Hardware manufacturers are desperate to corner the market on Android Micro-Consoles, despite the market seeming to say, "no thanks, we've got tablets, smart TVs, consoles and PCs already" at every turn. From the OUYA and Gamestick to the MOJO and Nexus Player, these Android-powered boxes have yet to really prove their worth for us gamers, yet there's no shortage of contenders.
Now the behemoth of pricey premium PC products, Razer, has decided to enter the fray with the Razer Forge TV. It's a gorgeous bit of kit, but at first glance, you'd be forgiven for wondering why they even bothered.
However, it turns out that there might be a killer twist in the tale... or at least a nifty extra feature that might make it a tempting niche purchase for PC gamers.
Without further ado, here are the specs:
- 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
- Gigabit Ethernet
- USB 3.0
- HDMI 1.4 output
- DC Power
- 4.1 in. (105 mm) Width x 4.1 in. (105 mm) Depth x 0.7 in. (17 mm)
It's the sort of beefy muscle you'd expect from a Razer product, but at a fraction of the price. The console will roll out at €99.99 here in Europe, or €149.99 including the nifty Serval Bluetooth controller. So far, so good, but what can you actually do with it?
Unlike the OUYA (which taught manufacturers a harsh lesson in why you shouldn't rely on your own proprietary marketplace) you'll have access to Google Play, meaning that a host of games and apps will be supported right out of the gate.
Unfortunately, this brings us to a harsh truth about Android. Though I love Android as a mobile OS, it's undeniably a second-tier gaming ecosystem, as its perceived high piracy rates and the difficulty of optimising a game for so many different devices/firmware versions means that only free-to-play games tend to really thrive on Google Play. After all, piracy just becomes shareware. Though things are improving, we tend to see big-budget mobile games release months if not years after their initial iOS launch to make the most of Apple's walled garden, while most Android games are purpose-built for tablets and phones anyway; feeling flimsy and primitive when played on a television.
Sorry, but someone had to say it. Again, things can and will improve, but for now its use as an 'Android console' is limited at best.
But. BUT. Razer are a PC hardware manufacturer, and this is very much the audience they have in mind for Forge TV. Rather than a micro-console, it's effectively an accessory for PC owners who want to wirelessly stream their games from their tower to the living room.
Forge TV will come equipped with Razer Cortex: Stream, new streaming software that will roll out as part of the Cortex PC client later this year. "Providing ultra-low latency gaming and up to full-HD resolution with Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection, the proprietary game streaming technology sets the benchmark for streamed PC gaming," Razer claims. "Razer Cortex: Stream is hardware agnostic and is compatible with Directx9 games and higher from any publisher." However, it may require a one-off purchase of $39.99.
Meaning that you can spend approximately £100-140 on an all-in-one wireless streambox to bring your gaming downstairs... or upstairs... or wherever it needs to be without having to invest in a pricier Steam Machine or HTPC for the same functionality. A neat new Bluetooth mouse and keyboard with storage station should make things even more convenient.
Razer will face stiff competition in the form of Steam's in-home streaming, which lets you effectively turn any Steam PC or laptop into a streaming solution, alongside NVIDIA Gamestream with its range of devices (such as the NVIDIA SHIELD, which I personally use). Other tablets and devices should be able to support much the same functionality, especially as the technology improves. For €99.99, though, buying a streaming device that doubles up as a Google Play-enabled living room hub might be a tempting proposition. If, of course, Cortex Stream is all it's cracked up to be.
So, PC gamers, let's sound off. Would you be interested in a PC streambox that pulls a double shift as an Android Microconsole? Would you buy the Razer Forge TV? Let us know in the comments!