From around age 7 to 30, I built my own computers. I had bought maybe two or three pre-built machines over that three-decade span, but the majority of my computers were homebrewed desktop PCs.
When mobile phones flooded the market in the early 2000s, I always kept up on the latest phone technology, watching the emergence of the smartphone market transform mobile phones into mobile entertainment and productivity devices.
Nvidia Shield Tablet
Tablets came out at a time I was uninterested. I still remember attending a Microsoft Tablet PC event around 2003 when I was working as a sales associate at Best Buy and Circuit City. Electronics retailer employees get great discounts from a lot of companies who want you to be familiar with the products you’re selling. Motherboards, video cards and memory were cheap-to-free for me, and being an avid PC and console gamer, I didn’t have much need for tablets.
Fast forward another decade, and the transition from corporate America to independent contractor and freelancer made tablets and laptops an important part of my productivity. If not for mobile computing, I’d be screwed.
After being released from Tent City last March, my laptop was destroyed, and I bought an Asus Transformer tablet running Windows 8.1, which I eventually upgraded to 10, as I didn’t care much about what happened to the tiny device. It was just a way to connect to the internet and get work done until I could afford a new computer.
In the 10 months I relied on the Transformer, it overheated and died. Tablets aren’t meant to handle the hardcore computing I threw at it. Though not strong enough to play any MOBAs, Hearthstone, the Internet, MS Office, and VLC Player were enough to exhaust the tiny tablet’s processing power.
Last October I built a desktop PC, and in December, I purchased the Nvidia Shield K1 tablet. Streaming games from my PC to the tablet ended up being an enjoyable experience, though a controller was necessary to play games like Tekken vs Street Fighter, that require lightning-quick reflexes. These games certainly couldn’t be streamed well through GeForce Now.
However, over the past 5 months, the Shield tablet proved to be a worthy accessory to my desktop PC. Not only could I run all of the best Android games and apps (though a few still aren’t compatible) on the Android Marshmallow OS, but I could also stream through my PC.
The 8-inch tablet has a beautiful HD screen, and I use it to easily capture videos of my Android gaming, which is easily uploaded to YouTube. I need the desktop PC to run the video editing necessary for montages, but overall, the visual content has attracted more traffic to both my website and Hardcore Droid.
Samsung Galaxy S7
We moved a few weeks ago and in preparing for this year’s road trip, I signed up for an unlimited voice and data plan with AT&T. At first I was going to buy a cheap phone, but, being the tech geek I am, I had to look at the latest phones. Having attended both CTIA Super Mobility Week and International CES, I had already seen demoes of the latest phones and hotspots.
I decided the Galaxy Edge was too much screen that I would accidentally touch and went with the standard Galaxy Edge S7, which is a huge step up from my most recent phone, an iPhone 5s which I bought at launch and stopped working around May of last year.
So far, I love everything about the S7, from the return of the upgradeable micro-SD slot to the bright (and large) screen, I finally feel like I have the kind of computing power I had before going mobile.
The S7 is equipped with both NFC and MST technology, making it compatible with both Android Pay and Samsung Pay. When tethered to my PC as a WiFi modem, I’m able to play Smite, Hearthstone, and whatever other games, while also streaming content from either Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, or my DirecTV receiver.
On top of this, it includes a fingerprint scanner (which I’ve found to be quite accurate), charges in under an hour, and the battery outlasts that on the Shield tablet by nearly two hours in a side-by-side test running the same game (Bloons TD 5).
Setting up the S7 was simple and I’ve had no issues using it as a phone, mobile entertainment center, or hotspot. It’s now a vital part of my PC configuration as well. By purchasing the Galaxy S7 before March 18, I’ll be getting a free Samsung Gear VR headset in the mail sometime around the time when Oculus releases the Rift. I should, however, be getting the Auravisor in sooner than that.
Using the Galaxy S7 in my Google Cardboard wasn’t a great experience. The phone failed to react to the conducive material because it’s much thinner than the phone was designed for. I had to customize it a bit, but that’s what Cardboard is for. The S7 worked well with the Viewsonic headset, however, and I was able to view the space and wildlife exploration packs with no troubles.
Overall, I’m happy with both the Shield tablet and Galaxy S7 smartphone. On their own, they still can’t replace a desktop computer, but so long as I have the power of my desktop PC backing them, these are great devices for a road warrior like me.