Razer Fiona: A Gaming PC Trapped In The Body Of A Tablet

While it may look like your average Android tablet affixed with a pair of button-festooned handlebars, beneath the shimmering screen of Razer's Project Fiona lurks the beating heart of a high-powered gaming PC. Are we looking at the future of portable gaming?

Project Fiona's debut today a proof-of-concept design at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is part of Razer's calculated strategy to stand out from the annual parade of recolored smart phones and Android tablets. Last year they drew the attention of gamers with the Razer Switchblade, essential a handheld gaming PC. While elements of the Switchblade later appeared in the design for the company's $US2800 Razer Blade gaming laptop, the Switchblade itself never surfaced as an actual product.

In a pre-CES 2012 interview last week Razer CEO and creative director Min-Liang Tan told me that while the Project Fiona pictured here is merely a proof-of-concept, the company plans on shipping an actual product by the end of the year, and the product they plan on shipping is far more than a tablet PC with handlebars.

"I love my iPad," Min-Liang Tan told me as he began explaining Project Fiona to me late last week. "It's great for Words with Friends or Plants Vs. Zombies, but it's pretty much only good for casual gaming. You get a high score, you blast it out to your friends and say 'Hey, can you beat my Bejeweled score?' That's tablet gaming."

PC gaming, Tan explained, is quite different. It's evolved a great deal since the days he and his brother would sit side-by-side at a computer keyboard playing Top Gun. "It's very networked; very visceral; very real-time."

Therein lies the impetus behind Project Fiona. "We want to bring that sort of virtual social engagement back to a face-to-face experience. We want to get three or four guys sitting on a couch playing head-to-head against each other," Tan said.

It's a noble goal, but why not simply utilise a standard tablet PC? Why create a special dedicated gaming machine?

"PC gaming is impossible on a tablet."

"PC gaming is impossible on a tablet," said Tan. "We looked and that, focused on that and now Project Fiona is the only tablet in the world designed specifically for PC gaming."

What sets Project Fiona apart from other tablet computers?

For one, the system is powered by the latest generation of Intel's Core i7 processors, making it quite the powerful little machine. More importantly it helps ensure that any PC-native game will work with Project Fiona right out of the box without any tweaking, or as Tan put it, "It's got the largest library of gaming content in the world."

It's a bold statement, but there's a certain truth to it. Project Fiona is indeed a full-fledged PC, and while the full final specs are yet to be determined, the Intel processor is a good start. When the final project ships at the end of this year it will be running a full version of the tablet-friendly Windows 8. Players will be able to load up their Steam library, download their favourite games, and go to town.

The "handlebars" on either side of the unit act just like plugging in a Wired Xbox controller would on the average PC. You've got thumb sticks, buttons, triggers — all the ingredients needed to play today's more console-friendly PC titles. And when a game requires a keyboard? That's where Project Fiona's hybrid interface comes into play.

By mixing a multi-touch screen and an accelerometer with a traditional game pad, Tan says game developers willing to take a little more time will be able to develop special features that take advantage of Project Miriam's unique design.

So how does it play?

"It's a totally different experience," Tan said. "Usually you're holding a controller in your hand and looking up at the screen. Now it's in your face." That more visceral experience will be further enhanced by full THX-certified Dolby home theatre sound (a first for tablet PCs) and integrated force feedback, which isn't a term you hear bandied about all that often anymore.

Again, Project Fiona is simply a proof-of-concept, but Razer is definitely bringing a Fiona-like product to market by the end of this year. The design may change, the handlebars may warp and change, but a Window 8 running PC gaming tablet will drop by the end of this year with a target MSRP of under $US1000.

"The whole point here is we want to create an experience where people having a rough day can take a quick break, play some PC games, shout at each other, and get back to work."


Comments

    I can't think of a single reason I'd want one of these or a single situation I'd use one of these... What am I missing here?

      A brain? :P

        Yes, I know, that was a terrible joke. But it had to be made :P

          Apparently I do need one because I don't see the joke in that : /

    Epic idea, and I kinda hope they can pull it off.

