Razer Edge Pro review

The Razer Edge Pro gaming tablet is the rare device that reimagines what the PC experience should be and delivers something that's not just different, but better. That it's made to let you game anywhere just makes it a lot more fun.
Photo of Razer Edge Pro

Razer is a well-known name in the gaming community, with its green glowing snake logo stamped on all manner of mice, keyboards, and other specialized peripherals. But
Razer’s newest toy—the Razer Edge Pro gaming tablet—is way more than a mere plaything. First announced as “Project Fiona” back at CES 2012, this unique device has been designed to be the tablet for PC gamers. It has been tweaked and polished over months and months of refinement with feedback from pro gamers and enthusiasts alike. Boasting a dual-core Intel Core i7-3517U Ivy Bridge processor with 8GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GT 640M LE graphics card with 2GB of dedicated memory, the result is a potent Windows laptop with more graphics and gaming chops than most laptops—and easily topping tablets like the Microsoft Surface Pro—and a playing experience that brings the game closer to you while letting you take the game wherever you want to go. The Edge Pro is the rare device that reimagines what the PC experience should be and delivers something that’s not just different, but better, putting a full-fledged Windows experience into a more portable design, with the hardware to use it on the go, at your desk, or in the living room. That it’s made to let you game anywhere just makes it a lot more fun.

Design
The Edge Pro is big for a tablet, but it’s extremely slim and light for anything remotely capable of serious gaming. Measuring 7 by 11 by 0.8 inches (HWD) and weighing 2.14 pounds, the Edge Pro is significantly thicker than other Windows tablets, like the Microsoft Surface Pro, which is just 0.53 inch thick, and weighs slightly less at two pounds. But for all this heft, you get a lot more in terms of hardware—the Edge Pro and its less expensive standard variant, the Core i5-powered Razer Edge, are also the only Windows tablets on the market today to offer both Intel Core processing and discrete graphics. As tradeoffs go, this is pretty worthwhile.

And let’s not forget that even the slimmest, lightest gaming laptops are considerably less portable. Our previous Editors’ Choice for portable gaming laptops, the Maingear Pulse 11, is 1.5 inches thick and weighs 3.7 pounds. Razer’s own made-for-portability Blade laptop is still 0.88-inch thick, and 6.6 pounds. On top of that, you aren’t likely to use the laptop for gaming without at least adding a gaming mouse to the mix, and you’ll need to find a table or desk to sit at while you play—but the Edge Pro lets you play anywhere, without needing a mouse for all games.

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On any other system the 10.1-inch IPS display and its 1,366-by-768 resolution would be small and inadequate—though it’s the same resolution of the screen on the Maingear Pulse 11—but because you’ll be bringing the Edge Pro so much closer to your face, the smaller size and lower resolution aren’t much of an issue. For a larger display and higher resolution, the HDMI port found on the accessory console dock does output at 1080p.

On the back of the tablet, which is made of the same cool black aluminum seen on the Razer Blade, you’ll find Razer’s distinctive logo, with three intertwined snakes that glow green when powered on. When we tested the speaker quality on the Edge Pro, I was surprised by the quality of the sound. While there’s no bass to speak of, the sound itself is significantly better than most tablets—there’s no buzzing at high volumes, and the sound is fuller than the thin, tinny sound heard on other tablets.

Features
On the tablet you’ll find a docking port (which doubles as your power connector), a headphone jack, and a full-size USB 3.0 port. The USB port is easy to spot, because it’s the same brilliant green we saw on the Razer Blade. The Razer Edge Pro is equipped with 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 + HS, so it will pair up with any wireless peripherals you want.

Inside, the Razer Edge Pro is equipped with a 256GB solid-state drive, in addition to the aforementioned Intel processor and Nvidia graphics card. All of those heat-generating components also require a cooling fan, and this one gets humming pretty early on—it’s the only tablet we’ve reviewed where fan noise is a concern. But that fan is indispensable, as I measured surface temperatures between 114 and 130 degrees at various points during testing and use. It got particularly warm in the upper right-hand corner, but you won’t likely be using the tablet alone during the most intense gaming. A lot of this heat buildup is dealt with by using the accessory gamepad dock, shielding the hot surfaces from your touch and giving you two external handles to hold. Handling the tablet won’t be an issue while using the tablet on the desktop/console dock.

While the Edge Pro is free of any bloatware or spurious software trials, it does come with Razer’s Launcher dashboard for browsing and launching games, and also comes preinstalled with Steam, saving you the step of downloading it yourself. Additionally, the Edge Pro is designed for compatibility with Steam Big Picture Mode when connected to an HDTV through the console dock.

Razer covers the Edge Pro with a one-year warranty, with an extended warranty available ($199.99 direct) to stretch it to two, and also adds a year of coverage for power cable, console dock, and gamepad dock (except battery). Docks and accessories are also covered by a one-year warranty.

While the tablet design doesn’t really make for a system you can upgrade and maintain in the same way you can tweak and optimize a desktop PC, Razer tells us that the SSD inside can indeed be swapped out by the user. But tinkerers beware—doing so will void the warranty.

