Razer Book 13 Review

Posted on April 5, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 10 with 11 Comments

If you’ve heard of Razer at all, it’s almost certainly because of its well-regarded gaming PC and peripherals lineups. But late last year, the firm released its first non-gaming Ultrabook, the Razer Book 13. And while there are a few nods to Razer’s gaming pedigree, it’s pretty much business-class all the way.

That’s a good thing: The Razer Book delivers on the Intel Evo promise—11th-generation Intel Core processors with Intel Iris Xe graphics, Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, 9+ hours of real-world battery life, instant-on capabilities, and Thunderbolt 4—in a package that rivals, and in some ways surpasses, the Dell XPS 13.

And that, folks, is rather astounding, especially for a first effort. Let’s take a look.

Design

Eschewing the boy-racer vibe of many gaming PCs, the Razer Book 13 instead adopts a more buttoned-down aesthetic that some will find a bit boxy. But I like it: The slightly thicker chassis accommodates the legacy ports that many thin and light wonders now ignore, and no one can accuse the Book 13 of being yet another MacBook Air clone. It’s a distinctive look.

Like many other premium portable PCs, the Book 13 is made of a single slab of silver aluminum, and you can feel the quality—and weight—of the construction the moment you pick it up.

There’s also a subtle but distinctive design element, repeated throughout the product, in which the corners of each rectangle are curved. You can see this on the PC’s corners, including the display lid, but also on the keyboard keys, the touchpad, the speakers that frame the keyboard, and even the indent used to help open the display.

Display

I love that Razer embraced 16:10 display panels with the Book 13, as they afford a better user experience with the productivity tasks that most customers will need. The review unit has a glossy Full HD+ (1920 x 1200) multi-touch panel, but the lower-end configurations ship with a matte, non-touch Full HD+ panel with the same resolution. And you can get a higher-resolution 4K/UHD multitouch panel in a higher-end configuration if you’d like as well.

The display is bright and colorful, and it has wide viewing angles. It’s also surrounded by some of the smallest bezels I’ve seen on a portable PC. This is a trend that started with the Dell XPS 13 but has been nearly perfected here. Not so long ago, PCs with a body this size would have housed a 12.x- or even 11-inch display.

Internal components

The Razer Book 13 is powered by a quad-core 11th-generation Intel Core i5-1135G7 or i7-1165G7 processor with Iris Xe graphics, 8 or 16 GB of RAM, and 256 or 512 GB of M.2 PCIe NVMe-based SSD storage. With this kind of firepower—the review unit features the Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of storage—it’s no surprise that the Book 13 made handled my typical productivity and entertainment workloads with ease.

But I was curious about how it might handle games. So I loaded up the Epic Game Store and installed Alien: Isolation and Metro 2033 Redux, two older first-person titles with lots of customization capabilities. In both cases, I started off at the system’s native Full HD+ resolution and with most effects enabled and/or tuned to Ultra or its equivalent and was able to hit a consistent 60 fps … until the gameplay started getting heated and the performance and playability took dives. Long story short, this is no gaming PC, of course. But the performance is still pretty impressive compared to previous integrated graphics chipsets. Intel’s Evo platform has clearly raised the bar.

As good, there’s very little in the way of fan noise or heat outside of any gaming activities, but the fan would sometimes kick in during lengthy software installs and the like.

Connectivity

In keeping with its Evo certification, the Razer Book 13 provides Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5. 1 connectivity via the Intel Wireless-AX 201 chipset, and connectivity was never an issue. There’s no support for cellular connectivity, however, not even as an option.

Ports and expansion

Razer provides a nice selection of modern and legacy ports on the Book 13. You’ll find a Thunderbolt 4/USB-C port and full-sized USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 port on the left, next to a headphone jack.

And on the right, there’s another Thunderbolt 4/USB-C port, a full-sized HDMI 2.0 port, and a microSD card slot.

I like that the USB-C ports are positioned at the rear of the device, one on each side.

Audio and video

The Razer Book 13 is outfitted with four speakers, two top-firing and two bottom-firing, and they’re aided by THX Spatial Audio, which provides sound profiles for music, movies, games, and voice with dialogue enhancement and a custom EQ. You can disable the spatial audio and use normal stereo if you like, too, but I found it effective for both music and video. The fighting scenes in Atomic Blond are particularly immersive with the volume cranked.

For conference calls and digital assistant interactions, the Book 13 is outfitted with a 4-microphone array. The 720p webcam, while lackluster, at least provided Windows Hello facial recognition capabilities. (There’s no fingerprint reader.)

Keyboard and touchpad

The Razer Book 13 keyboard doesn’t look all that impressive—the keys are smallish, plastic, and island-style—but it offers an excellent typing experience with short, punchy keystrokes. Overall, it reminds me very much of the Surface Laptop keyboard. Yes, that’s a compliment.

In a fun move, Razer outfitted the keyboard with per-key colored backlighting, something that’s common in the gaming laptop space but unheard of with traditional Ultrabooks. Using Razer’s Chroma software, you can configure this to your heart’s content, but I found the default lighting scheme—which rotates between colors over time—to be curiously soothing. If you think it’s distracting, you can of course disable it or simply choose white backlighting or some other color.

Aside from that, there are some curiously small keys on the keyboard, though they are less-often-used keys like ` and \, and there are no dedicated Home, End, PgUp, or PgDn keys, so you’ll be doing the Fn key shuffle. And while the power button has been integrated into the keyboard in the wrong place—in the upper-right position where Del should be—Razer was at least smart enough to ignore errant key presses. I assume anyone using this PC over time will simply get used to the layout.

