Razer Edge review:

The Swiss Army gaming tablet


BioShock Infinite (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,080 (medium quality)  
1,366x768 (medium quality)  
Razer Edge Pro

Just Cause 2 Dark Tower demo (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,080 (custom)  
Razer Edge Pro

Metro 2033 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,333x768 (custom)  
Razer Edge Pro

Focusing purely on raw gaming performance misses the point of the Edge Pro. Of course it matters, and the frame rates depicted above demonstrate that you will need to make sacrifices to resolution and image quality in exchange for the Razer's unique design. Anyone who follows PC hardware would draw the same conclusion from the lower-end GeForce 640M LE graphics card on the Edge Pro spec sheet.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In addition to the games in our charts, we also tried playing Far Cry 3 and Crysis 3, two of the more-demanding shooters out for the PC right now. The Edge Pro played both games flawlessly at its native 1,366x768 setting, and capably enough at 1,600x900, both at medium image quality settings. The frame rate dropped past the point of playability at 1,920x1,080.

If full HD gaming on the most graphically challenging titles is out of reach for the Edge Pro, what's impressive is how much flexibility it offers you in the way you might choose to play a game.

Not every game works in every mode, of course. While Starcraft II or Diablo III might seem like good matches for the touch screen, neither game has been updated with a touch-specific interface. Civilization V has a touch gaming mode, though, and playing it on the Edge Pro in tablet mode is just as addictive as on a traditional laptop or desktop.

Playing AAA games via touch screen is still an experiment for the truly dedicated, of course. Slower, turn-based strategy titles are probably the best choice for this input method, but that genre doesn't always get a lot of attention. We have yet to try these, but games like the Dragon Age series, and XCom: Enemy Unknown could work, along with older strategy and role-playing games. Minecraft has a touch-screen mode, although reports of its effectiveness are mixed.

The GamePad also lets you tuck into PC games in a much more engaging way than any gaming laptop. In this mode, you don't need to find a place to perch the system like you do with a laptop. Instead you can more or less sit anywhere and play any GamePad-friendly title.

It's the touch and GamePad usage modes that set the Edge Pro apart from its laptop-based competition the most. Its docking station will let you play via a TV or a deskbound display, but any gaming notebook with an HDMI out and a few USB ports can do the same.

Traditional gaming laptops in the same price range will also outpace products in terms of raw performance like this one for at least another generation of CPU and GPU silicon, if not another two or three. That fact alone may hurt Edge Pro adoption among dedicated PC gamers. You will be rewarded most by this device if you find its touch and GamePad modes appealing.

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The optional extra battery is tucked under the GamePad. Sarah Tew/CNET

Battery life
The Razer Edge's internal battery lasted 4 hours and 25 minutes using our video-playback battery drain test. That's close to the Microsoft Surface Pro, which lasted 4 hours 31 minutes. In gaming mode, it's another story. With the GamePad and extra battery attached, roughly 45 minutes of BioShock Infinite on a New Jersey Transit train car sapped about half the battery life.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion: Future-forward
There's something to the Razer Edge that makes sense, if you spend a bit of time with it. Ever since Windows 8 rolled in, the concept of the old-school gaming laptop feels like it's come up against the redesigned interface and hardware flow of the computers that have emerged since. Touch-screen input has become a somewhat useful if not necessary part of Windows 8, even if games don't require it.

The Razer Edge signals a strategy shift away from traditional PC gaming to an increasingly portable consumer computer landscape. This won't be the last handheld device to tempt PC gamers away from the desktop. All its modes feel weirdly practical, too, avoiding the challenges that the touch-screen Switchblade UI continues to pose for Razer's Blade gaming laptop. And, especially compared with the Blade, the Edge's price isn't too high.

Still, this is a niche product. Those who want a compact game system at all costs, like the Alienware M11x a long time ago, could find the Edge to be a thrill. There’s undeniable appeal to playing games like BioShock Infinite on the go. It’s a Swiss Army Knife of mobile PC gaming. But with its higher price and limited specs, you might want to consider how practical the Edge truly is for you, and whether you’d just be better off with an old-fashioned gaming laptop instead.

We couldn’t help but be impressed with some of the stuff Razer managed to squeeze into the Edge as far as gaming goes, but you’re making compromises compared with the average $1,500 gaming laptop.

Performance testing conducted by Joseph Kaminski. Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Razer Edge Pro
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.9GHz Intel Core i7 3517U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce 640M LE; 256GB Adata XM14 SSD

Acer Iconia W700-6465
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Toshiba SSD

Lenovo IdeaPad Y500
Windows 8 (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-3630QM; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; (x2) 2GB Nvidia Geforce GT650M; HDD#1 SanDisk 16GB SSD/ HDD#2 1TB Seagate 5,400rpm

Microsoft Surface Pro
Windows 8 Pro (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Micron SSD

Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T
Windows 8 Pro (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 32MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Lite-On IT SSD

What you'll pay

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