Razer Book 13 First Impressions

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.

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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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Conversation 36 comments

  • brettscoast

    Premium Member
    24 January, 2021 - 6:53 pm

    <p>Thanks Paul look forward to your full review but this system does indeed look impressive.</p>

  • shawn.healey

    24 January, 2021 - 7:15 pm

    <p>What a beautiful machine that is. Changing the backlit keys with the Fn key is brilliant! I've never had a laptop that does that. I wonder if that'd be a way for Surface to differentiate their next models? I'm constantly advocating for my friends and family to take advantage of the Windows Key…maybe invoking a lighting change could make those combos more discoverable?</p>

    • Saarek

      25 January, 2021 - 5:19 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#609734">In reply to shawn.healey:</a></em></blockquote><p>I find that most users, whether PC or Mac, tend to shy away from keyboard commands. The younger generation especiallay whose primary computer is now their phone or iPad seem almost scared of a real keyboard.</p><p><br></p><p>For those of us who grew up with Unix and Dos and then migrated to GUI based Operating Systems it's almost second nature and so much quicker than any touch or mouse based option.</p><p><br></p><p>For my own kids who are now 5 &amp; 7 I've made a point of introducing one keyboard command a week. Admittedly Cmd + Q seems to be their favourite (they have an iMac), but the basics like cut, copy, paste, etc, are all used too.</p><p><br></p><p>On Windows the Windows Key + E is firmly ingrained in my brain, long live Windows Explorer!</p>

      • wright_is

        Premium Member
        25 January, 2021 - 6:08 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609763">In reply to Saarek:</a></em></blockquote><p>I agree. I use a Natural 3000 keyboard on my Lenovo laptop. The keyboard on that isn't bad, for a laptop, but it is still a long way away from a "real" keyboard.</p><p>I go between a Razer Blackwidow and Microsoft Natural/Ergonomic keyboards, because I do so much typing. I couldn't use a laptop keaboard full time.</p>

  • gregorylbrannon

    Premium Member
    24 January, 2021 - 8:00 pm

    <p>After watching this season of Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet; I've become interest in Razer products. As they use Razer products since it's a game development studio so it pique my interest. Also my Surface Book Gen 1 is starting to act up and I'm considering my next pc be a non-Surface device as I've been a little disappointed in the reliability of the hardware and software. I expected Microsoft on devices to not have the software quirks which is the reason why I chose a Surface over a comparable HP or Dell. Jez Corden over a Windows Central has an article about why he will stop buying Surface. <a href="https://www.windowscentral.com/why-i-stopped-buying-surface&quot; target="_blank">Why I stopped buying Surface | Windows Central</a></p><p><br></p><p>So I've been researching Razer laptops and particularly the new Razor Book. The only issue I have with this one that Paul will be reviewing is that this model the $1,199 screen isn't a touch screen. To get a touchscreen you have to move up to the $1,599 Razer Book. But I'm looking forward to Paul's review as I think my next Windows PC may end up being a Razer laptop.</p>

  • txag

    24 January, 2021 - 8:06 pm

    <p>Paul, you wrote:</p><p><br></p><p class="ql-indent-1"><em style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">… 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&nbsp;</em><a href="https://www.thurrott.com/mobile/mac-and-macos/246561/apple-macbook-pro-m1-first-impressions&quot; target="_blank" style="color: rgb(0, 110, 206);"><strong><em>the M1-based MacBook Pro</em></strong></a><em style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">. I’ll discuss what&nbsp;that&nbsp;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.</em></p><p class="ql-indent-1"><br></p><p>I’m sure you will be fair but it sounds like Intel is hoping to influence reviewers. I hope they are not adding something like “you get to keep the review computer” to the agreement. </p><p><br></p><p>If you hadn’t written so many words critical of Apple over the years, would you have been chosen?</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      25 January, 2021 - 8:54 am

      Dear God.

      As noted elsewhere, I’ve been reviewing hardware for over 20 years. Review units are not gifts, they’re loans, and managing these things is a f’ing pain in the ass, and not something I enjoy doing at all.

      As for “why” I was chosen, aside from the 20+ year thing noted above, and my many, many fair reviews of Apple products, I would like to believe (obviously) it’s because I can approach this with a sense of logic and even-handedness. If you choose to believe otherwise, I’m not even sure what to say. But then, it doesn’t matter. I am going to be fair regardless of what Intel wants/expects. So whatever.

