Introduced at Google IO back in June 2014 amid the flurry of hype surrounding Android Lollipop and Google Cardboard, Razer announced an Android micro-console. Not much was said about it; no name, no specs, no price.
Razer loosened its lips today at CES 2015, announcing the Forge TV for $99.99 (£99.99) and a full spread of other new products. Running Android TV, the Razer Forge TV is primarily in the game of playing games, but will also host familiar entertainment apps including Hulu, YouTube, and Crackle through Google Play. There's no word yet on Netflix, HBO Go, or Amazon Instant Video just yet, but where it may currently lack app support, it's helped with Google Cast, a beta service that allows users to beam content from Android and iOS devices to the Forge TV.
The stunning design, which looks to have inherited the best qualities of the Razer Blade gaming laptop, doesn't seem to have changed since the announcement, but we now know more about what's inside. The micro-console offers up enough power to plow through the most intensive Android games and apps backed by a quad-core CPU, 2GB RAM and 16GB of storage.
I know what you're thinking: this is cool, but it isn't too different than the other set-top boxes. To address that concern, Razer has a few more announcements.
Coinciding with the launch of the Forge TV, Razer will be launching the Serval Bluetooth controller, allowing for comfy console-quality gameplay through the tiny box. Scratch virtual on-screen controls out of the equation. We all know that's no way to play Metal Slug.
While looking very similar to the Razer Sabertooth controller for the Xbox 360 in style and button layout, the Serval was made with Android in mind. As such, you'll find "Home" and "Back" for easy Android OS navigation, and shoulder buttons for a console-quality experience in games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on the big screen. You can even take gaming on the go with the included phone clip.
Available in Q1 2015 likely alongside the release of Forge TV, gamers can snag this controller from Razerzone.com for $79.99 (£79.99). The standalone Forge TV option doesn't include this controller with purchase, but it's included in a bundled option for $149.99 (£149.99).
Turret and Cortex: Stream
These next two announcements come in a pair. First up is the Turret lapboard. It's not content being just a keyboard, or just a mouse, it's both; an all-in-one device with a keyboard and mouse built into the offering to make PC gaming on the couch a breeze.
Wait, PC gaming? Are we still talking about an Android box? Yes. Here's the other part of that announcement: Razer will be launching the beta for Cortex: Stream, a PC game-streaming service in Q2 2015. Running on Forge TV, or any micro-console running Android Lollipop, like the Nexus Player, for that matter, Cortex: Stream is a gaming client-agnostic (Steam, Origin, Battle.net, uPlay), and GPU-agnostic (Nvidia, AMD) service.
Some of you may know of Cortex already, Razer's control center for game management. You can normally launch, purchase, and optimize software, but in just a few months, it'll also serve as a viable solution to stream PC games at full-resolution and low-latency from a local PC over Wi-Fi or through an Ethernet connection to your TV.
To briefly hop back to the Turret lapboard, it was built primarily to remedy the pain created by failed attempts of fully integrating the PC in the living room. On the left side of the lapboard, you'll find a keyboard with anti-ghosting capabilities, chiclet keys and dedicated Android buttons to hold down the fort. On the right side, there's a mouse pad to use the included ambidextrous mouse on. A fun feature is the slightly magnetic mouse pad. It keeps the mouse from sliding off of the lapboard when you're not using it.
Razer is boasting a remarkable battery life for the lapboard, four months. The mouse isn't so bad either with 40 continuous hours of use. The Razer Turret will be available in Q2 2015, likely alongside the beta release of Cortex: Stream from Razerzone.com for $129.99 (£129.99).
With these announcements, the opening jab is clearly at the Nvidia Shield. Whereas the Shield only supports game-streaming with Nvidia graphics cards, Cortex: Stream boasts compatibility for both Nvidia and AMD graphics cards. To jam the blade in further, Forge TV and most Android boxes retail for $99, making the barrier to entry for game-streaming lower compared to the starting price of the Shield, which is $199. Although, you will need to purchase accessories for the Forge TV to achieve similar functionality as you would get with the Shield out of the box.
Next on Razer's hit list is Valve's SteamOS. To be fair, there's a lot we don't know about Valve's future plans for SteamOS and Steam Machines. We might find out more in March at GDC, but there's one thing we do know now with certainty: SteamOS does not currently offer 100% game compatibility. It may be a little unfair comparing apples to oranges, an app to an operating system, but Razer's approach is certainly more consumer-friendly at the moment.
Razer Forge TV will be available sometime in the first months of 2015 on Razerzone.com for $99.99 (£99.99). Check back for a full review of the Forge TV.