Among the many innovative desktop gaming solutions to be previewed at CES 2014, Razer’s Project Christine is, perhaps the most intriguing. Project Christine is a build-your-own desktop for the folks that don’t really know how to build their own desktops – a modular approach to system design that is both refreshing and troubling at the same time.
Razer modular concept starts with a backbone. The builder then selects whichever components he or she wants to pair with said backbone and plugs them in – everything comes with its own module, which slots straight into one of the specified positions on the Project Christine backbone – eliminating guesswork and some of the less glamorous aspects of system building. There are no wires to wrangle, no screws to fumble and no worrying about hardware compatibility. If it is made for Christine, it will work with Christine. Extra graphics cards, cooling solutions, you name it, will be able to be installed… effortlessly.
It is easily to get swept up by the striking design and the innovative approach, but the gains in convenience will likely come with a significant sacrifice: openness. What I love about building my own computers is being able to put together a heavyweight system for a middleweight price. A modular system like this locks people into a single source for each of the components – Razer… for whatever price Razer sees fit to charge. It effectively turns the PC into a Mac. Personally, I love the idea of a modular system, but only if it is open. If I can’t put my own RAM in an empty memory module, then I am not interested.
One potentially positive aspect of modular desktop design is that it could, in theory, extend system longevity. At present, any serious system upgrade usually involves swapping out the motherboard – a tedious task at the best of times. We need to do this because, for the most part, PCs are not very upgradable. Processor manufacturers change their sockets often enough to ensure that if you want a next generation CPU, you will need to also purchase a compatible motherboard -never mind the fact that most of the other components on the board work perfectly well. If Razer is to make Project Christine truly modular then things might be different – imagine being able to swap out the socket instead of the whole board. Doing that would amount to a very big plus and would go a long way towards making up for the hassle of the proprietary environment.
At this stage, Project Christine is merely a concept. Whether it makes its way into the real world will remain to be seen. What makes it intriguing is that it shows that manufacturers are thinking outside of the box and that for all the talk of its demise, the desktop is becoming sexy again.