Razer is introducing the 2020 refresh of its well-regarded Blade 15 Studio Edition laptop today. We found the previous generation Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition to be the most powerful mobile computing solution available on the market for creative professionals. In many ways, it was the Windows version of Apple’s MacBook Pro and packed significantly superior performance. Since then, Apple has closed that performance gap somewhat with its revamped 13″ MacBook Pro. Similar upgrades will surely make their way into the 16″ variant when they inevitably drop later this year. Is the 2020 Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition still the best laptop option for creatives? Let’s look at the numbers.
The 2020 Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition (referred to as the 2020 Blade 15 SE for the remainder of this article) sports a 15.6″ 4K AMOLED gorilla glass touchscreen display like its predecessor. This display covers 100% of the DCI-P3 color space and comes factory calibrated out of the box. Reports indicate that Apple will be transitioning their displays over to mini-LED (and eventually micro-LED) in their upcoming laptops and tablets. This will surely improve the display quality in future MacBook Pros. Whether they will be comparable or superior to what’s possible with AMOLED, however, remains to be seen. For the time being, this is a win in Razer’s column.
Under the Hood
As for under the hood, the 2020 Blade 15 SE now packs a 10th generation Intel Core i7-10875H processor. This new CPU sports 8 cores/16 threads and can turbo up to 5.1 GHz. By comparison, the previous Blade 15 SE featured a 9th gen Intel Core i7-9750H with 6 cores/12 threads that turbo-ed up to 4.5GHz. While Apple’s current 16″ MacBook Pros are still using the 8th gen Intel Core i9 processor (which was prone to overheat), they recently upgraded their 13″ MacBook Pros to 10th gen Intel Core i7 processor as well. This means the 16″ MacBook Pros will no doubt be getting the same upgrade when their refresh comes later this year. This evens the playing field between Razer and Apple. For most photographers, the performance gains by moving from an Intel i7 to an Intel i9 CPU is negligible, so we’re calling this a tie.
Another area where the Razer continues to dominate is with their choice of GPU. The 2020 Blade 15 SE is powered by an Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 Max-Q GPU with 16 GB of GDDR6 VRAM. The CUDA cores within this GPU help speed up image processing tasks such as color correction, sharpening, etc. It’s also running Nvidia Studio Drivers which have been optimized and certified to work with creative applications such as Adobe’s Creative Suite. In terms of GPU performance, the Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 Max-Q within the 2020 Blade 15 SE handily trounces the latest 16″ MacBook Pro’s AMD Radeon Pro 5500M almost completely across the board (check the stats for yourself over at Notebookcheck.net). 13″ MacBook Pros don’t even have discrete GPUs, so that’s not even a fair fight. Another win for Razer here.
In terms of storage, the 2020 Blade 15 SE comes standard with 1 TB of NVMe SSD, expandable up to 4 TB. As for memory, the 2020 Blade 15 SE includes 32 GB of DDR4 memory clocking in at 2,933 MHz, expandable up to 64 GB. With respect to storage and memory capacities, things are fairly similar in the Apple camp depending on how a particular MacBook Pro is configured. The cheapest version of the 16″ MacBook Pros start with 512 GB of SSD storage, but this can be expanded up to 8 TB if you’ve got an extra two grand burning a hole in your pocket. Base configurations of 16″ MacBook Pros start with just 16 GB of DDR4 memory clocking in at 2,666 MHz, but can also be upgraded to a maximum of 64 GB if you so choose. The most recent 13″ MacBook Pros have begun utilizing LPDDR4X memory that draws lower power while sporting a higher 3733 MHz clock speed. This likely indicates the lower power and faster memory will be making their way into refreshed 16″ MacBook Pros. In terms of storage, it’s another draw between Razer and Apple. As for memory, Razer has a slight advantage for now.
The keyboard was the only area of frustration that we found with the previous generation Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition laptop. While the keys on the outgoing Blade 15 SE’s keyboard provided excellent tactile feedback when typing, it featured a frustrating layout that placed the Up Arrow key in between the / ? and the right Shift keys. This was a major issue for touch typists as the right “Shift” key is located directly to the right of the / ? key on a keyboard using the industry-standard QWERTY layout. Thankfully, Razer listened to customer feedback and redesigned the keyboard layout in the 2020 Blade 15 SE. The full-sized right Shift key makes a triumphant return, now in its rightful place alongside the / ? key on the 2020 Blade 15 SE. Redesigned directional keys are situated directly underneath the full-sized Shift key. You can also apply application-specific custom color lighting profiles to the 2020 Blade 15 SE’s keyboard. This could prove useful for creatives who need a visual way to help remember hotkeys. Interestingly, Apple also responded to user feedback with its latest MacBook Pros: the atrocious butterfly keys have finally been phased out. MacBook Pros feature a Touch Bar in place of Fn keys on their keyboards. Some have grown to love it while others prefer the traditional physical Fn keys. Personal preferences aside, it’s another tie between Razer and Apple and a major win for typists everywhere.
Finally, let’s look at connectivity options. The 2020 Blade 15 SE retains most of the connectivity that we loved with the outgoing model, including the UHS-III SD Card slot (a must for photographers on the go). The Mini DisplayPort that was on the right side of the laptop has been deleted. In exchange, you gain an additional USB Type-C port on the left side. This additional USB-C port, along with the Thunderbolt 3 port on the right, supports USB-C charging with PD 3.0. This is handy for when you don’t want to lug the 230W power adapter around with you. The only ports you will find on MacBook Pros are four USB-C ports and an audio jack. Want to import images from an SD card while you’re on the go? Better pack a card reader dongle with you if you’re using a Mac. In terms of connectivity, it’s another clear win for Razer.
With an MSRP of US $4,299, the 2020 Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition is certainly a pricey laptop. A similarly spec’d 16″ Apple MacBook Pro (with an 8th gen Intel Core i9 8 Core CPU, AMD Radeon Pro 5500M GPU with 8GB of GDDR6 memory, 1 TB SSD, and 32 GB DDR4 RAM) would run you US $3,499. The higher price tag of the 2020 Blade 15 SE’s nets a CPU that’s two generations newer, a significantly more powerful and discrete GPU, and better connectivity options. Whether that’s worth the extra moolah is up to you.