Tuesday, November 19, 2013

America's most sustainable city: A green dream deferred

America's most sustainable city

It sounds like the future. Whirring electric skateboards, the joyous chatter of children in a distant playground and an unusual absence of petrol-powered machinery. It looks like the future, too. Glistening lakes dotting the background, lawns so lush they're mistaken for artwork and an unmistakable reflection from a vast solar farm that doubles as a beacon of unending hope.

The reality, however, is starkly different. The depictions here are mere conceptualizations, and the chore of concocting the most Jetsonized habitat this side of Orbit City is daunting in every sense of the word.


America's most sustainable city A green dream deferred

In 2006, one of the most ambitious community plans in all of Florida rolled into action, with owner Syd Kitson hoping to nearly triple the population of Babcock Ranch by providing some 19,000 homes, a smattering of schools and plenty of retail job opportunities. In essence, he was looking to manufacture an entire city. Three years later, Kitson & Partners announced plans in cooperation with Florida Power & Light to construct the world's largest photovoltaic power station. It would be a facility so enormous it could power homes, schools and scores of businesses across some 17,000 acres of abutting land. The goal was brazenly simple: to not only create "the smartest city," but also the "world's most sustainable city."

Kitson, chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners, publicly dubbed Babcock Ranch "Southwest Florida's City of Tomorrow." But after watching Florida's real estate market collapse and our nation's infatuation with sustainability take a backseat to just getting out of debt, these grand plans have been indefinitely postponed.

DNP America's most sustainable city a green dream deferred

The ambitions are huge -- to build a city where only a few people presently reside.

Nearly three years to the day after the aforesaid trumpet was blown -- and some eight years after Kitson & Partners initially drafted plans for the community -- I blazed a trail to Babcock Ranch's headquarters. It's situated in a quiet region of Punta Gorda that few outside of the Southeast would even associate with a state that markets little other than its powdery white edges.

As the name implies, the destination is actually a working ranch. While I'd been warned that no development had yet taken place, I'd still dreamt up something a little more modern than a renovated 1920s-era barn -- a barn that I had a tough time believing was truly the property's office. Dodging a dusty pickup and a smattering of cattle that seemed unaware of modern traffic urbanities, I took a moment to enjoy the 89-degree heat and the piercing rays delivering it. For miles in either direction, I saw little but swampland, dense forest and plenty of bovines. I drove down a single-lane entrance that ran 2.5 miles. And, most frighteningly, I whisked past a sign that I was certain had advised me to enter at my own peril. It wasn't until Steve Smith greeted me with an outstretched hand that I was sure I'd been led to the right locale. "Welcome to the ranch," he said.

DNP America's most sustainable city a green dream deferred

Don't worry; the natives aren't going to be pushed out if the community comes together.

Smith, general manager and vice president of Babcock Ranch, did little to mask his true self. With denim jeans, a well-worn polo and a gentle drawl in his voice, he began to map out his vision of the ranch. "It means different things to different people," he noted, making reference to the unprecedented public-private partnership that Kitson & Partners struck with the state of Florida in 2005. Essentially, K&P agreed to facilitate the transfer of some 74,000 acres of Florida's interior back to the state for the sole purpose of preservation, while keeping around 18,000 available for use as a planned community. "Community," however, is apt to be viewed as an oversimplification. What's happening here is the foundation of an entire village -- a destination that would include housing, schools and industry. Smith gestured to various colored squares on the latest version of the Babcock Ranch map -- a sheet he affectionately called "the cartoon" -- detailing proposed placements of everything from golf courses to a Field Research Site operated by Florida Gulf Coast University. Just down the road, Babcock Wilderness Adventures plans to expand its tourism initiative, further driving interest from outside visitors.

