The gaming tablet that’s a LAN box: the Razer Edge is small, powerful, expensive, and cool as hell
The audacity of the Razer Edge is impressive. It’s a Windows 8 tablet that was designed from the ground up to be a gaming PC, and it can be used in a variety of ways. I’ve been playing with a review sample of the hardware for the past few days and, while I won’t have time to do exhaustive testing until I return home from the combination PAX East / Game Developers Conference trip, I’m ready to share some early thoughts on the hardware.
And those thoughts are pretty damn positive.
What were they thinking?
I’ve spoken with Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan on occasion, and he always stressed that the company doesn’t design by committee, and they don’t worry about whether or not something has a market before they put it into production. It’s an odd way to run a company, but it leads to products that are remarkably off-beat and fun to use.
Let’s get the specs out of the way before we continue. This is a fully-featured gaming PC, so don’t think you’re going to get something as thin and light as an iPad. The system is .8 inches thick, it weighs two pounds, and features a 10.1 inch screen that runs at 1366 by 768. I was sent the Pro model of the hardware, with an Intel Core i7 Dual Core CPU running at 1.9Hz / Turbo 3.0 GHz, with 8GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GT 640M GPU with 2GB of DDR3 memory and a 256GB SATA-III SSD.
There is one USB 3.0 port included, a 2MP front-facing webcam, a headphone jack, and that’s pretty much it. You’re limited in terms of connectivity out of the box.
As a tablet there isn’t much to talk about here. It’s heavier than what you’re used to from iOS or Android tablets, and it’s also larger. After heavy use the fans kick in and blow hot air through the vents at the top of the system. The speakers are passable, but nothing special. If you’re in the market for a tablet to do tablet-type things, this is not your best bet, for a variety of reasons.
Things begin to get very interesting once you begin gaming, however.
Meet your new LAN box
Razer also sent the $99 docking station with the tablet, and this is where the fun began. The docking station allows the tablet to sit upright, you can plug the power cable in the back, and you now have access to three USB ports, a headphone and microphone jack, and HDMI out.
I had packed a portable mouse and a thin keyboard just to test the hardware, and suddenly I had a very respectable gaming PC hooked up in my hotel room. How respectable? I was able to play Crysis 2 with everything set to “High” on the screen’s native resolution at a very smooth frame rate. I’m looking forward to returning home to do some testing with FRAPS to see just how well the hardware holds up to the strain, but the real test for me is whether or not the game runs well enough to be fun.
I was in a hotel room playing Crysis 2 on a very portable system, with a mouse and keyboard, and it was amazing. After a few minutes the small size of the screen didn’t matter, and I was having a great time playing the game. If I had packed an HDMI cable I could have used the TV in my room as a monitor, but alas, it was not to be. Black Ops 2 performed just as well, and I had a wonderful evening killing bad guys and playing PC games with a mouse and keyboard in a teeny tiny package. The Edge would be ideal as a LAN box or an ultra-portable gaming PC.
There is no disc drive, but who cares? The system will actually come with Steam pre-installed, allowing you to bring your games to the system with the minimum amount of fuss. The TV-out function of the docking station will even allow you to play games with a controller in big picture mode.
I was able to play Black Ops 2 at 1366 by 768 with Texture Filtering set to Low, 4X MSAA Anti-aliasing, FXAA turned on, low depth of field, and low shadows at 40 to 60 frames per second. These may sound like medium settings, but it looked damn good on the 10.1 inch screen, and was very comfortable to play. There was also the fun of playing a full-fledged PC title on a setup that could comfortably fit in a messenger bag with plenty of room to spare.
I have more accessories here to test, and there's a whole conversation to have about the battery life (hint: it ain't great, but you can buy an extra), but for now I'm very impressed with the size, performance, and usability of the system with the docking station. Here's the kicker: the system as configured, with the docking station, would cost a total of $1,549.99. Yikes.
Now, there is also the lower-powered model that starts at $999.99, and features pretty respectable power for the price, but I have a feeling I'd miss both the RAM and storage. Still, you have options here. There is also the $249.99 Gamepad controller that I'll be testing and talking about once I return.
In fact, I'm going to take a deeper dive into the system very soon, so let me know your questions, and what you'd like me to explore. For now I've been spending my evenings playing hardcore shooters in the privacy of my hotel room, on a system I could comfortably pack for any trip. There is much to like about a gaming PC in this size and form factor, and Razer was smart in giving you many options in how you can play with the system, and the stock tablet configuration is the least interesting.
Still, you'll pay for the privilege. More soon, and I'll try to stick around to answer some questions in the comments.