Best known for its gaming peripherals with deadly names like the Death Adder and the Black Widow, Razer has jumped into the smartwatch arena with their latest offering, the Nabu. Razer correctly refers to the Nabu not as a smartwatch but a smartband. This makes sense because like the others, it does a lot more than tell time. Almost all of the smartwatches on the market have sensors for monitoring various activities, and communicate with your smartphone in some way or the other. So what sets the Nabu apart from the others? Execution.
“Smart watches in their current form are too bulky and fitness trackers are easily forgotten after the initial novelty wears off - we have fixed all of that.” -- Min-Liang Tan, Razer co-founder, CEO, and Creative Director.
First off, the Nabu is the most subtle smartband I’ve seen. There are no huge screens, flashing lights or dials. In fact, when it’s being worn and nothing is happening requiring the user’s immediate attention, there’s no indication that the Nabu is anything more than decorative. It’s when a notification comes in that the information starts to flow.
The Nabu has not one but two OLED screens. The first “public” screen is on the outer portion of the wearer’s wrist and measures a very tiny 32 x 32 pixels. This screen is meant to be low-key and plain, as it serves simply as a notification screen. When a call, an email, a text message or some other notification comes in to the Nabu, it lights up an appropriate icon and vibrates if the wearer has it set up to do so. The second screen is larger, 128 x 32 pixels, touch-sensitive, and located on the inside of the band. When the wearer raises their hand to see the screen (and only then, one of the privacy features of the Nabu), the incoming data appears on this inner screen. This allows a lot more privacy than is possible with any other smartwatches on the market. The information screen’s touch capability is well-utilized, allowing the wearer to scroll through an incoming text or alert without ever having to pull out their phone. This is obviously far less distracting in some situations, like meetings or social gatherings.
Another thing I loved about the Nabu is its support for gesture control. An incoming alert can be silently dismissed with a shake of the wrist for example. The potential for a good piece of smartphone-connected wearable technology with user-definable gesture control is obvious.
If all that isn’t enough, the team at Razer is using the Nabu to connect people in their gaming community. The Nabu has the ability to connect with other Nabu bands within a given range. If the wearers of both bands have opted in to share their location with other Nabu wearers each of their bands will send a notification when it sees the other. Given the other abilities of this product, that alone has a lot of promise. Depending on individual user settings for example, it is possible for two Nabu wearers to exchange data with a simple handshake.
The abilities of the Razer Nabu are not really in question. It is a beautiful piece of technology even as it stands at the moment. Having said that, I honestly don’t think the market is there for it as it stands. The people at Razer are aware of that as well it seems, as they are releasing the Nabu to developers worldwide to come up with other apps using the technology. I really think the future of the Razer Nabu is in their hands. Razer has a tremendous following, and an excellent basis for a product here. I’m anxious to see what’s to come for it in the future.
The Razer Nabu is scheduled for launch worldwide in late Q1 2014. Price is undisclosed but is said to be “competitive” with the developer version, which is being sent out for $49.
Will this be on your list of things to buy in 2014? Tell us.