Razer Edge review £999
11th Apr 2013 | 04:00
Razer's new tablet breaks banks and blows minds
Introduction and design
When you hear the phrase "tablet gaming," what comes to mind? Angry Birds, Infinity Blade and The Walking Dead games? Well what if we told you that Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Batman: Arkham City and Far Cry 3 were now tablet territory?
That's the dream being dreamt by the gaming aficionados at Razer. The makers of high-end gaming laptops like the Razer Blade and slick peripherals like the Razer Sabertooth controller now present the Razer Edge.
This Windows 8 tablet for the hardcore set comes in two flavors: Razer Edge and Razer Edge Pro. We reviewed the Pro, which has an i7 Intel processor, 8GB of RAM, a 2GB NVIDIA GT 640M LE and the option of a 128GB or 256GB solid state drive. The lower-end version has an i5, 4GB of RAM, a 1GB version of the same Geforce card and a 64GB SSD.
Essentially, it's a W8 slate with the guts to game, but it's made player-friendly through excessive accessorization. Sold separately there's a Docking Station for easy charging and port access, and the Gamepad controller, a one-of-a-kind rig that gives you console style control sticks, bumpers and triggers.
There's also a keyboard dock coming soon that makes the Edge into a sorta-kinda laptop. It's not available yet, so we haven't tried it.
The accessories we tried were awesome, but it's unfortunate how essential they are, because the real kicker for the Razer Edge is price. Our Pro review unit with the 256GB SSD retails for $1,450, while the lower-end version is $1,000. Tacking on a Gamepad is an additional $249, and the dock is $99, so you could be spending $1,700 or $1,800.
For that kind of money, you could buy a laptop with far more power and functionality than this accessorized tablet. A laptop would be more portable too, since it has no extra gear to haul. These are the exact same reasons that we couldn't love the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 and the Acer Iconia W510 as much as we wanted to.
Still, while it lacks portability and affordability, the Razer Edge does have two big things going for it: power and novelty. As far as playing the latest AAA titles goes, the Edge delivers, to a surprising degree. It didn't blow away our benchmarks, but we spent hours gaming on this puppy, and it did not disappoint.
And it's just freaking cool. When docked in the Gamepad controller, the Edge is fun to hold, and everyone who saw us playing gawked and wanted a turn.
Make no mistake, you can get a gaming laptop with more power and portability than the Razer Edge. But while the Edge is too pricey to wholeheartedly recommend, and the battery life won't have you playing far from a charger, there's little else wrong with the Razer Edge Pro, and it's just plain fun.
Let's ignore that awesome Gamepad rig for a moment and just think about the Razer Edge Pro as a tablet because, hey, that's what it is. 11-inches wide and and 7-inches tall, it's like a Surface Pro, except beefy.
At a little over 2 pounds and 0.8-inches thick, you can tell that it's packing a little more heat than your average W8 slate. It has some Razer branding on the back, a three-headed green snake that lights up when the Edge is on, like the white Apple logo on a MacBook Pro.
Above the logo you'll find twin vents. These guys put out enough hot air to blow dry your cat, but do an admirable job of keeping the Edge cool. Don't expect it to heat up too much in your hands or lap.
It's got an all plastic body that looks sleek and feels smooth to the touch. The display glass runs all the way to edge of the device, wrapped in a thin bezel. The actual display size is 8 3/4-inches wide, with a native resolution of 1366 x 768, so we're not in full HD territory.
That display supports 10-point multitouch, as any respectable W8 device should. It's a sharp, durable screen that didn't take on any scratches or scuffs after riding to and from work in our backpack.
Bright outdoor lighting gives the display some trouble, especially when viewing dark images, but no more so than your average cell phone or tablet screen. Besides, we're pretty sure the Razer Edge wasn't designed to appeal to the outdoorsy type.
On the underside of the tablet you'll find the Edge's charging port. It uses a proprietary charger provided by Razer.
