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Razer Switchblade concept: Hands-on with the bizarre mini gaming machine

We give Razer's bizarre new gaming concept, the Switchblade, the hands-on treatment. With an LED-based keyboard and a 7-inch touchscreen, it's built for highly portable PC gaming.

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CES always brings a few surprises, and this one really caught us off-guard. Razer, manufacturer of obscenely glowy gaming peripherals, has shown up in Vegas with the Switchblade -- a concept portable gaming console, and it's one of the oddest things we've ever seen.

We covered the announcement already, but it's generating a lot of buzz here at the show, so Crave used Jedi mind tricks to acquire a hands-on with the new concept -- click through our photos above to examine the elusive Switchblade in exquisite detail.

Everything about this device is subject to change, and almost certainly will on the long and possibly doomed road to actually getting the Switchblade into the shops. It's built like a miniature laptop, rocking a 7-inch multi-touch capacitive touchscreen, with a keyboard on the lower portion.

It's no ordinary keyboard though -- each button is actually a clear slab of plastic laid over an LCD screen. The image on each key changes dynamically depending on what game you're playing, and a Razer rep informed us that the displays would be customisable too.

We watched with our jaws round our ankles as a game was fired up and the keys changed to icons and shortcuts for that particular title. When no particular icons were needed, the font on each key changed.

Currently Razer is programming these icons into the system, but it hopes it can persuade games developers to create their own, and have them appear if the device playing the game is recognised as a Switchblade.

We saw a demonstration of a custom user interface Razer had built for browsing through media, including movies and games. It works by using the touchscreen to swipe left and right, then scrolling up and down to choose between titles. It seemed slick enough to us.

Inside the Switchblade is an Intel Atom processor. This is our biggest worry, as we wouldn't wager that sort of processor is capable of handling more graphically intensive games. Still, as we mentioned above, everything about this is subject to change -- this is only a concept, not an actual confirmed product.

There's a USB slot on the left-hand side for plugging in a mouse, which will be more or less invaluable -- nobody wants to play PC games using a touchscreen. There's also built-in Wi-Fi, which will be important for online games such as World of Warcraft.

We're slowly getting our heads around the idea -- making PC gaming mobile is an odd, if honorable goal. World of Warcraft fans in particular are likely to do somersaults at the idea of being able to take around with them in their backpacks. It's already possible on a laptop, but this is a very small device. We're also excited by the changing keyboard, which, quite apart from the whole gaming thing, is a neat idea in its own right.

What do you think? Is the Switchblade just crazy enough to work? Have your say in the comments or on our Facebook wall.

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The Switchblade is impressively petite.
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There's the LED keyboard.
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In closer detail...
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A Razer logo adorns the lid.
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Side view.
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You can see that the Switchblade isn't very big at all.
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The font changes on the keyboard when you play different games.
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Sometimes the keys change entirely.
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A handy USB slot.
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The custom UI in action.
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We're excited, and a little confused. What do you think?

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