Fiona

This is going to be a very exciting year.  Already a month in, and we have more GW2 Beta news, followed by a timeline to when each particular phase of beta is coming out.  Outside of that, there are a TON of interviews out there, and most likely, this marks the 6-7 month period before release of the game where Arena.Net is going to shower us with information about their lovely game that all of us have been waiting for.  However, since this is a blog aimed at the Engineer (with some other stuff to pass the time), it is time to talk tech!

Last year, I wrote an article about how the Razer Naga is the perfect mouse for Guild Wars 2 (http://wp.me/p1TJRj-O).  Also, just recently the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was held in Las Vegas.  For those who do not know what CES is, it is a trade show where electronics manufacturers show off al their cool new technology.  Some of the things there were absolutely fantastic, others were just excuses for rich people to blow money on a useless toy.  We saw clearer, higher definition TVs, flying cameras, ultra thin PCs, even a portable WiFi projector.  The most impressive thing to come out of CES this year is something out of left field.  Imagine a tablet, its a computer that is capable of playing your favorite time wasting games.  It is loaded with apps and makes your life more organized.  Now imagine a tablet that is capable of running Skyrim on ultra high graphics.  Image a tablet that is capable of playing any top of the line PC game out there.  Image a tablet that isnt a tablet, imagine it as a PC that is actually portable.  Razer gives us Project Fiona.  The worlds first tablet PC.

First up, I am going to list the things we already know and what I actually want to see out of the tablet.  After that, I will go over each part.

Here is what we know about it:

http://www.razerzone.com/projectfiona/tech_specs

Here is the important stuff:

It has the newest generation of the Intel i7 processor
It is a 10.1” 1280×800 display
Full-screen user interface supporting multi-touch
It runs windows 8
It has the ability to have 2 USB ports via an attachment (possibly more)
2 handle bars that act like an Xbox controller for controller friendly games
it is currently prices at under $1,000

Things that I want to see:

Dedicated USB ports (about 3-4 or 2 and a mic/headphone jack)
Detachable handlebars or a controller that connects via USB somewhere.
HDMI port
Some type of Razer service to upgrade the Processor, Video Card and/or RAM
3G or 4G LTE to download games on the fly
Color Variations or the ability to switch the color display like other Razer products

Possible Concerns:

Battery Life
Portability with fixed handlebars
The clarity or definition of the screen itself (no 3D for the love of God)
Window’s App support
Hard Drive space

Important Stuff

To start off, this is no ordinary Tablet.  Currently, the most powerful tablet is the iPad2 with its A5 dual core processor that is now found in the iPhone 4S.  As we also know, the A5 core is what gives the iPhone 4S the ability to play Infinity Blade II which is a graphically intensive game for a phone and thus a first of its kind.  Even then, the processor is still a bit slow.  While it works wonders for running multiple programs together, it has a tendency to get very bogged down when running multiple games or is connected to the internet.  Razer goes a step beyond the normal and puts a fully fledged, top of the line computing power house of a processor.  Depending on which version of the i7 Processor they actually use for the product, it will be able to run from 2.8GHz to 3.5GHz which means this game can run every single app on your iPad 2 and probably not get bogged down.  Based on its price estimate of under $1,000, I would assume that Razer is using the i7-2600s Processor which is a 8M Cache and a 2.80GHz, maybe the 2600 which is a 3.4GHz processor.  What we do know is that this tablet can run Skyrim on Ultra settings which is hard to do on any computer 2+ years in age.

The display is a bit huge at 10.1” compared to the current 9.7” of the iPad2 (which is the largest screen size tablet on the market at the moment).  Right now, we can tell that this is going to be a big beast, personally, I would make it 11”, but I just like round numbers better than decimals.  The screen is a very modest size and is perfect for gaming on the go.  Since this is a tablet and not a PC or meant to replace your PC, that really isn’t a problem.  You should definitely be able to play all of the games you want without having too much difficulty seeing things.  Finer print or smaller text might be a pain, but that is really it as far as I can think of.

Its a tablet, if it didnt have touch screen capabilities, nobody would buy it.

This thing running Windows 8 is very exciting.  Windows Vista was terrible, nobody will argue with that point.  Windows 7 made up for Vista being a waste of space.  Windows 8 is taking some things out of osX Lion (like the launch pad) and some things from the new Xbox dashboard and mixed them together into a pure love child of awesomeness.  Demos show that this a very smooth and by far an improvement on Windows 7.  Now some people argue over that Mac is by far better than Windows and those claims are mostly unfounded.  Outside of the Virus things (and that has more to do with how the hard drive’s are formatted than anything else) both Mac and PC suffer from the same things and that is stupid users being stupid.  Now, past that (and I will not tolerate Mac vs PC comments on this post), Windows 8 is a very smooth OS and that is a very exciting thing.

