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Razer Blade 17 vs. MSI Creator Z17

Razer and MSI, two of the giants of gaming laptops, released new or updated 17-inch machines that offer outstanding performance for productivity workers, creators, and gamers alike. These large 17-inch laptops are perfect for anyone who wants an expansive display to go with the best performance you’ll find in a semi-portable PC.

The Razer Blade 17 and the MSI Creator Z17 are the two laptops we’re talking about, and they’re both potent performers. But which is the right one for you?

Specs

Design

Razer Blade 17

The Razer Blade 17 is a member of the most stunning line of gaming laptops available today. Whether we’re talking about the Blade 14, the Blade 15, or the Blade 17, each machine benefits from years of Razer’s refining an industrial design that rivals Apple’s MacBook. The Blade 17 enjoys an all-black aesthetic with minimal lines that exudes elegance in a way that most gaming laptops — which tend toward the garish — can only dream of. Other than the per-key RGB lighting, there’s nothing here that screams “gamer,” yet it’s clearly a gaming laptop nonetheless.

The Creator Z17 isn’t specifically a gaming laptop at all, even if it houses the same kind of components and a complex thermal design aimed at bringing out the best possible performance from its CPU and GPU. It’s a more pedestrian Lunar Grey (dark grey) color that carries throughout the machine with no bling, and it has standard angled laptop lines. Its venting is perhaps a little more aggressive than the Blade 17’s, but not to the fighter-jet level of some gaming laptops. The Creator Z17 is an attractive laptop, but it can’t hold a candle to the more refined Blade 17.

Both laptops are constructed of CNC machined aluminum, and both have just a bit of bending in the lid and zero flexing or twisting in the keyboard deck or bottom chassis. The Blade 17 is more rigid yet, among the best laptops you can buy. MSI subjects the Creator Z17 to military specifications testing, but the Blade 17 doesn’t suffer without it.

You’ll get per-key RGB lighting on both laptops, in MSI’s case, thanks to its SteelCase construction. There’s no real advantage to either machine here, with both offering the full breadth of RGB lighting effects. It’s a little weird on the Creator Z17, which, again, isn’t technically a gaming laptop, but it’s a fun addition, nonetheless. The Blade 17’s keyboard benefits from snappier and more precise switches, but the Creator Z17 has pretty good switches as well, and it’s not far behind in overall typing comfort. And both touchpads are large and comfortable, offering reliable Windows 11 multitouch gestures thanks to Microsoft’s Precision Touchpad drivers.

The Creator Z17 does stand out thanks to its touchscreen support and, even more notably, its active pen support that’s a first on a 17-inch laptop. We’re not sure how useful that is on a clamshell laptop, but it’s there if you need it. There’s even a Bluetooth-enabled presenter function where a single tap of the pen’s single button advances a slide in a presentation while a double tap moves backward a slide.

The 1080p webcams equipped by both laptops are a boon to hybrid workers who rely on videoconferencing to stay in touch with colleagues, and both have infrared cameras for Windows 10 Hello facial recognition. Everything works as it should, with great video quality and fast password-less login.

Connectivity is solid on both machines. The Blade 17 has a single USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port, two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4, two USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a full-size SD card reader. The Creator Z17 has almost the same repertoire, with a full-size HDMI 2.1 port taking the place of the Blade 17’s USB-C port. Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 provide the latest in wireless connectivity to both.

Performance

We reviewed the Blade 17 with a 14-core (six Performance and 8 Efficient) and 20-thread 12th-gen Intel Core i7-12800H and the Creator Z17 with a Core i7-12700H, a slightly slower-clocked version of the same chip. Unsurprisingly, their performance was predictable across our range of CPU-intensive benchmarks. The Blade 17 was notably faster in our Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265 and in Cinebench R23, both of which utilize the CPU exclusively for tasks that creators need to perform. In the more real-world Pugetbench Premiere Pro benchmark that runs in a live version of Adobe Premiere Pro, the Blade 17 was significantly faster.

I’ll note here that MSI has a utility that can switch from the balanced mode results reported here to a performance mode that significantly changed its results. For example, in this mode, the Creator Z17 finished the Handbrake test in just 70 seconds, achieved a Cinebench multi-core score of 15,754, and increased its Pugetbench result to 984. In each case, MSI’s performance mode pushed the Creator Z17 ahead of the Blade 17. Even so, both laptops are great performers for both productivity workers and creators and can tackle just about any task thrown at them. We noted that the Blade 17 CPU was throttled during some of our benchmarking, while the Creator Z17 remained cool enough to run at full speed.

