See what's coming with me to MWC.
Ah, February, and that means one thing. Not the Super Bowl, but the annual jaunt to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. If you're anyone who's anyone in mobile, you're heading to MWC.
And that, of course, means so will we. Mobile Nations will have a select team of ninja-editors heading out to Spain to cover what will no doubt once again be a crazy show.
And since it's been a while since we looked at the gear we're all using, what better time than before we pack up and hit the road. I've slimmed down massively what I haul around to events compared to days of old. Partly because my creaky old back hates carrying stuff and partly because a lot of it never left my bag.
So, this is what I'll be taking with me to MWC 2016.
The bag: Tylt Energi Backpack
I acquired this bag a year ago on a trip to Las Vegas for CES and since then it's been my go-to event bag. It isn't the biggest, most spacious backpack I could find, but it has one neat trick that is perfect for trade show use: It comes with a 10,400mAh battery pack with a dedicated pocket and channels connecting the various compartments. That means you can pass cables through the internal spaces, hook up to your battery pack and keep stuff charged on the go with ease.
The Tylt Energy Backpack also has a protected pocket where, honestly, I usually keep my sunglasses and little else, and you can slide it over the handle of your rolling luggage to make life easier at the airport.
It's pretty comfortable to wear for a long day on the show floor, has a separate padded space for laptops and hasn't yet left me wanting for more space. It's a little pricey, but it's a great bag for it.
The laptop: Dell XPS 13
Just before MWC 2015 I switched back to using Windows full time, due in part to my more focused work on our sister site, Windows Central. And in part due to the Dell XPS 13. Having attended the launch at CES 2015, I knew I had to have it. A year in, I haven't looked back.
Truth is most of what I used on Mac was cross-platform software anyway. Adobe Creative Cloud, Google Chrome, Microsoft Office, etc. I only needed to find a new video editor, which I did in Cyberlink's Powerdirector.
The configuration I have is probably overkill. It's a Broadwell Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and has the stunning QHD+ touch display. There's no real need for the Core i7 in my life, but when I ordered it here in the UK there was no other option. It was high end or no end.
But it's such an amazing laptop and it's perfect for travel. Has all the power I'll need, a battery that can see through 6-7 hours of real world use and it's so small. Dell made a big thing of squeezing a 13-inch notebook into an 11-inch form factor, and aside from being a little thicker, the footprint is the same as an 11-inch MacBook Air.
The phone: OnePlus X
One of these is my current daily driver, one of these is a cellular hotspot with an enormous battery that I can also use as a phone if I need to.
I bought the OnePlus X before Christmas when I decided it was time to put my own money where my mouth was. I've been so impressed with the quality of cheaper phones the last 12 months I decided I was going to live with one and save a couple of hundred pounds or so over buying a high-end phone.
Apart from a couple of niggling issues which appeared in the latest software update (and one which hasn't been fixed still), I can't really fault it. The camera is a little weak, sure, but it can still take OK pictures of my kid when he does something cute. Which is all I really care about these days.
For all that we may not like about how OnePlus actually does its business of selling phones, it does a lot of things right with the devices. The OnePlus X is well made, has pretty good battery life, a fantastic screen and the software is, well, good. We criticise software a lot more on a lot bigger company's phones, and OnePlus did a good job.
The other phone: Huawei Ascend Mate 7
Which brings me to the Huawei Ascend Mate 7. I usually pack this as a matter of procedure when going to any event these days because the battery life is insane. It can go a full day as a cellular hotspot without breaking a sweat. I get a good roaming deal from my domestic carrier to use my allowances while in Spain, but I can't tether. And I wouldn't want to, either.
So I'll do what I always do: snag a local SIM at the airport (Vodafone Spain has some great deals on LTE) and slap it inside a phone to use mostly for tethering to all week. Beats trade show Wi-Fi by at least 100%.
