Razer’s upcoming Edge gaming tablet is by far the most exciting tablet on the horizon. It combines not only a full laptop in the form of a tablet, it does so with pretty tremendous gaming capability. In fact, in nearly every way the Edge is exactly where gaming tablets have been aiming; perhaps not with the form factor or current limitations, but in concept for sure.
But how does it stand against the iPad, currently the top selling tablet on the market and the most beloved of them all? Let’s take a look.
We don’t have an exact size for the Razer Edge, but it’s big. It isn’t a tablet, it’s a slate, a regular slab of plastic and metal to bring your commandments on. Christen’s impressions of the tablet from CES are enough to remind us that for this kind of power you need a lot of girth. The Edge is big, bulky, and heavy when compared to nearly every competing tablet on the market, iPad or otherwise.
Aside from the iPad mini, the iPad is perhaps the best designed tablet (at least for its size). The tapered, smooth edges; the magnificent display; the lightweight design built for two hands but capable in one. Even the 4:3 aspect ratio is a better fit for carrying around instead of the luggage that widescreen tablets are. When it comes to size, there’s no comparison.
Winner: iPad, which is much thinner and lighter.
One may ask exactly how pertinent appearance is when contrasting between a tablet with a mobile OS compared to a tablet with a desktop OS, especially considering the capabilities of the latter. Ultimately the answer is that these things matter because appearance matters. We all want to look good, and that which we own is part of our visual appeal. There’s a reason why so many young people like Macs.
That’s not to say that Razer lazed away from a killer design, though the company’s focus was clearly elsewhere. As a tablet the Edge looks plain as can be, an encased black sheet with thick sides, flat edges, and a hint of weight from packing all that processing power within. In this case the end justifies the means, but the style is clearly missing. Of course, if you brought the Edge into a cafe and started playing Far Cry 3 on it…now that would turn heads.
Winner: iPad, which is the cheerleader prom queen to Razer’s brainy but big-boned powerhouse.
When it comes to the display…the Edge is a serious point of contention. The 10.1″ IPS panel is slightly larger than the iPad (9.7″), but has slightly more than half of the actual screen resolution. 2048×1536 compared to 1366×768 is twice as dense vertically and 1.5X as dense horizontally, effectively making the Edge look like a pixellated mess compared to the crispness of images on the iPad. Of course, the sheer irony of this is that the Edge is far more powerful and could easily power a display four times it’s size…just not for high-performance gaming.
Thankfully for the Edge, Windows 8 for tablet use (not the desktop UI) is built for high-contrast colors, so even if the resolution is so much lower the OS is built to handle that. And of course for gaming the screen will appear much more pixellated than a typical 22″ or 24″ monitor, but it’ll also be a tablet running a full desktop game.
Winner: iPad, which has a stunning and a 3X more dense display.
Normally, for the OS it’s a tough call. The war between Android and iOS rages on, and while Windows Phone 8 hasn’t really reached any bases, that’s not the case here. This is the first real bout between a mobile OS and a full desktop OS, one that combines the portability of Windows’ use of live tiles, mobile apps, and a touch interface with a traditional desktop at a moment’s notice. iOS only has access to one of those.
For the Apple tablet, that’s no laughing matter. When it comes to tablet computers the iPad is above and beyond the competition. It’s the closest tablet that anyone can use for mobile computing. The sheer speed and range of apps remains mostly unchallenged, due mostly to the sheer lack of Android tablet purchases. I’ve experimented with using an iPad fulltime instead of a laptop, and in many cases it works fairly well, though it may never truly match the experience.
With the Edge that question doesn’t need to be asked. It is a laptop as much as it is a tablet, if not by form then by software and components. The parts are identical to what you’ll find in today’s Ultrabooks, plus a powerful GPU. The OS is Windows 8, not RT, which is home to both the tablet OS and a traditional desktop. Fly through the web with flash, download any application and .exe file you can dream, and do as you very damn well please. Because, after all, this is no mobile OS.
Therein lies the real meat of the Edge, especially compared to the slew of WinRT tablets releasing. It may not have the exceptional thin body or 10-20 hour battery life, but it provides incredible amounts of power in a small, comfortable handheld body. Use it as a tablet, but when work comes up it can handle the task. When you want to play a game, the only limitation is your wallet (and perhaps your control mechanism). The OS allows for all of that, while iOS is limited to just mobile.
Winner: Razer Edge, filled with a full version of Windows 8 for both a tactile touch interface and the traditional, powerful desktop UI for doing just about anything.
In nearly every comparison involving the iPad, Apple’s tablet has trounced the competition by a longshot. In every benchmark I’ve performed on dozens of tablets and some hundreds of smartphones, the iPad reigns supreme in the land of mobility. But the Edge comes from another plane of existence, and brings with it an Ivy Bridge i7 processor that would literally burn the iPad’s A6X out of it’s socket and melt it should the two ever touch.
It’s not only that; when it comes to the raw power of the Edge, comparing the two seems almost ludicrous, the disparity is so large. 8GB of RAM at 1600MHz compared to the iPad’s pitiful 1GB? A GTX 640M (or, for lighter tasks, the Intel HD 4000) compared to the A6X’s quad-core ARM architecture? I could say don’t make me laugh, but the difference between the two is like comparing a lemur to a gorilla. Sure, they’re both primates, but put them in a cage and there’s only one way to bet.
