The Razer Switchblade is branded as a portable gaming device. From the ad campaign so far, the Switchblade aims to provide a platform to move PC gaming to the portable market, but our Razer rep constantly reminded us that absolutely nothing about this device is final. Although there is no ETA or MSRP from Razer yet, we were also reminded by reps that they would not have made a device prototype to show at CES if they were not planning on “coming up with an actual product very soon.”
The Switchblade at CES featured two different displays: a 7” multi-touch LCD on top and a game-dependent display on the bottom with a keyboard on top. Top display looked pretty good through the glass prison that kept our mitts off of it – most likely netbook resolution. The bottom display features an adaptive tactile keyboard that will change its layout and appearance dynamically with your gaming experience. The reps told us the keyboard would have lots of prebuilt profiles for popular games, but that the keyboard layout is also designed to be programmable and customizable.
Outside, the Switchblade sports only 3 ports: one for a charger, USB 3.0 and Mini-HDMI out. The Switchblade was seen sitting next to a wireless – most likely Bluetooth – mouse in Razer’s product video, but no official word from Razer on that. We also asked about what looked like a webcam on the prototype at CES and got a “no comment.”
As the big Intel logo on the body suggests, Razer is working with Intel on the project, but there is no official word on which CPU or GPU will power the Switchblade. The CES prototype Switchblade was running a build of Windows 7, but that isn’t final, and that wasn’t all it was running. We also saw shots of a custom Razer UI that looked laid out as a content management system for the Switchblade. We asked about WiFi and the possibility of a Razer game store like OnLive or Steam, but all we got was, “we’ll see.” The demo that was playing for the Switchblade also looked largely pre-rendered, so there is no way to draw any sort of hardware capability out of what we saw on the prototype.
The idea of revolutionizing handheld gaming with a device like this is certainly attractive – especially to the gamer crowd as they are today. This device could definitely provide an excellent bridge for PC games to a new and eerily familiar platform. When I first saw the Switchblade and heard the revolutionary idea with truly mobilizing the PC gaming ideal, it sounded like a step in the right direction. I immediately thought, “Hey, it’ll be nice to have a mobile platform that isn’t using 6-year-old technology to run some good games.” Unfortunately the pre-rendered video that was looping on the Switchblade showcased software like Quake 3, DOTA (WarCraft 3), and World of WarCraft that is all at least 6 years old. However, there are still games coming out today (take a look at all the indie packs on this holiday’s Steam sale) that could provide an excellent platform for casual gaming.
While it will be refreshing to have some access to your PC games while you’re away from home, this device is still marketed to mobilize PC games in a form factor that is smaller than today’s netbooks. Razer’s target demographic of hardcore gamers might be missed by an attempt to provide a new type of platform for popular PC games by giving them another underpowered device that won’t run Metro 2033 on max DX11 settings. If the Switchblade’s purpose is to bring casual PC gaming away from home and to give gamers yet another way to squeeze in more game time to their favorite and seasoned MMORPG, Razer just might strike pay dirt.