"It'll be like any town that started out as a cross in the road, and part of our mission is to create a place where people want to work, and want to live," Smith said. Along the northern border of the community sits a 443-acre plot of fallow land, labeled "Solar Field," highlighted on "the cartoon" in blue to differentiate it from the Eco-Lodge to its immediate right and the turf fields below. That sole plot made this planned development different from any other the world has seen to date. Not only was it reserved for a monolithic array of solar panels designed to power an entire city, but it was also for something that proved an ethos. Kitson has been exceptionally bold about what he hopes Babcock Ranch will become: "A new city where innovation will abound -- with planned state-of-the-art infrastructure to assure businesses and residents have full access to emerging technologies for communications, energy, education and transportation." It's a message that seems seared into Smith's mind, but I got the sense it was a far more pragmatic message in the past than it is today.

DNP America's most sustainable city a green dream deferred

Steve Smith explaining where a proposed groundbreaking would occur.

For three years now, K&P (along with Florida Power & Light) has lobbied local lawmakers to approve the necessary price hikes that would enable a massive capital expenditure to occur. An expenditure that would lead to the outlay of hundreds of thousands of solar panels across an otherwise nondescript tract of land in one of the sunniest spots on Earth. Even when pressed, Smith wouldn't confirm the estimated cost of the 75-megawatt solar array. To give you an idea, the Tinton Falls Solar Farm in New Jersey employs some 85,000 ground-mounted solar panels across 100 acres of land. It cost $80 million to build. Closer to home, a 74-megawatt solar array was planned in 2010 to power some 12,000 homes across Walton County in Florida's panhandle; the $300 million price tag is still waiting to be paid.

Smith confessed that Florida Power & Light, a subsidiary of publicly traded NextEra Energy, would only need to charge each of its customers "pennies" extra per month in order to get the field going, but regulators have been adamantly opposed to increasing rates on a population that's irked by rising unemployment and sinking wages. In fact, the renewable-energy bill that includes the stipulation necessary to kick-start construction has yet to be placed back on the docket for 2013. So, what's a futuristic solar city to do without its solar grid? The same thing every other non-solar city does: turn to coal, oil and gas while it still can.

DNP America's most sustainable city a green dream deferred

Limestone mining (in part) keeps the ranch profitable while development waits.

"As of now, we're hoping to be shovel-ready by early 2014," Smith uttered. "If we can't get the necessary approvals for the solar array by then, we'll use conventional energy until we can have it added."

You see, K&P has been sitting on a huge swath of land for nearly a decade -- land that could be generating a profit as a full-fledged community. As Smith explained, it wasn't sold at a steep loss or simply walked away from during the crash of 2008 due solely to a trio of revenue-generating operations that its new owners were fortunate enough to acquire. Babcock Ranch -- even in its present, undeveloped state -- is bringing in enough cash to pay the bills. Between selling cattle for human consumption, raising turf for homes, parks and golf courses and mining limestone for use in highway construction, there's enough inflow to keep the grander dreams alive.

But it's no longer a critical part of the community. Smith confirmed that the recession "absolutely" impacted the initial concepts, and while the latest drawings haven't nixed the solar field, it's clear from our discussions that this city is happening with or without its token feature. The land's owners have waited for what feels like an eternity to break ground, and as Wall Street celebrates new highs and average home prices begin to rise, K&P senses that the market may finally be ready to accept a new town.

DNP America's most sustainable city a green dream deferred

Today: farmland. Tomorrow: An eco-minded community of the future.

One has to wonder, though: will the self-proclaimed City of Tomorrow ever see the dawning of a new day? As Smith sees it, K&P needs "the ideal political climate" in order to breathe life into a near-mythical 75-megawatt solar array. For a nation that's struggling to deal with some $17 trillion in debt, spending on proactive energy solutions is tough to justify. "It's honestly up in the air," Smith said with a hopeful tone. It's the same tone used when mentioning "next year" in the same sentence as "breaking ground," which -- at this stage -- is still far from certain. Crafting a new development in the current economy is no small task, but building a new town based around renewable energy is another challenge entirely. As Smith so aptly put it, "You've got to pay a lot to enjoy unlimited free energy." As it turns out, it seems that even the Sunshine State isn't quite ready to agree to pony up.

