Breaking: tablet gaming is taking off. But while there are Android tablets and iPads more than capable of playing games, few are purpose built with gaming in mind. PC gaming hardware manufacturer Razer decided to make one of its own.
We met with Razer co-founder, CEO and creative director Min-Liang Tan in the company's CES suite earlier this week to see the Razer Edge, Razer's new Windows 8 gaming tablet, console and PC. It's a big, heavy device, but you could argue that design is just one of many tradeoffs required to do all of the things that PC gamers want this dream device to do.
Razer is touting the Edge as a "crowdsourced gaming tablet," built with the user input of interested gamers in mind. At last year's CES, you might recall an early incarnation of the Edge called Project Fiona. The prototype had dual analog joysticks fused to the side of the device – but they couldn't be removed. It's not difficult to see how this would limit the device's usefulness outside PC gaming scenarios, and users seemed to think so too (imagine trying to use last year's prototype as an eReader, albeit one with control sticks on each side). Min solicited input after CES through his Facebook page, and many of the changes we're seeing now were made as a result.
The Razer Edge, as Project Fiona is now being called, is a very different tablet – namely in that it actually looks like a tablet. Rather than making the controller hardware a permanent part of the device, it is now just one of numerous accessories that can be used to expand and augment its gaming capabilities--if you're willing to pay a hefty price.
A $100 docking station will let Edge owners connect their tablets to a television or PC monitor via HDMI, turning the tablet into a home gaming console or media playing device. There's also a folding keyboard dock which will turn the Edge into a laptop, though pricing has yet to be announced, and you won't be able to buy it until Q3 (based on what we heard, Razer is clearly still tweaking the design). And of course, there is the Razer's dual-analog gamepad, which completes the Project Fiona vision – but at the cost of a whopping $249.
The gamepad is best described as two Nintendo Wii-looking nunchucks that jut out from each side of the device. The gamepad portion is part of a larger shell that clips onto the bottom of the device, with room for an optional 40 Whr battery that Razer claims "doubles battery life" for $69 if you so choose. And while we can't speak to extended gaming marathons, we can say each gamepad is comfortable to grip and a sturdy support for the rest of the device.
That's a good thing too, because the Razer Edge is a weighty device. However, Razer knows this too, and sees the typical user resting the device on a surface, be it a table or their leg, for added support. That's not exactly the definition of mobility, especially when you consider the amount of mobile gaming typically done standing up in, say, a line. The tablet alone, for example, is 2.5 pounds.
Our demo in Razor's suite included three games running via Steam's Big Picture mode: Civilization 5, Dishonored and Dirt Showdown. Civilization could be controlled via touch, for example, while Dishonored and Dirt made use of the gamepad attachment We were told Dirt ran consistently at 60fps using medium graphical settings (the 10.1” IPS display is only 1366x768 pixels in resolution), which should net between three and four hours of gameplay on a single charge. Of course, because the Razer Edge is, at its core, simply running Windows 8, you won't be limited to proprietary tablet titles – anything that can run on a traditional PC is fair game.
Within the next few weeks, the Edge will be available in two configurations the Razer Edge and the Razer Edge Pro. The Razer Edge will run on Intel's Core i5 processor, an NVIDIA GT640M LE GPU, 4 GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 64 GB SSD. The Razer Edge Pro, meanwhile, keeps the same GPU, but boasts an upgraded Intel Core i7, twice the RAM, and either a 128 GB or 256 GB SSD.
As for the price? The base model, the Razer Edge, starts at a rather pricey $999 – and that's not even including the gamepad controller. We're told that a Razer Edge Pro model will be available with the gamepad as a bundle for $1500 too. Those of you lusting after a standard model bundle are sadly out of luck.