It’s time for an old-fashioned showdown – and one about event hardware, at that! The Event Tech Podcast has been around for over thirty episodes. And over the course of those awesome episodes, we’ve talked about a lot of exciting topics. Of course, many of them focused on our fantastic hosts’ preferences. Everything from favorite apps, to Google extensions, and general software. All in all, the absolute best tools in event technology.
So this time around, Will Curran and Brandt Krueger are ready to tackle the battle of event hardware. As event professionals and all-around tech aficionados, they’ve spent quite a few hours of their lives mulling over this. And the day is finally here, where they are ready to share all of this wisdom with you. Are you ready to get super nerdy? Press play, it’s time for the event hardware showdown of the century!
Brandt’s Computer Adventure
We begin by tackling the exciting adventures of Brandt Krueger with computers. “So, when I first went on my own a little over five years ago, I was still doing a lot of video editing. That was a goodly chunk of my job when I left my old company. So, I had this idea that that was going to be part of what I was doing”, he recalls. “So, the first thing I went out and bought was a MacBook Pro. I knew I was going to be on the road. I knew that they had enough memory, enough hardware behind it, enough chip strength. And it was able to do basic video editing”.
He soon began experimenting with iPads and more, “What I discovered is I didn’t need that beastly MacBook Pro. I was able, actually, to rock back to a MacBook nothing”. Years later, he still is!
Event Hardware: The Downside Of The MacBook
Connectivity is definitely something lacking for Brandt. “It has a single USB 3, that’s the newer roundy edge. Doesn’t matter if it’s upright side up or right side down port. And a combination headphone input/output jack”, he says. However, he managed to find a solution for it. “I do have the one dongle to rule them all, which it’s a brick. But it’s got a single USB-C output on it. And then it’s got an HDMI, and a VGA, and it’s got a couple of regular USB ports on it. It’s got basically everything that you need in one dongle output. Including the ability to charge it, charge your laptop while it’s plugged in”.
If you’re also stuck in dongle hell, Will has a pro-tip for you. “There’s a product called the Peak Design’s Tech Pouch”, he says. “It comes with a really good organization tool for managing all those dongles and little things. We definitely are in this day and age where you have all these little things. You have to bring your headphone, adapter, all your charging cables, your little mini hard drives. The Tech Pouch becomes a great way to organize that”.
Will’s Tale Along The Event Hardware Lane
“I’ve been really into computers growing up”, Will recalls. “My first computer ever that was mine was actually, I think I was 12. And it was something I was asking for for years and years, and it became my Christmas and birthday gift for the next six years of my life”. Can you guess what it was? A Gateway desktop! “I remember looking it up and I wanted it primarily for video editing, but I wanted to do some gaming”.
“Eventually, I realized that I needed a laptop”, Will continues. “Then I’ve got my own personal laptop, which was the Dell 700M. That was the computer that really got me. That was when I started doing “business”. I had an internet radio station. I turned into a DJ. And I used that laptop to DJ for many, many years”. He kept this one for many years until it eventually died out. “I remember going down to the Chandler Fashion Mall, and going to the Apple store for the first time ever, and buying my first Mac, and it felt like such an achievement”.
That marked the moment Will became a Mac user. But when he pre-ordered the 15-inch MacBook Pro, bugs started to appear. “I was starting to see those things as well. And I was starting to hear people talking about the keyboards, the new keyboards really sucking”, Brandt recalls. “I just saw lots of software issues, random reboots. It was all over the place”, adds Will. “So, I just was like, “Look, I don’t want to give the maximum for this best laptop ever and it’s not the best thing I’ve ever had.”
As soon as Will “fell out of love with Apple”, he made a call. “I drove to meet up with my friend who was buying my MacBook Pro. I gave it to him. And then I literally took that money and drove to the Microsoft store in Chandler Fashion Center, and bought a Surface Pro”, he recalls. “The one that converts, the keyboard detaches, and it’s 10 inches or so. Obviously, I went from a 15-inch laptop to a 10-inch laptop. Which is, oh, my God! Having a smaller laptop was crazy amazing, and I went completely Windows, and I was terrified”.
