Much like other hobbies, videogames come with their own set of equipment. Instead of a baseball bat, gloves and cleats, you’ve got game controllers, headsets and keyboards. There are even gaming laptops, and now, you can add tablets to the list.
This past week, I checked out the Razer Edge, a Windows 8 tablet designed specifically for PC gaming. Created by a San Diego-based company named Razer, the base model starts at $1,000 and runs up to $1,450 for the Razer Edge Pro model, which gets you more memory and a faster processor (that’s the version I tested). At those prices, it’s more than other Windows 8 tablets on the market, including the higher-end Microsoft Surface Pro, which runs between $899 and $999.
It’s definitely too much for the casual gamer. If you’re only into titles like Angry Birds or Temple Run, you’re fine sticking with your smartphone or regular tablet, while players of more traditional gaming consoles might be better served by the Nintendo 3DS or Sony PlayStation Vita.
So, who is the Razer Edge for, and what makes it different from other tablets?
Starting with the first question, the Razer Edge is for PC gamers looking for a way to play games on the go. Up until now, the only solution was gaming laptops, which are often large and heavy, so this offers another option.
For playing games, the company has designed an interesting accessory dubbed the Gamepad Controller. It costs an extra $250, and allows you to dock the tablet into this tray-like device and maneuver through games using the Gamepad Controller’s built-in handles and gaming buttons.
There’s also a $100 Docking Station that allows you to connect it to an external display or HDTV and play as you would with a gaming console such as the Xbox 360. The company will release a keyboard dock later this year if you want to convert it into a laptop (pricing has not yet been announced).
One other thing that makes the Razer Edge different from other Windows 8 tablets is the inclusion of a dedicated graphics processor from Nvidia. This gives the tablet an extra power boost to handle all the various images and animations found in games, and lessens the workload of the main Intel processor, so you can enjoy zippy performance.
The gameplay is pretty impressive, with smooth performance, even on graphics-intensive games. But the Razer Edge also comes with a number of compromises. It doesn’t have the highest-resolution screen, and battery life peters out after a couple of hours.
For a tablet, it’s also quite large. It measures 10.9 inches wide by seven inches tall by 0.8 inch thick, and weighs just over two pounds. The iPad, by comparison, is 9.5 inches wide by 7.3 inches tall by 0.3 inch thick, and weighs 1.44 pounds. It only becomes more unwieldy when you dock it to the Gamepad Controller, which I’ll talk more about later.
The Razer Edge features a 10.1-inch, 1,366 by 768-pixel touchscreen. It’s not the sharpest display on the market (the Surface Pro has a 1,920 by 1,080-pixel touchscreen), and it’s a fingerprint magnet. But I was able to play games and watch videos without problem. Also, when connected to an HDTV, games can be displayed in high definition.
The touchscreen is responsive, but most of the games aren’t optimized for a touchscreen, so you need some kind of controller. Otherwise, you’ve just got a really expensive and clunky Windows 8 tablet.
I used the Gamepad for most of my testing. A lock system keeps the tablet securely in place when docked into the Gamepad. Both the left and right handles feature joysticks and rear trigger buttons. There are also four arrow keys on the left, and A, B, X, Y buttons on the right. All the gaming controls should be familiar to anyone who has used a console controller, but since they’re farther apart, it might take some getting used to.
You can download games from online services like Valve’s steam, which will come preloaded on the tablet. You can also get titles from EA’s Origin storefront. I checked the first-person shooter game Crysis 3 ($60) from EA, and Codemaster’s Dirt Showdown ($30) racing game from Steam.
For Dirt Showdown, it was pretty easy to maneuver my car using the various controls. The handles vibrated every time I hit other cars or landed after a jump. Razer told me that if a game is built to use the tablet’s accelerometer, you can simply tilt the tablet left or right to move in a direction, which I think is useful for these types of racing games.
That said, the tablet is almost four pounds with the Gamepad attached, so I can’t imagine wanting to hold it front me for long periods of time. Most of the time, I had the tablet resting on my lap or a desk.
Crysis 3 ran fluidly, and despite the lower-resolution screen, the graphics still looked good. The amount of sound the tablet produces is also impressive.
The tablet tends to run hot, though, even after just a few minutes of play. But the bigger issue is battery life.
The Razer Edge has an estimated battery life of one hour when playing games, and 3.5 hours as a regular tablet, which I found to be true in my testing. Once I’m into a game, I tend to play for hours at a time, and having to find an outlet after just 45 minutes of playing Crysis 3 was annoying. It’s a big problem for a product that’s designed partly as a portable solution. If I had been on a cross-country flight, I would have had a dead tablet on my hands.
Razer offers an extended battery pack that adds another two of hours of game play, but that will run you another $70.
Given the short battery life and price, it’s hard to recommend the Razer Edge right now. But if Razer can resolve these issues, I think it will be a versatile and great mobile solution for PC gamers.