Presently, Florida has refused to join states like California and North Carolina in mandating that its utility companies provide at least a small portion of power through clean sources by a predetermined date. Lawmakers squashed former Governor Charlie Crist's 20 by 2020 plan, which would have "required Florida power companies to produce 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020." It's almost impossible to believe. With an abundance of sunlight, near-endless water sources and plenty of coastal wind, one has to wonder why Florida isn't champing at the bit to be a pioneer in the green-energy transition. Nancy Argenziano, former chairwoman of the Florida Public Service Commission, sees the answer as fairly cut and dry: "Money is stopping it. It has nothing to do with what is better for the country or the state."

California, New Jersey and even Colorado have long eclipsed Florida in terms of total megawatt production from solar harvesting, and regrettably, it doesn't appear that the situation is poised to change anytime soon. Despite the opening of the 25-megawatt, $150 million DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center -- a facility that even President Barack Obama flew down to see open in 2009 -- Florida's solar hopes have dimmed significantly since. The aforesaid plant produces enough clean energy to power 3,000 homes out of Florida Power & Light's 4.5 million customers, but given that solar costs around 70 percent more than coal and gas, the math has weighed heavily on planned projects.

Babcock Ranch has the opportunity to shed a different kind of light on the ongoing battle to spend money we don't have on preserving a world that is in no way guaranteed to last. The public-private partnership proves that there is a desire to develop new cities in a sustainable way, but it also magnifies the red tape involved in making the associated parties agree to terms. Should groundbreaking begin with no clear ETA on the construction of a solar field, green advocates will no doubt be disappointed; but in the likely event that it plays out precisely as such, Smith is still hopeful that clean energy will electrify the ranch in time. Whether any other developer will try to replicate such a herculean chore, however, is altogether more doubtful.

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Yahoo acquires video sharing startup Qwiki

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Yahoo acquires video sharing startup Qwiki

If you thought Marissa Mayer was done snatching up companies and was ready to turn her focus internally, you were wrong. Clearly the CEO sees no reason why the company can't handle both simultaneously. So, while the forgotten brands are shuttered and the merely struggling ones given fresh coats of paint, new products are joining the Yahoo family. The latest addition is bouncing baby iOS app called Qwiki: a standout from TechCrunch Disrupt 2010, at which Mayer was a judge. The startup combines Vine-like social video sharing with Zoe-esque filters, photo transitions and soundtracks to create "stories." After you've collected and edit your material, you can post your Qwiki (apparently the creators have a slightly sophomoric sense of humor) for others to see. Obviously the purchase is meant to keep Yahoo competitive with Facebook and Twitter, which have their own respective video sharing platforms. If you mosey on past the break you'll find a pleasant little celebratory video from the latest startup to sell out.

Update: Unfortunately it appears that Qwiki's servers are a little overwhelmed right now. We'll add the video back when the service comes back online.

Update 2: And, the story of Qwiki and Yahoo is back online for your viewing pleasure.


Sharp intros 32-inch IGZO monitor with 4K resolution and pen support

Sharp to Introduce PN-K322B Touchscreen LCD Monitor

Accurate Onscreen Handwritten Text Input and Multi-Touch Operation on an Ultra-High-Resolution 4K Display

Sharp PN-K322B Touchscreen LCD Monitor

Sharp Corporation will introduce into the Japanese market a new 32-inch-class LCD monitor, the PN-K322B. This professional-use monitor features an originally developed high-sensitivity, high-precision touchscreen and delivers 4K resolution (3,840 × 2,160 pixels)-a level of resolution four times that of full HD.

The PN-K322B is Sharp's latest ultra-high-definition display. Its high-precision touchscreen allows accurate onscreen handwriting of fine text and lines, with writing performed via a dedicated touch pen with a pen-tip width of just 2 mm. The display also supports multi-touch operation.

Thanks to IGZO technology and an edge-lit LED backlight, the PN-K322B boasts a slender profile with a thickness of just 36 mm*2-the thinnest in its class. An included stand allows the monitor to slide easily between two angles depending on the application: vertical for viewing the monitor or low-angle for onscreen writing and touchscreen operation.