Our review unit came with two docks, the Gamepad Dock ($249.99 direct), and a desktop cradle called the Console Dock ($99.99 direct). A third accessory—a keyboard for laptop-style functionality—is expected to be available in Q3 of this year, but specific details about features, availability, and pricing weren’t available as of this writing.

Gamepad Dock
The gamepad dock features two handle-bar style grips, one to either side of the tablet. Each grip has a mini joystick and eight buttons—four in a D-Pad formation on the left and four A, B, X, Y buttons on the right, plus two shoulder buttons, a trigger, and one extra input, which equates to start and select buttons. The dock itself adds vibrating haptic feedback, and also has a slot for an optional secondary battery (sold separately, $69.99 direct).

The dock is very sturdy, with a rigid metal frame holding everything in place. Putting the tablet into the dock is just a bit more complicated than dropping it in, with a locking dock connection that you’ll have to unlatch when you want to remove the tablet. The latch secures the tablet in place for vigorous gaming sessions.

The gamepad dock is a little awkward at first, because you’re suddenly holding your entire system when you hold your gamepad—and this isn’t a small handheld, it’s a two-pound tablet. This is solved with a tablet on lap position, however. The gamepad dock also lets you take your gaming PC where it normally wouldn’t go before. Without needing the flat surface for a keyboard and mouse, you can now curl up with your favorite game in bed, on a couch, or take it with you from one room to another. And if your game supports offline mode, it’ll go anywhere you want to take it, be it walking down the sidewalk, in the passenger seat of a car, or on the train during your commute.

The controls are not always intuitive, especially when you need to do something outside of standard gameplay, like accessing a menu. In some of these instances, you can get by with the on-screen keyboard—Razer’s software lets you access the keyboard in-game—but in others you’ll need to connect a standard keyboard through either the available USB 3.0 port or Bluetooth.

And not every game is compatible with the gamepad dock—a lot of games are made for use with the keyboard and mouse alone. Thankfully, Razer helps you sort out which is which by using the preinstalled Razer Launcher, a touch-friendly dashboard that lets you browse through your game library—it will pull from your Steam and Origin libraries without a hitch—and indicates which games are gamepad-compatible.

Console Dock
The console dock, which you attach at the bottom of the tablet, opens up the possibilities beyond the portable. The small wedge-shaped dock has a drop-in docking connection, making it easy to grab and go as a tablet without missing a beat. The dock holds the tablet at a slight angle, so you can use it as your primary display, though the 10.1-inch display gets pretty small once it’s out at arm’s length.

The dock has a grippy “gecko foot” bottom, which provides better traction than regular rubber, and means that you can use it even on surfaces that aren’t level. On the back of the dock you’ll find three USB 2.0 ports, one HDMI out port, headphone and mic jacks, and a power connector—no battery to worry about here. And because the dock attaches at the bottom of the tablet, the USB 3.0 port on top is still accessible, bringing the total number of usable USB ports to four. The use of USB 2.0 instead of 3.0 shouldn’t be an issue, since gaming peripherals are almost exclusively USB 2.0. If you need 3.0 speeds for connecting an external drive, you still have the port on the tablet itself.

With an HDMI port, the console dock is able to take up residence in the living room as well as at your desk. Connect it to a PC monitor with keyboard and mouse, and suddenly it’s a compact gaming desktop. Connect it to your HDTV and grab a couple of USB gamepads—it’s also compatible with Xbox controllers, just like any other gaming PC—and you’ve got a big-screen console-like experience you can share with your friends and family.

Performance
To properly evaluate the Edge Pro, you have to look at it twice; first as a Windows tablet, and second, as a gaming PC. As Windows tablets go, the Razer Edge Pro offers some of the best performance available. In Cinebench, the Edge Pro scored 2.77 points thanks to its dual-core Core i7 processor, while the Core i5-equipped Microsoft Surface Pro and Samsung ATIV SmartPC Pro 700T scored 2.39 and 2.38, respectively. The superior components shone through in multimedia tests like Handbrake—the Edge Pro converted our video test file in 1 minute 16 seconds, several seconds faster than both the Microsoft Surface Pro (1:28) and Samsung ATIV (1:30). The Edge Pro did even better in Photoshop, completing the test in 5 minutes 19 seconds—more than a minute faster than the Samsung (6:20), and well ahead of the Microsoft Surface Pro (6:11).

Naturally, the Razer Edge Pro also offers significantly better graphics performance than either comparable tablet, producing frame rates in the playable ranges—Aliens vs. Predator at 28fps and Heaven at 31fps (both at 1,366 by 768, with anti-aliasing off)—while the mainstream tablets struggled to even run them. In comparison, the Microsoft Surface Pro produced a mere 11fps in Aliens vs. Predator, and the Samsung ATIV Smart PC topped out at 12fps in Heaven while running at the same resolution and detail settings. As a gaming PC, however, you see the compromises in performance that had to be made to fit the hardware into the ultrasmall confines of a tablet. The entry-level MSI GX60, for example, played Heaven at the same medium settings at 72fps, a score that doubles that of the Edge Pro.

