CES usually isn’t where you go to get your future gaming fix, but Razer has made a big noise at the consumer electronics event this year: they’ve revealed an open source virtual reality headset, and Forge TV, an Android-powered game console.
Forge TV console
Forge TV is a micro-console that runs on on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processing chip (which contains a quad-core Krait 450 CPU with each core clocked at 2.7 GHz) and an Adreno 430 GPU, 2GB of RAM, 16 GB of onboard storage, and has Bluetooth, WiFi, and gigabit Ethernet for connectivity, plus USB 3.0 and HDMI out ports.
The device’s OS is built on Google’s Android TV, and will allow up to four players to participate in Android games on Google Play, as well as run apps like Youtube and Hulu.
It also supports Google Cast, which means mobile devices, Windows PCs, and Chromebooks can access and send content to the Forge TV console.
Forge TV does pretty much everything Android TV does, and goes a step further in joining Android and PC gaming in one package.
That extra step is an update to Razer’s Cortex software suite, called Cortex: Stream, which will run on both the Android Forge TV and PCs, and thereby allow gamers to stream their PC game library to their television. The app will be able to stream PC games that use DirectX 9 (or later) to any Android TV device running Android 5.0 (or higher). Steam, Origin, UPlay, Battle.net and more will all be able to be played on the TV.
Cortex Stream’s PC requirements are pretty minimal, too: gamers only need a dual-core CPU and a Radeon HD5000 or GTX 580 on the host computer. Razer claims streaming has ultra-low latency, is lag-free, and outputs up to 1080p.
The best aspects of the software, perhaps, are that people can cycle between multiple host PCs, so you can share the device between all the computers in your house, and that the software automatically identifies what controllers a particular game supports/requires.
Razer have correctly surmised that most PC gamers already have a gaming rig and don’t want to spend exorbitant amounts for another living room system.
Forge TV peripherals
Cortex: Stream will be manipulable via keyboard, mouse, remote app, and gamepads, so it makes sense that Razer have designed their own controllers to go with the new console.
The Serval gamepad has dedicated media buttons for the Forge TV, but also offers quite a bit more. It has home and back buttons for other Androids, which can be paired with the gamepad by adding a game clip to the top of the device, and users can save up to four unique bluetooth pairings on it, so one could in theory easily switch from the Forge to PC to mobile devices.
The Razer Turret is a wireless mouse and lapboard combo that is perfect for gaming. The mouse is ambidextrous and has 3500 DPI, and the keyboard is anti-ghosting (allowing for up to 10 simultaneous key presses) and has dedicated Android TV buttons. The most interesting feature of the Turret is its built-in mousepad, which contains a magnet that ensures the mouse won’t go anywhere. Both devices dock to charge.
The mouse and keyboard can be individually paired, so any Bluetooth mouse can be used with the keyboard. However, the mousepad’s magnet will only work with the Turret mouse.
Consumer release and pricing
Curiously, Razer is staggering the release of these products.
- The Forge TV console will cost $99 by itself, and $149.99 with the Serval controller, which will both release in February, according to Google.
- The standalone Serval controller and mobile phone clip bundle cost $79.99.
- The Turret will debut in Q2 of 2015 for $129.99.
- The new Razer app, Cortex: Stream, will also release in Beta form in Q2, and it will be free with any purchase of the Forge TV or its peripherals; it will otherwise cost $39.99.
(Europeans, sadly, should expect to slap a € sign directly in front of the numbers listed above.)
The living room has remained the domain of Nintendo, Playstation, and Xbox, and recent challenges by other Android micro-devices and half-heartedly by Steam haven’t changed that.
Razer’s new console offering might just change that, as it seems to address all the shortcomings of previous attempts. Razer has created an entire ecosystem for the Forge TV console that aims to easily bring PC and Android gaming to the living room, and make it a multiplayer affair. Let’s see if it works.