The glass Microsoft Precision touchpad is also excellent, and it’s a great size, not too large and not too small. It gives a satisfying thunk when pressed, though I tend to register primary and secondary clicks as touches, which also work well.

Portability

The Razer Book 13 weighs 2.95 pounds, and while anything under 3 pounds is generally considered ideal in the Ultrabook space these days, it manages to somehow feel heftier than that. Part of that appearance of density may be related to its size: At just 0.6 x 7.8 x 11.6 inches, the Book 13 has small dimensions, and it will take up less space in your bag than most Ultrabooks.

The Book 13’s Intel Evo certification guarantees, among other things, that this PC will provide over 9 hours of battery life. I didn’t see that, though I often exceeded 8 hours of life on a single charge. But I averaged about 6.5 hours of battery life over the course of my evaluation.

I was also able to test the battery life of Book 13 side-by-side against the M1-based MacBook Pro during a recent trip to Washington D.C., which I found helpful. The Razer easily outdid its Apple competition in real-world use—a combination of productivity work and video watching.

Power to the 55-watt-hour internal battery comes via a 65-watt USB-C-based power adapter.

Software

The Razer Book 13 ships with Windows 10 Home, and aside from the crapware that Microsoft still forces on users, it’s otherwise devoid of unnecessary applications and utilities. Razer Synapse is used to configure the keyboard lighting, and it’s a surprisingly complete suite of tools that let you, among other things, even create app- and game-based lighting profiles. And Razer Cortex provides an equally useful suite of tools related to game and system performance, which is perhaps less necessary on a business-class Ultrabook like the Book 13.

Beyond that, there are only a handful of additional applications related to Thunderbolt, THX Spatial Audio, and Intel graphics. Nothing to worry about there.

Pricing and configurations

The Razer Book 13 starts at $1199.99 for a configuration that includes an 11th-generation Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor with Intel Iris Xe graphics, a Full HD+ display, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. The review unit is a mid-level configuration with an Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor with Intel Iris Xe graphics, a multitouch Full HD+ display, 16 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of SSD storage for $1599.99. And then there’s a higher-end configuration with a 4K/UHD+ touch display and 512 GB of SSD storage at $1999.99.

There’s no way to customize these configurations that I can see. You can’t, for example, configure a Core i5 version of the Book 13 with 16 GB of storage or whatever.

Recommendations and conclusions

Razer hit this one out of the park and its first-ever non-gaming Ultrabook immediately takes a place alongside the mainstays of the premium portable PC market. The Book 13’s display is amazing, the performance is incredible, and the battery life is terrific. I like the typing and touchpad experiences quite a bit, and the spatial audio system is loud and clear. Aside from the surprising heftiness of this PC, my complaints are all minor. I’d prefer a fingerprint reader and some of the keyboard keys are either missing or, like the Del key, in the wrong place.

But none of that is a deal-breaker and the Razer Book 13 is highly recommended. I would personally stick with the base configuration, but I do like the multitouch capabilities and extra RAM provided by the review unit.

At-a-glance

Pros

  • Gorgeous 16:10 display with tiny bezels
  • Excellent performance
  • Good battery life
  • Excellent keyboard with per-key colored lighting
  • Good assortment of ports
  • Spatial audio for the win

Cons

  • A little chunky
  • A few missing and displaced keys

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Comments (17)

17 responses to “Razer Book 13 Review”

  1. Avatar

    IanYates82

    Nice laptop, although that keyboard is a deal breaker for anyone even trying to do light development / system admin work. Backtick, slashes, delete key - all important. Home/end & page up/down going should upset regular typists too.

  2. Avatar

    prebengh

    I have seen several other reviews of this laptop.

    One general comment is that the speakers generally lacks bass. Is that also your opinion (compared to the Macbook Pro)?

    They also find that the battery life is around 9-10 hours for light usage, but for heavy duty usage it drops to 2-3 hours. In your review it is hard to see what programmes you have used for testing, but you did try games. Do you see the same drop in battery life during gaming?

    A small comment on the weight. According to the Razer home page the weight of the unit with FullHD and touch is 3.09 lbs, not 2.95 lbs (that is for the version without touch).

  3. Avatar

    RobertJasiek

    6.5h real use battery life - I am not impressed at all. A different notebook with i5-1135G7 and a 73Wh battery achieves 17+h.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      All I can do is report what I've seen. In the pandemic, I doubt all the battery results I get.
      • Avatar

        RobertJasiek

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Different Wh values (do you know the capacity of the battery in your test device?), 1135 versus 1165 CPU, different displays, drivers, potentially crapware or initialising Windows Search, and other minor factors affect results of different mobile devices. Your varying workflow is just another factor. My cited 17+h come from a standardised light use and indoors display brightness at Notebookcheck.

  4. Avatar

    jrzoomer

    Paul, Would love to see you look at the Thinkpad Nano, which shares many of your positives on this review such as great battery life, 16:10 display, great keyboard, etc but a full pound(!) lighter

  5. Avatar

    Stokkolm

    I'm surprised the storage options aren't more of a disappointment to you, they certainly are to me. A 256GB SSD @ $1,600 seems...bad.

  6. Avatar

    crunchyfrog

    Just FYI, the SSD is of the upgradeable NVME type, not soldered on like others in the Ultrabook class.

  7. Avatar

    crunchyfrog

    I like where Razer is going in the business class laptop but I still wish they'd drop that snake logo for the business class laptops and go with black keys instead of the lighter ones. Still, I would buy this laptop.

  8. Avatar

    winbookxl2

    I have been wanting to purchase this laptop but I want to have a 1TB SSD and 32GB of ram, which I cannot find.

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