Even the regular version comes with an i5 and 4GB of RAM. Which would make it an angry chimpanzee. A big one.
Winner: Edge, which boasts not only laptop-ready specs but gaming-ready components.
Today the largest capacity iPad available is 64GB, which is identical to the capacity of the Razer Edge. The pro model offers either 128GB or 256GB of storage. Sure, the 64GB model will have less available space than the maxed out iPad (Win8 will take some 5-10GB of space), but that’s a pittance compared to the larger sizes.
Winner: Edge, which starts at the minimum equaled to the iPad’s maximum, and then offers up to four times the capacity..
Oh, there’s one thing that the iPad clearly has that the Edge doesn’t, and likely never will: an LTE chip for wireless data. How cool would it be to play Borderlands 2 over LTE? Sure, you’d break the bank just doing it, but it would still be amazing. And yes, that’s the future.
Winner: iPad, which actually offers data support.
Another area where the Edge loses because it simply has no offering is the rear camera. Razer didn’t include one because, with a tablet as large as the Edge, who wants to take pictures? Still, the iPad is a pretty good shooter.
Winner: iPad, which has a camera (and a good one at that).
Equally the greatest and least important argument, battery life; undoubtedly goes to the iPad. At 10 hours of regular battery life under use, few laptops today with identical specs to any model of the Edge can boast that sort of single-charge life. It just doesn’t happen. Razer doesn’t even list the lifespan per charge because that number is so low compared to today’s tablets and laptops, especially when gaming, that it would only evoke bad press.
Yet again, it’s not necessarily that big a deal. It becomes a question of what do you want, a full computer in a tablet that can play games for 2-4 hours, or a tablet that is much more limited but can last 8-10 hours? And while most of us have come to choose the latter (mostly because the former simply didn’t exist), there are plenty of us who grew up getting the former. Anyone who bought a Game Gear (or even a Nomad…remember that?!) instead of a Game Boy, or anyone who buys a laptop with discrete graphics versus integrated graphics. We all know the price paid for power.
Winner: iPad, which likely doesn’t have as large a battery but will last much longer, guaranteed, than the Edge on a single charge.
Let’s get one thing straight: price isn’t everything, but in this case it is pretty darned important. For the most comparable models, the iPad with 64GB costs $700, compared to the $1,000 minimum of the Razer Edge. For $300 users get less (usable) space, a thicker, heavier, and uglier tablet with worse battery life, but one that comes with a full desktop OS and components that go in real computers, not phones.
But let’s get real. If you bought an Edge you wouldn’t be satisfied with the lower-end model. You’d put down extra for the 8GB of RAM and 128GB SSD, which ups the price to $1,299. And you won’t stop there. The Gamepad Controller costs an additional $250; the Keyboard Dock $200; the Docking Station for $100; and lest we forget the extended coverage warranty for $300. All totaled the Edge suddenly feels like you’re paying for a small, ugly MacBook Pro instead of tablet…but even without the peripherals it’s still an expensive machine.
Winner: iPad, a far less expensive tablet that starts at half the price of the Edge, and a third of the price of the model you’d actually buy.
As always, the 1:1 scoring tells one store while weighted scoring is a completely different library. Here the iPad wins out on every minor point of contention, like carriers, camera, and appearance. So I made sure to weight each of the scores heavily based on their actual value, with 1 meaning 100% and everything else a percentage below that.
Weighted, the difference is huge. The interesting thing here is that the iPad actually comes out ahead of it’s original score (most devices end up weighing far more evenly, decreasing or increasing inversely to the competitor), but it makes sense why: the main features of a tablet win out every time. Though in this case, the Edge is so close — and in fact nearly wins — because it’s a laptop inside a tablet.
The reason it doesn’t is because as a tablet the Edge just doesn’t have the build of a tablet. It has the build of a laptop, and it becomes a real question for potential tablet buyers: would you buy a giant tablet just because it is as powerful as a laptop? I know I wouldn’t, because that’s not the purpose of a tablet. Such a device is intended to be lightweight, long-lasting, and comfortable in any situation. There’s a number of reasons why tablets failed before the iPad, and ridiculous size and weight is one of the main ones.
However, when it comes to the sheer power and capabilities of the Edge, the iPad doesn’t stand a chance, and for good reason. The low-power components are made for mobile, not for a computer. The OS is made for apps, not applications (never confuse the two). And storage…aside from the Edge having the built-in capability to save to any external hard drive with ease, it plainly offers a lot more space.
When we look at all of the pieces, it’s clear why the iPad is ultimately a better tablet: the Edge is really just a tiny gaming laptop. It’s the sort of device that we wish the iPad was in terms of power, the sort that we could take anywhere, connect a controller, and suddenly play any game we want anywhere. That future is coming, though Apple and most tablet makers see it one way, from low-powered devices going up. For people who want that sort of functionality today, the Edge is the only real option, and as it stands now it’s a great one to go with. We’ll reserve our final thoughts on the Edge until our full review of the tablet, but of everything seen from CES, the Edge is definitely one to look forward to.