The Razer Blade 15 Advanced is a two-time PCMag Editors’ Choice winner among gaming laptops. Its new sibling, the $3,999 Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition, is more than capable of gaming, but puts its focus on creative and design work with a 4K OLED display and Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 Max-Q graphics. The Studio Edition is well-designed and super-chic, though it lacks the enterprise-grade feature set and independent software vendor (ISV) certifications of our current top pick for a 15.6-inch mobile workstation, the Lenovo ThinkPad P53. Nevertheless, this Razer comes highly recommended, and depending on what you run day to day, its support for Nvidia’s Studio driver may be sound enough assurance that this laptop will do the job.
Standing Out Among Workstations
The Blade 15 Studio Edition is sold in a single configuration with a 3,840-by-2,160-pixel OLED touch screen; a six-core, 2.6GHz (4.5GHz turbo) Intel Core i7-9750H processor; the abovementioned Max-Q Quadro RTX 5000 GPU with a whopping 16GB of GDDR6 display memory; 32GB of system memory; and a 1TB PCIe solid-state drive with Windows 10 Pro preinstalled. Its warranty is a disappointing one year, although Razer offers three years of coverage for a sensible $249.
The competition among mobile workstations is formidable. Matching specifications as closely as possible, I configured a comparable ThinkPad P53 for $3,969 and Dell Precision 7540 for a steep $5,077, as well as an HP ZBook 15 G6 for $3,805 (though the last only goes up to a 6GB Quadro RTX 3000 GPU). All three offer advantages over the Razer including Intel vPro support, onsite warranty service, and available eight-core CPUs (either a Core i9 or a Xeon) plus full-power (as opposed to throttled-down Max-Q) Nvidia graphics. They also have superior expansion capabilities, offering at least two storage drives and up to 128GB of RAM (the Razer holds up to 64GB) including ECC configurations for Xeon systems.
With those minuses and without ISV certifications for specialized computer-aided design (CAD) or 3D rendering apps, why would you choose the Razer? Because of its comparably thinner, lighter, and much better-looking design. The laptop’s Mercury White exterior is a stark change from Razer’s traditional solid black. (It isn’t exclusive to the Studio Edition, although Razer charges $50 more for it on the Blade 15 Advanced.)
That said, the Studio Edition runs Nvidia’s Studio Driver, which is tested for compatibility and performance with creative applications, a full list of which can be found on Nvidia’s download page. Unless ISV certification is a hardline requirement, there’s no reason to count out this Razer if your applications appear on the list.
Besides the chassis color, the lid gets a professional-looking makeover, replacing the backlit green Razer logo with one that’s printed on and doesn’t scream, “I’m a gamer!”
The Studio Edition’s modern, minimalistic look isn’t dissimilar from that of the 16-inch Apple MacBook Pro. The two share design concepts such as an all-aluminum chassis, speakers that flank the keyboard, and a massive touchpad. The Razer nonetheless has an edgier look from its less rounded corners, while its keyboard’s per-key RGB backlighting gives it more dazzle.
Our reviews of the Blade 15 Advanced have talked up its excellent build quality, so I’ll just say briefly that the Studio Edition is as solid as a tank. Only a fully aluminum build like this, which isn’t common even in this price range, can exude this kind of sturdiness. The laptop feels hefty but comes in at an acceptable 4.9 pounds. Sizewise, it’s as trim as a 15.6-inch notebook can be at just 0.7 by 14 by 9.3 inches (HWD).
Oh, Those Colors
The Studio Edition comes with an organic light emitting diode (OLED) display with 4K or UHD resolution and 10-point touch support. Like the Mercury White exterior, it’s also optional on the Advanced, but only the Studio Edition offers both. Again, I’ll let you check our Blade 15 Advanced review for a deep dive on this display, but I can’t emphasize enough that it needs to be seen to be appreciated. No photo can do justice to its super-saturated color, ultra-high brightness, and nearly infinite contrast ratio. Its glossy surface, while reflective, further augments the picture’s depth. The screen provides excellent (if not complete) coverage of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color gamuts for creators and designers.
The colors don’t stop there. The Blade 15 Studio Edition has a white-keyed version of the Advanced’s keyboard, with each key supporting RGB backlighting and pattern customization via the excellent Razer Synapse app. The backlighting is piercingly bright and laser-sharp with minimal light spillage around the keys. It’s a great companion look for the OLED display.