The PN-K322B features a palm cancellation function that prioritizes pen input even when the user's hand is resting on the touchscreen. Input connectors on the PN-K322B are compatible with the latest DisplayPort™ and HDMI™ interface specifications, enabling the monitor to display*3 4K ultra-HD content delivered from a PC via a single-cable connection.

Demand for ultra-high-definition 4K displays is growing for numerous business and professional applications such as graphic and video content creation and editing. To further grow demand for 4K displays, Sharp will propose usage applications in other fields too, such as in customer service applications at retailers and showrooms or in exhibition displays at museums and art galleries.

Product name Touchscreen LCD monitor
Model name PN-K322B
Suggested retail price Open
Date of introduction in Japan July 30, 2013
Monthly production 250 units
Major Features

1. 4K high-definition display equipped with an originally developed high-sensitivity, high-precision touchscreen.
2. The industry's thinnest-profile design and a dedicated "sliding" stand optimized for viewing or onscreen pen/multi-touch operation.
3. Connectivity with PCs via a single cable for displaying 4K data.
*1 IGZO monitors were developed jointly for mass production by Sharp and Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Co., Ltd. IGZO and the IGZO logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Sharp Corporation.
*2 As of July 2, 2013; for 30-inch or larger 4K (3,840 × 2,160 pixels) touchscreen monitors (based on Sharp research).
*3 DisplayPort (Multi-Stream Transport) supports up to 3,840 × 2,160 resolution at a 60p frame rate; HDMI port can support up to 3,840 × 2,160 resolution at a 30p frame rate.

Model name PN-K322B
Installation Landscape / Portrait*4
LCD panel Screen size 32-inch-class widescreen (80.1 cm diagonal) IGZO LCD
Backlight LED (edge lit)
Max. resolution
(Max. display colors) 3,840 x 2,160 pixels
(Approx. 1.07 billion colors)
Brightness 300 cd/m2
Active screen area
(W x H) 698 x 393 mm
Touchscreen Touch technology Capacitive touch
Communication USB serial
Multi touch 10 points
Supported OS Windows® 8*5, Windows® 7, Windows Vista®*6, Windows® XP*6
Input terminals DisplayPort DisplayPort x 1
Audio 3.5 mm-diameter mini stereo jack x 1
RS-232C 3.5 mm-diameter mini jack x 1 (conversion cable included)
Output terminal Audio 3.5 mm-diameter mini stereo jack x 1
Speaker output 2W + 2W
Power supply 100V AC, 50/60 Hz (when using the supplied AC adaptor)
Power consumption 97W*7 / 91 W*8
Operating temperature / humidity 5°C to 35°C / 20% to 80% RH (no condensation)
Dimensions (approx.) 750 W x 36 D x 441 H mm (without stand)
750 W x 390–575 D x 207–493 H mm (with stand)
Weight (approx.) 9.0 kg (without stand) / 16.0 kg (with stand)
*4 Portrait installation not supported when used with the stand.
*5 Supports Finger-only mode.
*6 Mouse operation only.
*7 When using the supplied AC adaptor.
*8 When using the monitor in DC 19.5V.
• Windows and Windows Vista are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.
• DisplayPort is a registered trademark of the Video Electronics Standards Association.
• HDMI is a trademark or registered trademark of HDMI Licensing, LLC.

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Jourdan Dunn’s Breasts ‘Too Big’ for Dior Couture

Dior finally showed some diversity on their runway this season, skin color-wise, but physically their models were as skinny as ever. In fact, the sample sizes were so small that even Jourdan Dunn, who is by no means a chesty girl, couldn't fit her breasts into them. On Sunday she tweeted, "Ahahahahahaha I just for cancelled from Dior because of my boobs! I? fashion #Couture." She added, "I'm normally told I'm cancelled because I'm 'coloured' so being cancelled because off my boobs is a minor : ) [sic]." Progress: Runway models are now allowed to be black, as long as they don't have any bust to speak of. 

