Razer Nabu hands-on: fitness band, meet smartwatch

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/ Updated: January 6, 2014 5:55 PM PST

Take a smartwatch. Take a fitness band. Stir them together. What do you get? A magic formula that manufacturers like LG and now Razer are trying to crack: the fitness-notification superband. The Razer Nabu, coming sometime early this year, is yet another left-field wearable tech entry from a company not normally known for playing in this field.

Scott Stein/CNET

What it is, well, that's easy to understand. The Nabu, like many, many other devices -- Fitbit Force, Nike Fuelband, LG Lifeband Touch, and so on and so on -- tracks steps taken, calories burned, you know the drill. But it also gets a full set of notifications from iOS or Android phones -- text messages, phone calls, and more -- much like Pebble and its ilk. That's the plan. The Nabu launches in a developer-only edition first for $49, and then a consumer version shortly after that for "a little more," according to Razer's public relations.

Scott Stein/CNET

CEO Min-Liang Tan, who I sat down with during a briefing, made the decision to enter wearables because of a love for fitness bands like the Nike Fuelband, but felt that existing bands weren't doing enough. That sentiment is common: in fact, LG's justification for the Lifeband Touch, a similarly-spirited device, followed along the same lines.

Scott Stein/CNET

The unit on display was a prototype, shown to me with promises that the final version would be better constructed (in fact, there are more finished models on the CES show floor). That's good news, because the band, while functional, felt a loosely constructed and had a hard time snapping shut on my wrist. The Nabu borrows a clever idea from the Fuelband: its buckle is a Micro USB port, much like the Fuelband's USB buckle. There's no need to carry an extra adapter dongle to charge it up. The Nabu is rain- and splashproof, and Razer claims it lasts up to seven days before needing a recharge.

Razer's press-release concept of what the final Nabu will look like. Razer

The Nabu offers two unique ideas: dual screens, and a handshake social system. The top-facing display is meant to offer simple indicators, while the larger LED display below shows full info on who's calling or messaging, for discreet checking.

The display actually holds a fair amount of characters and text: you can see here on a prototype that nearly a full tweet comes through.

Scott Stein/CNET

Thanks to built-in gesture controls using the accelerometer, a handshake with someone else wearing a Nabu can initiate a social transaction: send a friend request to someone, or follow them on Twitter. The Nabu will support both LinkedIn and Twitter out of the box thanks to open APIs, but it could work with other networks, too. You control whether you're open to friend requests or being followed on your own app. And of course, you need someone else with a Nabu...the much tougher challenge.

The Nabu will also support Razer's own in-game communication software Razer Comms, but how remains to be seen. Most likely, for notifications. Keep an eye out for the Razer Nabu soon.

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Razer Nabu

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