On the downside, the keyboard has an insensate typing experience, as if you’re just tapping plastic squares. The company does offer optical keyboard switches, which it says give a more clicky, tactile feel, on the Advanced, but I haven’t tried them, and they’re not available on the Studio Edition anyway.
The system’s speakers deliver reasonably clear sound and audible bass from either side of the keyboard. Centered below them in the palm rest is a huge, buttonless touchpad. Its size, smooth surface, and quiet tactile clicking make it one of the best in the business, but its missing buttons include the middle button used by numerous ISV applications.
Ports and Features
The Studio Edition has the same fair assortment of ports as the Blade 15 Advanced, including three USB 3.1 Type-A ports, Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), HDMI and mini DisplayPort video outputs, and an audio combo jack.
The full-size (as opposed to micro) SD card reader on the right side and the Kensington-style cable lock slot at the right rear are nice to see. There’s no Ethernet port, but you can always get a USB adapter. Wireless connectivity comes from an Intel AX200 card supporting Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and Bluetooth 5.0.
The power adapter, which connects at the left rear corner, rarely garners a mention in our laptop reviews, but Razer went out of its way to develop a stylish-looking brick with an extra-durable braided cable. Rounding out the Studio Edition’s exterior is a 720p webcam above the screen. The camera’s infrared sensors support face recognition logins via Windows Hello. Its picture quality could be better, though.
Calling All Workstations
I pitted the Blade 15 Studio Edition against our latest crop of mobile workstations:
This group has an impressive variety of CPUs and professional-grade GPUs. The Dell Precision 3540 is a much less expensive contender with relatively low-octane components. Meanwhile, the HP ZBook 15 G6 and MSI WS75 (the only 17.3-inch unit) should top the CPU charts with their eight-core chips. Three of these systems use Xeon CPUs, which can use ECC memory when single-bit accuracy is crucial but otherwise hold no real appeal over Intel’s Core series for mainstream work.
My Studio Edition’s 16GB RTX 5000 Max-Q is based on the 8GB GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q, boasting extra shader units (3,072 versus 2,944) and twice the memory, while the 8GB Quadro RTX 4000 in the MSI and the 6GB RTX 3000 in the HP fall in line with Nvidia’s 8GB GeForce RTX 2070 and 6GB RTX 2060 respectively. The Razer is the only Nvidia notebook to use a Max-Q GPU, so it’ll be interesting to see how it matches up to the ThinkPad P53’s full-bore version.
Storage, Media, and CPU Tests
Our benchmarking starts with two suites from UL Labs (formerly Futuremark): PCMark 10 evaluates general system performance across tasks like web surfing and office productivity, while PCMark 8’s storage subtest focuses on the performance of the primary drive. The Razer trailed all but the Dell in PCMark 10, though it by no means scored poorly. PCMark 8 showed a level playing field, an expected outcome for systems like these with fast PCI Express SSDs.
Next up is the CPU-crunching Cinebench R15, which stresses all available processor cores and threads while rendering a complex image.
The Razer’s showing is less than stellar; its Core i7-9750H should have scored at least 100 points higher, indicating it may be throttling in some way. Either way, it isn’t going to catch the eight-core HP and MSI for processor-intensive tasks. The same is true in our next test, Handbrake, where we put a stopwatch on systems as they render a 12-minute clip of 4K video down to 1080p resolution.
While we’re focused on CPUs, let’s move onto POV-Ray 3.7. This workstation-specific benchmark flogs the processor and its floating-point unit during an off-screen rendering operation.
The HP and MSI dominated again, although the Razer’s time is low enough that it shouldn’t frustrate you if you need to tackle such a job now and again. The Studio Edition is also a more than capable performer, if not a chart-topper, in Adobe Photoshop. In this image editing exercise, we use an early 2018 Creative Cloud release of the software to apply 10 complex filters and effects to a JPEG test image, timing each operation and adding up the total. Unlike the past several tests, this one more heavily involves the computer’s RAM, storage, and potentially GPU as well as its processor.
Graphics and Workstation Tests
Now we’ll zoom in on the GPU, starting with the DirectX 11-based Sky Diver and Fire Strike tests from UL’s 3DMark suite. These benchmarks predict gaming performance by rendering a series of complex animations. The Razer outdid itself in the more demanding Fire Strike test, surprisingly topping the ThinkPad.