There may be a couple of other devices thrown in the bag for content reasons, like the Xiaomi Mi4 (currently a Windows 10 Mobile version) when we're going to be seeing the Mi5, but it's these two that I'll be using to do stuff.
The Camera: Samsung NX300
I'm clearly in the minority, given the recent news of Samsung's camera division basically going away, but I love the NX line of cameras. The NX300 in white is my second such camera and it's just a great shooter for both stills and video.
It's got a 20.3MP APS-C sensor, AMOLED touch display, a whole bunch of features I rarely touch and shoots 1080p video. I've been using this camera since just before our Computex trip last year and I'm very happy with it. It's small, it's light and it makes me less bad at things I need to use it for.
I mainly use it with the lens that came with my previous NX camera, which is a 16-50mm OIS power zoom lens. The kit lens that came with this camera was actually worse, and larger, so it was replaced immediately. The lens is pretty good, I use it for most everything I do round here and it adds very little to the bulk of the overall set up.
I also have a 55-200mm lens that I take with me that only ever gets used for liveblogs. Since sitting close to the front isn't always, possible having a long lens to take photos with is a useful thing to have.
This camera also charges via micro-USB. Which is absolutely fantastic and I wish every camera had it. It means I can use my phone charger to top it up after a day at the show. It also means I can use my battery pack to top it up if it gets low while I'm out. Weirdly this is one of the things I like the most about it.
The Tablet: Amazon Fire 7-inch
I've generally stopped using tablets recently, but they are still handy when traveling. I'm using the £49/$49 Amazon Fire 7-inch right now for a few reasons.
First, price. It's so cheap if it gets lost/stolen/eaten, I'm not going to be too irate. Second, you can stick a microSD card in there and offline Prime Video to the card. And finally, reading my Kindle books.
There's not actually much time to unwind at a show like MWC, but there is the hanging around at the airport and the couple of hours on the plane both ways, at least. I'd happily recommend this tablet to anyone who just wants a cheap way to consume media. You get what you pay for, but is watching videos on a 7-inch screen really worth spending a lot on, anyway?
Other assorted items
That's mostly it for gear. There are a few other things I'll be taking, like a couple of flat micro-USB cables, the necessary UK to EU adapters and a pair of sunglasses (Spain is much sunnier than the UK for sure.) And a watch. A regular, just tells the time watch. For whatever reason Android Wear just hasn't ever gelled with me. But I do enjoy wearing a watch, and I'll be taking my current daily wear by Casio Edifice.
Of note though are two items. First is my trusty Rode SmartLav mic that I've been using for a couple of years now. It plugs into a smartphone to record audio which at a trade show like MWC makes a huge difference to hands-on videos. I probably won't be doing much video, we have the excellent Mark Guim to handle a lot of that. But when I do need to shoot, the audio from this little, inexpensive microphone makes a massive difference.
The other is a Field Notes and a pen. If I use my phone or laptop to make notes, I usually forget about them. If I write them down, I remember that I've written them down and actually do something with them. And spending so much time in front of a computer, it's actually nice to do something else once in a while.
There's also the fact that it's just easier to jot things down while at meetings, doing a quick tour of the booths etc, than it is to type things into a phone. I carry a pad and pen whenever I travel, and most of the time there'll be a Field Notes in there. Because they're fantastic. It'll be paired with a Cross pen that was a gift for my 30th from my sister, which is just so nice. I'll also have a pack of our pretty awesome looking business cards. At a big show, business cards are like currency.
Oh, and there'll be some form of earphones in there. If I'm only travelling within the UK or Europe, I use buds. If further afield, something more substantial with noise cancellation. But I need to actually buy a new pair, so I likely won't know that I'm taking until I get to Gatwick Airport for the flight.
And that's about it. Gone are the days where I would pack a ton of stuff just in case. Between everyone who's hitting the show there'll be more than enough gear to go around. I'm trying to pack smarter, my creaky bones will thank me for it. Stay tuned for more gear bag's from the rest of the gang!