Roccat PowerGrid review
Roccat's incoming PowerGrid app promises to turn your smartphone into an all-in-one monitor for your PC that can keep you in touch with friends, up to date on news, give you one-touch control over your PC and display its vital statistics, all for free. The final version is awaiting Apple approval right now, with the Android version scheduled to follow shortly after, so we went to take a look at the final product at the company's CES hotel suite.
After installing the app and connecting to a PC over Wi-Fi, PowerGrid users will instantly have access to four main tabs. The Incoming Center tracks Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and email messages, as well as your choice of RSS feeds.
The System monitor page can keep track of your PC's heat, CPU and memory usage, the amount of free storage on your hard disks and the amount of network traffic being used at any time - ideal for working out how much of a strain an intensive game is being.
A Volume tab separates out individual sources using the Windows Sound control panel, meaning you can mute a game when you want to watch YouTube, or boost the volume to your skype call so you can hear your friends over the in-game action. It also has a media player widget, which integrates with Winamp, iTunes and Windows Media Player (to name just a few) to let you change tracks even when you're playing games in full screen mode.
Finally, the News Center has a selection of Roccat-approved news partners, each with their own iOS-style mini app that tracks RSS feeds and keeps up to date with breaking news.
Roccat has also created a Talk tab, which gives you control over any Roccat Talk-compatible peripherals connected to the PC. Appearing when it recognises a compatible device, it lets you adjust the colours of any LEDs and control other features like sensitivity. It's far quicker than loading up the mouse driver when it's just a tap away.
The basic version of the app with have each of these screens, with up to one user-created tab on the smartphone at any one time. You can buy additional tabs for 99c each - assuming Roccat stick's to Apple's in-app pricing structure, that should work out to about 69p.
There's good reason to invest in additional tabs - each one can be themed around a certain game, with keyboard shortcuts and multi-key macros bound to a single button. Graphic designers could devote a page to Photoshop or InDesign, speeding up photo edits or document creation. We were shown Skyrim, League of Legends and Starcraft as examples, but the possibilities are near limitless.
The PC software used to customise the app looks intuitive, with a drag and drop interface for most of the major functions. The program will come with a range of Roccat-designed icons ready for you to apply to your custom shortcuts, or creative users can upload their own to decorate each macro as they choose. Once finished, you'll be able to export individual macros or entire pages, to share with friends or clan mates.
Crucially for an app of this nature, PowerGrid was fast, responsive and updated almost instantly over a Wi-Fi connection. In games, macro keys activated in less than half a second - maybe not fast enough for 300 action-per-minute Starcraft veterans, but easily quick enough for most players.
Roccat is also working on an official PowerGrid charging station for iPhones, but it won't be available until later this year as the company is deciding whether to make the switch to Lightning connectors.
Based on what we've seen, PowerGrid has plenty of uses that would not only be useful to gamers, but for workers wanting a second screen to monitor Twitter, or professionals that want an easier way to use demanding apps like Photoshop. Keep an eye out for it in the iOS App store over the coming weeks.