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14-inch Razer Blade gaming laptop review: smaller, faster, lighter

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14inch Razer Blade gaming laptop review smaller, faster, lighter

More InfoRazer Blade review (late 2012)Razer reveals the Blade Pro and 14-inch Blade gaming laptopsRazer Blade Pro and 14-inch models hands-on

Most companies refresh their products on an annual basis, carefully timing development and release schedules to match consumer demand, product obsolescence and component upgrades. It's the norm, an expected pattern that most PC, smartphone and tablet manufacturers follow. Razer, however, completely ignores this cycle, as exemplified by its Blade line of gaming laptops -- already on its third generation in less than two years. This would be less impressive if the firm wasn't a relative newcomer to the game; before it announced the Blade, Razer was known primarily for creating keyboards, gaming mice and console controllers. A fully fledged gaming PC was a jarring departure for the humble peripheral maker.

Even so, here we are: reviewing the third-generation Razer Blade gaming laptop. This, too, is a departure from what we've grown to expect from the company -- a smaller, thinner device bereft of the previous model's signature Switchblade interface. For some PC manufacturers, a 14-inch machine might be just another SKU in the catalog. But for Razer, it's almost a mark of progress: not only is the Blade popular enough to necessitate successive generations, but also multiple form factors. It's also the company's lowest-priced laptop yet, not to mention its first to include Intel's new fourth-generation CPU -- but at $1,800 for the base model, it still isn't cheap. Read on to see if the new Blade has enough charm to be worth its lofty price tag.14-inch Razer Blade review See all photos 25 Photos


Look and feelDNP 14inch Razer Blade gaming laptop review smaller, faster, lighter

It seems strange to applaud the absence of a feature, yet it's the loss of Razer's Switchblade interface that makes the 14-inch Blade an enticing choice. Yes, the configurable, display-laden touchpad is a unique and charming feature, but cutting it allowed Razer to build the smaller, less complex laptop we have here -- and there's grace in that simplicity. Without the flashy interface, the machine instantly becomes more accessible than its predecessors, offering the familiar trappings of mobile computing without the burden of mastering a new input device. Although it's true that the machine loses some charm by abandoning the technology that inspired Razer to build hardware in the first place, the 14-inch model is ultimately stronger without it, retaining all of the gorgeous design aesthetics of its oversized siblings without the extra bulk.

It seems strange to applaud the absence of a feature, yet it's the loss of Razer's Switchblade interface that makes the 14-inch Blade an enticing choice.

Speaking of the Blade's classy exterior, not much has changed here -- the 14-inch version features the same anodized-aluminum hull as previous models, albeit in a smaller, slightly tweaked shape. The changes are fairly minor: the machine's speakers have been relocated to the keyboard's sides, for instance, and the power button is slightly smaller than on previous models. For better or worse, these tweaks increase the machine's uncanny (and unabashed) resemblance to the MacBook Pro. This could be a turnoff for stodgy, old PC gamers who are still invested in ancient Mac vs. PC squabbles, but we find the design refreshing -- the Razer Blade is one of the few gaming powerhouses that won't draw unwanted attention in public.

14inch Razer Blade gaming laptop review smaller, faster, lighter

Of course, this subtle design comes at a price: connectivity. Peering along the Blade's slim 0.66-inch edges, you'll find just three USB 3.0 ports (two on the left, one on the right), a headphone jack, an AC plug and a solitary HDMI port. That's it. No optical drive, no multi-card reader and no Ethernet. Notable exceptions, but we can't say we're surprised -- the Blade is actually thinner than the apex of a MacBook Air, and weighs just over four pounds. These are understandable casualties, considering the fact that Razer designed the 14-inch Blade twice to ensure it could call it the "world's thinnest gaming laptop." Still, gamers hoping to bring the Blade to their local LAN party will want to carry the appropriate dongles and accessories.