For a more comprehensive view of graphics performance, we can compare scores form 3DMark 11, where the Edge Pro scored 2,503 points at entry settings and 504 points in extreme mode. This puts it well ahead of both competing tablets, the Microsoft Surface Pro (1,055 Entry, 206 Extreme) and Samsung ATIV SmartPC (1,044 Entry, and it couldn’t run at Extreme mode), but trails behind the gaming-focused laptops, like the the Maingear Pulse 11 (3,868 Entry, 724 Extreme) and the Razer Blade (3,458 Entry, 716 Extreme).

Finally, the area where the Edge Pro did surprisingly well was battery life. Running our battery rundown test on the tablet alone, the Edge Pro lasted 3 hours 14 minutes. This falls short of the Microsoft Surface Pro (4:58) and the Samsung ATIV SmartPC Pro 700T (5:12), but remember that the other tablets use power saving integrated graphics, while the Edge Pro has a discrete graphics processor. And when compared against the more gaming-oriented Maingear Pulse 11 (3:29) and the Razer Blade (3:53), it’s easy to see that the battery life is somewhat impressive. Since you’ll rarely be using the tablet on its own, however, we also tested the Edge Pro with the secondary battery found in the gamepad dock. With a slim 41Wh Li-Ion battery added to the dock, the Edge Pro lasted an impressive 7:50, blowing all competitors—tablet and otherwise—right out of the water.

Pricing
It’s worth taking a moment here to mention the pricing of the Razer Edge Pro. While there is a Core i5-powered version of the Edge that sells for $999, our review unit was the muscled-up Razer Edge Pro, with a faster Core i7 processor and a much larger 256GB SSD. On its own, the tablet sells for $1,449—already more expensive than either the $999 Microsoft Surface Pro or the $1,199 Samsung ATIV SmartPC Pro 700T.

And you aren’t going to be doing much gaming with the tablet alone. At the very least, for the promised portability of the Edge Pro you’ll want the gamepad dock, an extra $250. Really, the ideal package is the one they sent us, with both the gamepad dock and the console dock, and a second battery for the gamepad dock to extend portable usability. All told, the package reviewed here costs a cool $1,870.

That’s not cheap for a tablet, but it’s not bad for an ultraportable gaming PC. There are entry-level gaming laptops you can buy that will offer higher frame rates and better overall performance, but those are thick, heavy, housebound systems that you won’t want to move to the next room, let alone try to take with you on the road. Among ultraportable gaming machines, the price difference is a lot narrower—the Maingear Pulse 11 sells for less than $1,400, but the Razer Blade is a gasp-inducing $2,499.

Conclusion
While the Razer Edge Pro won’t deliver the eyeball-searing performance and graphics you might expect from a larger gaming laptop, it still has two things those rigs don’t—unrivaled portability, and an innovative design that re-imagines the gaming PC completely. It’s something of an apples-to-oranges comparison, because the Edge Pro is a very different device than even the most portable laptop.

While frame rates and processor performance do have their place in evaluating a gaming PC, it’s worth noting that at no point during my use of the Edge Pro did I ever stop and “Gee, what a low frame rate.” And while the scores on paper indicate a system that can barely handle games at a playable level, the actual experience was quite the opposite. Everything I wanted to play played, whether it was the no-GPU-needed graphics of Team Fortress 2 or the detailed eye-candy of Crysis 3.

If your own gaming needs prioritize graphics and performance over portability, than a gaming laptop is the better way to go, no question. But if you do want that portability, the freedom that lets you take your games anywhere, there’s nothing else like the Razer Edge Pro. Like the Razer Blade, Razer has, with the Edge Pro, proven itself to be an unexpected innovator in an otherwise stale space, providing devices that rethink what a gaming PC should be.

The overall gaming experience on the Razer Edge Pro is excellent—everything simply worked, as advertised. The combination of solid performance and unrivaled portability is unlike anything an ultraportable gaming laptop can offer, and the sheer flexibility of the design when paired with the various docking options has left me seriously considering getting one of my own. Between the mobility offered by the gamepad dock and the desktop and console-like experience offered by the console dock, I could easily ditch my regular console and handhelds for this single go-everywhere device. In the end, that’s the sort of impression that Editors’ Choices are made of, making the Razer Edge Pro our new Editors’ Choice for ultraportable gaming PCs.

Specifications
Touchscreen Yes
Processor Name Intel Core i7-3517U
Operating System Microsoft Windows 8
Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce GT 640M LE
Screen Type Widescreen
Type Gaming, Tablet
RAM 8 GB
Networking Options 802.11n
2nd Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 4000
Processor Speed 2.4 GHz
Primary Optical Drive External
Screen Size 10.1 inches
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 256 GB

Verdict
The Razer Edge Pro gaming tablet is the rare device that reimagines what the PC experience should be and delivers something that's not just different, but better. That it's made to let you game anywhere just makes it a lot more fun.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc