Project Christine ambitions blocked by lack of OEM support

Project Christine is one of the most exciting announcements from CES this year. Razer created a prototype for a fully modular PC that would allow users to easily and quickly swap components, including hard drives, GPUs, etc. Unfortunately, Christine may never be more than just a concept.


Project Christine is one of the most exciting announcements from CES this year. Razer created a prototype for a fully modular PC that would allow users to easily and quickly swap components, including hard drives, GPUs, etc. In addition, Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan proposed a subscription service, one that would enable power-hungry PC gamers to always get top-of-the-line gear. Cheaper subscriptions would then use the outdated components for gamers that don't need bleeding edge power. For many, it seemed like a win-win solution.

Unfortunately, Christine may never be more than just a concept. Why? Tan says that manufacturers simply aren't interested in participating.

Tan explained that Christine works. However, getting OEM partners is the only thing preventing a release. "I throw it out there to talk to the OEMs about it. That's really the final piece of the puzzle. Everything else has pretty much been done," he told Polygon. "All they ask about is, 'How much money can I make out of this?' They're not interested in innovation at all."

Of course, couldn't Razer simply build everything by themselves? The company already has experience making their own gaming rigs. However, Tan wants to avoid that solution. "Christine's a bit different because if we went out and built our own modules and platform, we would literally be creating a walled garden, which is something that we don't want to do," he said. "It's got to be open. It's got to be stuff that you can swap out modules and stuff like that because we won't always have the best." Essentially, what's the point of having the ability to swap out components if the only distributor you can choose from is Razer?

So for now, the Project Christine prototype is simply an idea--a damn good one, at that--but just an idea.

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  • reply
    March 24, 2014 11:45 AM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, Project Christine ambitions blocked by lack of OEM support.

    Project Christine is one of the most exciting announcements from CES this year. Razer created a prototype for a fully modular PC that would allow users to easily and quickly swap components, including hard drives, GPUs, etc. Unfortunately, Christine may never be more than just a concept.

    • reply
      March 24, 2014 12:23 PM

      I'm struggling with how the business model on this would work. Typically a subscription model means you get to borrow the thing for cheaper than just buying it. But, you have to give it back at some point. Unless Razer put some kind of wicked hold on your credit card, or required a sizable deposit, what's to keep someone from just making off with the part? Yes, it'll probably be some kind of proprietary connector. But, that wouldn't stop you from just using it as-is without renewing the sub and sending it back when you stop paying.

      The model would have to be more like a car lease program than a true subscription. Though one exception might be that you don't have a set period when you have to return the part.

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        March 24, 2014 12:25 PM

        Subscriptions don't necessitate renting rather than buying. One of the most common subscriptions in the US is to subsidize the phone hardware you own.

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      March 24, 2014 1:51 PM

      Is Razer really surprised? As desktop PC sales are slowing they want to release a proprietary hardware "modular" system?

      I'm a bit taken aback by the press ogling over the idea of a home desktop computer that's finally modular, if only because they've been modular for a very very very long time now. Choose a platform: AMD/Intel, and everything else is pretty much by the numbers. What exactly does this change?

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        March 24, 2014 2:34 PM

        Personally, I'd love to be able to put together a computer without having to deal with cable management, having to unscrew or move around 3 things to get to a hard drive, getting the thermal paste on the cpu just right, oh shit, something's doa, now I have to unscrew 10 screws, take out the hard drive rack, unscrew the hard drive itself, ship it back, then re-screw everything get the idea. It would be nice if it was modular in a friendly way, instead of requiring you to become a part time IT hardware specialist.

        I'd love to instead have it be plug and go, unplug and go. None of this crap that takes hours to build. The last time I got a new video card, it took 2 hours to install it because it was so long the hard drives were in the way. So I had to move the entire hard drive cage down half a food to make the room. Did I mention I hate cable management? I may not like how expensive Project Christine is, or how it looks necessarily, but I love how streamlined they were aiming for it to be...all about hotswapping without having to worry about components being in the way of one another.

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          March 24, 2014 2:35 PM

          I only build a new computer or new compnents because it's cost effective, and I have better control over quality. It has nothing to do with enjoyment though, as I'd rather be playing a game, than building a computer to play a game.

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            March 24, 2014 2:41 PM

            I usually end up putting a machine together once sometimes twice a year. I personally only take about an hour to go from boxed components to installing an OS.

            No idea what case you use, but I'd start by replacing that. A well designed case makes cable management and component installs a breeze. A two hour install on a graphics card due to the size of the card makes it sound like you've opted for a crazy small box though :P

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              March 24, 2014 3:12 PM

              I have an Antec 1200...pretty large, but the hard drives are in a spot that can't be hot swapped. I must admit, I don't have much experience building computers...I've installed everything but a cpu and heatsink to be honest, One problem I have currently that I'm going to address with my next computer is getting a modular psu. My current one I have to cram the excess cables into a spot behind the hdd's.

              I could have done better if I had planned everything out better ahead of time. I think the time issue is really from me being to careful with everything due to inexperience compared to people like you, who do this twice a year, instead of once every 4 or so years. Damn Radeon 7950 boost is huge compared to the Radeon 4850 it replaced...

