Hardware makers Roccat were so excited about this that they ran a countdown with the sarcastic slogan: “Isn’t PC Gaming Dead?” Now in my view, only nuclear war or Waitrose’s Butter Chicken deserve a numerically decreasing build-up. Roccat’s reveal can’t match the horror of an atom being split, or the happy ping of a microwave delivering mock Indian tastiness, but it is neat: Power-Grid turns your smart phone into a PC gaming peripheral. It’s definitely not the system enlivening advance they claimed, not least because the PC is wholly healthy, but it will allow you to use your iThing and Google whatsit as a control centre and resource monitor, as well as further few phone-based tricks as well. Let’s enliven PC gaming in three… two… one… ping! Mmm, butter chicken.
There are three prongs on the stick Roccat are stabbing at the body of PC gaming with: the phone app, the PC app, and the hardware that’ll house the phone. The phone app has four grids that interact with the PC: the Incoming Centre deals with communications, displaying messages from Skype, Facebook, TeamSpeak and undefined others on the phone, all lumped together in one stream. While that’s neat, it’s not exactly giving you access to anything you don’t already have. I’m not sure why it’s a big deal, bit it will stop awkward moments like this happening.
Stop! Phones aren’t for dogs! The System Stats block is certainly a better use of a smartphone’s screen, displaying CPU load and heat, RAM usage, network speed and HD access.
The third block, Sound Control, interests me: as an inveterate sound balance fiddler, trying to strike the balance between game and whatever’s running on the other monitor, being able to do that on the phone screen instead of having to bring up Microsoft’s sound fiddler is definitely bonus.
The fourth block and PC app work together, allowing the user to customise it. For in-game use, it could be a screen that you use to set off your uber-WoW macros, or I could see it as a good home for a visual disguise selector for my TF2 spying. You build a custom tab on the PC and load it to the phone.
Now up to this point, both phone and PC software are free, and you can hook the phone up to the PC via Wifi. Roccat’s altruism is rather nice, but they’re also releasing peripherals to pair with it. For those happy with their current keyboard, the Apuri 2.0 is a dock that houses the phone. It hooks up to the PC’s via USB and keeps the phone charged. Phobo is a keyboard that’ll house the phone, replacing the traditional keypad with the phone. It’s here the symbiotic nature of things settle into a nice hug between the two. The keyboard’s not just a dock: you can write texts and even take calls from the phone on your headset.
I’m actually impressed. I mean, I’m not enthused, but the ideas are sound and given the prevalence of the AndoIphones, their use as a second screen makes a whole lot of sense. When’s it out? According to the site it’s “free from www.roccat.org after xxxx” – the silly gooses. The beta hasn’t started, so I’d expect they’re looking for a release sometime in the summer.