Could This Be the Perfect Portable Gaming PC?

Illustration for article titled Could This Be the Perfect Portable Gaming PC?

Perhaps the most innovative bit of gaming tech at this year's Consumer Electronics Show is a palm-sized, touch-screen gaming PC that comes packed with a keyboard that can transform on the fly.

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But Razer isn't even sure they're going to be able to sell the Switchblade micro laptop.

Robert Krakoff, president of the computer accessory company, tells Kotaku that a lot is still up in the air about the slick prototype that's garnering a lot of buzz at this week's Vegas show.

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Razer hasn't settled on the system specs of the Intel Atom chip laptop, or the price, or if they'll be able to solve a heat issue they're running into.

If the hurdles can be overcome, the device looks like it could be the perfect traveling companion for the PC gamer on the go.

The device, about the size of a small hardback when folded up, opens to show a 7-inch touchscreen and a smallish keyboard. The keys on the keyboard can all change on the fly to show anything from a standard text English-language keyboard to gaming icons to anything picture a modder whats to slap into a key.

Instead of relying on an expensive array of tiny LCD screens built into each button, the Switchblade has a second 7-inch LCD located under the keyboard buttons. The LCD can show a different picture for each button, which is projected up into the surface of the button, delivering the same effect as the mini-LCD approach.

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Krakoff said they haven't decided yet if the device will be upgradable or have fixed system specs, but judging by the complexity of the design, I suspect it will shipped with a fixed chipset and memory. We know it will have an Atom CPU, perhaps in the 2Ghz range, but we don't know how much memory yet.

Krakoff added that the device will have USB ports for a mouse, if someone wants to use one to game with. It will likely also have Bluetooth support, WiFi and perhaps built-in mobile broadband support.

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It also seems that Krakoff wants to make sure the Razer device has significant support within the gaming industry before they launch it. I asked if there was potential for the device, which runs on Windows 7 and has a custom user interface, to be branded. For instance, could there be a World of Warcraft or Blizzard Switchblade in the future, or perhaps a Switchblade that comes preloaded with Valve's game-download service Steam.

Krakoff says they haven't cut any deals yet, but that they're showing it around.

Valve's Gabe Newell seems extremely impressed with the devices potential, he said. The famed developer wanted to know if the device really worked, if it was doable.

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Krakoff says that they're shooting for a system that will be able to play most games when it hits, but likely not something as high end as the latest Crysis.

Another significant question is how much Razer will sell the device for. Krakoff wouldn't say, but with Netbooks hovering in the sub-$500 range, I'd think the Switchblade would have to be in there too.

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DISCUSSION

Look, as exciting as this is, let's face it, maybe 1% of Kotaku readers will end up with one if it ever comes to market.

1) PC gaming's greatest problem is that you constantly have to upgrade your PC to run the latest games. There's no room for upgrades here, even if this thing runs every game flawlessly at launch, two years down the line it will struggle to run anything new even in Medium settings.

How many games do you play for more than a year? 2, 3? How will you feel once you can't take any new games with you on the go because this device simply won't be able to keep up?

2) Cost can't possibly be affordable for your average gamer. How much is the CPU alone? $200 OEM? Windows 7? $100 OEM? How much is an Optimus Keyboard alone!? $1500? $1,000? HDD? If it's solid state add $200 to the bill. RAM? Display?