Surprise! Razer brought a decent Windows 8 gaming tablet to CES

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LAS VEGAS—Razer takes a stab at the tablet market with the Edge, a 10-inch Windows 8 tablet designed emphatically for PC gamers. We saw the prototype version at CES last year when it was still known only as the Project Fiona gaming tablet.

Now the finished product, shown below, is on the market before most other major 64-bit Windows 8 tablets, including the upcoming Vizio MT11x and Microsoft's own Surface Pro.

Two models of Razer Edge are available now, a standard and a Pro version. Both come with 64-bit versions of Windows 8 and sport multitouch-capable displays, a built-in accelerometer, and a wicked matte black paint job.

You can pick up the basic Razer Edge for a starting price of $999, and that gets you an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a 65GB SSD and an Nvidia GT640M LE GPU.

The more expensive Razer Edge Pro starts at $1300 and includes the same Nvidia GT640M LE GPU plus an Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and either a 128GB or 256GB SSD.

Both models also have a USB 3.0 port and support for Bluetooth 4.0, so it’s possible to hook up PC peripherals like gamepads, mice, and keyboards. You can also buy the Edge Pro as part of a bundle that includes the Razer Edge Gamepad Controller, a funky-looking proprietary controller that looks sort of like a pair of PlayStation Move controllers fused to a tablet case.

The controller attaches to the back of the Edge and features a pair of analog sticks and vibrating motors to emulate the experience of playing games on a home console. The controllers are fully programmable, but they ought to work with most any PC game that supports a standard USB gamepad without much trouble.

The Edge with its keyboard dock.

The keyboard dock is pretty self-explanatory and includes a full (non-mechanical) Razer keyboard with backlit keys, but the docking station is a little more interesting; its festooned with ports that permit the Razer Edge to function like a Windows 8 desktop PC while its docked in the cradle. The controller isn’t the only thing you can jack into the Edge, either; a keyboard dock and a docking station are also available, which makes the Edge a more versatile option for gaming enthusiasts than some competing Windows 8 tablets.

The docking station charges the Edge and features three USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI port, and jacks for pumping audio into or out of the device. These ports route data directly through the Edge while its docked, meaning you can hook up an HD display, a mouse and keyboard (or a couple of gamepads), and a headset to play games or handle your business on the tablet without needing to switch to a full desktop PC.

It’s a nice feature that may prove to be a necessity if the Edge proves to have poor battery life in real-world conditions, but we won’t know for sure until we get it into our lab for some serious hands-on testing. In the meantime, take solace in the knowledge that you can purchase an extended battery that promises to double the battery life of the Edge.

The Edge supports PC peripherals and gamepads.

Razer is pushing the Edge as the world’s most powerful PC gaming tablet, and for the moment it probably is, but that’s not what’s most exciting about the device. The Edge seems poised to compete favorably with the upcoming Microsoft Surface Pro, and more competition means better opportunities for anyone purchasing a Windows 8 tablet.

It also means a successful PC gaming hardware manufacturer sees long-term appeal in producing Windows 8 tablets designed for gamers, and that’s good news for anyone worried about touchscreens and tablets eclipsing traditional desktop PC work or edging out performance-minded PC enthusiasts.

For more blogs, stories, photos, and video from the nation's largest consumer electronics show, check out complete coverage of CES 2013 from PCWorld and TechHive.

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