Keyboard and trackpad14inch Razer Blade gaming laptop review smaller, faster, lighter

We've made a lot of fuss over mousing surfaces in the past, harshly judging many Windows machines for having unresponsive trackpads with poor gesture recognition. Thankfully, this trend of subpar touchpads seems to be dying off, and the Blade is the latest (and possibly greatest) example of a PC mouse doing it right. This smooth, low-friction surface is easily one of the most responsive and tactilely satisfying trackpads we've seen on a Windows device. It's roomy, too: a large, matte black sensor provides ample room for multi-touch Windows 8 gestures, most of which it recognizes instantly and without error.

We did hit a few minor hiccups, however -- if our digits wavered too much during two-finger scrolling, the pad would mistake the flinch for zoom pinch, distorting our view. It was also quick to take notice of low-hanging thumbs, unexpectedly moving the cursor while we typed (more on that in a moment). We're hesitant to restate similarities between the Blade and the MacBook Pro, but the machine's blatant homage to Apple left our sense memory wanting for Cupertino's clickable mousepad -- the Blade's underlying physical buttons just didn't feel right by comparison. That said, the left and right clickers are tolerable, but not quite as satisfying as the mouser's ultra-sensitive touch surface. We'll admit they grew on us over time, but they initially felt slightly mushy.

DNP 14inch Razer Blade gaming laptop review smaller, faster, lighter

The keyboard, however, feels just right. With the exception of retooling a few key sizes and tweaking the lettering a tad, Razer didn't make any significant changes to the third-generation Blade's sea of alphabet islands -- this is the same chiclet keyboard we saw twice last year. Unsurprisingly, the keyboard is still incredibly solid, offering a firm and tactile response, low-resistance key depressions and as many as 14 simultaneous presses (for the gamer concerned about anti-ghosting). Our only complaint stems not from the keyboard itself, but from the trackpad: the aforementioned touch surface is so sensitive, we occasionally triggered it by accident while typing. It would have been nice to see a touchpad-lock Fn key added to the keyboard's bag of tricks.

Display and soundDNP 14inch Razer Blade gaming laptop review smaller, faster, lighter

Razer's made a habit of pairing its hardware with middling, but not-quite-terrible displays -- an unfortunate pattern. Mirroring its predecessors, the new Blade offers a screen that's just okay, suffering no major ailments of banding, low contrast or particularly bad color reproduction, but still failing to dazzle. Looking at the 1,600 x 900 panel straight on provides a clear enough picture, but even slight adjustments to the viewing angle can cause washed-out images or significant darkening. Colors can appear off when viewed from sharper horizontal angles as well. Admittedly, most Razer customers will be using the screen from its optimal viewing angle and won't experience any nagging issues, but its matte finish begs for a panel that can take advantage of wider viewing angles, and that's just not what we're getting here.

DNP 14inch Razer Blade gaming laptop review smaller, faster, lighter

Flanking the keyboard, the Blade's speakers offer a clear distinction between left and right audio channels. This is probably the only thing that truly sets them apart from the previous generation's audio offering, which piped average (if a bit muted) audio through a speaker configuration providing little in terms of stereo separation. As far as we can tell, the smaller Blade doesn't sound too different -- audio is clear and undistorted, but it lacks a richness and warmth, falling flat on busy tracks with deep bass or complex harmonies. On the plus side, the speakers do seem to be a bit louder than Razer's last-gen laptop, and they don't distort at higher volumes either.

Performance and battery lifePCMark7PCMark Vantage3DMark063DMark11ATTO (top disk speeds)Battery lifeRazer Blade 14-inch (2.2GHz Core i7-4702HQ, GeForce GTX 765M)5,83719,50519,815

E6,364 / P4,161

546 MB/s (reads); 253 MB/s (writes)6:24MSI GT70 Dragon Edition (2013) (2.4GHz Core i7-4700MQ, GeForce GTX 780M)6,11120,250N/A

E10,519 / P7,416

1.19 GB/s (reads); 806 MB/s (writes)4:34Razer Blade 2.0 (2.20GHz Core i7-3632QM, GeForce GTX 660M)N/A17,12015,876


N/A3:29Razer Edge Pro (1.9GHz Core i7-3517U, NVIDIA GT640M LE 2GB)4,94913,53610,260

