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Razer Edge review: The Swiss Army gaming tablet

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MSRP: $1,299.99

The Good Gaming-optimized Windows 8 tablet with onboard Nvidia graphics; offers plenty of ways to play games via extra accessories; relatively easy setup.

The Bad Gaming performance trails that of comparably priced gaming laptops; lacks 1080p screen; design is thicker and heavier than other Windows 8 tablets; lacks Ethernet and SD slot; battery life runs short when gaming; price skews high when accessories are factored in.

The Bottom Line The Razer Edge is one of the most inventive PC gaming devices in years, but you'll pay a premium for portability and proprietary add-ons.

Visit for details.

7.3 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 7

Take a Windows 8 tablet. Add Nvidia graphics. Mix in a snap-on controller. Toss in a TV-friendly dock. Suddenly, what was a gaming PC in theory can become a console; step back, and 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.

At its heart, the Razer Edge is a 10-inch Windows 8 tablet with either a Core i5 or i7 processor, like many high-end Windows 8 tablets (the Surface Pro, in particular). What it brings to the table are gaming-caliber Nvidia GeForce graphics, and a variety of optional versatile gamer-targeted accessories: a snap-on GamePad Controller, a dock with HDMI-out and extra USB ports for TV connectivity, and even a future laptop/keyboard accessory.

But, those extras will cost you: the GamePad, arguably its sexiest feature, costs $249 -- the price range of an Xbox 360, or a Vita. The tablet itself costs anywhere from $999 to $1,449.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The Edge’s best quality is its versatility: it can be a keyboard-and-mouse mini-PC, a TV-connected game console, or a big-boned handheld. But paying nearly $1,700 for a first-generation Windows 8 gaming PC-handheld-hybrid is a lot to swallow, even for the hard core, because you’re giving up top-end PC performance in exchange for that versatility. The Edge works as advertised, but it’s a gaming experiment more than a must-have killer product.

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Design: sexy (for PC gaming)
From the outside, especially right out of the box, the Edge doesn't feel much different from any other high-end Windows 8 tablet, except for the fact that it’s chunkier (0.75 inch thick) and heavier (2.1 pounds). If no other Windows 8 tablets existed, it wouldn’t seem so bad -- but it’s bulky next to a Surface Pro.

On the other hand, the hardware feels solidly constructed and is comfortable enough to hold. It’s not the supersexy type of profile that the Razer Blade cut, but it has a similar high-quality feel. The glowing Razer logo on the back and the black, matte metal finish give it a "gamer gear" touch, but not too much.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Screen and speakers
The Edge’s 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 via the dock. Games looked sharp, however, even at a lower resolution. BioShock Infinite seemed as crisp or crisper than the Xbox 360 console version, and Civilization V’s landscapes felt vivid.

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Stereo speakers under the bottom edge pump out decent sound, but for real gaming you’d want a headset.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The GamePad and dock
Add on the GamePad, and suddenly this tablet feels like a piece of gaming hardware that escaped the dungeons of Kentia Hall at E3. It’s an odd sensation, holding an already-large tablet in an even larger controller chassis. An inner removable panel houses an extra optional battery ($69). Two spring latches attach the Edge neatly inside the GamePad, and when it’s in, the buttons have their own green LED glow, plus there’s rumble feedback.

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The thick, long handles on either side offer good grip, but the trigger buttons and angle of the controller feel odd. We wanted to tilt the controls down a bit and angle the screen, and you can’t do that. The quad of right-side buttons are also very flat, and a little hard to press. These are small complaints, though, because overall, this GamePad’s feel is far closer to a console or PC controller than any existing gaming handheld device.

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But the whole package weighs a whopping 4.2 pounds and just barely fits in a regular-size backpack. It’s a lap-gaming experience; you’d never want to hold the Edge-with-GamePad upright for more than a minute at a time. Also, services like Steam generally require an online connection (Update: Steam has an "offline mode," but it's not all that easy to set up and use.). On a train or some in-flight situation, that could put the Edge in a difficult spot.

