In this Project Fiona preview, I was among the first people ever to get their hands on a new gaming form factor. At CES 2012, I got to play around with a working prototype for a new kind of gaming computer. Razer is calling it "Project Fiona," and it's a hybrid tablet and gaming PC.
As you can see from the video, Fiona looks like the unholy offspring of an iPad and a console. It has your by-now-standard touch screen, and all the tablet-y goodness that that implies, but also offers game controllers attached to the sides. You grip the handles of the device and employ the dual analog sticks and buttons, but the whole thing is portable, so you can play games on the bus. When I say "games," I don't mean Cut the Rope and Angry Birds. Unlike most existing tablets, Fiona is meant to play AAA PC games, right out of the box, that usually only show up on desktops or laptops. But there's oh so much more...including a Project Fiona photo gallery that you must see.
"This is the only tablet in the world designed specifically for PC gaming, explained Hilmar Hahn, an associate manager of project marketing at Razer, ""A lot of companies are coming out with tablets this year, but we believe there's not much innovation."
That innovation is not streaming games from a PC to a tablet. The tablet is powerful enough to run high-end PC games itself-- there's no emulation or porting. This is the real deal. For that, Razer had to make Fiona powerful.
How powerful? Check out the specs:
Intel® Core i7
10.1" 1280x800 display
Full-screen user interface supporting multi-touch
3-axis gyro, magnetometer, accelerometer
Dolby® 7.1 surround sound
Those numbers would be respectable for a desktop. But a desktop wouldn't have the gyros, magnetometer, accelerometer and touchscreen of a tablet. Should the gaming tablet take off, developers will have the option of adding movement and touch-specific content to their games, which could lead to very cool innovation.
I got my hands on Warhammer 40K: Space Marine for the device, and was very impressed. The game looks great - as you can see from the below shot from off the screen - and the controls will be immediately familiar to any console gamer. For a game running on a tablet, it ran very smoothly. I didn't notice any dropped frames or slow-down, even when the firefights got pretty hectic.
The device might look pretty heavy from the pictures, but it's actually lighter than you might think - it's no iPad, but, given the games you can play on it, it's more than light enough. I imagine the finish product will be slightly slicker looking and less blocky.
Project Fiona is just a prototype now, but Razer told me that they intend to listen to gamers feedback on the device, tweak the design a bit before release.
"Right now it's a concept device," explained Hahn, "We get feedback from the community, from the gamers themselves, and then we see what exact technology we can implement in the actual product, but we are intending to ship the product late this year. We'd like to ship it alongside Windows 8," Hahn said.
You might expect to pay out the nose for a thing like Fiona, but Razer quoted me a pretty reasonable price. "We believe we can ship this for under a thousand dollars," Hahn said.
I realize it's pretty early in the year to make a 2012 Christmas list, but I'm going to go ahead and add Fiona to the top of mine anyway.
What do you guys think? Leave your opinions of Fiona in our comment section if you get a chance. And don't miss the rest of our awesome CES 2012 coverage!