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Razer Book 13 First Impressions

Posted January 24, 2021 | Hardware | Mobile | PC gaming | Razer | Razer Book | Windows | Windows 10


Long associated with gaming, Razer stakes a claim in the premium portable PC market with its impressive-looking Book 13. This premium portable PC combines just a bit of color and excitement into what is traditionally a staid type of PC in a bid to attract new customers, many of whom are probably unfamiliar with the brand.

And you can count me among that crowd. I’ve long known of Razer, of course, but I’ve never used or reviewed any of its PCs, portable or otherwise, and I don’t have a professional relationship with the company. And that, of course, is the reason I chose the Book 13 from a short list of possibilities provided by Intel, which is looking for a few good reviewers to pit new Intel Evo-based Ultrabooks against the M1-based MacBook Pro. I’ll discuss what that will look like later this week, but beyond the obvious—reviewing both PCs as I always do—the important point, for now, is that Intel has set no conditions or made any requests whatsoever beyond that I simply be fair. That’s my kind of agreement.

Anyway, with its unibody aluminum design, the Razer Book 13 visually resembles the Dell XPS 13, but without the tapering that makes that latter PC seem thinner than it really is. It’s a small PC, but it feels a bit dense and a little heavier than the MacBook Pro, which it is, at 3.09 pounds.

The Book 13 is only available in silver, which will likely appeal to most mobile productivity workers, but here are some nice, if subtle design touches, including the exotic and reflective Razer logo on the back of the display deck.

I also really like the hinge design and the aggressive venting on the bottom of the PC.

The non-tapered design comes with purpose: Razer outfits the Book 13 with a nice combination of legacy and more modern ports, giving its owners versatility without requiring any dongles. There’s a Thunderbolt 4/USB-C port, a full-sized USB 3.1 Gen 1 port, and a combo mic/headphone jack on the left.

And on the right, you’ll find a second Thunderbolt 4/USB-C port, a full-sized HDMI 2.0 port, and a microSD card slot on the right. (By comparison, the MacBook Pro 13 (M1) provides just two USB 4/Thunderbolt ports plus combo mic/headphone jack.)

But open the display and the fun starts. The Book 13 provides a 13.4-inch multitouch display with a 16:10 aspect ratio, just like the Dell XPS 13, and it can be had in Full HD (1920 x 1200), as in the review unit, or 4K/UHD (3840 x 2400) resolutions.

The 16:10 aspect ratio is greatly appreciated, but even more impressive are the tiny bezels on all four sides of that display. This PC has some of the smallest bezels I’ve ever seen.

The only minor negative for the display is that it doesn’t lay completely flat. That’s not uncommon, but Lenovo offers lay-flat displays on its ThinkPad X1 line.

Looking at the keyboard deck, you’ll quickly notice another fun twist: In addition to being backlit, the Book 13 brings over a feature from Razer’s gaming PCs and offers a variety of backlighting colors too. By default, it cycles through a variety of colors as you use it, which I was surprised to discover I enjoyed. But because each key can be customized with its own RGB color, there is an incredible range of backlighting themes to choose from.

That’s fun, but Razer also goes the extra step by making the key colors useful, too. For example, when you press and hold the Fn (Function) key because you want to access its alternate function (like Volume Down on the F2 key), all of the non-function keys dim, with only the function and arrow keys lit up. That’s a nice touch.

As for the keyboard itself, I’ve only spent a few hours with it, but it seems decent, with plastic caps and low travel. And the glass Microsoft Precision touchpad seems a bit large given the overall smallness of the device.

The keyboard is framed by the Book 13’s two stereo speakers, which are powered by what Razer calls a smart amp, and they’re powered by THX Spatial Audio, which I’ve not ever experienced on a portable PC. So that should be a fun test. Rounding out the A/V is a 4-mic array and a 720p webcam with Windows Hello facial recognition capabilities.

Inside the Book 13, you’ll find an 11th-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, 8 to 16 GB of RAM, and 256 or 512 GB of M.2 PCIe SSD storage, plus a Vapor Chamber cooling system. The Book 13 is Evo-certified, meaning that it meets Intel’s requirements for a modern premium Ultrabook: At least 9 hours of real-world battery life, Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, Intel Iris Xe graphics capabilities, Thunderbolt 4 with 40 Gbps of throughput, and truly instant-on responsiveness. I’ve only just started using it, but the Book 13 does indeed light up instantly when I open the display.

The small power adapter is 65-watts, so it should handle fast charging

It’s going to take me some time to come to grips with Razer’s customization software. This PC isn’t bogged down with any crapware beyond that provided by Windows 10 Home, but there are a few Intel utilities and a central Razer interface that consists of what appears to be three discrete apps. Given Razer’s gaming heritage, this doesn’t surprise me all that much, and most of it looks useful. But again, I’ve only just started using it, and there’s a lot there.

Pricing is right where it should be: A base model Book 13 costs $1199 and delivers a Core i5-1135G7 processor, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB of storage, and a Full HD display. The review unit, with its Core i7-1165G7 processor and 16 GB of RAM, will set you back $1599. And you could spend $1999 for a version with a 4K/UHD display and 512 GB of storage.

So far, the Book 13 looks quite impressive. More soon.

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