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Controller Freak

Chad Sapieha leads you deep into the world of games, covering gaming trends

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Project Fiona, a Windows 8 tablet from Razer USA designed specifically for PC gamers (Razer)
Project Fiona, a Windows 8 tablet from Razer USA designed specifically for PC gamers (Razer)

Razer takes wraps off Windows 8 gaming tablet at CES Add to ...

I’m generally pretty happy whenever I get to stay home and avoid the city-sized crowds crammed into the chaotoic mess that is the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but there are always a few gadgets that make me wish I was there.

This year, the product that makes me think the 3,800-kilometre trek to Sin City might have been worthwhile is Razer USA Ltd.’s PC gaming tablet running under the code name Project Fiona. Tech blog Engadget put up a hands-on video Wednesday, and it's got my gaming neurons fired up.

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It’s a Windows 8 slate that looks to be about the size of an iPad, but with a pair of controllers fused its sides that are designed to emulate the feel of a traditional PC gamepad. The demo shows the tablet running a copy of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, and it seems to play pretty much identically to the game I reviewed last fall.

In Engadget's video, Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan states Fiona has a third-generation Core i7 processor, the fastest ever used in a tablet. He also says it’s the only tablet with an audio system certified by THX and that the controllers incorporate force feedback. He’s keeping a lid on the graphics architecture for the time being.

“It’s not Angry Birds,” said Mr. Tan. “This is hardcore PC gaming in tablet form.”

Indeed, current PC games will run on Fiona out of the box, with many popular titles preconfigured to automatically recognize its controllers. Tan also discusses how players will be able to save games to the cloud after playing on their PC (the tablet isn’t meant to replace your dedicated gaming desktop) and pick up where they loft on Fiona, or vice versa.

Of course, plenty of questions persist. How long will the battery last? How warm will it get? Will the controllers be detachable in the production model? Non-detachable controllers could be a deal breaker for those who want to use Fiona for anything other than gaming.

The biggest question of all may be whether it will actually make it to market, and, if it does, how much it will cost. Mr. Tan says he’s planning on launching Razer’s gaming tablet in the fourth quarter of 2012, and that his company can “build it for about $1,000” ( Engadget’s Sean Buckley clarifies in the video that Razer means to sell it at that price).

That’s mighty expensive for a tablet, but well within the parameters of the cost of a PC gaming machine.

The market will be niche, clearly, but I can imagine a small, rabid group of gamers (myself included) getting quite excited about using a tablet-sized machine equipped with Razer’s legendary game controlling hardware to play their favourite PC titles on the go. Or even on the couch or in bed.

I’ll keep an eye on Project Fiona as it progresses and report back here.

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