Razer Blade 1060 GTX (late 2016)

Howdy and thanks for reading this thread about a Razer Blade (late 2016) with a Nvidia 1060 GTX video card. I have been playing with this over the weekend, as I did research and found this to be the best bet for what I was looking for. Both by performance and laptop size. I went with the 512 GB FHQ model.

Starting off, Yes you can install Linux on here and it will run pretty well, granted I spent most of the weekend in Windows, running benchmarks and checking out multimedia and games. I got Ubuntu 16.04.1 on a 40 GB partition that I carved out of the 512 GB SSD M.2 Drive. To do that, I loaded up a Live USB of Ubuntu, ran gparted on the Windows partition and had it cut 40 GB into a new partition. Installed Ubuntu onto that. Best part being, GRUB and the Windows boot loader can co-exist. You may want to jump in the bios and change your default boot device, once the install is finished.

Temperature wise the GPU was hitting 179 F. While not great for temps in a desktop, this is passable for me as the games continued to run smoothly. You will absolutely hear the fans increase in noise and speed when playing any intensive games. That being said, I do feel the laptop is basically silent when not in a game.

I mentioned getting the FHD (1080p) model display over the QHD+ one. FHD is a matte finish, the brightness is higher than the QHD, and honestly the 1060 GTX will not be able to run max settings smoothly on newer games like Watch Dogs 2, or even to an extent GTA V, unless you scale down some of the advanced video fluff. Point being there, QHD resolution is going to be really daunting on the video card. I also feel 1080p on this 14″ LCD is hard to read sitting back on the couch, especially without my glasses on. So you would be even more crunched @ 3200 x 1800 (QHD+). QHD comes with a glass cover instead of a matte finish and also is + $300 to the purchase price. So I got to avoid my reflection and light bouncing, while also saving some loot.

Performance:

  • Fire Strike (3D Mark) scores over 9000. 9264 actually. You can check the details from the run on the Futuremark site.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: I can play this @ 1080p with maximum settings with a smooth 60 FPS. You will want to use the system and character config options to scale up the UX, as I did playing from the couch.
  • Doom 2016: 1080p with maximum settings is smooth and looks great.
  • GTA V: Ultra settings will get you some dips into the 40 FPS range. Tweaking some of the more expensive graphic options, will get you to or close to, a smooth 60 FPS.
  • Watch Dogs 2: My configuration from the desktop with a 980 GTX, got me into the 30 FPS range. I heard some forum chatter about this game and 1000 series cards having extra performance hits. I was able to change some of the detail settings back to High, and I got closer to 60 FPS. Even on my desktop though, driving will get you some dips into 50 and some 40 FPS ranges.

Summing this up, the 1060 GTX in this laptop is certainly slower than the desktop 980 GTX in my desktop. While the laptop card has 6 GB of VRAM, the processing power of the 980 GTX and it’s 4 GB VRAM is superior. Saying that, I’m comparing a video card integrated into a 14″ laptop weighing less than 5 lbs, to a full sized desktop GPU. Performance was relatively close. I will throw some benchmarks versus the laptop to my desktop, below.

Benchmark wise, you can peep the Fire Strike comparison between my desktop 980 GTX system and the Razer Blade 1060. Saving you a click, the 1060 GTX scores @ 9264 while the 980 GTX scores @ 10921.

I will add some more benchmark scores in the next post. I have to be in front of the machine to check the log results.
I think it’s pretty apparent that I am happy with this purchase and the performance of this laptop. Let me confirm that I am happy with this purchase and love this device. It looks like a black Macbook, that happens to run Windows and Linux, while also having some quality, fast components in it. That being said, I got mine for just under $2000 (USD)

I did start by looking at laptops in a local Microsoft store to see what price, performance and form factor options were on the market. I used to travel for work and had a quite nice Sony Vaio laptop. This is the 1st high-performance laptop I ever bought with my own funds. Looking at the other models in-store, they either had weak video cards, or were of the Asus tier laptops, that honestly looked really crappy with all the big plastic cases and odd curvature. I didn’t want a laptop that looked like a malformed lego and weighed 10 lbs. I would say Razer is owning that market segment, for anyone wanting a fast, light weight and smooth looking laptop.

Continuing my researching, I took for Razer support forums, reddit and some review sites. Review sites are good for some insight but can gloss over some big issues. Especially if they are getting a review model, instead of a consumer production model. I started with deciding between QHD or a FHD display. That actually led me to read some folks who had an older model QHD+ but decided to go with FHD both for less pixels on a 14″ LCD, and the increased visibility from a matte finish.
The wireless card that comes in the laptop is a Killer Wireless-AC 1535 card that some reddit users noted, kind of sucks. I did run the Killer wifi briefly, but since I have a wired cable by the couch, I used a Plugable USB-C / Thunderbolt LAN NIC dongle. Using the Killer in FFXIV, I was getting some in-game lag. Also doing some ping tests on local devices, I saw quite a few 50 ms+ replies. Switching out the Killer for the Intel reduced the amount of high ping replies. YMMV, but for $25 and the use of a T5 screwbit, it’s a fairly simple replacement. As the linked reddit page notes, I also went with that Intel 8260 wifi card.

Speaking of the wired connection, it’s super fast. I was steady steam downloading, network transferring and the laptop didn’t slow up at all. My internet connection was being worked but the internal network and this wired adapter kept up without fault.

