Find out what I’ll be taking to IFA
Just as Jerry and Andrew have done in weeks past, today it’s my turn to tear open my gear bag and show the tech I use every day. IFA 2013 is coming up soon, and in a couple of weeks I’ll be packing my bags and heading to Berlin with Phil Nickinson and Richard Devine. So now’s a good time to show what I’ll be bringing along to cover one of the biggest tech shows of the year.
Check past the break for phones, cameras, laptops, accessories and more.
13-inch MacBook Air (mid-2012)
Since its inception, the MacBook Air has gone from an underpowered ultra-portable to the cornerstone of Apple’s laptop line-up. This 12-month-old Air is my go-to machine for just about everything, and its ridiculously light weight means that it’s possible to throw it in a messenger bag and not even notice it’s there. That’s really important when you’re traveling.
It’s kitted out with a 2GHz Intel Core i7 chip, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Though it’s not the latest, new-fangled Haswell variant, I’ve never had any real-world battery issues, even hammering out liveblogs through long press conferences. Performance-wise, the only thing it occasionally balks at is video encoding. For everything else -- even pushing 20-megapixel RAW photos through Photoshop -- it's speedy enough for my needs.
And to keep it scratch and dent-free, I use...
Tucano Second Skin Microfiber sleeve
This one’s designed for the MacBook Pro, but it’s a snug enough fit for the Air. As laptops go, the MacBook Air isn’t exactly fragile, but the Second Skin case does a good job of keeping any cosmetic damage at bay when it’s stowed away in a bag or holdall.
Phones - the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4
I’m very fortunate in that I get to use two of the best Android phones around, and I switch between these two enough that they probably both class as my daily driver. There’s plenty of new stuff coming later in the year, but both devices stand out as excellent pieces of technology -- the One for its gorgeous metal chassis, eye-popping screen and thoughtful, well-designed software, the S4 for its slim, light design, easy expandability, superior ergonomics and high-quality camera. (And if you’re on the road, the ability to simply swap in a fresh battery gives the S4 an important edge.)
ROM-wise, I’m running stock HTC Sense 5 on the HTC One and the Google Play edition (4.3) ROM on the Galaxy S4. That’s mainly down to personal preference -- Sense 5 looks good, and adds features that I find are useful in the real world. On the S4, I’m willing to trade many of TouchWiz’s extraneous features for a simpler, more attractive UI and faster performance.
If I’m covering any kind of major live event, chances are I’ll have both phones with me, for the simple reason that data connections are often so spotty that it’s useful to double up on SIMs.
My main line is on Three -- a SIM-only deal which gets me unlimited data, 5000 texts and 200 minutes for £12.90 per month. I’ve also got a data-only SIM on EE, which gives me an easy way to access LTE data at shows and live events. I’m grandfathered into a £15 per month for 5GB deal -- for new subscribers, £15 only gets you 3GB. Despite (or perhaps because of) its high prices, EE often has the most reliable service at big UK-based events, and real-world upload speeds of 30-40Mbps are a godsend when it’s time to upload video and photo content.
Motorola P4000 Slim Power Pack
I “inherited” this Moto power pack from Phil Nickinson at CES, and its svelte profile and high capacity make it a natural choice to throw in a pocket if it’s going to be a long day. As the name suggests, the Motorola P4000 holds a 4000mAh battery, and it charges at up to 1.5A. It’s got a built-in microUSB connector that tucks snugly around the outside of the case. There’s also an additional full-sized USB A port, which lets you charge non-microUSB stuff (or two devices at once.)
It's also roughly phone-shaped, meaning you can hold it pretty easily behind the handset you're charging.
I chose this high-end Sony compact over an entry-level DSLR, and I haven’t looked back. The original RX100 was launched last year to rave reviews, and I’ve been seriously impressed with the quality of images it can produce. (Some examples here and here.) In addition to being great for the sort of pictures we take at AC -- mainly device shots -- the RX100’s small size and light weight are huge advantages compared to bulky traditional DSLR and micro four-thirds cameras. Even better, the RX100 charges quite happily over microUSB rather than the irritatingly similar miniUSB, or some exotic proprietary cable.
The only real disadvantage I’ve come across is optical zoom, which is limited to 3.5X -- fortunately that doesn’t really affect the kind of shots we take. Since I picked up the original RX100 Sony has released the Mk II, which apparently packs even better low-light performance. Both are worth a look if you’re after a compact camera capable of taking outstanding photos.
Nexus 7 (2013)
Google and ASUS’ latest Nexus slate is the best Android tablet you can buy right now, and fortunately it’s also excellent value for money. It’s got a gorgeous 1080p screen, a speedy Snapdragon S4 Pro chip (well, S600 in all but name really) and it’s as fast and responsive as any Android device out there right now. It’s also small and light enough to throw in a bag, or even a jacket pocket, without adding too much bulk -- another reason why I believe the 7 to 8-inch size is the sweet spot for tablets. The N7's ample battery life should also ensure it'll keep you entertained even on a long transatlantic flight.
The new Nexus 7 is a relatively new addition to my device roster, but I’ll be certainly bringing it along with me the next time I do any serious traveling.
HTC One in-ear earphones
I picked up some Sennheiser in-ear earphones around a year ago for about $80 or so. Stuff sounds better coming out of the (non-Beats) cans HTC bundles with the HTC One, though. Go figure.
Skross World USB Travel Charger
If you can be sure of one thing after a day covering phones, tablets and maybe the occasional Android-powered oven, it’s that you’ll have a lot of stuff to charge. If you’re overseas, you might have to to endure the hassle of bringing along travel adapters for each of your chargers, which takes up precious baggage space. The Skross World USB Travel Charger solves all of these problems. It’s got two USB charging ports up top, which charge at 650mA, or 1.3A if just one is in use. Its four plug faces mean it’s good for use in most of the world.
So that's my usual loadout, in addition to a bundle of cables and other things that aren't too interesting. As technology moves on I'm sure my choice of gadgets will evolve, and we'll probably revisit what we're all using sometime in the next year.