Razer wants its smartphone to be a laptop

Razer’s Project Linda
Razer’s Project Linda
Image: Quartz/ Dave Gershgorn
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Hot off launching its first smartphone pitched to gamers, computer hardware company Razer is angling to make that phone your only device. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week the company introduced Project Linda, a shell of a laptop powered by the company’s smartphone.

Razer isn’t the first to try to pull off the phone/laptop combo; Motorola had a similar concept in 2011 called the Atrix Lapdock, and Samsung has tried to have the smartphone adapt into a desktop computer, with the help of a dock and screen.

But Razer’s attempt differs. The laptop looks almost identical to Razer’s Blade brand of gaming laptops, except for a smartphone-shaped well where a laptop’s trackpad typically sits. To use it, you drop your Razer smartphone into the gap, and press a button in the upper-right of the laptop’s keyboard. A USB-C mechanically slides into the phone, and the phone screen’s contents are shown on the laptop screen. Since the phone naturally has a screen, the touchpad also becomes a second display for anything; I could imagine it showing wallpaper or even a file browser when summoned.

The laptop shell doesn’t have the standard internals of a laptop, instead being mostly a case for a 1080p display, 53.6 Whr battery, and a hard drive to extend the phone’s storage.

Razer showed three laptop/smartphone combos on the CES floor, and stressed that the devices are early prototypes. The unit that I tried required me to use a mouse to control the laptop’s cursor, because the touchscreen of the phone still couldn’t be used as a trackpad.

Apps like the Google Chrome browser quickly snapped on screen, and on its surface the device acted a lot like Samsung’s DeX, which I reviewed last year. To circumvent the phone’s low compute power compared to a gaming PC, Razer has partnered with Shadow, a company that runs games on their own servers and then streams them to low-power computers with very little lag (depending on the internet connection).

The phone is still a “project” rather than a full product, and Razer hasn’t said if it plans to actually make these devices and sell them in the next year.