The next benchmark, Unigine’s Superposition, also renders a complex 3D animation but uses a different rendering engine. The Razer excelled again at the 1080p High quality preset. Perhaps the Max-Q treatment isn’t slowing down its Quadro RTX 5000 all that much.
While the last two benchmarks focus on gaming performance, these laptops are built more for ISV content creation. For that, we use Cinebench R15’s OpenGL test, which uses the popular application programming interface (API) to challenge a GPU’s hardware rendering capabilities.
Perhaps the Max-Q treatment affected the Razer after all, as it trailed the Lenovo and was level with the HP and MSI (though the latter’s Quadro RTX 4000 didn’t do quite as well as we expected).
Our final, most workstation-savvy benchmark is SPECviewperf 13, which renders and rotates solid and wireframe models using real-world viewsets from popular ISV apps. The Creo and Maya results follow what we saw in the Cinebench OpenGL test, but the Razer didn’t keep up in SolidWorks. Still, it proved capable of running the app, whereas the Dell is very underpowered for complex modeling.
Battery Rundown Test
For our last benchmark, we measure a laptop’s unplugged runtime while playing a locally stored video with screen brightness at 50 percent and audio volume at 100 percent. We use the notebook’s energy-saving rather than balanced or other power profile when available, turn off Wi-Fi, and even disable keyboard backlighting to squeeze as much life as possible out of the system.
The Dell wasn’t to be caught, but the Razer’s eight-plus hour showing can’t be faulted. Its large 80-watt-hour battery and power-sipping OLED display helped it to an excellent runtime.
A Word on Gaming Performance
Although it’s billed as a creator’s machine, I have no doubt the Studio Edition will be used for gaming after hours, so I ran our gaming benchmarks to see how it stacks up. We use the built-in 1080p benchmarks in Far Cry 5 (at its Ultra preset under DirectX 11) and Rise of the Tomb Raider (at its Very High preset under DirectX 12). The results are measured in frames per second (fps), with at least 60fps desired for smooth playability.
The Razer achieved 95fps in Far Cry 5 and 113fps in Rise of the Tomb Raider, which is slightly better than the performance I recorded from the HP Omen X 2S, a gaming laptop with a Max-Q GeForce RTX 2080. The games dropped to 38fps and 44fps respectively when I bumped the resolution to 4K, so playing at that level would require lowering the detail or image quality settings.
I wouldn’t recommend the Studio Edition for pure gaming primarily because it’s so expensive; the Blade 15 Advanced with a Max-Q RTX 2080 will perform just as well for less. In fact, the same can also be said of the Max-Q RTX 2070, which is usually very close to the Max-Q 2080 in performance. The Advanced is also available with a high-refresh-rate 1080p display for a smoother gaming experience. The Studio Edition’s OLED display tops out at 60Hz.
Keeping Things Cool
The Studio Edition shares the dual-fan cooling design of the Blade 15 Advanced, both sending warm air rearward under the display hinge.
There is audible fan noise while running tasks that stress the CPU or GPU, but it’s not far above the level of household background noise. The fans seemed to stay quiet during general usage.
I played Rise of the Tomb Raider for half an hour to warm the Studio Edition up as much as possible. This is how it looked under our FLIR One Pro at the end of the session:
It’s a little hot near the hinge, but there’s nothing to touch there. The temperatures rapidly fell off in other areas to acceptable levels, which I consider 110 degrees F or less. Razer also did a good job with the internals—the Core i7-9750H processor didn’t venture out of the low 80-degree C range, which is well under its maximum rating, while the Max-Q Quadro RTX 5000 impressively stayed at about 70 degrees C the whole time. Granted, it’s not the full-power GPU, but it’s safe to say the Studio Edition’s components maximize the thermal possibilities of this chassis.
A Posh Workstation Pick
Getting work done in high style is the Blade 15 Studio Edition’s calling card, repurposing the excellent Blade 15 Advanced for creative use with an Nvidia Quadro GPU, a 4K OLED touch display, and a slick Mercury White exterior. While it doesn’t match the performance or expandability of high-end, professional-grade mobile workstations from Dell, HP, or Lenovo, none of the latter are as sleek nor do they offer the Razer’s battery life. Provided the Studio Edition’s lack of ISV certifications doesn’t get in the way, it’s sure to get your creative juices flowing.