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Razer Product Spotlight [CES 2012]

Traditionally Shogun Gamer has had a, mostly, console-specific focus. Our coverage of the PC gaming world in the past consisted of stand-alone titles that were not provided elsewhere, and the occasional talk of interesting hardware (namely accessories) when they were announced. In the last year however, we’ve significantly stepped up our game in the PC world, realising, finally, that it does still representative a significant portion of gamers. If we’re to represent gamers, and more importantly ourselves as gamers, then clearly it’s something we need to work on. With that in mind, I spent a fair amount of my time at this year’s CES checking out some of the hardware for the upcoming year in PC gaming.

First stop on my tour, for PC Gaming, was over at Razer. We’ve stopped in on them in the past, briefly, to check out what they had going on. Razer does a fantastic job each year showing off a ‘concept’ project that’s currently in the works to give us an idea of where they see the industry heading in the next year or so. Last year we got some sexy snap-shots of the Razer Switchblade, a gaming laptop with a keyboard comprised entirely of LCD keys which were programmable. To Razer’s credit, they don’t only build off-the-wall concepts to draw attention; they follow through with the ideas of the concept which resulted in the Razer Blade.

Before we get into the break-down of the concept-turned-consumer-product, I do want to say this: I don’t agree with their marketing team on the slogan for the Razer Blade: “The World’s First True Gaming Laptop.” I see why they went for it, and Razer has always been about ‘shock advertising’ in my opinion, drawing people in with crazy concepts and bold claims… but this one, to me, is probably the worst. Underestimating your competition is one mistake, denying them entirely seems kind of a dick-move if I’m being honest.

End rant.

The reason that the marketing team is allowing the company to get away with such a bold statement is in the incorporation of the Razer Switchblade’s LCD screens to the laptop. Instead of having everything in the keyboard-area become a customizable LCD screen (in the vein of the Optimus LCD Keyboards), they’ve instead moved it to a small section off to the right-hand side, replacing the num-pad section. Now you have a group of 10 small LCD buttons, fully customizable with various macros, actions, or functions that can have their own unique icons. Beneath that, a small LCD screen, this is touch-sensitive and can double as the computer’s track pad.

The most interesting part, for me, of the LCD track-pad is that it functions as sort of secondary monitor for the computer. In the demonstration provided to me, the LCD was used for looking through YouTube walkthrough videos of the game that was being played. The concept being that you don’t need to exit your full-screened video games in order to pull up a browser, watch YouTube videos, or whatever other multi-tasking fantasies you might want to fulfill on a gaming laptop.

Of course Razer, and its employees, wanted everyone to know though that it’s more than the gimmick of a touch-sensitive secondary LCD monitor, or 10 programmable UI buttons. This laptop is also being considered the first true gaming laptop because of the power behind in.

The laptop runs an Intel i7 processor, 8GB of DDR3 RAM at 1333MHz, has an Nvidia GeForce GT555M GPU running 2GB of DDR5 VRAM, and is backed up with a 256GB SATA III SSD, to make sure everything runs (and loads) as smooth and as fast as possible. It’s impressive to say the least, especially when you consider that the entire thing is backed with a 17 inch LCD monitor, and has a height less than one inch thick (0.88 if you want to be all specific about it).

The package is definitely a complete one, and absolutely impressive. The form factor is eye-catching, the fact that they got away with packing all that power into such an incredibly thin gaming laptop is amazing, and really there’s not enough nice things to be said. For gaming on the go, this definitely does seem like an interesting way to go. The concept of the LCD buttons on the laptop though still, to me, seems a little hit-and-miss. Watching the reactions of the patrons on the floor when they experienced it for the first time, it seemed like some people were excited by the possibilities while others wrote it off as a gimmick and nothing more.

Personally, I like the idea. It looks cool, I could absolutely use that secondary screen (I like walkthroughs when I get stuck, sue me), but the concern will be the cost. Throwing in LCD buttons feels like a luxury item that I don’t really need. Like throwing lighting under a car, it’s not something I could every see owning myself (no freaking way I’d be able to respect myself with that), but it’s still something I’ll see on occasion, done properly, and say “oooh, that looks slick.”

The second major set-piece for the Razer booth was, of course, their next concept. The fine people at Razer this time are putting their team in behind the idea of gaming on a tablet becoming a thing. Honestly, this one I’m far less enthralled with. When the SwitchBlade debuted there was a kind of excitement in the air for a concept of something entirely new in the realm of gaming, laptops, and PC building. When I saw their latest “Project Fiona” the thought process was more along the lines of : “Why did you glue a couple of nunchucks to the side of an iPad?”

And yes, I do understand that statement is painfully ignorant… But I am ignorant, and uncaring, of tablet ‘gaming’. So, if you’re someone that feels the future of gaming is in the concept of the tablet then I apologize for offending you… Nintendo.

If you do want to find out more about Project Fiona (honestly, I think the pictures say it all, but there’s undoubtedly some people that will want to know about the hardware it utilizes) you can head over to Razer’s promo page/press release for the full details on the project (including estimated release and pricing).