CES is always a hot ticket and a viewing window into the exciting new gadgets, technology and devices just around the corner. This year was no less exciting as Nvidia brought forth Project SHIELD and Razer unveiled its Edge gaming tablet (Be sure to read our interview with Razer’s David Lim). Nvidia is synonymous with anything related to gaming and Razer is known to have a devout following with the popularity of its PC gaming keyboards, mice, and headsets. Both companies serve their roles in the industry well but these two exciting new products could possibly define what it is to be a mobile hardcore gamer.
Razer brings to the table a tablet that is a full functioning computer complete with Windows 8, a discrete Nvidia graphics chip and an Intel i7 processor, in the form of a 10.1” tablet called the Razer Edge Pro. This device is not based on the Microsoft Surface tablets that came out with the release of Windows 8. The Surface tablets mirror traditional Android or Apple tablets and run a limited Windows 8 platform, called Windows RT, without the full functionality, modification and flexibility of a true Windows operating system. Visually, the tablet itself grasps for attention. The Razer Edge is a black Apple looking tablet with controls attached to the sides that look like PlayStation Move wands. Its appeal to gamers lies in the fact that the tablet is versatile. It can function as a regular gaming PC with a detachable keyboard, a portable gaming console with wand control attachments, or even a home console with a docking station for controllers and an HDMI output to a TV.
With such great ideas and hardware, there are also tremendous downfalls to both of these new devices. First and foremost, the price of these toys will determine how many hands these fall into. The Razer Edge Pro is going to be an enormous investment. Around $1300 for the top of the line tablet itself is somewhat negotiable being the tablet equivalent to a gaming laptop, but add in the $250 controller attachment, $100 docking station, toss in another $100 or so for the keyboard in addition to a $300 warranty and the consumer has quite a bit to pony up.
Another main detractor of the Razer Edge is the concern of battery life. Tablets are meant to be portable and enjoyed with minimal downtime being plugged into the wall. A powerful machine such as the Razer Edge will no doubt suck quite a bit of juice and consume power like no other since it is a true fusion of a gaming laptop and tablet. Throw in the required current needed to power the accompanying peripherals and the battery life span could be even more worrisome. Possibly having fewer than two hours (less as time wears on) before needing to connect to the wall for a charge, could make the Razer Edge join the elite company of laptops with dead batteries.
Nvidia has not released any official prices regarding Project SHIELD, but there are rumors that it might land in the realm of $400 or so. If true, it is a little more reasonable but still difficult due to the fact that there are popular 7” tablets with full access to the Google Play store priced around $200. Yet the big kicker is the necessity of a complimentary gaming PC (and all of its’ costs) in order to play games with at least moderate settings. If the PC doesn’t run Steam games so well, Nvidia SHIELD is not going make it any better.
Nvidia’s SHIELD may also have a hard time getting adopted since it contends not only with tablets already on the market using the Google Play store, but also because it is entering the declining portable gaming market. That market is already inhabited by the two big players, Nintendo and Sony. Together, Sony’s PlayStation Vita and PlayStation Network are a formidable gaming combo. It has a mature ecosystem that has been developed since the PlayStation 3 and has gained even more appeal since Vita owners are now treated to PlayStation Plus perks. Nintendo on the other hand, has an iron grip on the handheld console market with the 3DS. Having sold the most systems in the handheld market, alongside a superior starting price point, Nintendo continues to dominate. Even if that is not the intended market due to its flexibility, Nvidia’s SHIELD still falls within the niche portable gaming sector since it is a tablet on a controller.
CES brings wonderful new tools and gadgets for gamers in the coming year. With a few more months of refinement and marketing, both Nvidia’s SHIELD Project and Razer’s Edge will definitely be out in full force once the queen of the ball, E3, arrives later this year. With the innovation and adaptability the Razer Edge brings, it could be a renaissance in gaming hardware if the tablet’s innards can do everything as advertised and much more. However, Project SHIELD is an even more intriguing creation since the value of a portable extension of our beloved gaming computers is out there. How much of a desire for it depends on whether or not Nvidia can hit this out of the park. If they offer consumers a respectable price alongside a hassle free experience with the SHIELD device, it would be hard not to consider this item come launch time. In this new era of compact portable gaming, hardware and software are becoming more streamlined. Nvidia and Razer are putting themselves at the forefront, and these new kids on the block will shape perceptions, for better or for worse.