Last January at CES 2012, Razer unveiled a concept for a gaming tablet, which they dubbed Project Fiona. If you go back a year, no one was really talking about playing real games on a tablet. Sure, you had things like Angry Birds, and a few Tegra-optimized games which weren’t bad. But a tablet built specifically for gaming? It was a bit absurd, yet somewhat exciting.
What was really interesting, and somewhat laughable was the shape of the tablet. Namely that it had to control sticks attached to the sides of the tablet. This made sense from a gaming standpoint, but was otherwise silly. With the inclusion of these, you lost much of the portability that makes tablets so desirable.
Well this year Razer came back with Project Fiona. However, the device they showed off was much more polished, and ready for prime time. Gone were the permanently-affixed handles, and a host of new features were introduced. I was able to spend a bit of time with the Edge, and check out the various modes of operation first-hand.
The first thing I should probably mention is what hardware is powering the tablet. We already gave you the full rundown last week after it was announced. But if you missed it, here’s what you can expect to find in the base and pro models:
- CPU: Core i5 Processor (Core i7 Processor)
- GPU: Nvidia GT640M LE 1GB (Nvidia GT640M LE 2GB)
- RAM: 4GB DDR3 (8GB DDR3)
- Storage: 64 GB SSD (128 or 256GB SSD)
- Screen: 10.1” IPS, 1366×768, 10-point multitouch
- USB: 1x USB 3.0
- Network: Intel WLAN 802.11b/g/n + BT4
- Weight: ~2lbs
- MSRP: $1000 ($1,300)
As you can see, we’re not looking at some wimpy tablet that’s going to choke on the most basic of games. Rather, it has specs similar to a decent laptop, or high-end ultrabook. So now that we know the specs, what can it do?
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As I mentioned before, the device has a few different modes. Unfortunately to take advantage of all but the most basic, you’re going to need accessories. But we’ll get to that in a minute. The first mode is obviously Tablet Mode. This is the everyday use of the device. You’ll take advantage of all of the touchscreen features of Windows 8 that you complain about on your desktop. You’ll be able to play Angry Birds and the like with the same enjoyment that you’d get on your iPad. However, you’ll also get to take advantage of some of the touchscreen-optimized desktop games like Civilization V.
Razer had Civ V available for testing on Edge, and as you would imagine, it ran very nicely. It was easy to select units and send them off into battle, or to explore. The game was designed around larger screens, but even on the 10.1” display of the Edge, it performed quite nicely.
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Mobile Console Mode is what most people are going to think of when they see the Razer Edge. This is where the whole thing started, back with Project Fiona. Instead of having the two controllers permanently-affixed to the sides, you have an optional accessory (which will set you back $250, or will be found in a bundle for less when the Edge launches later this year) that provides this functionality.
I was skeptical of the controllers last year, and I’ll admit that I’m not exactly impressed with it this year. My favorite part is that the controller is optional. Also, there is an extended battery compartment contained within the controller, which is nice. Just holding the whole thing with the two grips on the sides felt tiresome after only a short while. I wasn’t able to get an exact weight for everything combined, but when you’re approaching three pounds and attempting to hold something in the air for extended periods, your arms are going to get tired. There’s a reason most console controllers weigh less than a pound.
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Next up is the Keybaord Mode, which, as you can guess, gives your tablet a keyboard. Unlike the one for the Microsoft Surface, the Edge keyboard offers chicklet keys, which is something you can expect to do large amounts of typing on with ease. This optional $200 accessory turns your ordinary tablet into a hybrid device that will allow you to game just as if you were playing on a notebook. The keyboard both types and plays well. It’s a bit small, but that’s what I expected from a tablet keyboard. We played a bit of Dishonored, and had no difficulty stealthily stabbing people in this mode.
You’ll have one extra USB port on each side, making it easy to connect a mouse, or even a better keyboard, should you want to. The real downside here is the thickness. I didn’t get an exact measurement, but the 0.8” thick tablet is now closer to 2” with the keyboard attachment. On the bright side, much like the controller attachment, there is room to put in an optional spare battery.
The final form of this versatile device is named Home Console Mode. This is where things really get interesting. The idea is to setup the dock (a $100 accessory) in your living room, near your TV. The dock will charge your tablet, give you standard audio jacks, HDMI output, and three additional USB ports. This will allow you to output everything from your tablet to your large TV. With a total of four USB controllers, you’ve got yourself a great home console. The recent release of Steam’s Big Picture Mode also plays nicely into this. We got to demo Dirt Showdown using Steam’s Big Picture Mode. The game ran smoothly, especially when using one of Razer’s Sabertooth controllers. There was no noticeable lag, and the game played just as smoothly as you would imagine, though I’m not sure what video settings were used.
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If you’re not one to game on the big-screen very often, something else you might consider doing with the Home Console Dock is using it at your desk. While you won’t find this feature highlighted on their website, they did have an Edge setup in this configuration on a desk, with a keyboard and mouse plugged in. If you like to live light, you can replace your desktop with this, and just drop in your Edge when you get home from work, and use it like you would any other computer (albeit with a smaller screen). One of the Razer employees mentioned that he was planning to replace his Blade with this exact setup.
I had a bit of time to test out each of these modes, and I have to say, I’m impressed. Sure, I wasn’t fond of the Mobile Console Mode during my brief usage, but the other modes seemed great (and I might change my mind about that mode after I have a full hands-on review later). The Edge is essentially the Microsoft Surface for gamers. There are still questions to be answered, and more thorough tests to be ran, however, after my brief experience, I’m excited with what Razer is doing in the tablet market.
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