keyboard. The Chroma per-key lighting adds a really nice touch too, as I’ve yet to see any other manufacturer match the aesthetic to this design. And if RGB is your thing, Synapse has quite a few options and is very intuitive to use.
As mentioned, the trackpad is exactly the same, and in my opinion, it’s just perfect the way it is. It’s large, glass, and very smooth to the touch. Gestures and tracking are very accurate and the integrated buttons offer good feedback.
If there is a perfect 17” screen out there, this is probably it. Finally a fast QHD 17” screen! Sure that 120Hz OLED 4k screen is out there as well, but 4k is not ideal for mobile gaming and the pixel density is overkill for 17”. QHD is the sweet spot and it’s finally available.
This panel is made by BOE and is of an IPS variant. The native resolution is 2560 x 1440 px and has a maximum refresh rate of 165Hz. The screen is also averagely bright, topping out at 343 nits. I typed most of this review next to a bright window in my house and I wasn’t annoyed by the glare at all.
There’s really nothing not to like about this panel. The colors and contrast ratio are good, the viewing angles look sharp and there’s no backlight bleed as far as I can see. I also believe this is the perfect pixel density for 17”, as it’s just enough to not see the pixels with the naked eye, while at the same time not too high to impact the gaming performance.
I took some measurements on my X-rite i1 Display Pro sensor and here’s what I got:
- Panel HardwareID: BOE Model NE173QHM-NY2(BOE09D9);
- Coverage: 98% sRGB, 70% NTSC, 73% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.2;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 343 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1143:1
- Native white point: 7560 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.3 cd/m2.
Although it’s a 165Hz panel, there’s an important caveat to note: you can only operate at 165Hz if you disable Optimus. There’s a MUX switch built into Synapse in order to accomplish this, but it requires restarting the laptop.
It’s not really a fault to the panel, more of a fault with Intel’s CPU. According to Razer, the integrated graphics card cant handle QHD at anything higher than 144Hz, which is why there’s a limitation. This could be fixed in a future CPU, but for this model, it is what it is.
Even so, after using this panel in person, I’d still take it over the FHD or 4k options. The battery life isn’t as bad as you’d think with Optimus disabled anyways, which is covered more further below.
Hardware and performance
This model of the Razer Blade Pro 17 comes with an Intel octa-core Comet Lake Core i7-10875H and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop graphics chip, with a TGP of 90+Watts. This is the first I’ve seen of a mobile 3060, so I was pretty excited to find out how it would perform. Note that it only has 6GB of VRAM, as opposed to the 8GB seen in the 3070/80 configurations of the Blade Pro.
Also bundled in this model is 16GB of RAM, which is dual channel and clocked at 2933Mhz. These modules are both upgradeable.
The included SSD is only 512GB, but Razer sells other models with higher amounts of storage as well. It’s a pretty fast drive though and will be good enough for almost everyone. If you want to save some money, opt for this size and just buy a second SSD to populate the second M.2 slot with.
Upgrading your RAM and SSD are pretty simple. Just use a Torx driver and remove all the screws on the bottom and the cover pops right off. Be careful with the clips at the top as it’s easy to accidentally reassemble the cover without it clipped properly.
As far as the software and power profiles go, Razer offers a couple of CPU and GPU profiles to choose from in Synapse, summarized in the image below (includes the 3060, 3070, and 3080 GPU options).