    One thing that has worried me: the handles look like they aren't removable. Hopefully that gets added to it...

    Wow Razer’s going all out on portable gaming :/

    This advertisement is impossibly visceral.
    Definitely not PC gaming. Hybrid console/tablet with Steam functionality and a PC game architecture-friendly front end, but not PC gaming.

    Did anyone seriously think: "At last! I can finally play demanding PC games on a tablet!".

    All you have is gaming device that's too awkward to be a portable gaming system and not versatile enough to be an actual gaming PC.

    What a totally pointless product.

      What? I'm going to be playing Witcher 2 with uber sampling on my Fiona!

    I don't see the point to this. One of the biggest advantages of pc

    Yeah I dunno...

    Could be good for students... Maybe? Use it for class and gaming?

    As long as those goofy PS Move-style handlebars can be removed.

    But most games for PC need a keyboard and mouse :S unless it came with mouse emulation which usually feels awkward. And if the goal is to emulate the Xbox 360 controller which a lot of recent games do, the buttons look to be labelled 1,2,3,4, and considering how many games have the "Press A to Open door" with their games nowadays, it would confuse and annoy a lot of people. The idea is there I guess, but it would not be a smooth experience like an iPad, and it would not be dedicated enough for most PC Gamers,
    I don't really see it being successful but stranger things have happened.

    That looks like the stupidest thing ever

    Sometimes I'm ashamed to own a Razer mouse... while I respect their willingness to try and innovate with products like this, there's something about the way they present these "innovative" products and themselves that leaves me cringing.
    It's like they're just saying what they think we want to hear, regardless of the actual reality of their products. It's the whole PC! PC! PC! PC! PC! spiel!

    It's like they think that all PC users believe that a PC is the be all and end all, and nothing can be good unless it's a "fully fledged PC". We don't, and outside of internet trolls, we realise that consoles/tablets/mobile phones etc all have their place, even more so when each has it's own fantastic features and content. Trying to convince us that this product is something else though (in this case, a "fully fledged PC") though, is just insulting. It offends me.

    I don't know, while I love my Razer mouse, I don't particularly want to support their projected culture. I just want to tell at them "I don't want you to represent my platform of choice, because you've got it/us all wrong!"

    TLDR: Razer, please quit with the marketing checkboxes, and focus on the products.

    I think Razer should've dropped this and stuck with the Blade concept. Far more practical.

    The major flaw I see is that it looks freakin' heavy. Have you ever tried to play an iPad game for more than half an hour? It gets quite uncomfortable after a while. It's never going to be good for anything more than casual bursts, and certainly never good for marathon gaming sessions.

    If you've ever used an Onza you'll know how appalling the build quality of Razer thumbsticks is. I got a n Onza a while ago, within two weeks the rubber was borderline gone from the thumbsticks and their ability to act as buttons was rapidly deteriorating. Razer should stick to what they're good at, keyboards and mouses. I'd highly recommended against purchasing this from my previous experiences.

    I kind of feel like Razer don't really know what they're doing. There's a reason why with a console, you're holding the controller and looking at a screen. Nobody holds the controller up in front of their face while looking at the screen unless they're on a handheld device which has a considerably smaller screen. And nobody holds up their mouse and keyboard to the PC while playing.

    I'm also a little confused about the fact that they are saying they're using the tablet version of Windows 8, yet retaining the ability to play PC games and using the i7. The whole Windows 8 tablet/desktop separation thing confuses me already so maybe I have the wrong idea. However, the tablet version of Windows 8 is supposed to be designed for the ARM architecture, which means it won't run x86 architecture apps. The desktop version will run x86 apps but won't run ARM apps.

    Since it's the i7, it must be the desktop version which they are running on a tablet. From what I've read, this also means that users won't be able to access the app store like ARM tablet users which have the ability to buy once, run anywhere. As I said, the whole Windows 8 architecture/device/compatibility thing is rather confusing so maybe I missed something but I have doubts about the practicality of this tablet.

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