The Razer Edge is a gaming tablet. That much you know. But here’s the thing: It’s so well made — and has such a complete notion of what it is and what it wants to do — that it might not just be “the gaming tablet,” but the single best Windows 8 convertible we’ve seen.
The first thing you notice about the Edge is its thickness; it’s got a little more beef than you’d like. That’s offset a bit by its clever build, with a flat side-bar that gives way to a rounded back piece. That makes the thickness seem like a conscious design choice, not just unfortunate flab. And the size belies the relative lightness; this feels like a tablet that’s maybe a quarter thinner than it actually is.
Light doesn’t mean flimsy, though; the Edge has surprisingly good solid quality, with absolutely no flex or give to the plastic, which is rare among these full-Windows-8 tablets. Most use plastic that feels too cheap, for the thermals. And while the trade-off is that this tablet runs hotter than those others do — it would have to, with its discrete card — it’s still not nearly as hot as the old MacBook Pros, even the ones that had been running civilisation V for hours.
Speaking of games! The Edge’s gamepad attachment adds a good bit of heft, but its grips are ergonomic enough that you don’t really notice. It’s not ideal, though, if you have smaller hands; it feels a little heavy at the top, especially when you’re using the shoulder buttons and triggers.
Seeing games run in Big Picture mode — Steam’s solution for putting PC games on your television — is impressive, and it works as flawlessly (when a Windows update isn’t causing headaches) as you’d expect a $US1000+ console to work. But what really brought home how this could fit into gamers’ lives was when I saw it running Rift with a keyboard attachment. The keyboard won’t be out until Q3 — its keys are a little too small, and it doesn’t make the best use of space, especially for a 10-inch tablet’s keyboard — but it struck me that the Edge is the embodiment of the “one device” ethos.
You really can make this thing your only computing machine, given that you’ve got an acceptable keyboard solution to take around with you. The Edge can be your laptop, or it can be your tablet, or it can be your console. And adding the final push in that unifying surge is Steam, whose recent push of Big Picture mode, distribution of touch drivers, and massive content base has made it so that an Edge Pro loaded with a Steam Library is literally the only machine you need, provided it’s enough machine for you.
And that’s the one open question. Rift played well, but on low settings. Even then, it was down to minimum terrain distance, and its models weren’t super-detailed, and there was a little slowdown. Granted MMOs can present unique rendering problems, but it’s something to consider. Dishonored was flawless (even though I suck), and Dirt Showdown was totally fine. civilisation V’s touch drivers, which are new, acted up a bit, but the game ran more or less fine.
All of which is to say, it freaking TOTALLY BLEW AWAY what you’d get from a maxed out ultrabook or MacBook Air with Intel HD 4000 graphics. Those machines run about the same price as the Edge Pro when you start piling in comparable specs. And the build quality is strong enough on the Edge that you can actually think about using it as a replacement to all of your computers. It would be nice if the keyboard accessory were available now — you definitely couldn’t make the jump without it — but the fact that it’s even on the table is remarkable.
Sure, there have been some convertibles trickling out since Windows 8’s launch that could be your everything machine. But the Edge is the first time you’re gaining something significant in the bargain: the ability to play real video games.