I took some synthetic benchmarks while in dGPU only mode, 165Hz, with Synapse being set to Boost for the CPU and High for the GPU. Here were my results:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 19079 (Graphics – 21742, Physics – 21779);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 8704 (Graphics – 8550, CPU – 9701);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal (RTX) Graphics: 5037;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 5195;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 14744;
- GeekBench 5: Single-Core: 1237, Multi-core: 7512;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 158.61 fps, CPU 1553 cb, CPU Single Core 194 cb;
- CineBench R23: CPU 8918 pts, CPU Single Core 1199 pts;
I took some more tests, but this time I activated Optimus, which limited the screen refresh rate to 60Hz. CPU was set to Boost and GPU was set to High. Here were my results:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 18809 (Graphics – 21592, Physics – 21068);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 8622 (Graphics – 8465, CPU – 9635);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal (RTX) Graphics: 4959;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 5212;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 15819;
- GeekBench 5: Single-Core: 1289, Multi-core: 7593;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 138.21 fps, CPU 1687 cb, CPU Single Core 200 cb;
- CineBench R20: CPU 9018 pts, CPU Single Core 1245 pts;
Finally, I took the results one more time, this time in dGPU mode, but the CPU was set to Medium and the GPU was left at High (because there’s little point in setting it lower). Here were my results:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 17546 (Graphics – 22033, Physics – 16147);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 8313 (Graphics – 8644, CPU – 6835);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal (RTX) Graphics: 5072;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 5178;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 15530;
- GeekBench 5: Single-Core: 1275, Multi-core: 5864;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 175.39 fps, CPU 1107 cb, CPU Single Core 198 cb;
- CineBench R20: CPU 6497 pts, CPU Single Core 1194 pts.
I also ran the Cinebench loop test on Boost and Medium CPU settings and pitched it against other i7-10875H configurations we tested in the past.
There are a few things to gather from these results. The first is that the CPU is power limited in this design in order to keep temperatures in check. These scores are decent but are lower than the scores of the same Core i7-10875H CPU in different systems, and the lack of any undervolting possibility is taking its toll over the sustained frequencies and performance as well.
The next thing to note is that the GPU performance is a little better while in dGPU mode. This makes sense since it’s bypassing passing the signal through the iGPU and Optimus. But because of the design power limitations running the CPU and GPU together, you lose a small amount of CPU power. For most gaming this is ok, but if you’re doing mostly CPU-intensive tasks, you might be better off leaving Optimus on.
This is mainly because, by design, the Boost setting for the CPU in Synapse only works when the iGPU is active. That’s why with Optimus enabled, the CPU+GPU benchmarks are similar, but the CPU-only benchmarks are improved over using the dGPU MUX mode.
Finally, regarding the medium CPU settings tests, you can see that the CPU scores are significantly lower in this case. But in this mode, the fan noise during normal use is almost non-existent and it stays low for heavier use. And if you take a look below, you can see that setting up the CPU on Medium barely affects most games.
So here is some testing I did on some games. All gaming tests were done in dGPU mode and the CPU was set in Boost for one set of tests and Medium for a second set.
I was pleasantly surprised by how well the 3060 performs with QHD gaming. With the exception of Cyberpunk (which is already a difficult game to get to run well with any video card), most games were well over 60fps even for Ultra settings.
As I just mentioned, setting the CPU to the Medium profile in Synapse can help with some of the noise and heat, but yet still have little effect on gaming performance. Not saying you should use this setting, but if I owned this laptop, I probably would just want to keep the heat low.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
The Razer Blade Pro 17 utilizes a vapor chamber and a pair of fans for its cooling solution. There are also booster fans under the trackpad to keep the palmrest cool. This has worked well in the past and this model is no exception. Fact is, the average temperatures I measured during all my tests were actually pretty decent, especially considering the laptop is so thin.
But keep in mind, those are not only a result of this thermal module but also a follow-up of the power limits placed on the CPU and GPU. If this system were to run a full-powered CPU and GPU, I would definitely be telling a different story.
For normal usage, the laptop stays cool. With thermals set to Balanced, you can pretty much do a lot of things with minimal fan noise and the CPU temps float in the 40-50 C range.
Gaming and heavier tasks cause the temps and fans to ramp up. In some of my heavier gaming testing, I was seeing spikes in the low 90s and average CPU spikes in the mid to high 60s – great results actually. GPU temps also averaged in the mid-60s which is also very good.
You can lower temps further by limiting the CPU settings in Synapse, but for some programs that may reduce your overall performance. Another option would be to use Synapse to manually control the fans. Unfortunately, there is no option to undervolt this CPU, as it’s locked by the Bios, so no help there.
Now, about those fans – As mentioned, during normal use, I barely hear the fans turn on. With my sound detector app, I measure 30-32dB at my ear level while the fans are operating at their lowest speeds.
When gaming, the fans certainly make a lot more noise. Levels fluctuated between 40-45dB during my typical sessions. A couple of times the fans went higher, but it was only temporary and was probably from a CPU spike. For most games, I noticed early spikes but the CPU and GPU would eventually even out and stabilize.
