updated 02:25 am EST, Fri January 13, 2012
Razer 2012 lineup tested at CES
We had the opportunity to explore Razer's whole CES 2012 lineup this week. The company kicked off the year by shipping the Blade and revealing thhe Naga Hex mouse, but its true surprise was exploring tablets with Project Fiona. We'll see how all three have fared after the break.
Project Fiona, much like the Switchblade before it, was behind glass. The concept is in person much like what Razer described; it's a medium-sized tablet with two analog controller sticks. While turned on, it was running a static screen and also suggested that OnLive would play a part with a clear item in the menu for it.
Most of the potential for Fiona comes from what's inside and the promise of it. With a Core i7, even if a low-power model, it could run desktop games, not stripped down mobile titles. Razer is hoping to ship a completed version of Fiona by the end of the year, but this depends on the success of its concept of crowdsourcing design ideas.
The Blade, a very real product now, is hard not to see as impressive, albeit with catches. Its touchscreen-as-trackpad and the customizable, LCD-lit keys above it all are potentially very valuable for games; the title on show, the sci-fi shooter FreeFall, didn't make as much use of the keys as we'd like. Having the trackpad change to a secondary function when a mouse is attached, though, is tangibly useful. It can be used for status monitors, but even the ones on the show floor could browse the web -- handy either for checking for strategy guides or keeping up on a Twitter feed.
The regular keyboard is wide, but comfortable and backlit.
Performance, of course, is high. The graphics are mid-range, a GeForce GT 555M, but the 2.8GHz (dual-core) Core i7 and 8GB of RAM didn't have trouble keeping up. The solid-state drive that delayed the Blade appears to have been a worthwhile tradeoff, since Apples launch very quickly and a game like FreeFall isn't bottlenecked by the hard drive.
We like that the Blade is thin, although with a 17.3-inch display, it's still not exactly light at 6.6 pounds. Still, it's much more preferable to the frequently two-inch thick desktop replacements Razer is fighting. Our only misgivings are the $2,800 price and the lack of an optical drive. You have to be very dedicated to a gaming notebook to like it, and while Steam and other download outlets are taking over, some games are still easier to get on discs.
The Naga Hex is much simpler to look at. It consists of a characteristic Razer ergonomic mouse but its namesake hexagonal grid of buttons on the side, each of the keys mapped to numbers. While we don't know how sturdy the mouse would be, it was light without feeling flimsy, fit well in the right hand, and didn't lead to accidental presses of the side buttons. If you're a regular first-person shooter player, it's worth considering.