Razer took some time during CES 2012 to show off the latest prototype of their Project Fiona tablet.
This tablet runs on an Intel Core i7, and is essentially a higher end laptop. Combine the underlying Windows 7 OS and add accelerometers and a touch screen to the already obvious controller rig around the main screen and you have a system with more potential inputs than a comparable tablet or laptop. Razer boasts that Project Fiona offers “the most immersive gaming experience on a tablet.”
The controllers also conceal some force feedback units to bring the action up close and personal. Having the screen, sound and force feedback in such close proximity to the player will lend to additional immersion into the action. The current price is estimated under $1000, but this is not yet written in stone. Razer intends to shake up the portable gaming scene, and as Min-Liang Tan, CEO of Razer stated:
The user interface we have designed for Project Fiona allows all existing PC games to be played right out of the box and also provides game developers new opportunities as they develop next-gen games on a highly-intuitive platform. Both developers and gamers are going to love the new user interface that combines the best of a gamepad, multi-touch screen and accelerometers for an all-new gaming experience on-the-go.
Officially, there is no currently game compatibility list, as the device is still in development. Unofficially, I might have seen one running a very nice looking copy of Skyrim with partial control compatibility worked out.
One of my biggest problems with most tablet-class systems on the market today is that they are based on a mobile OS. While this likely meet the needs of a large portion of users, I find myself desiring more. Now, with the announcement of Project Fiona, Razer is bringing a fully featured OS (Windows 7 as of the last report). My hope is that when they make good on the intelligent mapping for controls and potential for touch screen interactions I will be able to actually use a tablet for serious work, as well as play.
The core obstacle for Project Fiona is also its strength: it’s an expensive gaming tablet. On the one hand, it’s an empty niche that Razer has an excellent chance to dominate with a strong early entry. On the other, it may be empty for a reason. Handheld systems are popular, and Project Fiona bears much more resemblance to one than it does to a conventional tablet or even a laptop, since it’s been purpose-built for gaming. However, considering that even ordinary tablets cost hundreds of dollars, a tailor-made high-quality Razer product will undoubtedly have a fairly hefty price tag.
The prototype on display at CES is undeniably a powerful and elegant piece of machinery. It seems to handle games well – graphically at least – and that sort of power is unusual in the tablet market. I’m curious to see what Razer can do. But it remains to be seen if the niche is in need of being filled.