CES 2014: Razer's Project Christine concept envisions modular gaming PC

CES 2014: Razer's Project Christine concept envisions modular gaming PC

Summary: Easily swappable components could make building your own PC a breeze. The company's CEO said the self-contained parts could potentially be sold on a subscription basis.


After starting as a mere gaming peripheral company, Razer has become a fount of ideas to invigorate the PC gaming industry. That includes an insanely elaborate concept gaming controller and highly regarded laptops, as well as a gaming-centric Windows 8 tablet. But its latest idea, announced at this year's CES, might be its wildest yet. 

Behold Project Christine, a desktop concept that looks like one of the most out-there computer case ideas we've seen -- and then builds from there. Its striking look is designed for a radical rethinking of how consumers can build their own systems.

DIY builds can be tricky endeavors for newcomers, who not only have to know how to install components correctly, but also deal with the intricacies of a densely packed conventional PC chassis. Project Christine would eliminate a lot of that difficulty by making modular components that are sealed and self-contained. According to Razer, you would essentially place a new graphics card or hard drive into the right slot, and Project Christine's PCI Express architecture would handle the rest.

As if that weren't enough, the company says each modular will feature its own liquid cooling and noise cancelation features, which saves you the bother of installing your own cooling system and allows Razer to overclock the components before shipping them (and yes, Razer would be building these modules). A touchscreen takes up a couple of slots, allowing you to access maintenance info about your system.

The result -- in theory -- is you could continually upgrade your PC without ever needing to replace the main chassis in a manner far easier than with a conventional computer case. And Razer is apparently thinking about how you can perpetually keep Project Christine up to date with the latest components. The company's CEO, Min-Liang Tan, told Engadget during a demo that a subscription plan could be an option, so "[u]sers don't have to worry about a huge bump every time there's new architecture out there."

Of course, because this is a "concept," there's no solid info on anything related to Project Christine -- including if it will ever make it into production. Nonetheless, if it comes to reality, it could make a bold leap in thinking about PC design. Note, however, it's one that isn't completely novel. In fact, the concept is remarkably similar to the one (dubbed Project Blade Runner) that was written about in great length on ZDNet itself nearly three years ago.

Topics: PCs, CES

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  • This is what's lacking in the PC industry

    I love the project Christine concept. As I've said repeatedly, the problem with the PC, is that there has been virtually no user experience innovation over the course of almost 2 decades. This is the main reason people are not upgrading. It is not because people can use their PCs for longer stretches, it is because the industry has not given them compelling reasons to upgrade. If the industry moves to architectures like the above, guess what, more people will be upgrading their desktops, and they will be doing so more quickly. Instead, PCs have become like fans, showing virtually no user experience innovation (innovation that users can readily see), instead showing for the most part, only increases in speed and storage.

    The above is why the PC is being clobbered by tablets. Tablets brought a new, simplified, more engaging touch based interaction to computers. The PC needs to do the above, and eclipse the competition with new engaging, productivity oriented capabilities. I hope MS or some other company brings the Christine concept to desktops quickly. It would also be nice if all-in-ones came with expansion boxes that allowed users to slide in and out drives, graphics systems, etc. with similar ease to the Christine concept, while preserving the aesthetic of the all-in-one devices.

    There is nothing wrong with the PC itself. MS will probably have to take the lead though in innovating the whole PC, because I don't believe OEMs will ever do so. As for me, what I'd really like is for there to be desktops running VMs, which host both private home clouds, as well a client OSs.
    P. Douglas
  • cool but useless

    reminds me of iCrap
    LlNUX Geek
  • Since when was building a pc hard?

    a monkey with a phillips screwdriver could do it.
  • I'm worried that it'll be too proprietary.

    It would be great - if everybody did it that way.

    Which would require standards. And for everybody to agree on said standards.

    Based on the photo alone - it looks very, VERY, *VERY* proprietary. Is anybody else going to agree on that weird, rounded rectangle design?
    • I love the idea, but have doubts about it becoming a reality.

      Not altogether propietary:
      Say you have modules power supply,processor,harddrive,graphics,memory,removable media drive.
      And say that the razer modules are just cases that one installs that particular type of component in and once closed it plugs into the backplane unit. The case/backplane unit would be proprietary, but I would hope that what you put in those cases would not be.

      So your psu stops working, you can either buy a new complete psu module from razer or just buy a (razer certified compatible) power suppy from another vendor, put it in raze'rs module case and plug it in. Makes upgrading a snap compared to replacing a psu in current home/business computers. So drives/cpu/gpus,psu need not be proprietary, but the MB/backplane thing would have to be at this point

      Concept is really cool.
      Darrell Blodgett
    • Not necessarily proprietary, but expensive

      I wouldn't be that worried about it being proprietary, but I would be worried about it being ridiculously expensive. I'm not exactly cheap with my components (my current rig cost about 3.5k), but Razer has a history of overpriced products.
  • this is what Apple should have done

    with the new Mac Pro
  • I'm not sure how to feel about it

    It's a cool concept but I feel it's pretty pointless. Most PC gamers build their own computers or buy a stock one and ramp it up. Technically, desktop PC's are already modular. I don't see the need to slap any more branding on it.

    My old PC from 2004 had an on-board video card and I wanted to get a dedicated one so I opened it and looked at the ports and found it features an AGPx8 port (Yeah, it's that old) and ended up buying an Nvidia 6200 with 512mb of Vram on it compared to the 32mb on-board SiS chipset.

    Sure, it's simpler and makes it easier but I really don't see the need for it. It was my first time playing with the inside of a computer and I managed it fine. I feel it takes the fun away of building a computer but I guess for people who don't want to go to the more complex side, it's a better option.
    James Stevenson
  • This is the niche's niche

    is that once you understand the basic components and functionality of a computer building gone pretty much becomes plug and play.

    Is there really a segment out there that is serious enough to take the plunge and build their own PC, but then isn't quite serious enough to read up on component installation and compatibility?

    Why wouldn't that person just buy a pre-built system. Upgrading a single component in a store bought system just isn't that big of a deterrence for potential PC enthusiasts IMO.