  • prebengh

    25 January, 2021 - 1:55 am

    <p>So Intel provided a Macbook Pro M1 for your review with 8 GB of RAM and you get to compare it with a Razer Book with 16 GB RAM that is 300 USD more expensive. One might wonder why Intel didn’t provide the 16 GB version of the Mac that is still 100 USD cheaper than the Razer.</p><p>By the way everything on the Mac is “comical”, “so-called” etc whereas the Razer is “wonderful”, so one might wonder if your review isn’t quite biased up front.</p>

    • Saarek

      25 January, 2021 - 5:14 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#609748">In reply to Prebengh:</a></em></blockquote><p>Let Paul get the reviews out of the way first and then decide on his full comments. </p><p><br></p><p>Let's face it, calling their keyboard the "magic keyboard" is a bit dumb. Are all their customers meant to be 12 year old Harry Potter fans or what.</p><p><br></p><p>With regards to the trackpad and it being comical, I agree with the comment on the MacBook post that Paul probably does not use the trackpad to its full potential on the Mac as he likely does not know all of the gestures and options that can be setup for it. I suspect that he'd change his mind a bit on that after taking the time to customise and then play with it.</p>

      • Paul Thurrott

        Premium Member
        25 January, 2021 - 8:46 am

        I am well aware of the touchpad gestures, thanks.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      25 January, 2021 - 8:51 am

      Thanks for the accusation. It’s always nice to wake up to a character attack.

      Look, I’ve been reviewing hardware for over 20 years. My biases are, as with everyone else’s, experience-based. But I have much more experience than most, and that includes Macs.

      • adam.mt

        25 January, 2021 - 2:07 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609817">In reply to paul-thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>Paul,</p><p><br></p><p>Despite how tempting it is, I personally feel it's best to not reply to such accusations. Comments about the review are fair, …criticism beforehand!?!!</p>

  • Saarek

    25 January, 2021 - 5:09 am

    <p>I had a Razer mouse back in the day when I was really into Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament, it was a fantastic piece of kit. Many friends still use and swear by the brand for gaming.</p><p><br></p><p>It looks really nice, I'm intrigued by the light up options on the keyboard, especially being able to customise the colours by key! That's the first major step up on keyboard lighting since the original Apple PowerBooks and is something I could actually see myself using.</p><p><br></p><p>The display resolution seems a bit poor though. I know 1080p is a PC standard, but in a £1200+ machine I'd expect it to be higher. Appreciate that you can pay extra to go to full 4K, but for £999 the MacBook Air has a resolution of 2560 by 1600, much better.</p>

    • wright_is

      Premium Member
      25 January, 2021 - 6:04 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#609758">In reply to Saarek:</a></em></blockquote><p>It isn't 1080p, it is 1200p. That said, I wouldn't want to go much above that at that size of display. I have a 14" 1080p display on my Lenovo and it is still usable. I have a 4K display on my Spectre X360 and I have to use zoom on that, otherwise it isn't usable.</p>

      • Saarek

        25 January, 2021 - 7:03 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#609765">In reply to wright_is:</a></em></blockquote><p>Ah, my mistake. Whenever someone says full HD my head says 1080P.</p>

        • b6gd

          25 January, 2021 - 7:54 am

          <blockquote><em><a href="#609776">In reply to Saarek:</a></em></blockquote><p>Full HD does mean 1080p anywhere else I have seen it. </p><p><br></p><p> Lots of gaming laptops use it because when gaming the laptop versions of the GPU they have is weaker than the desktop version. Example a 2070 Super laptop GPU is weaker than the desktop version because of heat and power.</p>

          • wright_is

            Premium Member
            25 January, 2021 - 8:19 am

            <blockquote><em><a href="#609809">In reply to b6gd:</a></em></blockquote><p>Paul notes it correctly at the top of the article, uses the wrong designation in the conclusion.</p>

        • Paul Thurrott

          Premium Member
          25 January, 2021 - 8:45 am

          As it should.

          Taller aspect ratios change the resolution, of course. I suppose that this is technically Full HD+ or whatever.

          • longhorn

            25 January, 2021 - 12:13 pm

            <blockquote><em><a href="#609814">In reply to paul-thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>I think OEMs became sloppy with designations.</p><p>HD Ready, Full HD and 4K come from the TV world. As does 1080p where p stands for progressive to separate it from an interlaced signal (1080i). In the TV world there is no need to be precise because the aspect ratio is always 16:9.</p><p><br></p><p>In the computer world there are specific designations for each resolution: For example 1920×1200 is called <span style="background-color: rgb(248, 249, 250); color: rgb(32, 33, 34);">Wide UXGA or WUXGA. There is no other correct designation for this resolution.</span></p><p><br></p><p><span style="background-color: rgb(248, 249, 250); color: rgb(32, 33, 34);">So instead of trying to use designations that no one understands it's better to just describe it as a 1920×1200 display. Calling it a FHD display would be a bit underwhelming I think and not correct.</span></p><p><br></p><p><span style="background-color: rgb(248, 249, 250); color: rgb(32, 33, 34);">Calling it a FHD+ display might be correct from a practical perspective, but this designation has curiously been reserved for 1920×1280 displays.</span></p><p><br></p>