“However, I had these weird issues”, he continues. “I believe what happened is I had a faulty heat sink or a fan or something like that. It wasn’t cooling it properly because it used to get really warm, too. So I took all the money I’d spent on Surface Pro, got it to credit towards the Surface Book and got a brand new laptop. That was, honestly, the moment I was like, “I can’t go back to Apple anymore. Apple doesn’t do that anymore.”
He hasn’t regretted the transition since. “Now, I have a Surface Book 2. I love it. Big touch screen. You can use a pen on it. It’s a huge laptop, obviously, so it’s big on the airplane tray, but when I’m on-site and I can bring up a site plot on a tablet that’s 15 inches big”, Will concludes.
Should I Mac Or Should I Windows?
Brandt was having a parallel journey with Will when it came down to getting a new computer. “For me, personally, being a production person, we’re dealing with PowerPoints all the time. As much as we hate PowerPoint, we’re being handed them all the time on a USB stick”, he says. “For whatever reason, PowerPoint on the Mac just never works exactly the same. So, I would have a Mac and I would bring it up, and it would work sort of. And meanwhile, Keynote was just gorgeous, right? So, I was in this weird place of like, “I need to have Apple because a lot of people are using Keynote. A lot of people, though, still use PowerPoint”.
“I needed to have this foot in the Windows world”, continues Brandt. “So, I literally had bought this top of the line Samsung Chromebook. And I loved it. It was so lightweight, and it came with a pen and had a touchscreen. And it was really, really good. Except for the fact that it didn’t do PowerPoint for crap”. The solution? “In addition to selling the MacBook Pro, I sold my iPad as well. And got this Windows 2-in-1. The kind that can fold all the way over and become a tablet. So, it was this nice HP Spectre 2-in-1 desktop or laptop. That was my laptop for a solid year”.
“So, for me, I’m settling down into this two device world. My backpack is still so much lighter than when I was carrying around the MacBook Pro, where I’ve got the Windows device, my Surface Pro. Where if I need to throw some PowerPoints together and things like that, and it’s going to look proper, I can do it. But it’s also lightweight, and easy to use. Then I’ve got that MacBook nothing”, Brandt concludes.
“It really matters what it is that you’re wanting to do with your hardware”, Brandt adds. “So, for me, I have to deal with PowerPoints all the time. Specifically not one at a time, where we’re trying to combine PowerPoints into a single master or those kinds of things. If I’m just opening it up to view it, just so that I can follow along or something like that when I’m show calling, the Mac is fine, the Chromebook is fine. The iPad, even, is fine for those types of purposes”.
“Anytime you’re trying to do massive copying of slides from one thing to another, that’s when you really do need that Windows machine”, he says. “Then your journey of, “Okay. Now, I need to be able to do live streaming and things like that,” where you need maybe a dedicated graphics card. So that’s when you need to book up a little bit and go to something that’s more of a Surface Book Pro or just a regular Windows beefy laptop”.
Don’t Get Stuck On Your Event Hardware!
“So, I think it’s definitely one of those things where try out what you think is good. And find what works well for you” Will says. “However, if you don’t like it, get out of it as soon as possible. I think that goes to show with also just the idea of adopting the newest version of it. I think far too often, we end up just staying inside of technology for so long. Just because that’s the way it’s been. I don’t think it will be that big of a difference, but in reality, go try the newest thing and realize how much quicker it is”.
“And it’s really important to try these things. We got to break out”, adds Brandt. “But if you hate it, just get rid of it and try something different. You’ve already spent the money. You don’t get the money back, but there are options where sometimes you can get some of the money back”.
Paying Attention To The Details
Will also advises that you look into your return policies, and not just the written ones. “There are companies out there that really want to earn your business. And that’s also a big portion of the decision process. You’d be really surprised how often the salespeople want to help out. If they aren’t willing to help out, you’d also be surprised how often if you tell them, “I own the company. I need my laptop to do work,” how often they’re willing to flex. And to be like, “Okay. This person is not just trying to pull a fast one. They really legitimately want this,” and they want to keep you as a customer”.