The ability for this thing to have 2 USB ports is outstanding and by far my favorite feature of this product.  What I mean by this is why create a Razer product that can’t integrate with other Razer Products?  This usability means that you can connect your favorite Razer keyboard and Mouse to your Fiona.  This basically allows you to bring your PC with you wherever you go.  As a personal advocate of the Razer Naga, this is the best news they could ever come out with.  Being able to run the Naga and Keyboard makes this an MMO power house as well and makes this a great alternative to the people who like to play on a mouse and keyboard.  This combination (in addition to the handlebars) gives you a ton of options when it comes to playing a game and thus makes games like Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning (a game that you can use both the keyboard/mouse or controller) very versatile without having to sacrifice when you want to switch between the two.  Also, this allows you to use an Xbox controller in case you do not like the handlebars.

The price point being below $1,000 is amazing.  Today, you will probably be hard pressed to buy the parts required to do what this tablet will be able to do in a desktop.  If it was any more, it wouldn’t sell.  But if it were any less, than it wouldn’t be able to do what it is capable of doing.  It is roughly double the price of the iPad (depends on what size you get) and is literally capable of doing significantly more.  Hell, if you wanted, you could probably run Photo Shop on this tablet and I would love to see someone try to do that on an iPad.

Last bit is the handlebars.  At first glance, they look awkward and very unusable.  However, they look like an Xbox controller (other than the extra 4 buttons on the left bar replacing the D-Pad).  As of now, the handlebars are permanently fixed onto the sides of the tablet and works just like a controller.  So far, the controls are still in the prototype phases, but seeing the classic Xbox buttons would be a very welcome sight (but probably look gaudy next to the rest of the tablet).  However, they appear very sturdy and give this tablet its portability.

Things I Want To See:

I would love to see dedicated USB ports so that I do not have to use an attachment to give this tablet USB ports.  Outside of the possibility of loosing the attachment (and for people like me, this will happen), there are many possible things that could go wrong, namely the attachment breaking, coming lose and always falling out and, well, losing it.  The same things can happen with dedicated USB ports, but are far more sturdy overall.  That and the other problem with having the attachment means it has to take up another slot such as the power connector.  Other then that, I would honestly love to have 3-4 USB ports so that I can use a mouse, keyboard and USB headset or just have 2 USB ports and a mic and headphone 3.5mm jack.

While I think the handlebars are cool, I really want to see them come off.  There are a number of different ways to address this problem, such as a sliding mechanism where the handlebars connection slides right into the port, also if the port is deep enough, you can theoretically get past the sturdy problems.  I understand that the biggest problem with having detachable handlebars is the increased stress and ability to break off becomes increasingly higher.  I can live with the handlebars being completely attached, but I would much rather seem them go or detach in some way (more reasoning as to why in a bit).

An HDMI port will give Fiona significantly more versatility.  Most people have their TV and their desktops separated.  Being able to move a desktop capable system over to a TV at will can make this already powerful tablet into a full fledged PC and also gives it the ability to plug into any display device such as a monitor.  If I choose to watch a Netflix movie on this tablet, I can then take the same movie over to my TV or anywhere else in my house and not have to reload the same movie on a different device.

As a tablet, there is no future for upgrades.  This means the next Bethesda game to come out will most likely be out of reach for full graphical capabilities for Fiona.  Having some type of service to have Fiona upgraded (paying for it without actually having to buy a new one essentially) will give it the same characteristic capabilities that you would expect from any other PC.  That and as games get better and better, Fiona will in turn and keep being the top of the game.

3G or 4G LTE are fairly self explanatory.  What else is better than being able to pick up a new game off of steam.  Granted, most games this device is capable of playing are probably not worth downloading over a 3G network, but you could get Apps using it.

Color variations because I am a vain individual.  That, and as much as I like black items, I have a tendency to lose them.  Having a white one would be plenty, or doing something with the lighting systems they have on the newer generations of the Naga.  This would give each Fiona its own sense of identity and personalization.

Possible Concerns:

Battery life in something this powerful will definitely be a problem.  Currently, the people at Razer are saying that it has 2-4 hours of intense mobile gaming on it which is very impressive considering it runs Skyrim.  Resting, it probably has about 100-200 hours worth of rested battery and about 15-20 hours of normal use. While outside of the 2-4 hours, this just a guess.  But you can definitely see how something like this can be an issue.

