Pro­ject Linda turns Razer Phone into a lap­top

Razer’s big CES 2018 pro­to­type was an An­droid phone dock done right. ADAM PATRICK MUR­RAY re­ports

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

An­other CES, an­other Razer pro­to­type. Un­like last year’s three-screened lap­top Pro­ject Va­lerie, Razer’s Pro­ject Linda is some­thing that might ac­tu­ally make it to mar­ket. Pro­ject Linda is a dock for your Razer Phone in the form of a lap­top.

Razer’s ap­proach might have taken in­spi­ra­tion from the clamshell-like Lap Dock (orig­i­nally called the Mo­bile Ex­ten­der) that shipped as an op­tion for HP’s Elite x3 Win­dows phone. That phone is dead, though, so Razer has an op­por­tu­nity to rein­car­nate the idea on a more suc­cess­ful phone plat­form. I’m op­ti­mistic: Pro­ject Linda is only a pro­to­type, but it’s the best I’ve seen from Razer.

Hy­brid hard­ware

Be­cause it uses the pro­cess­ing power of the Razer Phone, there isn’t much in­side Pro­ject Linda. The form fac­tor mim­ics the Razer Blade Stealth with a 13.3in screen, CNC alu­minium chas­sis, and a full Razer Chroma key­board. In or­der to match the screen of the phone, the dis­play is 120Hz, 16x9, and (hope­fully) Quad HD res­o­lu­tion. I say hope­fully be­cause the unit we saw in our meet­ing was only full HD. Razer said 120Hz QHD dis­plays at that size are hard to come by right now.

In­side the base of the lap­top is a 53.6Wh in­ter­nal bat­tery, good for charg­ing the Razer Phone up to four times. The in­cluded power brick is small and con­nects via one of Pro­ject Linda’s USB-C ports. Pro­ject Linda also has one USB-A port and a 3.5mm head­phone jack.

Razer Phone as the brains

The Razer Phone docks into Pro­ject Linda where a track­pad would tra­di­tion­ally be and is cush­ioned by felt. Once in place, you hit a dock­ing but­ton in the top right cor­ner of the key­board and you hear the USB-C port move into place. From there the key­board and screen light up, with a quick Razer an­i­ma­tion play­ing while it

tran­si­tions. From this point on, the glass screen of the Phone turns into a track­pad for Pro­ject Linda. When you want to take the phone out, you sim­ple hit the dock­ing but­ton again, wait for the click, and pull it out.

Ev­ery­thing in the lap­top uses the Razer Phone’s beefy Snap­dragon 835 pro­ces­sor with 8GB of RAM. In our hands-on, the ex­pe­ri­ence felt smooth and snappy, and it was great hav­ing the op­tion to pair a Blue­tooth mouse for finer con­trols.

Run­ning An­droid on such a large screen takes a bit of get­ting used to, though. It’s also worth not­ing that you don’t have the flex­i­bil­ity of a tra­di­tional desk­top ex­pe­ri­ence, as you do with Sam­sung’s DeX.

Pro­ject Linda’s short­com­ings

Even though Razer’s Pro­ject Linda prom­ises an in­trigu­ing twist on the smart­phone-PC re­la­tion­ship, there is still plenty to iron out be­fore it can come to mar­ket. Pro­ject Linda doesn’t have any built-in speak­ers, so it uses the dual amps and front-fir­ing speak­ers of the Razer Phone in­stead. I didn’t get a chance to lis­ten to any­thing while us­ing it, so we’ll have to see if your hands get in the way enough to make it a prob­lem. There’s also a notch carved out of the front of the lap­top to re­veal the fin­ger­print reader that’s on the side of the Razer Phone. It wasn’t the most nat­u­ral way to un­lock the lap­top, but luck­ily the reader is fast and re­li­able.

Pro­ject Linda also packs 200GB of on-board stor­age, which mounts like an SD card in An­droid. In the­ory it’s nice to have that ex­tra space if you need it, but I’m wor­ried about the se­cu­rity risks if the lap­top gets

stolen. I’d per­son­ally jump for a ver­sion with­out it, know­ing that if I were to lose Pro­ject Linda, I wouldn’t be risk­ing any valu­able info at the same time.

An­other in­ter­est­ing prospect is dual-dis­play sup­port. At our CES demon­stra­tion, the Razer Phone screen was turned off and only mir­rored what was on the dis­play, but Razer had an­other unit play­ing a concept video of how it would look if both dis­plays were treated sep­a­rately. I love the idea of be­ing able to see ex­tra in­for­ma­tion on the touch­pad screen, which has more prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tions than some­thing like Ap­ple’s TouchBar. It also added to the vis­ual flair of Razer’s de­sign, given that most lap­top track­pads are typ­i­cally solid colours and blend in.

Quite pos­si­bly the best An­droid phone dock

Over the years we’ve seen plenty of prom­ises of dock­ing a phone and us­ing it like a tra­di­tional lap­top or desk­top. Ev­ery­one from tech giants Sam­sung and Len­ovo to small kick­starter pro­jects have tried to tackle this concept to var­i­ous de­grees of suc­cess. I’ve al­ways been in­trigued by the idea, es­pe­cially lately, as mo­bile pro­cess­ing has be­come pow­er­ful and power-ef­fi­cient.

Razer might have a win­ning for­mula on its hands, with great hard­ware on the lap­top side, and all the raw power in the Phone. Dock­ing the phone in place of the track­pad is the per­fect lo­ca­tion, far more user-friendly than Sam­sung’s ex­ter­nal DeX dock. Sure, I would never be able to do se­ri­ous pro­fes­sional work in Adobe Pre­miere Pro on this lap­top, but most of the time I just need some­thing to write on, check my emails, and watch a cou­ple of YouTube videos.

Will Pro­ject Linda ever come out?

Like I men­tioned at the be­gin­ning, we all knew Pro­ject Va­lerie didn’t make sense and would never come out. And while there is more for Razer to work on with Pro­ject Linda, I sense a real drive be­hind this prod­uct. It of­fers some­thing unique to the die-hard fans who’ve al­ready bought the Phone. Who knows: maybe in the fu­ture Razer will team up with Nvidia and of­fer GameStream on the lap­top, mak­ing it an even bet­ter gam­ing set-up. But un­til then I feel con­fi­dent that Razer can de­liver on its prom­ise of a lap­top dock sooner than you might ex­pect.

Mul­ti­ple win­dow sup­port isn’t one of An­droid’s strong­est features, so the prom­ise of a dual dis­play might be a stretch

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