The Razer Blade Pro 17 has a 70.5 Whr battery. This is kind of small for a 17” notebook, but it is thin so at least there’s some reason as to why. It’s still strange to me that the Blade 15” model has a bigger battery though.
I took two rounds of battery life tests, one with and the other without Optimus enabled.
Here’s what I got with With Optimus disabled and the screen at 165Hz:
- 16.9 W (~4 h 10 min of use)– idle, Best Battery Mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi ON, backlighting off;
- 19.3 W (~3 h 39 min of use)– text editing in Google Drive, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 26.2 W (~2 h 41 min of use)– 1440p Youtube fullscreen in Chrome, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 23.3 W (~3 h 2 min of use)– 1080p Netflix fullscreen video in Chrome, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 30.0 W (~2 h 21 min of use)– browsing in Chrome, Better Performance Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 60.0 W (~1 h 11 min of use)– Gaming – Witcher 3, Maximum Performance Mode, 60fps, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON.
Here’s what I got with With Optimus enabled (Screen locked at 60Hz):
- 7.8 W (~9 h 2 min of use)– idle, Best Battery Mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi ON, backlighting off;
- 13.1 W (~5 h 23 min of use)– text editing in Google Drive, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 13.9 W (~5 h 4 min of use)– 1440p Youtube fullscreen in Chrome, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 15.3 W (~4 h 36 min of use)– 1080p Netflix fullscreen video in Chrome, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 16.2 W (~4 h 21 min of use)– browsing in Chrome, Better Performance Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON.
As you can see, the battery life is clearly better with Optimus enabled. But to be honest, it’s not all that bad with it disabled either. I was expecting to see the horrible results like I was with the Alienware m15 last month, but I think I could probably live with keeping the screen at 165Hz full time and then just switch on Optimus on the occasional time I need 4+ hours of battery life.
I do think Razer missed an opportunity though. Knowing that you need to disable Optimus in some cases, this should have been the model where they ditched or minimized those trackpad fans and opted for a bigger battery.
The power brick is 230W and is exactly the same as the power bricks in the previous Razer Blade 15 and 17” designs. It’s compact and has a long cord. I’ve used this on my daily driver for years and it’s held up pretty well, although the braided cord is a little frayed.
As mentioned before, the connector is exclusive to Razer, so you won’t be able to share power supplies that you might already have. The good news though is there are aftermarket versions out there now, so if you don’t want to spend $140 on a spare adapter, you can get one for about $40 less on Amazon. If it were me though, I’d just invest in a good USB-C charger as a backup and save the main one for gaming.
Price and availability
The model in this review is priced at $2299 and is available at many stores, including Amazon and Razer’s online shop. It’s a pretty steep price, especially considering you are getting a lower CPU TDP and GPU TGP. But it’s still got some superior qualities that may make this worth the price.
All in all, even with a slightly limited CPU (which was the same as my thoughts from last year), I still think this is a great laptop. The overall performance that comes from this form factor is good, and the cooling system does an excellent job of keeping everything stable. Not to mention the noise isn’t overly annoying.
I’m most impressed with this new QHD screen, as I think it’s been a necessity for 17” for a long time now. It’s also nice that GPUs have come far enough that driving QHD resolution in games is pretty routine.
One of my main gripes last year was the battery life, but it appears Razer found some more power-efficient ways to squeeze more life out of the same-sized battery this time around. It’s most likely the screen being locked at 60Hz with Optimus on, but I’ll take it.
Other things I’d still like to see improved though are the speakers and the keyboard. As mentioned, they’re not bad – but if Razer wants to stay ahead of the competition, they really need to spend some time perfecting these aspects of the machine. Especially seeing other manufacturers offer superior and even mechanical switches in designs of the same thickness, as well as much nicer sounding audio.
All this said I would totally buy this 2021 Razer Blade Pro laptop if I were considering a 17” model. Unfortunately, that’s not me at this time, as I like having at least an extra pound shaved off the machine I carry everywhere. But if heft were not a consideration, I could totally bring this machine with me everywhere I went.