The Chroma keyboard is quite nice. Quality typing experience and the lighting effects are really enjoyable. I use the starlight pattern most of the time, unless I’m playing an MMO in the dark. Dark playing with a fixed color is really nice. If you press the ‘Function’ key, your F1 to F12 will be the only lit keys to use the multimedia functions. However the icons for the brightness, track skip, volume, etc will not light up. Because the smallness of those indicators and the main letters, I figure the light bleed would be too intense. Speaking of intense, if you pick a white-based color, you might see some blur reading the keys at night in a dark room, because they are so bright. Disclaimer / reminder that I wear glasses. Still a factor with my glasses on. In the Razer application you can juggle your lighting options for the keyboard, pick a color or pattern, and adjust the brightness of the keyboard illumination. Have fun messing with the ripple effects and other keyboard light presets.

Oh yeah. You will have 3x USB 3 standard ports, 1x USB-c connection, and 1x HDMI connection on the laptop. In addition you have the power brick connector on your left and the kensington mount on the right side. In respect to battery life, I haven’t done any benchmarks yet. If you are playing games, I would just keep it plugged into the wall, as that is exactly what I was doing. By the way, here is the laptop product page. I will get some game benchmarks and comparisons later in this thread.

Benchmark of the battery gave me about 2 hours before I was on the hunt for a charger. If you happen to travel to co-locations and work on a server rack, you may want to get a PDU to 3 pin adapter so you can charge up on extended sessions. Here is a usage breakdown of battery life.

9:25 – Laptop boot. Chilling Idle
9:34 – 97 % battery. 100% brightness.
9:38 – Chrome – emergencyfm music streaming started.
9:40 – 93 %
9:53 – 87 %
10:08 – 79 %
10:13 – 76 %
10:16 – Nmap installer. 74 %
10:19 – Scan Local Lan 73 %
10:20 – Completed sn scan. 72 % Lan
10:22 – Starting intense scan. 71 %
10:37 – Scan active. 62 %
11:05 – Scan nearly finished. 46 %
11:19 – 37 %
(Went to remote site)
Ran web browser to configure devices. Battery below 20 % in about 20 more minutes. Condensing that list of times, I was in the critical low battery around 2.5 hours.

Let me step back here, I forgot to detail machine specs.

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-6700HQ (Skylake)
  • 512 GB M.2 SSD. Samsung PM951 model MZVLV512CJH.
  • 1080p LCD @ 60 Hz
  • 16 GB DDR4 RAM
  • Nvidia 1060 GTX (6 GB VRAM) on driver 376.33
  • Wireless Killer AC is what it shipped with. I replaced this with an Intel 8260 Dual-Band Wireless card.
  • Ports: 1x USB-c, 1x HDMI, 3x USB 3, 1x Headphone / Mic input combo jack, Power charger input, Kensington security lock mount

Cooling is controller by 2 fans on the bottom of the unit. They are your air inlets, as the exhaust is behind the top of the keyboard. Under the display you will see some vent holes with a grill on them. It’s in the join between the bottom of the laptop and the display. You may also see dust collect on the bottom of the monitor, as I did cleaning up the apartment and playing FFXIV. If you want to clean the fans and open up the bottom of the laptop, you will need a T5 screwdriver to remove the 8 or so screws. Bottom plate removes similar to a dell laptop (or most kinds, to be honest).

Heavensward Final Fantasy XIV Benchmark on Maximum settings in DirectX 11 for 1080p scores in over 10334 with a Extremely High rating. Game plays crystal smooth @ 60 FPS in actual server gameplay, questing and dungeons. Run the benchmark a 2nd time to be sure, as I had some other stuff open and it game me a score in the 8900 threshold. Also of note, alt-tabbing to check a web browser does not cause any significant performance drops.

Glitch warning. If you hook up to an external display, you may see slower gaming performance, as it seems to try and use the Intel HD 530 GPU on the processor. I saw this testing the HDMI port, running the FFXIV Benchmark and seeing my normal score of 10516, dropping to 8900. I rebooted and had got back into the 10000 score threshold. I can confirm this by running a benchmark with an external display hooked up and getting a lower score, then unhooking the hdmi cable (without a reboot) and re-running the benchmark to get a score in the 10000+ range.
Be warned that I had to switch to GPU-Z for thermal monitoring, as HWMonitor started showing the Intel 530, since I hooked up an external display. This resolved and HWMonitor is showing both cards, thermals for the Nvidia 1060.

In respect to fan noise at idle, I can hear them if I’m in a silent room. Confirmed that this morning before I left. However it’s pretty rare I’m in a quiet room and even so I didn’t find the noise to be bothersome. Keep in mind I’ve spent some time in server closets and have a desktop server at home in my bedroom. YMMV. I know people call this laptop a Mac Killer, but have had complaints about noise from the fans at low load.

In respect to keyboard usage and interaction, this laptop works great. 1080p desktop resolution allows me to control consoles clearly, the keyboard feels nice and responsive, while the touchpad does work, I prefer to use a trackball or mouse instead of hovering a hand over the touchpad. I cannot think of an instance where my hands accidentally moved the mouse cursor when typing, so that is a large benefit for me, as I have this issue fairly often on most other laptops.

Temperature wise rundowns over load are as follows:
CPU: Max 89 C / 192 F – Idle 45 C / 111 F with a low of 37 C / 98 F
GPU: Max 82 C / 179 F – Idle 46 C / 114 F with a low of 42 C / 107 F
SSD: Max 58 C / 136 F – Idle 38 C / 100 F with a low of 35 C / 95 F

Additional benchmarks continue in the linked thread here.