Adapting Event Hardware To Your Lifestyle
“I think there really is something to be said for being aware of how much you travel, how much are you actually going to be lugging these things around”, warns Brandt. “I think that also factors into desktop versus laptops. Can I get away with just having a laptop? So, for the last five-plus years, I’ve been able to just plug in using a dock or something like that my laptop. And then that’s also my travel laptop. So, depending, again, on what you’re doing, you might not need a desktop, and a laptop, and an iPad, and all those kinds of things. I think there’s definitely something to be said for that. And why I’m starting to move away from iPad land is I just want a device that does everything that I want it to do when I want it to do it”, he concludes.
Event Hardware: The Mobile World
Currently, both Will and Brandt are Android users. But the journey there was quite interesting, as Brandt explains. “So, when cellphones first came out, they were the original bricks and incredibly expensive. As soon as they moved down to something that more people could have, the flip phones that you could actually fit in your pocket. The candy bar phones, all of those old school OG cellphones, I was really into Motorola very early on”.
“I was definitely coming up through the hacker side of things”, he says. “Make it your own, make it all yours, do what you want to do with it. So, no doubt, when the original iPhone came out, it was absolutely a game-changer. But what really frustrated me when I was looking at them comparing them was how locked down it was. So, immediately, it was all about what I couldn’t do as opposed to what it could do for me. And I went to the really dark side right towards the end of my old dumb phone working my way into a smartphone is everyone in my company was going Blackberry”.
The adoption of Blackberry was good enough for Brandt from the customization perspective. On Will’s side, “I’m really heavily in the Google ecosystem. So, I think that’s one reason why I’ve stuck with it. I went to Droid Bionic, then I went to I think the Samsung S6 or something like that, then the Note, and then I got the Note before the Note that exploded. I think that’s when I switched from the Note is to the OG Pixel, the first Pixel, Pixel 1, got the Pixel 2 the day it came out, Pixel 3 the day it came out”, he adds. Quite a ride!
The Current Paradigm Of Mobile Event Hardware
“There’s new stuff coming from all over”, says Will. For a while, we didn’t see any innovation. Now, luckily, we’re seeing some crazy innovations starting to happen, but it was definitely for a while, nothing really changed”. Brandt jumps in with what he thinks are the pros and cons. “For me, Android means versatility. It means customization. Now, IOS has gotten better. It’s gotten way better. It used to be so locked down. If you wanted to do that, tough. You wanted a new keyboard, nope. There’s only the one camera app. there’s only the one keyboard. there’s only the one browser. There’s only the one all of that”.
“For me, the pro for why I have Android is because it’s not Apple”, Will says. “I’m heavy on Gmail, heavy on Google calendar. I don’t have to worry about having an extra email app, extra calendar app I’m not using. And I have no other Apple products. So, I have zero ecosystems to be latched on to. I don’t care about iMessage at all”.
Brandt sums up the pros and cons quite nicely. “So if you want customizable and bleeding edge, and amazing new features on a regular basis, and this Wild West stuff, then you’re going to lean more towards Android. If you just want it to work and you’re okay with not having the latest and greatest, and you just want it to work, that’s more Apple land”.
A Little Surprise From Will
Will has been teasing us mercilessly about the new phone he’s going to get. But one hour in, we finally get him to break. “I really want to get the fold”, he admits. “It’s super-duper cool. It’s all these folding devices that are coming out, and that’s one reason why I’m interested in this device is it’s so bleeding edge. And I want to try this crazy form factor. Like I said, obviously, I’ve been craving for something that transforms for a while from the Droid Bionic into a laptop. This turns from a phone into a tablet”.
“I hope that I get it”, adds Will. “Obviously, we’ll see if I end up actually getting it, and I’ll probably maybe have a conversation about it, and talk about it a little bit more. But I’m excited to see what it might do for my workflow because now, I can take my phone, fold it out, maybe I keep a little small keyboard with me. And I can answer emails really quickly, and it might replace more of my laptop on there as well”.
Brandt sends us off with pretty solid advice. “Don’t be afraid to try stuff. I get it. Things are expensive and we don’t want to just waste our money. But at the same time, you don’t want to be stuck in the same old workflow”. Ultimately the event hardware that wins is the hardware that works best for what you need it to do. Did you get that? Write it down and start taking your event hardware game to the next level. Plus, don’t forget to tune in next week for a brand new edition of tech talk on the Event Tech Podcast!