With the launch of the brand-new Razer Edge, we had the opportunity to sit down with its creators to talk about its design, plans for the future, and the emerging gaming handheld market.
We’ve already managed to spend some time with the Razer Edge, a device that we called “exquisite” in our review. But, how did such a handheld come to fruition? Why did Razer make a new gaming handheld in a market where so many players are entering the scene? We’ve previously talked to the designers of Logitech’s G Cloud gaming console, and now we’re curious to see what Razer has brought to the table.
Verizon and Qualcomm team up with a brand-new pitch
Speaking to Lance Koenders, the VP of Mobile Products at Verizon, we learned that the Razer Edge was actually first pitched by Verizon and Qualcomm themselves. Verizon, having put significant work into their 5G network infrastructure across the US, the company partnered with Qualcomm, who was looking for a specialist device for their brand-new Snapdragon G3X chipset.
“Qualcomm is always looking for partners when bringing out upcoming chipsets and new technologies, similar to how we’ve worked with them in the past” stated Justin Cooney, Global Director of Partnerships at Razer. “It’s really a collaborative effort”.
Razer powers up the Edge with the Snapdragon G3X
In 2022, we were eager to hear more about big-name manufacturers entering the grand gauntlet of android-based handheld gaming devices. Though, Logitech’s system, the G Cloud failed to impress with its relatively underpowered, aged Snapdragon 720G. In fact, when pitting the Razer Edge and the G Cloud against each other, we found that the Razer Edge was up to 70% faster, thanks to the Snapdragon G3X. But, does a device like that really need all that power?
“We are running at much higher resolution, and we’re capable of much faster frame rates. That in itself can give you a much better, more premium cloud gaming experience.” Cooney continues. “The Edge itself is so powerful because we’re using the latest and greatest, cream-of-the-crop- chipset from Qualcomm.” Kevin Macleod, a Product Developer at Razer chimed in.
“You know, lesser chipsets meet lesser needs.” He continues, “There’s no reason to compromise, just because you’re doing cloud gaming.”
The ergonomics of design
The Razer Edge also uses the brand-new Kishi V2 Pro controllers to attach to a 6.8-inch, 20:9 tablet. With this Switch-like functionality, Razer was keen to create the controllers to ensure that they are optimized for comfort. “We have really good industrial designers.” Macleod said, “The way it sits in your hands provides a comfortable grip for long play sessions, and the button placement is good. We were really careful with where we place the buttons so that there is no issue with accidentally triggering anything or hitting buttons.”
But, the Razer Edge doesn’t just have comfortable controls, they also adopt a high-spec display that’s capable of running at high resolutions and high refresh rates. Some handheld aficionados have criticized the Razer Edge for not adopting a 16:9 screen, instead opting for a slightly wider ratio, instead. But, it’s all been well considered, according to Macleod. “The form factor is like a large smartphone, and that’s really the sweet spot for what Android games are designed to run in. So first and foremost, this is a native high-end Android gaming device. So we wanted to make sure that native Android high-end games run and look as good as they possibly can.”
However, choosing the display was not all plain sailing, as Macleod states: “[On Smartphone displays] Usually, the resolution is way too high for games and the refresh rate is way too low for games.”
Is cloud streaming ready for a mass market?
Cloud streaming for gaming is no longer a little niche, with manufacturers like PlayStation and Xbox ensuring that you can also stream titles from the cloud. But, since the Razer Edge relies on tech like 5G and Wi-Fi, we wondered if this type of experience was any good, especially considering that with a sub-par connection, the whole experience falls apart.
“The key aspects were network performance and the controller. We can make sure that the controller has as little latency as possible, so, the controller is wired, direct connected.” Macleod continued. The Razer Edge uses a USB-C connection on the Kishi V2 controllers to ensure that there’s as little latency as possible when transferring input signals to the device, something that many similar Bluetooth-based solutions are not very good at.
“We had to use the latest and greatest networking components. And, it’s not just using high-quality components, it’s about using the best standards.” Macleod went further to stress that Wi-Fi 6E was essential for the Razer Edge, due to its dedicated communications channel based on the standard itself, which results in less packet loss over Wi-Fi, which is crucial for cloud streaming.
But, it’s not all about Wi-Fi, since the Razer Edge also comes in a Verizon-flavored 5G model, too. “As you may know Verizon purchased a large portion of the C-Band network in the US” which reportedly cost over 50 billion dollars. Koenders claims that Verizon’s 5G networking prowess will hit over 200 million people in the US in Q1 of 2023.
If you cast your minds back a few years, 5G was hitting the markets in a big way, though it was a hefty premium for a fairly spotty service. “Early on, it was much more sporadic, but now it’s in most nationwide cities.” Koenders stated. But, it seems that the 5G networks are going to be officially nationwide after Q1.
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However, Koenders states that “Gaming is just a logical use-case” for high-speed 5G networks. Verizon has also done some work to figure out the best price of the Razer Edge. “Because it’s got a data plan attached, we can subsidize [the cost] just like cellphones.” Koenders stressed.
While the Razer Edge is a fairly expensive device for the 5G model, clearly some thought has gone into how the device is positioned for people who might not purchase it outright, and is something that we do focus on in our full review of the Razer Edge handheld.
With that fuss out of the way. Verizon will be going in to optimize that network even further in the US. But, there’s one crucial piece of the puzzle missing. This is all US-only, and the Razer Edge is not officially launching in any territory outside of the US as of the time of writing.
The lingering specter of the Steam Deck
Valve’s Steam Deck is one of the most popular devices around now, and it’s undoubtedly changed the gaming hardware landscape since its launch in 2022. However, the Razer Edge is a slightly less-powerful device. With this in mind, we posed Lance Koenders, a bonafide Intel veteran whether or not Moore’s law is truly dead, and also about the advancement in ARM chipsets vs x86 equivalents.
“Undoubtedly, the cost of Moore’s law has gone up, and we’re seeing a lot more government subsidization of silicon.” For smaller, more powerful hardware, you’re just going to have to pay a little bit more for it, especially since Valve subsidizes every Steam Deck out there, meaning that devices similar in power, like the Ayaneo 2, are almost triple the price.
When we posed Razer the question of why they should buy a Razer Edge over a Steam Deck, Macleod responded that the Razer Edge would be able to achieve “Significantly higher quality graphics on [Razer Edge] than you can relying on an admittedly very good native gaming experience on the Steam Deck.”
This is afforded by the aforementioned cloud-focussed nature of the Razer Edge. But, being such a large manufacturer of gaming hardware, we had to pose the question: Would Razer consider making a Steam Deck competitor, like the Ayaneo or GPD Win? Currently, no other big-brand manufacturers are in the game.
“Anything’s possible, but right now this is what we’re focusing on and we are very proud of Razer Edge”. Macleod responded as Justin Cooney let out a wry, knowing grin.
So, there’s a glimmer of hope that Razer is likely at least looking into the possibility of releasing a handheld of the same caliber as the Steam Deck. But, until then it’s fantastic to see companies and manufacturers come together in making the handheld market such a fiercely contested battleground for modern gaming hardware.
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