At the top of the machine are a few basic ports and switches. There's a USB 3.0 port, a headphone jack, volume rocker, a button for toggling autorotate, a switch to summon the W8 on-screen keyboard and a power button.
Since this is a well-equipped Windows 8 machine, you can do any and all basic computing tasks. Photoshop, Microsoft Office programs, all those "legacy" Windows applications will run here. You will want a keyboard and mouse though, which bumps up against Razer's claims of portability.
You can also just use it like the tablet it is and browse the web or read on Kindle, but the Edge's weight makes less than ideal as an e-reader. You'll get tired of holding it upright.
It's good for watching Netflix though. The speakers are very loud and quite clear, and being able to rest it in your lap or on its dock negates the weight issue.
Overall, the Edge tablet exudes quality design. It feels good to hold, and thanks to beefy internals and a full version of Windows 8, it's every bit the real deal computer it's being sold as. However, to do anything outside of the tiled Start Screen, it needs a mouse at the very least. As far as gaming goes, there just aren't many AAA titles optimized for touch.
And while the tiled Windows 8 interface works perfectly with a finger, the minute you get into the desktop, you're going to want a mouse, and something to keep the Edge at a proper viewing angle. That's where the Docking Station comes in.
For an additional $99, Razer will sell you a Docking Station for your Razer Edge. Like the Edge itself, it's not cheap, but very well built. It connects to the Edge tablet with a power plug and two plastic pegs.
Since the Edge only has one USB port, the dock is the only way you can connect both a keyboard and a mouse, short of going bluetooth. The back of the dock has three USB 2.0 ports, a headphone and mic jack, an HDMI port and power jack for Razer's charger.
The underside of the dock is covered in an insanely grippy rubber material. It feels like an amped up version of the Gecko material found on the side of Razer mice. It actually takes a bit of effort to pull the dock off a desk. This puppy is not going to slip with your expensive tablet resting on it.
Being able to drop your Razer Edge into the dock for a mouse and keyboard experience makes it feel like something of a compact all in one. Note that we said "compact," not portable. If we need to haul a keyboard with us, that term ceases to apply.
In our opinion, there's not much point in owning the Razer Edge unless you spring for the gamepad controller. It's an extra $249, so coupled with a Razer Edge Pro at $1,450, you're looking at a $1,700 investment.
That stings, but with the gamepad controller you get a very unique gaming experience, and everything you need to actually boot up and play a game that's not optimized for touch.
Just like the Razer Edge tablet, the gamepad controller exudes quality construction and feels very nice to hold. It also has its own battery, which gives a much needed boost to the Edge's overall battery life.
When the Edge sits in this rig, it feels like you've crossbreed an Xbox 360 controller with a Wii U GamePad. It has all the buttons and sticks console gamers are used to. Dual analog sticks trimmed with grippy rubber, pressure sensitive triggers, and two sets of shoulder buttons. There's also a four button layout, quality D-pad and the equivalent of start and select buttons.
All the buttons give a satisfying press and feel like the result of excellent craftsmanship. We don't envision them wearing out fast like some cheap, third-party controller. It also has a built in rumble feature, like many console controllers.
The downsides of this rig are related to bulk. When the tablet meets gamepad the two weigh in at a little over 4 pounds. Holding it upright in front of you is tiring after just a few minutes. The most comfortable way to play is with it resting in your lap, or with your elbows on a desk or table.
It also puts the kibosh on the Edge's portability. The Gamepad is big, and takes up a lot of room in a bag. You'll also look pretty unusual if you pull this thing out to play in public, so get ready for a few looks.
Overall though, it's a fine piece of hardware, and the crown jewel of the Razer Edge experience.
Interface, performance and battery life
The Razer Edge Pro is a Windows 8 tablet, and as always the tiled Start Screen is perfectly suited to touch. The desktop, however, is not. As with a lot of tasks on the Edge, if you plan to do much with legacy apps like Photoshop, you're going to want a mouse.
