Today at CES 2015 in Las Vegas, PC hardware maker Razer revealed their entry in the small black Android box that connects to your television market. What makes it different from the other small black boxes? This one streams games from any gaming PC.
The box is the Razer Forge TV, slated for release within the first quarter of 2015, and when it was first revealed to me during an event pre-briefing late last year I sort of tilted my head like a confused dog. Does the world really need another $US99 microconsole? In my home alone we've got an Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and PlayStation TV — what use is another relatively featureless black box with the letters "T" and "V" at the end?
At its most basic the Forge TV is a powerful Android console. Fitted with a quad-core Krait 450 CPU, and Adreno 420 GPU, 2GB RAM and 16GB storage, it's quite capable of tackling the most demanding Android games. Plus it has access to the full range of Android entertainment apps, which is pretty much everything but iTunes at this point, making it a fair alternative to other similarly-priced TV boxes.
But the Forge TV is just one of Razer's weapons in its assault on remote PC gaming. The second is the Serval game controller.
Designed by the same team that made the Razer Sabertooth Xbox controller, the Serval is a full-sized game pad that works with any Android device — it even comes with a cute little clip for your Android phone. Combine it with the Forge TV (there's a $US149.99 bundle, or it sells for $US79.99 by itself) and you've got an Android gaming console.
Another Android gaming console, but wait... there's more.
Launching into beta this spring is the Razer Cortex: Stream software, an extension of Razer's popular game launcher that will allow players to stream games from their PC hardware to the Forge TV. Razer is promising ultra-low latency gaming over both wireless and wired network connections. Unlike Nvidia's Gamestream technology, Razer Cortex: Stream is completely hardware agnostic — it does not care which graphics card you're using.
And it's not just for the Forge TV either. Razer says the software will allow gamers to stream PC games to any Android microconsole.
The Razer Cortex: Stream software will be available for free to anyone who purchases the Forge TV controller bundle, the Serval or the third hardware component of its living room PC gaming kick, the Razer Turret.
For those of you who would rather us a mouse and keyboard in the living room, Razer offers a mouse and keyboard for the living room. The Turret is a PC-grade wireless mouse and keyboard combo with a built-in foldable mouse pad. You rest it on your lap while you're playing. When you need a break you can set it aside, the mouse locking o the pad magnetically so it doesn't fall into the couch. And when you're done playing, it does this.
Sure beats just leaving a mouse and keyboard laying around.
The Razer Turret will retail for $US129.99 when it's released in the second quarter of 2015.
"Razer Forge TV is a device that is able to bring together the most popular elements of an entertainment centre," said Min-Liang Tan, Razer co-founder and CEO via official announcement. "It powers popular music and movie apps and plays Android TV games that an entire family can enjoy. For the hardcore gaming audience, it will bring PC gaming to the couch. Razer Forge TV is what we see as the future of consoles."
I've been trying for years to be comfortable with a full-sized gaming PC in my living room, but since adding kids to the equation I've had nothing but trouble (they love hitting those power buttons). Could Razer's suite of hardware be the solution? The jury's out until we see the PC streaming in action. Until then they have got a lovely little Android box and a lot of potential.