Earlier this year, high-end gaming tech company Razer announced at Google I/O that it would be soon be making its first foray into Android-based gaming consoles. Today at CES, that device made its public debut. The Razer Forge TV is a micro-console, 4×4 inches and selling for $100, and Razer hopes it will give the company three new routes into your living room: as a platform for hardcore PC gaming, for Android gaming, and for Android -based entertainment services via Google Play. The Razer Forge TV is due out in Q1.
Alongside the Forge TV, Razer’s also unveiling a string of other products: a couple of Bluetooth-based peripherals — the Serval gaming controller and the Turret keyboard and magnetised mouse; the Nabu X, a “basic alternative” to its Nabu smartband that will sell for as little as $20 to registered Razer Insiders ($50 to others); and a new VR headset and “Android-inspired” open source virtual reality initiative, in partnership with several other hardware makers. (More on OSVR from Kyle here.)
In the video above, Min-Liang Tan, the CEO and co-founder of Razer, walks us through the new products and the rationale behind them, which we describe in some more detail below, too.
But at same time I also took the opportunity of talking to him to ask a few other questions. He confirmed that Intel has indeed invested in the company (news that we broke last year). He wouldn’t comment on the $1 billion valuation figure we heard was reached as part of the deal. And while he is bullish on pushing into lots of new hardware like wearables, he would not comment on when Razer may launch a mobile handset, one of the big missing pieces in the company’s hardware portfolio. (The full video is embedded below.)
Razer Forge TV
The Razer Forge TV has all the features you would expect from a gaming console aimed at serious gamers: designed for up to four simultaneous players, it has quad-core processing (Qualcomm Snapdragon 805; Quad-Core Krait 450 CPU – 2.5 GHz per core); a high-end graphics engine (Adreno 420 GPU — which had also made its debut around the last Google I/O); wireless and network connectivity; 16 GB of internal storage and 2 GB of RAM.
One of Razer’s key components for the product lies in its software. The Forge TV will run on Razer’s Cortex: Stream (out in spring 2015) and focuses on low-latency and HD resolution, which the company says will help the device cut down on some of the lags and other hiccups that have plagued other streaming services. Cortex: Stream is hardware- and publisher-agnostic will work with Directx9 games and up.
On the non-gaming front, the Forge TV will also work as an entertainment hub, letting users stream music, videos and other apps, and photos to their televisions, and also — by way of apps — control the console using iOS, Android, ChromeBook, and Windows devices, and for some Android TV games and media, users may be able to send their Forge TV content back to their Android devices by way of cloud save.
Among the Forge TV accessories, Razer’s Serval is a classic-looking, Bluetooth-based gaming controller, designed by the same people at the company that built Razer’s Xbox controller, the Sabertooth. It remembers device pairings, in this case four, meaning you can switch between using the Razer Forge TV, mobile phone, tablet, and a PC.
To tighten the link with PC gaming, Razer has the Turret keyboard and mouse on magnetised pad. Here, the most notable features are the light weight and thin aspect of the keyboard (designed to fit on your lap and more specifically called a “lapboard” by Razer).
Who will buy the Razer Forge TV?
On the minus side, you have to consider that there are already a lot of different solutions for people who want to stream their PC gaming experience to a TV, let alone those who use gaming consoles to stream entertainment. On the plus side, Min-Liang Tan, the CEO and co-founder of Razer, points out a couple of gaps in the market that the company hopes to tap beyond that.
While Google has made a lot of efforts to fill out Android’s digital entertainment ambitions, it has yet to really develop a strong gaming product. The Forge is, effectively, something to fill that hole.
And there is that price — a fraction of the $500 or more that you might pay for a Steam console, if the Forge TV is compatible with the games you want to be playing.
Finally, Razer’s biggest traction to date has been with hardcore gamers, with some 13 million users to date of its connected hardware and 4 million monthly users of its software products. Tan regards these millions of users as Razer’s core customer base, people for whom it develops products to fill out their gaming-focused lifestyles, be it with clothes or gaming controllers, and in that vein, these consoles will appeal to them.
The gamer and filling out the gamer lifestyle is also at the center of why Razer continues to build out other devices like wearables. The new Nabu X, a more simplified version of the Nabu wristband, uses three colored LED indicators and vibrations that alert users to when a message is incoming on a paired mobile device. These lights sit in place of the OLED messaging screen on the higher end Nabu; all the apps in the Nabu Marketplace will work across both.
“The greatest barriers to entry for new technology are price and complexity, and we’ve eliminated both of those with the Razer Nabu X,” Tan says. Other features include an accelerometer that helps measure activity data.
Forge TV Details:
Price: $99.99 / €99.99 (via Razer’s online store)
$149.99 / €149.99 for the Forge TV and Serval Controller bundle
Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 805
Quad-Core Krait 450 CPU – 2.5 GHz per core
Adreno™ 420 GPU
2 GB RAM
16 GB storage
Bluetooth 4.1 + HS
Wireless 802.11ac 2X2
HDMI 1.4 output
4.1 in. (105 mm) Width x 4.1 in. (105 mm) Depth x 0.7 in. (17 mm) Height