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Ben Kuchera –
Razer took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal refuting the idea that PC gaming is dead, and reaffirming the company’s love for PC games. The company also promised an announcement today, something that would show just how much Razer loved PC gaming. Many people expected a new mouse or peripheral, but the reality is much more impressive: Razer is launching its own gaming laptop, complete with what the company is calling the “Switchblade User Interface.” This includes 10 dynamic keys and an LCD screen to the right of the keyboard that doubles as a multitouch panel.
“Today, there hasn’t been a single PC laptop that anyone has been passionate about for the longest time. It’s not because there’s no innovation, but [because] the big PC guys just don’t want to innovate anymore,” Min-Liang Tan, the CEO and Creative Director of Razer, told Ars.
So the company gave the finger to market research, focus groups, and arguably common sense to create a gaming laptop that’s amazingly thin and light, with some very idiosyncratic design decisions. Some people are going to love it, other people will turn their noses up at it, but we’re all going to be talking about it.
When’s the last time anyone has been able to claim that about a gaming laptop?
It will ship in the fourth quarter of 2011 for $2,799.99.
This seems like a crazy move in a market that seems to reward bland design and budget pricing. Tan told Ars the company has never been interested in market research and focus groups, both of which he admits would indicate there is no market for something like the Razer Blade. He also points to the fact that everyone said the same thing about the company’s line of gaming mice when they were launched. “So, in short, there’s no market if you ask the guy in the suit, but we’ve designed something that we have always wanted for ourselves—we don’t care about the market at large—we do care about the PC gamer,” he explained. “If we designed based on the ‘market’ you wouldn’t see many of the things that we have launched.”
Razer has hired some impressive talent, including the team behind OQO, and engineers from Apple, Dell, and others. They’ve been operating in stealth mode for three years, working on a number of projects that were ultimately canned for not meeting Razer’s standard. The Razer Blade is going to be the team’s grand coming-out party, and it’s certainly a standout product in the gaming PC market.
“The hardest thing was convincing a manufacturing partner to consider our designs,” Tan said. “No one wanted to do it. They all said there’s no market, it’s too expensive, no one wants this. Gamers would want something big, thick, and cheap.”
To its credit, the Razer Blade is none of those three things.
“We had to buy our own manufacturing capabilities to even get to this point, as no one wanted to make specific components for us, so we essentially acquired some of the key assets. We bought an entire ODM recently in Taiwan because we wanted to be able to control all facets of design. That’s how important it is to us,” he told Ars.
The design is striking. The screen that doubles as a touchpad isn’t below the keyboard as you see with most laptops, it’s on the side to simulate a proper mouse and keyboard set up. The screen will be able to share information from the game, and the images on the buttons are dynamic based on the game. Imagine being able to keep all your spells for an MMO there, complete with icons that show the effect? Depending on the included software, you might be able to create your own macros and assign them custom icons, too. As long as support is robust, the possibilities are exciting.
We’ve seen and played many gaming laptops, but they tend to be heavy bricks. Razer has created something truly portable, with design that’s immediately striking. The price definitely makes this a luxury item, but it’s been way too long since we’ve seen a gaming laptop show this level of style and design.
The Razer Blade bucks most trends in terms of retail gaming products, but so what? The company is taking a strong stance and betting both on the idea that PC gamers are interested in something both light and powerful, and that they’ll be willing to pay for it. It’s a gamble, but an exciting one.
Listing image by Photo illustration by Razer
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