  • madthinus

    Premium Member
    25 January, 2021 - 7:49 am

    <p>Very good choice. </p>

  • crunchyfrog

    25 January, 2021 - 7:59 am

    <p>I've often admired Razer products but they are usually very expensive and the logo is cheesy looking, especially if it lights up. I am happy to see Razer moving into a mid-range premium line of laptops. This laptop appears to compete well in the premium category with the Surface Laptop and similar Ultrabook models.</p>

  • crunchyfrog

    25 January, 2021 - 8:06 am

    <p>I'm not crazy about white keyboard buttons and the goofy logo but I would buy this. One good thing about Razer being that they come from the gaming side of laptops, you know they have the chops to squeeze every drop of performance out of their gear and they know all about proper cooling.</p>

    • prjman

      25 January, 2021 - 12:29 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#609812">In reply to crunchyfrog:</a></em></blockquote><p>You obviously haven't owned a Razer laptop. While their cooling has improved, they've released their fair share of extremely hot running laptops.</p>

  • solomonrex

    25 January, 2021 - 4:17 pm

    <p>I'm really glad Paul choose a Razor, really like their designs, but it's hardly comparable in specs, that laptop would struggle against the much cheaper MBA.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      26 January, 2021 - 10:03 am

      Why? This is a nicely modern PC.

  • winbookxl2

    Premium Member
    25 January, 2021 - 6:03 pm

    <p>Specs look great, I just hope the webcam can deliver. </p>

  • madthinus

    Premium Member
    26 January, 2021 - 3:36 am

    <p>No company like to hear their product is bad. However, like social media, companies internal feedback can be echo chambers. So I see this as Intel asking for outside feedback. I am sure that some of the feedback will align with internal thoughts, others will clash. I think this approach is fantastic and hopefully a good sign of things to come. </p><p><br></p><p>PC's is getting an hour in the sun again, and Intel looks like it is on a better path to drive innovation again. Their 10nm problems have left them uncompetitive, but as they have circled the problem and have a 10nm process ramping, some of the design ideas that was stuck in limbo is coming through. </p><p><br></p><p>11 Gen Tiger parts are a big deal. The IPC gain will be big, so will the internal graphics. This is a good time to rebalance the conversation. You cannot compare 10gen HD graphics with Apple's M1. You can however compare Xe with Apple M1. </p><p><br></p><p>So I am excited about this. My expectation: Some tasks Intel will be better, others Apple. I think they hope to get across that the two is still head to head, and that the hyperbowl numbers Apple used is just that. </p><p><br></p><p>Areas Paul you will have to look, video editing, Gaming and general productivity. Noise and heat, battery life. All of these are fair comparisons. </p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      26 January, 2021 - 9:46 am

      They’re open to the honesty, which is a big part of why I’m doing this. They understand that the M1 is an accomplishment and that it will do better in some cases. They also feel the coverage has been decidedly one-sided, and that the rumors of their death in the PC space are exaggerated. Overall, I like to see them sticking up for what they offer.

  • prebengh

    28 January, 2021 - 7:30 am

    <p>It is a bit funny to always get the comments that Apple devices are so expensive. The Macbook Pro M1 base version is 1299 USD. The Razer Book 13 base version with an i5 processor is 1199 USD (“pricing is right where it should be”). However the i5 will not compete with the M1 on performance, the more expensive model with i7 will be more competitive, but it is also more expensive than the Macbook Pro M1.</p><p>And then if you want to upgrade your PC in 2-3 years, the Macbook can still be sold at maybe half the price whereas the Razor Book will probably sell for almost nothing.</p>

  • someguy1984

    28 January, 2021 - 11:26 am

    <p>Hmm. Looks like a comical large trackpad :). Actually larger than the Macbook Air. I really like the squared off design because it reminds me of the long-ago design of Apple's Titanium Powerbook. A flawed machine in some ways, (cough)hinge failure(cough), but groundbreaking in other ways. Nice to see a nod to that design language, intentional or not.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      29 January, 2021 - 11:18 am

      It’s not larger than the MacBook touchpads. It’s not even close.

      • prebengh

        01 February, 2021 - 7:39 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#610748">In reply to paul-thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>To be specific the Razer Book 13 trackpad measures 4.4 x 2.7 inches vs the Macbook Pro at 5.1 x 3.2 inches, so the Mac trackpad area is 37% larger.</p><p>I would think many users would prefer the larger trackpad.</p>

        • Paul Thurrott

          Premium Member
          01 February, 2021 - 10:47 am

          All I can communicate is my own preferences. And I do not prefer large touchpads.

  • mixedfarmer75

    Premium Member
    09 February, 2021 - 9:53 pm

    <p>Looks pretty sweet. I could see docking this with a good monitor or two and replace my HP AIO Gen 6.</p>

  • jaystyba

    Premium Member
    26 March, 2021 - 6:34 am

    <p>Thanks for the review, I am in the market for a new laptop and I am very interested in the Book. When will you be posting your follow up?</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      26 March, 2021 - 10:37 am

      This coming week.

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