Razer’s Project Christine: An Idiot-Proof, Modular, Subscription-Based, Proprietary Gaming PC Platform

Razer has impressed at past CES events with innovative ideas such as Project Fiona (which became the Razer Edge), and the company is looking to conjure up that magic again with Project Christine, a unique, modular approach to constructing a gaming PC.

Basically, the machine starts out with a spine of sorts onto which a number of modules can be attached. There are modules for CPUs, GPUs, storage, RAM, and everything else; all of the components sync via PCIe interfaces, so ostensibly all you need to do to upgrade a component is to pop in a new module. Want to upgrade from a single GPU to a tri-SLI setup? Just slap in two additional GPU modules. And so on.

Razer Project Christine

Razer’s idea here is that building your own PC is too difficult for the average consumer, so this modular platform allows any dummy to “build” a PC and keep it updated with the finest components. In fact, Razer told GameSpot that it’s considering a subscription model for Project Christine wherein a user could receive new modules periodically from Razer and just ship back the old ones.

I love that Razer employs such out-of-the-box thinking, but I’m not so sure that Project Christine makes a lot of sense.

First of all, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to build your own PC. True, you need to do a bit of research first, and it pays to have an understanding of the pros and cons of various platforms, being able to troubleshoot problems that may arise, and so on, but it’s not so difficult that the average joe can’t make it happen with a modicum of effort.

Razer Project Christine

Second, there are already manufacturers that make complete, custom gaming rigs for those that aren’t interested in doing the research, don’t feel like putting forth the effort to build and maintain a PC on their own, or simply want a killer custom system. These include, but are not limited to, AVADirect, CyberPowerPC, Dell (Alienware), Digital Storm, iBuypower, Maingear, Origin PC, and Zotac.

Further, what Razer is proposing with Project Christine is locking users into what is essentially a closed platform. Yes, you can upgrade all the components, but those components come in a sealed module. In other words, you’re not upgrading your components, you’re upgrading your modules. And although presumably Razer’s lab folks could put any manufacturer’s products into a module, if Razer didn’t offer a particular brand of component that you wanted, you’d be stuck.

There are large tech issues to consider here as well, which is that all of these components are connecting via PCIe, apparently; will that introduce bottleneck problems, or at least introduce another potential point of failure? And how exactly will the CPU connect to the rest of the system? Will a Project Christine system use a traditional motherboard, or will Razer need to build one of its own or convince motherboard manufacturers to create special boards just for this system?

Razer Project Christine

Finally--and this is pure speculation--it would seem that Project Fiona is going to be rather pricey, considering the cost of high-end gaming components, the premium price tag for a custom chassis, the extra expense associated with building the modules, and the administrative costs of running a hardware subscription program.

Aside from the parts of Project Christine about which I’m skeptical, there are a couple of aspects to the platform that are appealing and frankly seem kind of brilliant. An opt-in subscription model is potentially a great idea for any company that builds custom gaming PCs. It could help companies maintain customers while ensuring that they’re always getting the hottest components--doubly so if users were able to send back older components to defray the cost of the newer ones.

Undoubtedly, though, the killer feature of Project Christine is the liquid cooling system. It’s a closed system that uses no fans, so the rig is totally silent, and the liquid used is mineral oil. Every module has pipes built in, and when they slot into the spine of the system, the self-sealing pipes connect to the plumbing of the whole rig. That's a beautiful thing.

Project Christine is a neat concept, but it seems to me that the company is reinventing the wheel here. (However, that liquid cooling design needs to survive no matter what, and the look of the PC is very cool.) I see a lot of potential problems with Project Christine, but Razer has silenced skeptics before; I’d love to be proven wrong.