Part PC, part tablet, part game console, part handheld: the Razer Edge touches down at CNET.
Take a Windows 8 tablet. Add Nvidia graphics. Add a snap-on controller. Add a TV-friendly dock. Suddenly, what was a gaming PC in theory can become a console; suddenly, a tablet becomes a gaming handheld.
This is the promise that the Razer Edge provides: a Surface for the gaming set, if you will. It's a novel idea that no one else has made tangible yet, and the Razer Edge stands alone in that regard.
We got our review unit in today from Razer, and have been unpacking and setting it up. It's the top-end Razer Edge Pro configuration, a $1,449 package that comes with a 1.9GHz/3.0GHz Core i7-3517U CPU, 8GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce 640M LE (2GB) graphics card, and 256GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage. It also comes with a snap-on Gamepad Controller, transforming the tablet into a makeshift, very large gaming handheld not unlike a massive Wii U GamePad.
The cheapest Razer Edge you can get costs $999, with a 1.7GHz/2.6GHz Core i5-3317U processor, only 4GB of RAM, Nvidia GeForce 640M LE (1GB) graphics, and a 64GB SSD, but doesn't come with the Gamepad Controller -- arguably its sexiest feature.
Without considering the Nvidia graphics, the Edge doesn't feel much different from any other high-end Windows 8 tablet. It's chunkier and heavier (2.1 pounds), but feels solidly constructed and is comfortable enough to hold. A single USB 3.0 port sits in the top, and there's a standard headset/mic jack, but no expandable storage slots (SD of any kind is lacking). The Edge has a front-facing 2-megapixel camera, but no rear camera. Its 10.1-inch, 1,366x768-pixel IPS display is a step down from the screen on the Surface Pro, which has a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution, but the Edge can output 1080p video and gaming.
The difference is in the connectivity options. A dock connector at the bottom interfaces with the optional Razer Edge dock, which has three additional USB ports, HDMI with 7.1 audio, and headset/optical jacks, but no Ethernet. A USB-to-Ethernet adapter is sold separately.
The Gamepad Controller has a full set of Xbox controller-style buttons, backlit no less, with vibrational feedback. The rear triggers are analog, and the whole bundle, while presenting a large package to hold in your lap, feels similar to what you'd expect as far as necessary PC controls. A rear panel also accepts an optional extra battery for extended playing time.
A laptop dock peripheral is also in the works, which will effectively enable the Edge to turn into a little gaming laptop.
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, but will it be compelling enough out of the gate to win over gamers?
The best news about the Razer Edge is that it's ready to go: all its modes feel weirdly practical, 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. Razer has been showing off relatively forgiving games on the Edge, ranging from Dirt: Showdown to Rift to Dishonored. We finally put a real PC killer on it this afternoon in the form of Far Cry 3.
We tried Far Cry 3 on the Edge connected to a 59-inch
We continued lowering the resolution and the image quality settings, and the sweet spot seemed to be 1,600x900-pixel resolution, with no anti-aliasing and the optimal image quality setting. There was no visible frame rate stutter, and the game looked better than on the current-generation consoles. When we dropped the resolution down to 1,280x720 pixels, the image quality suffered badly. We haven't had a chance to adjust the image settings at this lower resolution, but it didn't seem necessary given our success at 1,600x900.
So far, we can say that Razer Edge requires more compromises than you would have to make on a $1,500 gaming laptop, but we're starting to be impressed by the amount of gaming capability Razer squeezed into this small, versatile package.
We will try more games throughout the review process, both from our existing benchmarks and anecdotally. Crysis 3, The Witcher 2, Battlefield 3, and BioShock Infinite are at the top of that list.
Can the Razer Edge overcome its potential battery life challenges and middle-of-the-road graphics to become more than the sum of its parts? Stay tuned for the full review next week.
(The original video of the Edge from CES follows; we'll have a more in-depth video with our final thoughts next week.)