Razer Edge Pro: Our first look at a Windows 8 gaming tablet

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At first glance, the Razer Edge Pro is indistinguishable from other Windows 8 tablets: It’s 2.2 pounds of matte black metal with a 10.1-inch screen and a single Windows button. But pick it up, and you'll immediately feel the heft in your hands. It's bulkier than the Surface Proand also runs much, much hotter.

That heat flows from the powerful components nestled inside. An Nvidia GPU and an Intel Core i7 CPU allow Razer's tablet to compete with similarly priced ultrabooks in terms of raw processing performance. The goal? To deliver no-exuses PC gaming in a handheld tablet form factor. Throw in a Gamepad Controller accessory, and the Edge Pro begins to approximate a console gaming experience, care of dual analog sticks, a D-pad and action buttons.

I haven't yet spent enough time with the tablet to know whether it delivers on its promise—look for our full review next week—but Razer's latest gaming hardware began to leave a strong first impression the moment I pulled it out of its packaging.

Playing PC games on a tablet is fantastic

The most important thing you need to know about the Razer Edge Pro is that it delivers in terms of frame rates and battery life. You can use it to play contemporary PC games at decent settings, and the battery lasts long enough to let you play for at least two to three hours at a stretch before you need to recharge. You can augment battery life with an extended battery pack, which Razer sells separately or as part of a Gamepad Controller bundle.

Having complex PC games like Civilization 5 at your fingertips is amazing.

To use the Edge Pro for its intended purpose, the Gamepad Controller would seem near essential. Most PC games suck when you're relegated to touch gestures, so either a mouse/keyboard combo or a gamepad is essential. I spent a few hours playing Far Cry 3, Tomb Raider and XCOM while curled up on the couch with the Gamepad Controller resting on my lap. Being able to play complex PC games from the comfort of the couch is amazing, but it just doesn't work without the Gampad option.

Controlling PC games on a tablet is an exercise in compromise

At first blush, I was disappointed with the design of the Razer Edge Pro. It feels bulky and unwieldy—more like a prototype than a finished product. It’s heavier, thicker and harder to carry than the Surface Pro, weighing in at 2.25 pounds and measuring roughly 12 inches wide.

Snap the Edge into it's Gamepad accessory and you have a viable handheld gaming platform. But it's hard to use anywhere besides your couch.

Alone it’s not much of a burden, but—as mentioned earlier—it’s also not much of a gaming machine sans accessories. Insert the Edge Pro into it’s Gamepad chassis, and you get an excellent platform for 3D action games that's 15 inches wide, almost 4.5 pounds and nearly impossible to safely stow in a backpack or messenger bag. So, perversely, to make the Edge Pro shine as a mobile gaming device you have to render it practically immobile.

The screen disappoints

Razer built the Edge with a 10.1-inch IPS display bearing a native resolution of just 1366 by 768. It works well enough for browsing the web or playing games from the Windows Store—the Surface RT has the same 1366 by 768 resolution, after all—but it diminishes the fun of playing graphically intensive PC games or watching HD video. Indeed, the Edge Pro looks inferior next to the Surface Pro's vibrant 1920 by 1080 display.

The Edge has a serviceable display, but it's not very vibrant and can't handle 1080p video.

I didn't want to put the Razer Edge Pro down, but eventually I had to, because with the Gamepad attached I couldn't hold it steady for more than an hour before my arms turned to jelly (though, admittedly, I kept picking it back up). I've only had a few days with the Edge Pro, and there's still plenty of testing to be done. I'm going to put it through the PCWorld Lab's battery of benchmarking tests, hook it up to my PC and HDTV, and then see how it holds up during daily use. Look for a comprehensive review next week.

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