Razer announces a Windows 8 tablet that’s a laptop that’s a console that’s a portable gaming system
Razer showed off a concept tablet called Project Fiona last year at CES, and the concept is now an actual product. The Razer Edge is a Windows 8-based tablet that offers a variety of control and docking options that can turn the hardware into a laptop, a portable gaming system, a standard PC, or even a console. It’s an odd idea, but versatile: the Edge can turn into whatever you need, and adjust to how you’d like to play your games.
The options, and specs
There will be two versions of the hardware released in the first quarter of this year.
“The base model is equipped with an Intel Core i5 processor, NVIDIA GT640M LE GPU, 4 GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 64 GB SSD,” Razer stated. “The Razer Edge Pro comes replete with an upgraded Intel Core i7 processor, NVIDIA GT640M LE GPU, 8 GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 128 GB or 256 GB SSD.” The base model will be sold for $999.99, with and the Pro will cost $1,299.
I spoke with Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan about the device, and its possibilities. “You can play any PC game out of the box with it – it’s as powerful as a regular desktop gaming PC. Load up Steam or Origin and download any of your PC games and it runs out of the box at incredible framerates,” he told the Report.
“It’s an anachronism – the first time you see a hardcore PC game running on something as thin and light as the Razer Edge is incredible. The gamepad controller features the standard Xinput protocol which basically means any PC title that supports regular gamepad controls will run out of the box. And playing on it with the screen in between the controls is a truly incredible experience – it’s super immersive. Couple that with force feedback, and you’ll see that a racing game on it is just phenomenal.”
This is where things get interesting. The base hardware may be a tablet, but you’ll be able to purchase a variety of add-on products that change how you play your games. There is an optional, $199.99 keyboard dock that allows you to play with a mouse and keyboard, just like a standard laptop. This product will also allow you to add an additional 40Wh battery for longer gaming sessions.
You can also slide the tablet into an optional $249.99 GamePad controller, which turns the Edge into a sort of portable PC gaming device. It’s much larger than things like Project Shield, but it’s also a fully-functional PC you can play like an iPad, but with physical buttons and controls.
“Finally, the Razer Edge can be docked in the Docking Station as part of home console mode, which serves as a full desktop and charging resource with three USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI 1.4 port, mic-in and stereo-out,” the company said. “Hook-up the Razer Edge to the big screen with multiple gamepad controllers and Razer gear and tag team PC games with your friends for a complete home console experience. It’s the most versatile tablet on the planet.” The Docking Station will be sold for $99.99.
It’s an odd combination of uses and peripherals. The base tablet doesn’t come with an HDMI output, so if you want to use the Edge on your television, you’ll need to buy the Docking Station.
Tan doesn’t think this is an issue. The Edge is basically a console with the Docking Station, so the HDMI port makes more sense in that context. “We focused on the use cases of what a gamer wanted. In tablet mode, we felt a gamer would want the bare basics of a tablet – light, portable, touch friendly with great battery life,” he explained.
“We didn’t include the HDMI out on the tablet as we felt that while some gamers may use it in limited cases, the vast majority wouldn’t want to be using the tablet while a HDMI cable was dangling out of it. In the docking station, we felt that we would use it at home or in the dorm room – probably rigged up permanently to a big screen TV and a couple of controllers or a keyboard and mouse – so we added the HDMI out and 3 USB ports on the dock. In fact, I’ve been using it with a large screen, Blackwidow and Naga permanently rigged up to the dock. I just pop it on when I get home.”
“In short, we thought through the entire use cases as gamers ourselves and added in/removed features in line with feedback from the gamers on the ground– it’s pretty much what we wanted in our own portable gaming rig.”
Power consumption is also a concern, which is why the hardware includes the option of adding an additional battery. “There’s a 40W battery in the base tablet and that’s about the standard battery in most tablets in the market. So in normal tablet usage, it’s going to be right up there with all the other standard Win 8 tablets,” Tan said. “Of course, in gaming mode when it’s running say COD: Black Ops 2, the performance goes up and it burns through the battery faster. That’s why we also have an optional 40W battery that can be used in the gamepad or the keyboard that doubles the battery life. In a form factor this small, it speaks volumes to the prowess of our in-house engineering team at Razer. They specialize in making the impossible possible.”
He also praised the power supply, which he said is so small you won’t notice carrying it with you. You won’t need a brick to plug the hardware into a wall to either charge the battery or play a game.
Pricing, and vision
There are many ways to sell the hardware, and packages may be released in the future. “We’re going to be offering a retail bundle with the Edge Pro and the Gamepad Controller, but I think the key thing to look at moving forward is to see what the community wants,” Tan told the Report. “Time and time again at Razer, when our community demanded something, we made it happen, and that sort of package for people who want everything is certainly a possibility.”
Gamers voted on features and gave Razer feedback through Facebook, and helped to guide the development of the Edge. Razer read the responses of tens of thousands of gamers, and that was part of the reason the initial design of Project Fiona was adjusted into the modular ideas you see here. If it appears that the Edge was designed by committee well, that may not be too far from reality.
“We don’t sit down and focus on a target market to address most of the time – we just design products for ourselves as gamers. There aren’t meetings where we sit down and segment users, etc,” Tan said.
“We just hang out and discuss about products we wish we had in our lives – most products at Razer start with a line – ‘Hey, would it be cool if we had a….’ Likewise, we see some gamers who will love the Razer Edge – they’ll use it at work, at school, at home. Some gamers will hate it because they have no use for portable gaming at all. Either way, all our products are designed for gamers – they are our customer base and we believe there’s a significant pool of them who would love a product like the Razer Edge,” he continued.
The Razer Edge is a tablet that can become a console, a portable gaming device, or a laptop. You can play traditional PC games, or use console-style controls, or even play games on the touch screen. It can hold an extra battery for marathon sessions. It’s, for like of a better term, weird. It can be anything, but we’re going to have to wait until we get our hands on one to see if it does any of it well.