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Razer Edge review

Razer's new tablet breaks banks and blows minds

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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.

Razer Edge review

Steam

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.

Razer Edge review

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 Launcher

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.

Razer Edge review

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.

Gaming controls

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.

Performance

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
As we mentioned, our review unit was the $1,450 Pro version with a 256GB solid state drive.
  • 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.