Steam, however, is the exception to this rule. If you're using the Gamepad controller, going into Steam's Big Picture Mode is a match made in heaven.
Big Picture is optimized for controllers, so you'll be able to navigate your gaming library using the Gamepad's shoulder buttons and sticks. Steam also provides readouts on which games are optimized, or somewhat optimized, for a controller. We were surprised by how many there were.
Big Picture and the Gamepad created the most seamless experience we had on the Razer Edge, but there were hiccups. Having to copy paste CD keys to activate games was annoying, and when we played Far Cry 3 and Batman: Arkham City, third-party services like Games for Windows Live reared their ugly heads, and were far less optimized for a controller.
The first time you play a game, you'll want a keyboard. After that, the Gamepad and Big Picture make a great team.
Razer has also included its own software for launching titles, sans mouse and keyboard. Called the Razer Launcher, it's looks a lot like Razer's Synapse software that lets users juggle multiple mouse and keyboard control schemes.
It's a pretty basic interface built around tiled icons for games it finds on your hard drive. It's still in beta, denoted by the big red logo at the top, and the fact that it crashed on us pretty often. It also only detected about four of the games we had installed, but it was very simple to add shortcuts manually. You're not limited to games either, it was easy to add links to Internet Explorer and other programs.
While we found the stability issues troubling, once patched it could be a good way for users to launch games from services like Origin, which doesn't have the equivalent of a Big Picture Mode. It's also a good way to skirt the desktop when using legacy apps. Still, if you're heavily invested in Steam, there's not much reason to step out of Valve's interface.
The hard fact is that there just aren't many AAA titles optimized for touch. Games like XCOM: Enemy Unknown and FTL: Faster Than Light (not a AAA title, we know, but very popular, and it has a simple interface that's almost finger-ready) are playable, but there's no way anyone would choose to poke at the screen rather than click a mouse or move a joystick.
The only AAA title we did find to be 100% touch optimized was Civilization V. It's been overhauled for play with fingers, and since it's kind of the digital equivalent of a board game, it's perfectly suited to this play style. You might even be able to rope a few non-gamers (that uncle who always wants to play Monopoly on Christmas?) in for a few rounds of Civ V.
Still, Civ is playable on almost any computer. It's not the kind of title you want to use to show off your slick new toy. Same goes for The Walking Dead adventure games, which are perfectly optimized for touch, but are also playable on an iPad. You'll want to play games like Batman: Arkham City, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Far Cry 3, and that's exactly what we did.
The Gamepad controller is fantastic for third-person titles like Batman, Witcher 2 and Grand Theft Auto IV. These are games where we generally prefer to use a controller anyway, so the Gamepad is a really nice fit.
We also enjoyed using it for single player shooters like Far Cry 3 and Call of Duty's campaign mode. Online, though, we didn't feel competitive and opted for a mouse and keyboard.
When you're using controls sticks and everyone else is twitching away with a mouse, you're going to be at a disadvantage. This was especially clear playing Team Fortress 2, a game that (not to brag) we consider ourselves pretty good at. Having to take our thumb off the right thumbstick in order to press the jump button seriously cramped our leap and dodge Scout style.
So bottom line, for real gaming, you need Razer's Gamepad controller or a mouse and keyboard, and therefore the dock. But once you have those, this is real PC gaming on a tablet.
So the Razer Edge Pro can play real PC games, but just how well does it pull it off? Pretty well, we'd say.
We tested the Edge using a handful of tough titles, and it managed more than playable framerates in all of them. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Far Cry 3, The Witcher 2 and Dirt 3 all played admirably at the Edge's native resolution of 1366 x 768. We also kept the graphic details at medium. Putting them higher than that, or layering on the anti-aliasing, dragged the framerate down.