E2,507 / P1,576

409 MB/s (reads); 496 MB/s (writes)3:40Samsung Series 7 Gamer (2.30GHz Core i7-3610QM, GeForce GTX 675M)N/A11,51521,131



Look at the Razer Blade's specification history, and you'll notice a steady trend: each successive iteration has had Intel's latest chipset at its core. The 14-inch Razer Blade is no exception, sporting a 2.2GHz (3.2GHz with Turbo Boost) Intel Core i7-4702HQ Haswell processor, the company's fourth-generation Core CPU. It's not just the latest and greatest silicon available; it's also the processor Razer's been waiting for -- with a modest reputation for increasing laptop longevity, Haswell is the gaming notebook's best chance at finally achieving a workable runtime. After seeing what the chipset did for MSI's gargantuan GT70 Dragon Edition (spoilers: it doubled its battery life versus the Ivy Bridge configuration), we couldn't wait to see what it could do for a more modest machine. We weren't disappointed.

DNP 14inch Razer Blade gaming laptop review smaller, faster, lighter

Razer's 14-inch Blade survived Engadget's standard battery test for almost six and a half hours -- not a huge stretch of productivity for an Ultrabook, but an unprecedented runtime for a high-end gaming laptop. Razer's machine now lasts as long as a 2012 13-inch MacBook Air, and outlasts Apple's existing 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro. We took the machine through a few less-controlled scenarios and easily made it through several four-hour-plus stints of active work (involving several web browsers, word processors, chat clients and constantly updating Google documents) without a hitch. It's almost a shock -- thanks to Haswell, gaming machines are now getting respectable battery life for normal computing tasks.

It's certainly a boon to know that the Blade has the longevity to moonlight as a workhorse, but let's be honest: we're really here to see how it plays games. We ran the rig through our standard gamut of PC games, and found a capable machine that might be straddling the line between high fidelity and high frame rates. Take BioShock Infinite, for instance: tuned to ultra-high quality, the Blade has no issue clocking a steady 35 frames per second in the flying city of Columbia, but this frame rate rides only just above the 30 fps minimum most PC gamers demand. More demanding titles, like FarCry 3 and Crysis 3 struggled to average a solid 30 fps on ultra quality -- demanding visual concessions to score more consistent frame rates. We dialed both games down to medium and scored 60 and 44 fps, respectively.

DNP 14inch Razer Blade gaming laptop review smaller, faster, lighter

On the other hand, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim bounced between 45 and 100 fps averages (outdoors and in dungeons, respectively) at ultra-high quality, and a maxed-out Battlefield 3 held a steady 39 fps. Even The Witcher 2, a game known to be somewhat punishing, ran at a respectable 44 fps on High (with Ubersampling disabled). Make no mistake, the Blade is a fast and powerful machine, but it's already struggling to maintain maximum fidelity on some of today's most demanding titles. That's not a bad thing, but it's worth bearing in mind for gamers who insist on dialing their games up to 11. As for the rest of us? We were hard-pressed to find a game that couldn't find a happy high / middle ground at the Blade's native 1,600 x 900 resolution.

The above games took a much heavier toll on the Blade than our day-to-day work cycle. Running BioShock Infinite on ultra quality killed the laptop's battery in a little more than an hour; Haswell's power management is good, but it isn't that good. It's just as well, gameplay tends to make the laptop a little too warm to hold comfortably on one's lap -- the Blade's slim profile simply doesn't disperse GPU heat efficiently.

SoftwareDNP 14inch Razer Blade gaming laptop review smaller, faster, lighter

There's nothing worse than booting up a brand-new computer only to find it riddled with intrusive and unnecessary bloatware -- thankfully, you won't find any on the 14-inch Razer Blade. It's one of our favorite things about Razer hardware. No trials, no unwanted software bundles and no garbage: just a clean, lightweight Windows 8 installation. Razer did install some of its own software of course, including its standard Synapse device-management package and a beta version of Razer Comms, an instant-messaging client. We could hardly ask for anything less.

