Razer Project Linda Hands-On Review

Alex Kidman 11 January 2018 NEWS

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Razer's unusual Project Linda combination of a phone and laptop promises a lot underneath its shiny exterior.

Razer is a company that isn't afraid to experiment, even if those experiments don't always bear fruit. That was the case with its concept project at CES 2017, the Razer Valerie, a triple-screen laptop that was sadly stolen from the CES Show floor last year.

At CES 2018, Razer's unusual concept revolves around its existing Razer Phone in the form of Project Linda, a laptop enclosure that uses the Razer phone as the brain and, surprisingly, the speakers for a productivity play.

I had the chance to go hands-on with the Razer Project Linda for a brief period at CES 2018, so this isn't a full review. In any case, Razer hasn't announced any plans to offer the Razer Phone here in Australia, let alone actually commercialise Linda. The concept could change prior to retail availability, but here are my early thoughts.

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Early upsides

  • Cool Razer design. Obviously, whether you like Razer's design language is a personal matter, but there's nothing in Project Linda that isn't immediately reminiscent of every other Razer product you've ever seen. For what is really just a prototype product, Project Linda looks pretty smooth.
  • Interesting docking system. The Razer Phone docks in the base of the Project Linda laptop, and at first I thought it might be using some kind of magnetic transfer for power and data. However, when it is docked, a USB C connector seamlessly glides out to provide that critical connection.
  • Phone doubles as touchpad. You can pair up a mouse to Project Linda, but you don't have to. After all, you've got a perfectly good touchscreen right there, so why not use it?
  • Surprisingly good sound. The Project Linda laptop doesn't have its own speakers, instead relying on the existing speaker array in the Razer Phone. Thankfully that's a powerful little set of speakers, even in the noisy CES 2018 environment. They're not particularly muffled, and they should be more than enough for both entertainment and productivity tasks.
  • Charges the phone while docked. The Project Linda shell isn't just a screen and keyboard, but also a battery that will charge up the Razer Phone while docked. The representatives I chatted too weren't certain about the total capacity of Project Linda's battery (and that could change for a final product anyway), but it does give it more productivity potential.

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Early downsides

  • It's been done before. From Samsung's Dex Dock all the way back to Motorola's Atrix, mobile manufacturers have been trying to get smartphone-powered desktop or laptop experiences happening for years now. Android as a very basic productivity tool can work moderately well, but not to the same extent as a proper laptop.
  • Chromebooks exist. If all you want is Android apps, you could always consider a Chromebook. Razer doesn't have pricing for Project Linda just yet, but it's a fair guess that the cost of the handset plus Project Linda will dwarf the price of most Chromebook options.
  • No independent processing. Lose the Razer Phone, and Project Linda's just a hollow shell. Likewise, in a similar manner to Motorola's Moto Mods, it's a form factor that could lock Razer into a particular phone design and size to maintain compatibility with future handsets. If Project Linda was its own laptop that could additionally take the Razer Phone, that would add a lot of flexibility.
  • Will all apps behave. Some Android apps aren't always happy with larger, wider displays. Some scale just fine, while others remain vertical columns or gleefully crash. I didn't see a crash during my brief testing time, but getting even near 100% Android app compatibility is going to be a Herculean task.

Early Verdict

I love that Razer is willing to put its kooky ideas out for the world to see, and indeed to gauge if there really is demand for them. I can't help but feel that this may be one of those concepts that's better in theory than real world form compared to what you might be able to get for the same money, but that again comes down to whatever Razer opts to sell Project Linda for, if indeed it opts to do so at all.

Alex Kidman travelled to CES 2018 as a guest of Samsung.

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