Gadget Review: Razer Unveils Fancy New Gaming Tablet for Nerds

Categories: Tech
Razer Edge (2).jpg
Nerd alert!
Nomenclature is a point of pride for the SOMA-based design team of Razer, a company that makes artisanal hardware for gamers.

It sells a line of computer mice named after snakes ("the DeathAdder", "the Viper", "the Orochi") and a series of arachnid-themed keyboards ("the BlackWidow", "the DeathStalker"). Its headsets are named for aquatic animals. ("Orcha", "Moray", "BlackShark"), while its laptops hew to a sword motif ("the Blade"). That surely helps with brand identity, though Razer staff insist it's just a way of organizing things. Granted, it set an auspicious pattern for Razer's newest release, a high-priced, highly vaunted gaming tablet called the Edge, which unfolded with as much drama as the name implies. 

At $999 for the basic version and $1299 for the Edge Pro (not including such extra trappings as the $249 Gamepad controller), the Edge is bound to provoke sticker shock in all but the most devout gamers. But that's the audience Razer is targeting, and the designers seem to have hit a sweet spot. They did a test-run on a "concept" version of the Edge, called Project Fiona, at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and garnered a rousing reception. Before taking the product to market, the company consulted with its 2 million Facebook fans, asking them to crowdsource the specs.

Hence, a Louis Vuitton gown of gaming products, worthy of eight awards at CES 2013. At fans' behest, Razer designed the Edge with an Intel Core processor (i5 for the basic, i7 for the Pro) and a discrete Nvidia GT 640M GPU, which means it's the first Windows 8 tablet to include a graphics card. The point, said Razer spokesperson Kevin Scarpati, was to run hardcore PC games like Battlefield 3, Dishonored, and World of Warcraft at accelerated frame rates (Dishonored runs at about 60 frames per second on the Edge, about double the rate that most gamers aim for, he said.)

More importantly, the Edge is specifically tailored for users with short attention spans. The chipset allows it to function alternately as a tablet, a PC, and a gaming console, and because it docks easily into a keyboard, you can use it to take notes in class, then discretely turn on World of Warcraft if you don't like your instructor.

Razer isn't too concerned that the Edge might have limited appeal outside rarefied geek and gaming circles, owing both to its price and its intricacy. Scarpati notes that revenue for the gaming industry has already outpaced that of the motion picture industry, and if anything, the consumer demographic is widening. Razer started accepting pre-orders for both the Edge and the Edge Pro on March 1, and the fancier model has already sold out. At this point, only a few Edges remain.

The only problem facing Razer is obsolescence, given the hastened death cycle of expensive gaming hardware. Another San Francisco-based start-up, Leap Motion, has already designed motion-sensor technology that could obviate the need for computer mice and consoles. Once that goes to market in May, it could transform any tablet into a casual gaming device, with no additional frills required.

For now though, Scarpati is sanguine. Supply-demand ratios and warbling tech blogs have both tipped in the Edge's favor.

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