Configuration options and the competitionDNP 14inch Razer Blade gaming laptop review smaller, faster, lighter

Folks looking at Razer's 14-inch Blade will find its configuration options fairly limited: each of its three variants share the same core specs: a 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-4702HQ CPU, 8GB of RAM and NVIDIA's GTX 765M GPU -- the only difference between SKUs is storage space. Our $2,000 review unit came equipped with a 256GB solid-state drive, which can be downgraded to 128GB for a $200 savings or upgraded to 512GB for $300. Although it's not technically the same machine, Razer also offers the Blade Pro, a 17-inch version featuring the Switchblade interface and a slightly faster 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700HQ processor -- that starts at $2,200 with similar price adjustments for SSD upgrades. Slim, yet expensive pickings.

Think of it as the Chromebook Pixel of PC gaming.

Fortunately, there are a few alternatives available for Haswell-hungry gamers. Dell's Alienware 14, for instance, can be kitted out with a Core i7-4700MQ CPU, 8GB of RAM, an NVIDIA GTX 765M GPU and a much larger 750GB HDD for $1,350. If that doesn't fit the bill, Dell offers half a dozen different configurations for the 14 that can undercut and outperform Razer's kit. It isn't the only 14-inch alternative available either: MSI's own $1,300 machine, the GE40, offers a 2.9GHz Core i7-4702MQ CPU, 8GB of RAM, a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760M GPU and a 750GB HDD. If you're simply after raw power, however, consider the MSI GT70 Dragon Edition 2 -- it has enough oomph to run circles around the competition, but it isn't cheap: this $2,800 model is the only configuration available.

There is one more comparison we'd like to bring up, but take it with a pinch of salt: Apple's MacBook Pro. Please, hold your fire; we aren't suggesting that the MacBook Pro is a reasonable alternative to Razer's premium gaming laptop -- we're suggesting that Apple users might want to take a look at the Blade. For roughly the same price as a current MacBook Pro, the Blade offers the latest silicon, a better GPU and a familiar unibody design. Tit for tat, the Blade only loses on two fronts: it has significantly less storage space and its trackpad isn't quite as good as Apple's clickable mouser. If you simply can't wait for Apple's own Haswell refresh, the Blade is the next best thing.

Wrap-upDNP 14inch Razer Blade gaming laptop review smaller, faster, lighter

Razer's 14-inch Blade is almost everything we wanted out of the company's first gaming laptop: a smaller, less-expensive machine with longer battery life, more power and a shockingly attractive chassis. These elements lift the machine's stature, defining it not only as a solid gaming machine, but also as a great Windows laptop in general. It's an enthusiast laptop, yes, but one we'd feel comfortable recommending to non-gamers, too.

That said, the Blade is still a tough sell for gamers on a budget. Think of it as the Chromebook Pixel of PC gaming -- it represents an ideal machine, but as a luxury item it's not a reasonable choice for the average consumer. This issue is compounded further by the fact that its internals ride the edge of modern gaming's maximum visual requirements, making it not only more expensive than its direct competition, but less future-proof, too. Even so, the Razer's 14-inch Blade is its best gaming laptop yet, and if you can stomach the above caveats, it's a completely worthwhile machine.


Happy Birthday, Lindsay Lohan!

Today, Lindsay Lohan turns 27. The star has come a long way since she first appeared as adorable, freckle-faced twins Hallie and Annie in the superb film The Parent Trap at age 11. Since then she's dated Aaron Carter, starred in Mean Girls (nine years ago!), dated Sam Ronson, visited rehab numerous times, founded a line of leggings, and played Elizabeth Taylor in the Lifetime classic Liz & Dick. Throughout all this, Lohan has made notable fashion decisions, from sheer dresses and breast-baring necklines to more conservative attire (and now infamous nail art) for probation hearings. In honor of her birthday, check out Lilo's most notable sartorial moments in our look book below.

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