Like many PC gamers, I've often wished a machine capable of putting the power of a gaming rig in a portable device. Gaming laptops are lovely and have their place, but that place is often on top of a desk. After a week with Razer's new Edge gaming tablet, I realise what I really wanted was to play Bioshock Infinite in the bathroom without burning my thighs. All hail Razer, deliverer of dreams.
Razer's only review guidelines before sending along a Razer Edge loaner was that I not tell them I used it in the bathroom. I am a review guideline freedom fighter, deep in the trenches, pants around my ankles, balancing a $US1,499 gaming tablet on the side of the tub before redeploying to less secluded front. And why not? I don't have to stop playing until the batteries run out.
Razer first introduced the Edge in early 2012 as an odd-looking tablet/controller hybrid with handles on either side containing buttons and analogue sticks. It looked pretty ridiculous, but there was promise there. Promise I was pretty sure would never be fulfilled &mdash a pipe dream.
Yet Razer stuck with it, tapping the PC gamers in its community to help design a gaming tablet that delivered everything they wanted at a reasonable price point. A year after it debuted, the final design was finalised. The Razer Edge was a real thing, and it was coming soon.
There are two models of the Razer Edge. The lower-end model runs $US999 and sounds like a capable system. It's got an Intel Core i5 instead of an i7, less memory and only 64GB of storage, but I can see it getting the job done, as long as you don't want to load too many games on it at once.
The unit I've been playing on is the beefier Razer Edge Pro. Here's what's inside:
Intel Core i7 Dual core w/ Hyper Threading Base 1.9GHz / Turbo 3.0GHz
Intel Core i5 Dual core w/ Hyper Threading Base 1.7GHz / Turbo 2.6GHz
8GB DDR3 (2x4GB 1600MHz)
Intel HD4000 (DX11) NVIDIA GT 640M LE (2GB DDR3, Optimus Technology)
10.1-inch (IPS, 1366x768) Multi-touch HD display
128/256GB SSD (SATA-III)
Intel WLAN (802.11b/g/n + BT4)
Stereo speakers Codec supports 7.1 (via HDMI through optional Docking Station) HD Webcam (front-facing, 2MP) Array microphones Dolby Home theatre v4 USB 3.0 x1 (green, SuperSpeed) Audio jack (3.5mm, 4-pole, stereo out / mic in) Approximate Size: 278.5 mm x 178.85 mm x 19.5 mm / 10.9" x 7" x .80" Approximate Weight: 962g / 2.1Lbs
It's a tablet!
It's a rectangle, as one might have expected. The design is reminecent of the Razer Blade laptop, using the same ridged metal for the back and that damn glowing octopus thing. It's about as thick as a closed Nintendo 3DS XL, and about as big as it looks in this size comparison image I made using everyday household items (in my household, that is).
It's beefier than your average tablet, but it's nice to have something to hold. It feels quite solid, and at a little over two pounds it has heft without being too much of a burden for hands used to resting comfortably on gaming mice.
The 10.1-inch IPS display is as bright and crisp as a sunny day. Just don't take it outside on a sunny day, or you won't be able to see a thing. This is not a device to bring to a picnic, unless it's the most depressing picnic ever. The Razer Edge Pro has made me appreciate my back deck as a place where I'm not meant to play the new Devil May Cry.
The screen resolution is 1366x768, which might seem low to someone used to nothing less than a 1920x1080 HD monitor, but then you don't hold a 1920x1080 HD monitor inches from your face. At least you're not supposed to. It's a good resolution for the screen size, and it means the unit's graphics card doesn't have to work quite as hard.
Downloading my normal suite of benchmarking games was out of the question, especially since I wasted a good several hours downloading Transformers: Fall of Cybertron because I was in a Transformers sort of mood. Were I to do this all over again I'd purchase a USB wired network adaptor for loading purposes. The Edge's wireless isn't slow, but nothing beats a wire.
What I used for benchmarks instead were a pair of new games, Bioshock Infinite and the latest Tomb Raider, both of which were considerate enough to include built-in benchmarks.
Out of habit I tried both games at the highest possible graphics preset first. Ultra setting was not kind to either game &mdash not that I expected it to be. Still, 17 frames per second on average for both titles is playable, just not very playable.
Cranking things down (you can totally crank downwards) to medium settings brought both titles to a lovely average of 56- 60 frames per second (I even remembered to turn off vertical sync). Not only is that playable, it's downright enjoyable, at least while it lasts.
Battery Life and Configurations
The Razer Edge uses low-powered Intel graphics to handle every day Windows 8 tablet tasks, and I'd assume the battery life for those is just fine, but there are dozens of less-expensive tablets out there if you just want to run Microsoft Word. This is about gaming, yo.
In full-on battle mode with its optional Gamepad Controller ($US249.99) loaded with an extra battery ($US69.99), the Razer Edge Pro ran Bioshock Infinite for one hour and forty-five minutes.
That's not a lot of minutes, all things considered, but then you probably won't want to be using the Gamepad Controller for that long anyway. With the extra battery it adds what feels like another extra pounds to the unit, and holding upwards for extended periods hurts. It works like gangbusters (though mine seems to have bugged out towards the end of my testing — Razer thinks it's faulty), and after a brief adjustment period (the screen, it moves with my hands!) it's a fun way to play. Just not a way you'd want to play for an extended period of time.
I much preferred playing on the standard docking station ($US99.99) with an Xbox controller plugged in, as you can see below.
The biggest obstacle the Razer Edge faces is its own innovation. It's not just the most powerful Windows 8 tablet on the market -- it's a revolutionary new way to play PC games. It's the revolutionary part I'm struggling with. I've been play PC games sitting in a chair with one hand on my keyboard and the other on my mouse for nearly two decades, so curling up on the couch with a handheld might be a little more intimacy than I'm prepared for.
Still, it's growing on me, and it's not like I can break up with it now that we've been in the bathroom together.