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Razer Edge: Hands-On With The x86 Gaming Tablet At CES 2013

Razer's Edge: Project Fiona Becomes A Product

The Project Fiona gaming tablet concept generated a lot of interest at last year's E3. By now, many of you have seen how much attention its resulting product, the Edge, garnered at CES 2013. 

It's easy to love the Edge at first glance. It's different, after all. But after that initial impact wears off, I have to admit that I didn't understand why a Windows 8-based tablet with discrete mobile graphics could create so much buzz.

Don't get me wrong; this is the closest thing to an x86 tablet running Windows 8 that I'd want to buy. I like the flexibility to install whatever I want and I'm a gamer, so what's not to love? And although Nvidia's Shield looks interesting, it's an Android-based handheld at the end of the day, and I'm less interested in that platform, even with the Steam tie-in.

The question becomes: is it better to game on a device streaming H.264-encoded content from a high-end PC (potentially yielding gobs of battery life) or a piece of hardware rendering natively? We'll be able to answer that once we get both the Edge and the Shield into our lab, and set up a controlled comparison. For the time being, we're limited to my experiences with the Edge and Angelini's with the Shield.

The basic Edge features a 10.1", 1366x768, 10-point capacitive touchscreen, a mobile Core i5-3317U processor with a 1.7 GHz base and 2.6 GHz maximum Turbo Boost clock rate, 4 GB of DDR3 memory, a 64 GB SSD, and a GeForce GT 640M LE GPU for $1,000. The Edge Pro shares the same size and weight as the base model, but upgrades to a Core i7-3517U (at 1.9 GHz, scaling up to 3 GHz), 8 GB of DDR3 memory, and a 128 or 256 GB SSD.

Frankly, I doubt the Core i7 will make much of a difference in games. After all, that particular model is still a dual-core chip with Hyper-Threading technology. The larger SSD is probably the biggest upgrade, since it makes room for more gaming and video content. You'll pay a premium for higher-end parts though, to the tune of at least $1,300.

Those are clearly impressive specs for a tablet. But none of them are particularly advanced. The GPU amounts to a desktop-class GeForce GT 640 with a much lower clock rate (down from 900 MHz to 500). The CPU is necessarily modest in order to fit within a 17 W TDP. And you pay quite a bit for the combination of parts Razer is using.

Of course, this fails to recognize the challenge presented by fitting a 32 W graphics processor, a 17 W host processor, and a complete platform into a handheld that isn't inconvenient to carry or outright dismal when it comes to battery life. Surely it wasn't easy; Asus was showing off its Transformer Book for a while with similar specifications, but that thing seems to have vanished. So there's clearly lots of engineering involved.