Opinion | Razer may want to consider a recall for their Blade and Blade Pro AC adapters
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(June 27, 2019, update #3: Added comment in response to Razer's communications with NBC via email and their sub-reddit (see below updates):
As the author of this opinion piece, I'd like to comment/offer clarification on a couple of points. Firstly, I feel it is my responsibility to clarify my point of concern for this article initially. Though the issue from our testing was the 67C temperature on the adapter while under load, the 13 pieces of evidence of melting AC adapters I linked and had found with a quick search mostly showed damage at the L-shaped connector where the cable meets the power supply. Some have questioned whether it is appropriate to suggest a relationship between hot temperatures and these AC adapters going up in smoke when the damage seems to be structural and perhaps more related to physical strain due to the "L" in the cable. My contention is that these two factors (the heat and a possible structural weakness) likely contributed to these issues.
Secondly, I know there are more than a few Razer fans who feel protective of their brand of choice and believe I am picking on Razer or trying to cause trouble for them. If you are familiar with my work, you may know me as an enthusiast user with high demands for his machines and a vocal critic of all brands of computing devices when I believe it's warranted. As an enthusiast user and journalist I have ridden Dell very hard for the shortcomings of the XPS 15 series in terms of design decisions and what I perceive as a lack of sufficient support, and I have done the same for Lenovo. What I want to see (and thus I am quite happy to see Razer respond) are companies to simply make more reliable, safer, and better products. I am a fan of Razer's designs, but having spent $4-5000 on their systems previously and had rather unpleasant experiences both with the systems and with company representatives on several occasions, I am concerned and would like to see numerous improvements made to ensure reliability, safety, and support for the consumer.
Again, I am happy to see Razer take these reported issues seriously and I look forward to the company growing, becoming more successful, and maintaining their user base by offering products and services that are held to the highest standards of quality.)
(June 27, 2019, update #2: Razer recently posted on its subreddit with the following response:
“Razer places the highest priority on safety with our gaming laptops. Recently, we were made aware of online comments regarding the heat output of our laptop charging adaptors and we would like to address user concerns.
All our adaptors have been tested and certified safe according to international safety standards like IEC 60950-1.
In addition, we also build in additional safety margins into the design of our laptop products, such as the use of fire-retardant materials. Our adapters are supplied by reputable manufacturers who also supply other major laptop brands and the same manufacturers have confirmed that our adapters are reliable and safe.
We take every complaint about safety seriously. Where needed, we have submitted adaptors sent in by customers for detailed forensic investigations by both internal engineering teams and external independent engineering bodies, and have found no safety concerns at this time.
All laptop adapters from Razer or any other brands may be subject to user behaviour or wear and tear that can lead to damaged cases or frayed cables; in such cases, users are advised that it is unsafe to use adapters with exposed internal wires and damaged cables.
If you face any issues with your Razer product, please reach out to our customer advocacy team at support.razer.com and we will respond promptly.”)
(June 26, 2019, update #1: Razer has reached out in response to this article to confirm that there is no active recall for their AC adapters. According to the manufacturer, the old subreddit posts have already been tended to and there was no single cause discovered in manufacturing that would be responsible for the abnormalities. As with any AC adapter, it is suggested to not place them in direct contact with potentially sensitive items or surfaces. Razer continues to investigate user complaints seriously and any issues should be forwarded directly to support.razer.com. The original article is below.)
Allen Ngo recently noted in a news post that the AC adapter for our 2019 Razer Blade Pro hit a scalding 67C while gaming during the review process. That's hot — in fact, it's the hottest temperature we've ever measured on the adapter for a gaming notebook.
That isn't what led me to pen this editorial, however. Part of my job as a tech journalist is to keep an eye on user communities of popular laptops to catch developing stories. I've seen quite a bit of data (albeit anecdotal in the form of reddit posts) that suggests this problem may actually be a long-running one, responsible for quite a few Razer laptop chargers going up in smoke. Some may make the argument that this is the result of selling many systems, but I've never seen this many problems with AC adapters from even trouble-ridden systems like Dell's ever-popular XPS 15, sold in numbers orders of magnitude higher than the Razer Blade and Blade Pro.
Allen writes in his article:
In all our gaming laptop reviews, we would run Witcher 3 for about an hour before recording the temperature of the AC adapter with a Fluke infrared thermometer. Results would typically range between 40 C to 55 C (104 F to 131 F) as exemplified by our 230 W AC adapter from Chicony below. This particular charger powers the 17.3-inch Eurocom Nightsky RX17 with RTX 2070 graphics and several MSI laptops as well. When running the same Witcher 3 test on the Blade Pro 17 with RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics, however, surface temperatures would be as warm as 67 C (153 F) on both the top and bottom sides of Razer's equivalent 230 W AC adapter.
One may point to the small size of Razer's AC adapter as the culprit. While it is indeed smaller than other AC adapters of equal wattage, it really isn't that much smaller or even lighter than the Chicony adapter (~17 x 7 x 2.5 cm vs. ~15.3 x 7.3 x 3 cm). The minor differences are certainly not enough to justify the wide temperature delta of 17 C in our point of view.
The kicker is that the 2017 Blade 14 and Blade Pro and 2018 Blade 15 adapters, of which I had already been seeing an alarming number of reports of melting and smoke, actually were running cooler (~55-60C) than the 2019 Blade Pro adapter (67C). The 2019 Blade 15 and Blade Pro do use a different adapter that incompatible with the 2017/2018 Blade 14 and Blade Pro systems, but what really matters is whether or not Razer has adjusted the design of the power brick for the 2019 systems to not only take the failures of previous adapters into account, but also the significantly hotter temperatures.
Apple recently issued a recall after just one MacBook Pro had a battery go up in smoke, Lenovo issued one after finding a design flaw involving battery screws for the 2017 X1 Carbon. Of course, battery combustion is perhaps more serious due to the dangers of flying with unstable lithium-ion batteries, but nobody wants to leave their US $2-3000 laptop at home to charge and then come back to a smoldering wreck, either. Only Razer knows for sure if they have done their homework on the power bricks for their 2019 systems and improved them over the 2017/2018 models, but I think it's already reached a point where any other OEM would have issued a recall out of safety concerns.