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                March 24, 2014 3:25 PM

                Yeah. I built a system for a friend way back in 2008 in a Antec 900 (The 1200's older little brother). The 1200 is a bit of an old design. HDDs behind the fans, and not a ton of space between that and the motherboard. Worse is there's little in the way of cutouts for cable management. A nice new Corsair or Cooler Master case would make a world of difference.

                OMG. Modular is the way to go. Building in that tiny 900 and just bundling all the unused cables at the bottom of the case to make them fit was the worse part of the build for me. Aside from being sloppy, there just wasn't enough room down there for it.

                The 4850 was the card I put in that 900 years ago :P Also, CPU and heat sink go on pretty easy. Especially if you get a nice aftermarket one with screw mounts and not the serviceable Intel plastic push pin garbage.

                How's dust in the Antec with all those intake fans in the front?

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                  March 24, 2014 3:41 PM

                  The dust, holy shit, hahaha. I think I spend about 15 minutes at each go using a can of compressed air to clean everything out, not just the grills (which you have to unscrew 8 screws for each grill) but for all the dust bunnies that collect elsewhere. I would clean out the dust more frequently if I didn't have to go through so many screws to get to all 3 grills...

                  The best feature of the 1200 imo is the usb ports angled at 45 degrees, instead of being parallel to the floor, or facing the ceiling. That's kind of a personal preference thing for visibility, and ergonomics. But the dumbest feature is easily having dust grills for the front and side, but no grills for the back and top. You'd think dust had the tendency to abide by the laws of gravity and fall down?

                  Noise is also an issue, and I'll definitely be interested in minimizing noise in my next case. I'll probably need to go for custom fans, possibly the scythe brand as opposed to the generic fans that come with the case.

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                    March 24, 2014 3:59 PM

                    On my retired Cosmos 1010 it had the power/rest and USB ports on the top, and I miss that . It's much easier to see things and plug in USB sticks. I totally get where you're coming from with that, because it's something my new case doesn't have.

                    Scythe Gentle Typhoon fans are the quietest fans I've ever used. Even blowing through a radiator they don't make audible noise at lower speeds. They're expensive though. Especially if you end up wanting a lot of them. Noctua fan are said to be quiet as well, but I've never used them, and they're no less expensive either.

                    The reason there's no dust grills on the top and back is because those are exhaust fans. So they're blowing air out, and ideally dust would follow out with it. I could see dust settling on the top if you turn the system off for long stints though, and that is a giant 200mm fan if I remember correctly. So it's kind of a big hole.

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                      March 24, 2014 5:43 PM

                      Thanks for the info! I'll definitely use it towards my next build, and hopefully it will go a lot more smoothly.

    • reply
      March 24, 2014 2:44 PM

      "They're not interested in innovation at all."

      Translation: THIS IS MY REVENUE!!!

      Also, I could imagine Intel standardizing a mainboard platform similar to NUC that would be able to take SATA expansion, as well as provide high-draw power for PCI-Express videocards, and allow for expandability and cooling that the classic ATX platform doesn't provide. They just need to be sure that they don't botch the implementation entirely, like they did with BTX.

      Whereas Christine only seemed to be catering to Razer's interests, and OEMs don't want to be trapped into a niche platform that only Razer would be able to build. How much volume would that actually push, relative to ATX, Mini-ITX, and NUC?

      Also, my statement back in January still holds: "I think Razer as a company has lost its way, and is desperately searching for a disruptive niche, but has been stumbling on each attempt." Chalk up Christine as yet another stumble.

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        March 24, 2014 3:29 PM

        Isn't Valve working with companies on Steam Machines that are more modular than current ATX setups?

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          March 24, 2014 3:32 PM

          How do you get more modular than the current ATX standard? It's a slab of PCB with empty holes for everything to go. From there I can only see assembling parts of the motherboard.

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            March 24, 2014 3:51 PM

            I have no idea, but I thought Valve showed off some sort of concept.

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              March 25, 2014 7:38 AM

              Sounds like you may be talking about the Xi3 Piston.

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        March 24, 2014 3:44 PM

        What about an Intel NUC box mated to an external graphics setup through Thunderbolt?

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        March 24, 2014 3:52 PM

        I wouldn't count on Intel on anything like this as they are dropping ot of the motherboard business entirely.

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      March 24, 2014 3:27 PM

      Anyone else see the BMW/Thermatalk Level 10 in this design?

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        March 24, 2014 3:31 PM

        Yup. I don't know if it's blatant enough to sue; Razer's lawyers might have been helping the designers to go as close as possible without infringing.

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      March 24, 2014 3:58 PM

      Honestly I don't understand the point of this anyway. Modern PCs can be assembled in about 20min with nothing more than a phillips driver and a handfull of screws. If that intimidates you I don't think eliminating the screws is going to make any difference.

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        March 24, 2014 5:47 PM

        What if I'd rather spend an extra $1-2,000 to get rid of those screws? What shall I do then?

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          March 25, 2014 7:39 AM

          You pay someone to put it together for you. You could probably convince someone to do the job for that much.

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