For gamers, the Blade 17 we reviewed benefited tremendously from its Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti compared to the Creator Z17’s RTX 3070 Ti. Razer’s laptop was faster across the board, as expected, although the Creator Z17 was fast enough for running modern titles at 1440p with decent graphics. MSI’s performance mode only made a meaningful difference in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, with the Creator Z17 hitting 80 frames per second (fps). In the rest of our benchmark games, it benefited only a few fps from the switch.

You can configure the Creator Z17 with an RTX 3080 Ti for a lot more money if you want faster gaming results. As it is, both are good gaming performers given their respective GPUs. And both laptops can be configured with the Core i9-12900H, a much faster-clocked chip, so these results aren’t the fastest you can get with either machine.

Display

Razer Blade 17

Choosing a display for the Blade 17 is a challenge, given several options offering a mix of resolutions and refresh rates. All of them are 17.3-inch IPS panels in the old-school 16:9 aspect ratio, which is fine for gamers but a bit of a constraint for productivity and creative work. The options include Full HD (1,920 x 1,1080) at 360Hz, QHD (2,560 x 1,440) at 165Hz, QHD (2,560 x 1,440) at 240Hz, and UHD (3,840 x 2,160) at 144Hz. We tested the QHD version running at 240Hz and found it to provide brightness that’s just above our 300-nit threshold, colors that were wider and more accurate than average, and contrast that was under our preferred 1,000:1. The Creator Z17 offers a single display, a 17-inch 16:10 IPS QHD+ (2,560 x 1,600) running at 165Hz. It was slightly brighter in our testing, offered similarly wide colors that weren’t quite as accurate, and almost identical contrast.

Both displays are just under what creators are craving in terms of colors and contrast, but both are great for workers and gamers. The Creator Z17 benefits from its taller and more productivity-friendly aspect ratio and touch and pen capabilities, while the Blade 17 has a faster refresh rate. We’ll call this category a draw as far as the displays we reviewed, but Razer offers many more options, including a super-fast 360Hz Full HD display and a high-resolution UHD panel.

Portability

Razer Blade 17

The Creator Z17 is slightly less wide than the Blade 17 while being as deep due to a slightly smaller 17-inch display versus 17.3 inches and a taller 16:10 aspect ratio. The Creator Z17 is also slightly thinner at 0.75 inches versus 0.78 inches but heavier at 7.4 pounds versus 6.06 pounds. You’ll definitely notice these laptops taking up a lot of space in your backpack, and your back will complain if you carry them around too much.

You’ll have even more to carry around in huge power bricks thanks to battery life that will struggle to get you through lunch. The Creator Z17 benefits from its larger 90 watt-hour battery compared to the Blade 17’s 82 watt-hour version, with about an hour more battery life in both our web browsing and video looping tests.

The Razer Blade 17 is the more refined 17-inch laptop

The newest Razer Blade 17 starts at $2,700 for a Core i7-12800H, 16GB of DDR5 RAM, a 1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD, a GeForce RTX 3060, and a 17.3-inch QHD display running at 165Hz. You can spend as much as $4,300 for a Core i9-12900H, 32GB of DDR5 RAM, a 1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD, an RTX 3080 Ti, and a 17.3-inch UHD display at 144Hz. The Blade 17 is an expensive laptop from top to bottom.

The Creator Z17 is even more expensive, starting at $3,250 for a Core i7-12700H, 32GB of DDR5 RAM, a 1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD, and an RTX 3070 Ti. At the high end, you’ll spend $4,600 for a Core i9-12900H, 64GB of DDR5 RAM, a 2TB PCIe 4.0 SSD, and an RTX 3080 Ti. Again, the Creator Z17 is more expensive, but it does include twice the RAM and storage in its most robust configuration.

The Razer Blade 17 is hard to beat, with great performance, stunning industrial design, and some of the best build quality around. The MSI Creator Z17 puts up a good fight, and it even wins the performance battle in some cases, but it’s simply not as refined as the Blade 17.

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