One of the most impressive things about the Razer Edge Pro was the way it could go between a resource hogging title like Far Cry 3 and the Windows 8 Start Screen. With just a press of the Windows button it easily toggles between the two with nary a stutter. You wouldn't want to do much with a game running in the background, but it's excellent for a quick email check, or switching to Microsoft Word when an authority figure wanders by.
Specifications and benchmarks
- Intel Core i7-3517U 3.0GHz Dual core
- 8GB DDR3 (2x4GB 1600MHz)
- NVIDIA GT 640M LE with 2GB DDR3
- 10.1" 10-point capacitive touch display with 1366x768 resolution
- 256GB SSD (SATA-III)
- Intel WLAN (802.11b/g/n + BT4)
- 2MP front-facing webcam
- Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0 (DirectX 9, 1366 x 768, 2xAA, Medium quality): 369
- 3DMark "Cloud Gate": 5526
- 3DMark "Fire Strike: 881
Battery life is one place where the Razer Edge's portability really comes into question. In a battery drain test looping an HD video with full brightness and Wi-Fi connected, the tablet lasted 4 and half hours. Not bad, but this puppy is designed to more than watching movies.
Playing Far Cry 3 using both the tablet and the Gamepad's battery, we got just a little over two hours of gaming. Without the Gamepad's extra cell, you can cut that in half.
That's not terrible, considering all the horsepower at work here, but for practical purposes, don't expect to game all the way through a transcontinental flight, unless you're in the fancy section where you can plug in.
Hands on gallery
So the Razer Edge's claims of portability come with a grain of salt when you factor all the gear needed to make it gaming ready. Then there's the matter of its battery life.
But it does perform as advertised when it comes to gaming. Frame rates were smooth and consistent, as long as you did without the fancier DirectX 11 features. Plus having the full Windows 8 means you can do some real computing on this thing, if you're able to tear yourself away from Call of Duty.
So can the Razer Edge be recommended as a novelty, even if the smart money is on a laptop, or better yet for a budget's sake, a desktop? We think so.
The Razer's gaming performance is good, and the machine is snappy overall. It boots up lightning fast, and can switch between a game and the Start Screen easily, thanks to an i7 processor and snappy solid-state hard drive.
It's also good-looking and well built. It certainly feels premium, and while the fans shoot out hot air, they get the job done. The tablet doesn't get too hot in your hands.
The Gamepad controller is one of the coolest, most unique accessories we've ever used.
The Docking Station is a nice piece of machinery too, and with that keyboard dock on the way, it seems like Razer will be supporting this product with cool gear.
Last but not least, it's a really fun, novel way to check out new titles and revisit old favorites.
If you're actually looking to game, this isn't really a portable system. You either need the Gamepad or a mouse, keyboard and Docking Station. That's too much of a haul to be a true handheld gaming system.
The Gamepad also makes it quite heavy. You'll be most comfortable playing it in bed, at a desk or on the couch, not on the bus. And you'll probably look pretty odd pulling it out in public.
The battery isn't great either, which is really a pity, since this seems like the perfect thing for a road trip or a long flight. Better invest in a car charger or upgrade to a business class seat where you can stay plugged in.
It's also really expensive, and there are plenty of laptops and desktops that can best the Razer Edge for less cash - but no other tablets.
The Razer Edge is an awesome toy that's a bit ahead of its time. The processors of tomorrow would likely extend its battery life and help it achieve a more digestible price point. It could also use an OS that's more fully suited a mouseless-interface.
Until then we've got something of a rich man's toy. It's simply not a good value when you put it side by side with comparably priced laptops and desktops.
That and the limited portability of the Razer Edge make you wonder when you'll use it. If you got the cash to burn, playing Batman on it would be a great way to pass the limo ride from your mansion to your yacht.
But it's hard to pick one up, play some Dirt 3 and not enjoy yourself. The Edge wins poinst for fun factor, style and proving that you can have Plants vs Zombies and Left 4 Dead 2 on the same tablet.
We don't recommend running out to buy one, no matter how optimistic you are about your tax return, but go out of your way to give it a try.