Razer were kind enough to send us a Razer Edge Pro to review this week so we’ve spent some time with the unit putting it through it’s paces. Unfortunately if you like the look of it getting hold of one is currently quite a mission. We’ve scoured the internet and can’t even find one on EBay – but when it was on sale in the US the Razer Edge Pro 128gb (which we are taking a look at) was $1299 and the game controller was $249(!). Altogether converting this directly to pounds if you were going to import one (still difficult to find) picking up the two together would cost you £927 plus import duty.
The Razer Edge Pro is something unique. It’s a tablet that’s as powerful as most gaming consoles that also runs a full version of Windows 8, offers a touchscreen, HDMI out and a USB port. There are numerous (expensive) accessories you can get for it that create a game controller around it and add a battery (we were testing with one of these) or can add a simple docking stand or a keyboard, it even runs some of its own proprietary software to allow you to launch and optimise games. There’s very few other machines on the market that do anything like this at all – Microsoft’s Surface Pro comes to mind but that lacks a dedicated gaming chipset and is more built around office tasks. Nvidia’s shield is another but that is purely for games and doesn’t function as a PC. So the Edge Pro is somewhat of a unicorn.
First impressions of the unit are all to do with the size and weight. This is a big tablet, bigger than a Surface Pro or iPad and much heavier. With the gaming frame around it (which can’t be collapsed down at all) it is over a foot long and a little thicker than a PS4 or Xbox controller. For something designed to be portable this would take up a lot of space in backpack and all of a briefcase – especially if you wanted to have any padding to protect the screen. Of course the size and heft lead to what feels like a well-built product, everything (including the glass) feels very solid and nothing feels flimsy in any way. There are vents along the top that get quite hot but if you have the gaming controller attached the rest of the unit stays mildly warm. If you take it out of the controller though the whole back of the tablet gets very hot, too hot to keep on your lap. Unfortunately the weight of it makes it impractical to hold up for gaming. you need to rest it on something and this cannot be a flat surface like a table as your hands will be between the controller grips and the table. We tried playing Grid 2 while standing at a counter (it was the closest free plug socket) and we couldn’t finish a race without putting it down because it was too uncomfortable. If you’re travelling you’ll also need to bring the charging cable which is just like a laptop charger complete with power supply unit that weighs a fair bit by itself. If you were driving a long way I’m sure this would be fine to take with you in the car, but I’m not convinced you’d want to bring it with you onto a plane. Aside from the fact that chances are no one at airport security will have seen one before and you’ll have to go through a lengthy security clearance.
Once you switch it on you might be surprised to feel a strong rumble. In an odd choice for something that already drains battery like nobody’s business and weighs too much Razer have decided to add rumble to the game controller and quite a powerful rumble it is too. Of course it can be disabled if you’d like (especially to save battery) but it is a nice feature if you’re playing while plugged in, especially for racing games. The whole system springs to life in just over five or 6 seconds thanks to the speedy SSD and getting into games is similarly quick. The 128 GB SSD is fast but not too room so you’re only likely to have three or four games installed at any one time. This isn’t an issue for most people though and if people are willing to splash out a little more you can get a 256GB model instead.
We’ve never had any issues with Windows 8 and it works as well as ever here. It’s designed to function well with touchscreen devices but if you want to plug in a USB hub and stick a mouse and keyboard on you can easily. The screen resolution is sadly limited to 1366×768 which will feel like a substantial downgrade from gamers used to 1080p or beyond with the fancy tablets now available. The screen is functional and solid but there’s nothing special about it at all, it’s not bright and the colours aren’t particularly vivid. There is a HDMI out if you buy the docking port which means you can output to a monitor or TV and run at 1080p but games would seriously struggle at resolutions higher than 720p which might explain the low resolution of the screen.
Performance wise the Edge Pro does start to stand out from anything you’ve seen before. In our initial tests on Grid 2 we were easily achieving a locked 60fps at 720p on the high settings and the game really does look great at this point. There is a lack of definition to the edges with jaggies everywhere, but this is to be expected at that resolution. The important thing was the silky smooth gameplay and the fact that the controller worked well for it. Due to the difficulties holding it we’d still recommend just plugging a 360 controller (or Razer’s Onza) in instead but that’s up to you and depends on how much space you have available. Trying Metro: Last Light was unfortunately too much for the system, running at sub-30fps even on low settings at 720p. Considering this is a tablet, it’s by far the most capable we’ve ever seen but you can’t expect miracles from it. Console quality games of the last five years should be fine and occasionally you’ll stumble across something that’s well optimised that will blow you away (Just Cause 2 for example) but this isn’t going to give any desktops a run for their money.
Battery life is reasonably impressive, coping for four hours or so per battery while performing basic tasks and watching movies and coping for two hours or so per battery if you’re gaming, less if it’s particularly intensive. The batteries take quite a long time to charge but that should be enough time if you’re kids are going to be playing something in the back seat on a reasonable length drive.
So what we have is an unquestionably powerful tablet with some well built accessories that also happens to be incredibly expensive, heavy and large. For the same price (assuming it came to £950 for the tablet and controller in the UK) you can get a laptop like this for less money that will perform better, be easier to transport and be much more versatile for different tasks. It’s just difficult to imagine the market for the Edge. It’d be fantastic for trade shows like EGX, E3 and Gamescom where you want high performance units that are easy to pick up and play and will have dedicated stands, but for the average consumer it’s too large to take away with you easily and too awkward, expensive and not powerful enough to use as your main gaming device at home. The Edge is an achievement of engineering, it is very good at what it does. Unfortunately what it does isn’t really something that anybody needs.