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

Razer's Edge: The Tablet And Accessories

At 0.8" thick, the Edge is decidedly, well, substantial. In comparison, Samsung's first Atom-based Windows 8 design, which we reviewed in Samsung's ATIV Smart PC 500T: An Atom-Based Windows 8 Tablet, is .87" thick with its optional docking station attached, and that pretty much makes it a full-blown laptop. The Edge is .8" without any sort of keyboard attachment. 

Moreover, weighing in at two pounds, the Edge is half of a pound heavier than a bare Microsoft Surface. At least it's lighter than the aforementioned ATIV Smart PC 500T with its dock, which is a portly 3.2-pound combination. I still found the Edge to be easy to handle, and certainly not arduous to grasp in one hand.

Perhaps the most valid comparison at this point would be the forthcoming Surface Pro from Microsoft. Also two pounds-heavy, armed with a third-gen Core CPU, and a 10-point touchscreen, the Surface's biggest advantages are a higher 1920x1080 resolution and a .53" thickness. Even with a Type Cover, it'll be thinner than Razer's Edge. But the Surface Pro doesn't have discrete graphics. So, even if the Edge's 40 Wh battery drains quickly in 3D applications, it at least gives you the option to tear it up in your favorite titles. The Surface Pro's HD Graphics 4000 engine isn't up to the same task.

Razer leveraged crowd-sourcing to decide which specifications the Edge needed to make it desirable. The company tells us its customers suggested they'd tolerate two times the weight and thickness of an iPad, and it beat the three-pound, one-inch ceiling by a notable margin.

Company representatives didn't have much to tell us about the Edge's audio subsystem, but we found it surprisingly capable for a tablet. We put some of our music through it and were able to crank the volume without causing distracting distortion.

How about the accessories? No doubt you've already seen the Edge's Gamepad Controller attachment that enables what Razer calls Mobile Console Mode, featuring two analog sticks, 12 buttons, and vibration feedback. The attachment adds $250 to the price of an Edge.

The Gamepad Controller was integrated into the Project Fiona concept, so we're a little disappointed that you don't get it bundled with the tablet, particularly since Razer is already charging more than Microsoft for a device that largely relies on its gaming acumen as a competitive advantage.

The Docking Station (enabling Home Console Mode) arms the Edge with a stand, three USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI 1.4 output, and audio I/O for an additional $100.

Keep in mind that the Edge, on its own, doesn't have integrated video output, so the docking station is an important addition if you want to use the tablet in a living room environment.

The Keyboard Dock turns the Edge into a notebook of sorts, though it won't be available until Q3'13.

Razer says its design isn't final, so we don't want to critique it at this stage. We will say that it's easy to type on, and that it'll have its own separate price tag.

Razer plans to sell an extended 40 Wh battery pack, designed to be used with the Gamepad Controller or the Keyboard Dock, that the company says will extend standard use by up to eight hours or gaming by up to two hours. The battery pack currently shows up on Razer's site for $50.

All told, you're looking at a number of expensive add-ons to an already-pricey piece of hardware (and we haven't even mentioned the $300 extended warranty yet). Razer positions the Edge as a tablet, a gaming laptop (with the Keyboard Dock), a mobile console (with the Gamepad Controller), and an entertainment-oriented PC (with the Docking Station). Without spending big, though, the Edge is a tablet. It's a fast tablet with powerful-enough hardware to play games at 1366x768, but it's still a tablet.

The Gamepad Controller looks like it'd be nice to have for sims or certain RPGs. But just as you'll see Chris Angelini point out about Nvidia's Shield, it's hard to imagine playing first-person shooters with analog sticks. In my opinion, the $100 docking station is the only accessory that you really need to have. Add a Bluetooth-capable keyboard and mouse, and you can use the Edge as a small gaming PC. Hook up an external monitor or attach a TV via HDMI. Connect an Xbox 360-style controller, and you have a game console. 

You do pay for that versatility. A dedicated gaming laptop with a 1920x1080 screen and big graphics hardware can be found for less than the Edge with all of its accessories (an MSI GX60 comes with a Radeon HD 7970M and sells for $1,200). Fortunately, it sounds like Razer is considering bundle packages that might soften the blow of its pricing structure, including an Edge Pro package that includes the Gamepad Controller for $1,500.