For north of $1,500, the Razer Edge could be your next tablet, game console, laptop and desktop — and a way to play high-end PC games from pretty much anywhere.
Razer, which has dabbled in making its own PCs but is mostly known for gaming peripherals, has spent the last year refining its concept for a powerful gaming tablet. We first got a glimpse of this concept, formerly dubbed “Project Fiona,” at CES 2012, when Razer showed off a tablet with game control handles attached to its sides. The idea was to bring portability to the kinds of games people play at home, like Call of Duty and Skyrim. The Razer Edge is the end result of Razer’s experiments.
“We wanted something that wasn’t Angry Birds,” said Min-Liang Tan, Razer’s CEO, co-founder and creative director.
The Edge, which starts at $1,000, is a 10.1-inch Windows 8 tablet that’s twice as thick as Apple‘s iPad, and 25 percent heavier, but much more powerful. Inside, Razer’s managed to pack an Intel Core i5 processor, an Nvidia GT640M graphics card, 4 GB of RAM and a 64 GB solid state drive. For players who need even more power, there’s a $1,300 “Pro” version with a Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM and either a 128 GB or 256 GB solid state drive.
But the tablet alone isn’t the whole story. The Razer Edge is a modular device, able to take on different forms through extra peripherals. Foremost, there’s a $250 gaming controller, which wraps around the tablet and provides a pair of grips on either side, each with their own thumbsticks, triggers and buttons. Also, a $100 docking station provides HDMI output and three USB ports for external controllers, turning the Razer Edge into a desktop PC or living room game console. In the third quarter, Razer will sell a $200 keyboard dock, which collapses shut like a laptop.
The whole package isn’t cheap, but then again most gaming laptops aren’t, and the whole point of the Razer Edge is that it’s a jack of all trades. The question is whether this one device is good enough to stand in for all the others.
In my hands-on time, the Razer Edge certainly performed well enough with high-end games, humming along at 60 frames per second in 1080p resolution while I played Dishonored and Dirt Showdown. That framerate didn’t waver when mirrored to an external monitor while the game continued to play on the tablet’s display. If you’re a console gamer, the Razer Edge will seem like a huge improvement over the current crop of systems (which are now six to seven years old), but it hardly seems compromised as a PC gaming machine, either.
There is one big drawback, though: Due to the processing power that high-end PC games demand, the Razer Edge will only get about an hour of battery life while gaming. Razer will sell a $69 extended battery, which snaps into either the keyboard dock or game controller and doubles the battery life, but even then you’re only looking at about two hours of game time. Battery life will likely be much better for non-gaming uses, but Razer didn’t have official details yet.
My other issue was that the gaming controller felt somewhat unnatural to hold, at least compared to the controllers I’m used to. It seemed like my thumbs had to stretch pretty far to use the thumbsticks while also keeping the face buttons within reach, and the weight of the tablet made it tricky to hold without leaning back and resting it on my lap. Since I only had a few minutes with the device, I don’t want to judge it too harshly, because it might just take some getting used to. It just didn’t seem like a perfect fit right away.
Despite those concerns, I’m really impressed with what Razer has done. This is exactly the kind of device that Windows 8 makes possible, and merely the idea of a portable, fully-powered game console had me pondering how much money was left in my bank account. Tan said Razer will upgrade and build on the Edge as long as there’s enough interest. I hope there is, because even if the first iteration of the Edge isn’t perfect, the idea is a winner.