When we saw it last year, then named Project Fiona, Razer’s gaming tablet already felt refined and finished in a way that other tablets have taken another year to catch up to. Now though? It’s something totally new. The Razer Edge is a total desktop/gaming computer shoved into a 10-inch tablet.
Unlike some other Windows 8 machines claiming to be tablet/laptop hybrids, the Edge backs it up with sheer force of guts. It’s got a damn discrete graphics card. It’s from Nvidia’s GT series — not the more powerful GTC — but it’s still a plenty impressive feat of engineering to get the thermals working on something like that.
There are two models, the Razer Edge and Razer Edge Pro. The basic Edge has a Core i5 processor, a Nvidia GT 640M GPU, 4GB or RAM, and a 64GB SSD. The Pro has a Core i7, the same GT 640M GPU, 8GB of RAM, and either a 128 or 256GB SSD. The base Edge starts at $US1000; The Pro models go up to $US1500. Both will be available in Q1 of 2013.
The main drawback on the spec sheet is the display: it’s a 1366×768 panel, the same as many previous-generation ultrabooks. That’s condensed a little more than usual, onto a 10-inch screen instead of 11.6 inches, but for a machine packing enough chops to render impressive graphics, it’s a tough pill to swallow — especially when lined up next to tablets like the iPad, the Nexus 10, and all the other beautiful screens out there.
Beyond its specs, the defining feature of the Edge is probably its gamepad case, which latches onto the Edge and gives you control of your tablet with the familiar two analogue sticks at your thumbs, face buttons, shoulder buttons, and a d-pad. It ends up looking like a Wii U controller on steroids. We’re getting hands on with the Edge as you’re reading this, so we’ll let you know how it holds up to actual use, but it was pretty darn solid when we saw it in action a year ago.
In addition to the control pad converter case, the Edge also has a keyboard attachment, and HDMI out to allow it to connect to a television, and it’s compatible with all gamepad-enabled games. Meaning, you can turn this into a super powered, $US1500, ultraportable Xbox is you really want. And since it runs full Windows, you can use whatever game store you like — Steam, Origin, the Windows Store, etc.
Battery life is just “comparable to other tablets out there”, which should mean between 8 and 10 hours of normal tablet use, but Razer was non-committal about what that means for game time. The optional battery pack adds “up to two hours” of gaming, though.
In the time since it showed Project Fiona at last year’s CES, Razer took feedback from over 10,000 gamers who chimed in about how much they’d be willing to pay, what capabilities would be requirements, and how big of a tablet they’d be willing to put up with.
On the surface, this seems like the opposite approach to the Blade, which basically scolded gamers, “Here, this is good for you. Even if you don’t realise it yet.” Whereas this seems more communal. But Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan says that it’s actually a very similar process to what the Blade went through — and still goes through — just that it’s more transparent.
The ports enabling finer controls, like a mouse and keyboard for a shooter, or adapt to MMOs, or just HDMI-out the picture to a TV and plug in some gamepads makes it seem more practical. Until you realise that you can do all that with a laptop, so you’re still coming down to having the super beast-mod tablet, and the ability to play it with killer accessories like the controller case.
The big question then is if anyone will actually want this thing. Like the Blade, it’s a super impressive feat of engineering and design gumption, but that doesn’t mean anything if it’s too expensive or too superfluous for gamers.