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The nondescript dock ($99) might be the best bet of all. It comes with three rear USB 2.0 ports, HDMI with 7.1 audio and headset jacks, and a gummy, grippy underside that keeps it in place. Pop in the Edge and hunt down a few Xbox USB controllers and suddenly the system's a TV-connected console. With Steam’s Big Box mode activated, the whole affair feels a lot like the “Steam Box” brought to life. There’s no Ethernet jack, though; you’ll need to get a separate USB-to-Ethernet dongle, which is an annoyance, especially with Steam's frequent online use and large-file game downloads.

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Rich Brown/CNET

A laptop dock peripheral is also in the works, which will effectively enable you to turn the Edge into a little gaming laptop. Right now, our favorite way to use the Edge is in its dock with either a controller or mouse/keyboard attached.

Features and specs

Razer Edge Pro Lenovo IdeaPad Y500 Microsoft Surface Pro
Price as reviewed / starting price $1,449 / $999 $1,299 / $849 $999 / $899
Display size/resolution 10.1-inch, 1,366x768 touch screen 15.6-inch, 1,920x1,080 10.6-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch screen
PC CPU 1.9GHz Core i7 3517U 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-3630QM 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 3317U
PC Memory 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM 16GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM 4GB 1,600MHZ DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M LE 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 650M (x2) Intel HD Graphics 4000
Storage 256GB SSD 1TB 5,400rpm, 16GB solid-state caching 128GB SSD
Networking 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 8 (64-bit) Windows 8 (64-bit) Windows 8 (64-bit)
Weight 2.1 pounds / 4.16 with GamePad accessory / 4.82 with GamePad and AC adapter 6.4 pounds / 8.1 pounds with AC adapter 2 pounds / 2.6 pounds with AC adapter
Measurements (HWD) 7x11x0.75 inches 10.2x15.2x1.75inches 6.8x10.8x0.53 inches

Compared with the average Windows 8 tablet (the Surface Pro), the top-end Razer Edge boasts more RAM, a faster CPU, and more onboard storage, plus Nvidia graphics, but it's thicker, heavier, and has a lower-resolution screen and fewer ports. Compared with a gaming laptop that costs less (the Lenovo IdeaPad Y500), the Y500 soundly beats it with a better CPU, 1080p screen, and more RAM (but no touch screen). That's not surprising, because the Edge is a tablet, but it goes to show that you can buy a lot more laptop for the same amount of money -- or less.

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Ports and connections
The Edge Pro, on its own, has a sparse selection of ports compared with other Windows 8 tablets. A single USB 3.0 port sits on the top, and there's a standard headset/mic jack, but no expandable storage slots (SD of any kind is lacking). There's a front-facing 2-megapixel camera, but no rear camera.

Configurations
Our $1,449 Razer Edge Pro review unit has 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. 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. Odds are that any gamer would find the $999 way too limiting, and the system's not easily upgraded.

Performance: Windows 8 tablet-equivalent

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Multimedia multitasking -- iTunes and QuickTime
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
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Sarah Tew/CNET

The Razer Edge Pro performs about as well as any other Core i5/i7-equipped Windows 8 tablet in terms of everyday nongaming, which isn’t much of a surprise. Its specs match up in its base $999 configuration to the $899 Surface Pro. The $1,449 Edge Pro has a number of beefed-up elements (8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, that faster Core i7 processor), but you’re paying a lot for it. For comparison, we included the performance of the Lenovo Y500. It's faster than any other Windows 8 tablet thus far, and slower on average than the Lenovo laptop, but not by a huge margin.

Gaming

BioShock Infinite (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,080 (medium quality)  
1,366x768 (medium quality)  
Razer Edge Pro
24 
41 

Just Cause 2 Dark Tower demo (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,080 (custom)  
Razer Edge Pro
22 

Metro 2033 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,333x768 (custom)  
Razer Edge Pro
26 

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.

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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)
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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.

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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

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