The Quest for My “One Device”

Laptops-Tablets

The new slogan for the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 is “One Device for Everything in Your Life.” While Penny Arcade seems to indicate that for many people the Pro 2 can be, I tend to play more demanding games than Hearthstone or Wakfu (whatever that is?).  And it can be quite frustrating as a parent to be tied to a bulky laptop or immobile desktop that can’t be used in one hand when carrying around a 2-month old, or discreetly toted around when running after a two-and-a-half year old. So, I found myself in the interesting position of needing something incredibly powerful for gaming, work and hobbies, but incredibly portable and kid-friendly. There aren’t a lot of options out there that hit both of those targets with any degree of precision.

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Defining the Problem

My passion as a gamer is the real-time strategy genre (or wargames, but that’s a whole other ball of wax). From StarCraft 2 to Total Annihilation, I’ve played a decent chunk of games in the genre. And, like it or not (and trust me, I’d love to see something like this come out for tablet or the Xbox One) real-time strategy games are pretty much a PC exclusive. I don’t really play games to relax, but to challenge my wits against other people online in a game type I think of as the natural evolution of games such as Chess.

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While there are some games (like Skulls of the Shogun, pictured above) that bridge the gap, the only *real* place to find good competitive strategic titles is the PC. Likewise, as a SharePoint site administrator and erstwhile graphic designer, I do work of a weight that the average information worker who just uses Office isn’t matching… No offense intended to anyone with lower application or system performance requirements! It’s just that I tend to require applications that don’t typically run (or run well – performance is important in both graphics processing applications and games) on tablets.

So, where to find something virtually as portable as a tablet, but virtually as powerful as a midrange gaming laptop? There was really only one device that fit the bill.

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Introducing the Edge Pro

The list of laptops or convertible devices that have dedicated graphics cards is very small. The list of laptops or convertible devices that have dedicated graphics cards and touchscreens? There’s very, very few of these. In fact, the Razer Edge Pro is one of the only options. It’s a bulky tablet, weighing in at 2.1 pounds and .8″ thick. And its battery life is not too impressive – about 4-5 hours of mixed use or so. But dang it if the thing isn’t a beast.

It’s pretty much the only device in its class, with both Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics and a dedicated NVIDIA GT 640M card (2GB DDR3, Optimus Technology). Furthermore, it packs 8GB DDR3 RAM and a 256GB SSD. As a gaming machine that only happens to way 2 pounds, it’s a very unique device. While it’s big for a tablet and less than top-end for a portable gaming solution, it seems to hit a sweet spot of portability and power that no one else in the industry is even targeting right now.

This thing can run Company of Heroes 2 at 40FPS on middling settings, and it handles DOTA2 easily. I’m not a big shooter guy so I can’t speak to any games in that genre, but StarCraft 2 on High settings also runs quite smoothly.

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But, whether I want to play Halo: Spartan Assault, or design a web page mockup in Photoshop, color with my son in Fresh Paint or load up some hardcore gaming action, this is the one and only device I need. With its dock it can act as a media center one minute (full HDMI on that thing, no wonky Surface adapter needed) or a Kindle reader, or I can watch YouTube videos with my son as he tries to learn how to use the potty.

To be sure, there’s a bit of a compromise to be made with this device. 4-5 hours is what some would call abysmal battery life (my wife’s iPad mini gets more than double this, easily) and some members of the PC Master Race would no doubt scoff at the video card and RAM specs. But this device fits perfectly into my lineup: a tablet when I want, and a PC when I need it. It’s friendly to my son and to my Steam Library. While I can’t recommend it for anyone, I’m certainly quite happy.

UPDATE – here’s a pic of my actual system in action (sorry for the quality!)
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