By Jim Rossignol on August 27th, 2011 at 8:39 am.
Uh, hmm. So I completely forgot to post this on RPS yesterday despite spending time reading and commenting about it on other sites. Well, we don’t really cover hardware at the moment. I mean we probably should, but we don’t do it routinely. That’s my excuse. Anyway, Razer’s big announcement was a gaming laptop, the cleverly named “Razer Blade“, which they somehow believe is the world’s first gaming laptop (as evidenced in their reveal video, below). The specs are ok, I suppose – 2.8GHz i7, 8GB RAM, GeForce GT555M – but the real appeal of it is the weight and size:
125mm 22.5mm thick, and 3.2kg. Which means it is pretty portable. It also has an outrageously snazzy touchpad/screen thing and LCD hotkeys. Lovely. Sadly it costs $2,800. Eep.
So that’s the video. As any number of people have been at pains to point out, $2,800 would currently buy you the holy mothership of desktop PCs. It also doesn’t compare particularly favourably with Alienware’s range of gaming laptops. I mean it’s slimmer and far prettier than Alienware’s gaudy abominations, which would frankly be a bit embarrassing to be seen with, but it’s still not that killer in terms of specs. The videocard is the chokepoint. And if we’re going all out, where’s the SSD?
Joel over on Kotaku has, as is his prerogative, an interesting and provocative take on the thing, saying that if it were to take off it might lead to some level of standardisation in PC gaming specs that would help the laptop war against Apple – but obviously only if Razer can deal with the price. This lead to an explosion of “well I build my own PC and I want choice etc” comments on there, and I assume that will be echoed here too. But his point isn’t about stopping the PC from having diverse hardware possibilities, it’s rather saying that if there were a more central standard then developers would have something to aim for. Right now they are aiming for the fucking 360, which means that PCs are essentially being treated as having the same specs as that crappy old piece of hardware, and – in the worst cases – rather than being tuned for heftier processors and likely a lot more RAM, the PC’s extra power is simply being offloaded onto soaking up the performance fail of sloppy porting – oh, hello there GTA4, I didn’t see you there…
But yeah, if you want hard contemporary evidence of the PC needing to be treated as a higher spec machine then go look at DXHR, one of the most PC games of the year. It might have game design from the good old days, but visually it’s still pandering to specs from 2005. If PC versions of games were tuned to lots of RAM (and lots of video RAM, I mean I have 8gb of RAM here and 2gb of video RAM, and I am playing 360 ports designed for 512mb total) then we wouldn’t get some of horrible short-cut decisions reversed or sidestepped. I mean probably not the majority of those decisions, but PC versions of games would definitely benefit from a higher recognised benchmark than “comparable to consoles”, and so Joel’s editorial makes for interesting speculation. A user base of a few million gaming laptops of a particular specification would make a huge difference to how the PC is treated by mainstream development, particularly when the PC install base is now scattered from laptops made at the turn of the millenium through to a few throbbing i7s that you encounter in the wild.
Sadly, however, I think the bigger issue is actually getting people to realise how cheap a normal desktop PC setup is now. Maybe we do want gaming to be portable, but if it has to be stationary then it doesn’t have to cost much at all. A gaming setup is so ludicrously cheap, with so much power, but people’s recollection is still somehow stuck at the end of the ’90s, and the response is “well, I’d get into PC gaming, but I don’t want to have to spend $2000!” It seems like the Razer Blade will do little to dispel that sort of attitude. Wake up me up when they announce a serious gaming laptop for $1000.