PREVIEW: RAZER FORGE TV
When Razer announced it’s groundbreaking Forge TV at this year’s International CES it caused a serious stir around the TekSavvy Insider offices: finally, we’d be able to play our PC in the living room with minimal fuss and, more importantly, without the need to spend a small fortune on a Steam Machine.
However, amid all our excitement about the project we failed to note one hugely important thing… the Razer Cortex: Stream app, necessary for streaming PC games, won’t actually be launching until after the hardware itself, most likely towards the end of the summer. Without Cortex: Stream, though, what’s this device capable of, and can it capture a decently sized share of a market already saturated set- top boxes on its hardware merits alone? The Razer Forge TV is an impressive little blighter. Its Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 chipset is driven by the quad- core, 2.5GHz, Krait 450 CPU and the Adreno 420 GPU, as well as 2GB of RAM, making it quite the powerhouse, relatively speaking. Users will also be offered 16GB of built- in storage, but, curiously, there’s no microSD slot available which brings some potential headaches down the line. It’s not yet clear how much system storage the Forge TV’s flavour of Android Lollipop will gobble up, but unless a clear alternative to microSD cards is implemented, the unit is severely hamstrung from day one, and that’s never a good starting position. The hopeful news comes by virtue of the fact that the device features a USB 3.0 port at its rear, however with a number of control peripherals launching alongside it, one probably won’t be enough unless it’ll also support a powered USB hub, to which users could theoretically connect a high- capacity flash drive or external hard drive, as well as the Serval controller and Turret keyboard/ mouse combo when they’re in need of charging. Given the ultimate application of the device, Razer is going to need to clarify the USB and storage situation sooner rather than later, or risk losing the faith of the countless games who’ve been waiting for hardware like this for years. Setting aside the above issues, when the Forge TV launches it’ll essentially be an Android set- top box, which means you should be able to enjoy all your favourite Android apps on the big screen, including the likes of Netflix and Chrome, as well as an abundance of high- end Android games. It’s a nice sell on paper, but we’re not really short of Android- powered media devices, and the gaming side of the platform is still failing to capture the imagination of more serious gamers - and they’re the demographic the Forge is most firmly pointed in the direction of. The $ 99 US price point for the standalone box is definitely attractive enough to convince some to adopt early, no doubt, but it’s the $ 149 US bundle that we’re more interested in, since it comes bundled with the Serval controller, a device not entirely unlike the Xbox 360 pad, albeit with a clip for your smartphone and a few additional buttons, and the Cortex: Stream app - both of which are set to retail separately for $ 79 US and $ 49 US respectively. Once Cortex: Stream launches the Forge TV will take on a whole new lease of life ( assuming the whole project hasn’t been canned at that stage for poor sales), transforming immediately from relatively pointless
Android box to the kind of hi- tech wizardry that nerds like us just can’t get enough of! By installing the desktop version of the software on your computer and syncing everything up with the app on your Forge TV, you’ll be able to stream your favourite PC games direct to your living room TV using the same kind of tech that has proven so successful for the PlayStation Vita’s Remote Play functionality. If you’ve got a respectable enough piece of base gaming hardware, that means you’ll be able to take advantage of your home network’s local speeds to deliver HD visuals straight to your TV, enabling you to enjoy console style ease- of- use for a fraction of the cost, since both the Razer Forge TV bundle and digitally distributed PC games cost a mere fraction of the cost of their console counterparts. We’ve made the suggestion in the past that the console market could be damaged by the launch of Valve’s Steam Machines project, but continual hold- ups, high entry level price points and a real lack of focus have done considerable damage to that particular initiative, and it’s up for debate whether or not even a stellar Game Developers Conference for Steam Machines can save them now, leaving the path clear for the likes of Razer to sneak in and harness streaming technology rather than oldfashioned uber- power to compete for
the living room. While our excitement for the Forge TV project has diminished somewhat knowing that the key component of the whole thing, Cortex: Stream, won’t actually be launching alongside the hardware, with a several month wait the best case scenario, we remain confident that it has the power to be a massive game changer for the industry, and for that reason we genuinely can’t wait to get our hands on the finished product, Cortex: Stream and all. And for those of you who want to know whether to adopt early or wait, we’d definitely recommend holding off… unless you’re partial to Angry Birds on the big screen!