I have a huge concern with the handlebars and how they will work with portability.  Being fixed onto the tablet means you have to have a proprietary case and it has to be a hard shell so that the controls on the handlebars don’t get damaged or broken from travel.  Since this is a tablet, portability is the primary selling point of the device.  If the mobility of the device falters, then there really is absolutely no point in purchasing this over a desktop.  I can actually see this being the hardest part to overcome for Razer.  Detachable handlebars means they are more likely to break.  Whereas fixed handlebars makes the product bulky and hard to carry in a bag.  Physical controls are way better to use and far more accurate than virtual ones.  Detachable Handlebars means you can leave them at home and use this powerful tablet as a work device.  But you can leave them at home on accident if you want to actually play a game.  I trust Razer will come up with a good solution for this (or, at the very least, include a free case with it).  Note, that because this is so powerful, this can have many applications elsewhere.  Why worry about a flash drive when you can bring your whole computer with you.

Currently, the most popular tablet is the iPad 2, this means that the iPad is in direct competition with Project Fiona.  While Fiona is a completely different beast altogether, it is something you have to take into consideration when designing it.  First up, the iPad 3 is rumored to come out in march and have a display that will “out-HD many HD TVs.”  So long as the screen isnt 3D, I am happy with it, but being at 10.1” might make playing some game rather difficult, especially MMOs.  Most MMOs have tiny little text boxes and a tiny screen will make those tiny little text boxes harder.  So they could either make the screen bigger (and thus kill the battery life even more) or figure out some way to zoom in (similar to the 2 finger swipe on apple products).  Or just have the game development companies make larger text (or have the option to make them larger).  Either way, its a possible concern as games do get better with higher resolution Graphics.  But I play games on a laptop with a 16” screen which isn’t drastically different.  Honestly, an HDMI slot will remove this problem entirely as no other tablet has that capability (also, did I mention it could be used for presentations a lot more, thus gaining interest in the business market as well?).

I don’t use a Windows phone, I have a Droid 2 and will be switching over to an iPhone when I can upgrade (I hate my Droid).  I have not heard a whole lot about the windows phone nor really know things about the app store.  I did take a look at it, and it is very lacking.  However, with a device such as this, you should be able to run normal applications such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint without the need for apps.  Also, with more of a market, more apps will come out.  I think right now the iPhone has 52% of the mobile market, Droid has around 40% and blackberry/windows has the remainder.  As of now, the Droid has a far more robust app market, but the iPad has better app support in the long run.  However, this might just have to be something that Razer must deal with to allow this tablet to do what it was designed for, to run high end PC games.  Apps do make the world a lot easier and more manageable.  While I love having a smart phone with unlimited data (I hate the Droid, not having a smart phone), having a tablet that does what it does but better will make things such as typing so much easier.  I honestly have a phone for email, texts and phone calls.  I would type out things on a tablet, especially if that tablet is basically a portable desktop.

The final potential issue is hard drive space.  Currently, the iPad 2 has a max of 64Gb worth of storage on it.  Anyone who plays games on their PCs know that they can be very weighty in the storage department.  Especially behemoths like WoW which is roughly 30-40 gigs of data.  If this tablet only has 32 Gigs on it, then you wouldnt be able to play WoW, even if you wanted to.  Other games like Skyrim is 6Gb and games are only going to get bigger the more expansive they become.  We can see that the Macbook Air has a hard drive of 256Gb, which might be way out of reach for the tablet, but this is something that cries out for at least 100Gb of storage on it.  Anything less and it will honestly cripple itself before it even exits for the market.  Possible solutions is to use an external hard drive, but that kills its portability.  I know SD cards are starting to get huge in the amount of storage they can hold, so having the capability of inserting those might be a great solution to that.  However, I don’t know if you can install things on it.  But people that use this as a PC or a music player can at least put their music and other files on the SD card without sacrificing portability.

Conclusion:

I am in the market for buying a new PC, and something like this has definitely made me want to wait for it to come out so I can get it.  1, I need a tablet and 2, I need a better computer.  So rather than buying an iPad (so I can run Pro Tools apps on it) and a new PC, I could buy just this and have the best of both worlds.  It is still very far out and the projected date is by the end of the year.  I hope it comes out around June/July so I can play Guild Wars 2 on it.  I’ll even take a prototype with to see how it runs and such.  Without any kind of hands on with it, I can’t honestly say I like the way it feels.  So all of my critique on it is purely based on information about it, but these are all valid concerns when it comes to a tablet and that tablet can play top end PC games on it.  All in all, I have never been disappointed with a Razer Product and as such, I am sure that this will be the game changer when it comes to tablets.  Who do you think will enter the game next with a PC tablet?