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Hand-on With Project Fiona, the Razer PC Gaming Tablet

Razer announced a PC Gaming Tablet concept at CES this year, and I had a chance to get my hands on a prototype.

Project Fiona is an odd proposition. PC gamers are a fickle bunch, and you’ll be hard-pressed to beat the obviously superior mouse and keyboard combination. But Razer’s tablet concept aims to do just that, bringing portable PC gaming to a new form-factor. I had a chance to get my hands on the device here at CES, and it’s in impressive shape.

Razer announced Project Fiona earlier this morning. Most of the details are under wraps, and subject to change as the product evolves this year. We do know that the Project Fiona prototype on display here at CES is a Windows 7 tablet running on a Core-i7 Intel Ivy Bridge processor. Razer is aiming at a target price that’s under $1000, and having the tablet running on Windows 8 when it's released sometime around the end of the year.

The device is lighter than I expected — somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 pounds. You’ll balk, and rightly so: that’s enormous for a tablet. But it felt right in my hands. The two analog joysticks on either side of the tablet are decidedly wider than a typical gamepad’s arrangement, which takes a bit of getting used to. But once I’d found a comfortable seating position, that extra pound or two was unnoticeable. Just don’t expect to make this your primary reading or media device.

I had a bit of quality time to sink into Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, and playback was incredibly smooth. Things look and feel great — the action was fluid, with nary a hint of dropped frames or slowdown. I’ve no idea what the actual display settings were, but being a hand-built prototype things bode well. There are force feedback motors built into the controllers, and while I could feel them throbbing, the effect was relatively minor. That could be chalked up to vibration settings in the game, or lackluster motors in the prototype.

The expected caveats for handmade concept devices apply. It runs hot: I’m pretty sure there’s a discrete graphics card in there (though Razer wouldn’t say), but you can definitely feel the heat through the rear of the case. The right analog stick was a bit sticky, locking into place. The buttons on the controllers aren’t especially ergonomically friendly, and my I had trouble figure out where to put my thumbs. And the games were all running on Windows 7 with a custom Razer UI splashed on top, so calls to press “E” or “Enter” don’t translate well just yet.

Project Fiona is in really good shape, for a hand-built prototype. But it’s important to remember that this is merely of a proof of concept — the hardware and controls are all subject to change, and there’s at least an entire year to go before Razer hopes to bring this device to market. Stay tuned for continued coverage — I for one am looking forward to seeing this creature evolve.

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