Last year Razer wowed CES goes with its 7-inch Intel Atom-powered Switchblade gaming PC that never made it out of the prototype phase. This year it's Project Fiona, a gaming tablet that runs full PC games. Is the breakfast tray-looking slab the ultimate in portable gaming tech? Our hands-on is just a click away.
Project Fiona isn't your typical run-of-the-mill ARM or Tegra-powered tablet. In its heart sits a powerful Ivy Bridge Intel Core i7 processor. That's the same chip architecture inside of Ultrabooks and every new PC coming out this year. No bones about it, Fiona can call itself a full-power PC in a tablet form factor.
Odd at first, the Fiona looks like an iPad with two PlayStation Move or Wii Nunchuk analogs bolted onto its sides. It has all the requisite tablet features like dual cameras (front and back), gyro controls, a crisp 10.1-inch 1280x800 display and runs Windows 7 (shooting for Windows 8), except it does one thing that other tablets like the iPad and Galaxy Tab don't: PC gaming.
Fiona's existence is not to run stripped down "portable versions" or ports of PC games. So no Angry Birds or Cut the Rope or Bejeweled.
It's for running Skyrim, Assassin's Creed, World of Warcraft, Modern Warfare 3 or any "hardcore" PC game that you would play on a laptop or desktop.
Fiona is also the first tablet to have force feedback and the first tablet to be THX-certified, meaning it'll have some amazing sound and pressure immersion.
Handling Fiona, I was impressed at how good it feels. The analogs felt solid (although the prototype on hand had a slightly borked right analog) and the unit was light, if not a bit thick (there are fans in this baby). The touchscreen seemed to be responsive enough too.
I don't know how you plan to toss Fiona into a backpack and not notice its odd shape, but I'll cross that bridge when (or if?) it comes out. Basically, the Fiona is going to be kind of like the Wii U tablet controller, only bigger, chunkier and not wirelessly tethered to another box.
Demoing Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine on Fiona, the controls did seem to be a teensy bit laggy, but you have to remember, that Fiona is a prototype.
Razer's merely putting the idea out there for a real gaming tablet. And it's definitely received a few raised eyebrows. Finally, a company bold enough to build a tablet that's not just "3D" or "glasses-free 3D."
The best of three worlds? Tablet portability, physical buttons and true PC gaming graphics without any optimization (other than for new controls)? That's the Fiona.
While some tech blogs are calling the Fiona the future of PC gaming, I'm not quite as zealous. I think the Fiona is a great alternative for PC gaming, but it's not the only path for PC gaming. Purists will never give up their fast response-time mice and mechanical keyboards, but for everybody else, the Fiona isn't a bad option.
As a console and portable gamer myself, I'd actually say I'd give the Fiona whirl. I'm just hoping the final version doesn't look as strange as it does.
Razer's CEO Min-Liang Tan believes the company can deliver it for under $1,000. That's gutsy, but then again, there are Ultrabooks are now coming in at under $1,000.
Remember, Fiona is a concept prototype. Min-Liang Tan told me that if enough gamers request the Fiona, it'll get produced by Q4 2012. If not, it'll end up like the Switchblade — a concept that only Tan will own.
Posted on location at CES 2012 in Las Vegas.
All photos taken by Raymond Wong for DVICE. Video shot and edited by Raymond Wong for DVICE.