What's in Alex's 2017 gear bag?
Find out what I pack when it’s time to go places and do things!
I’m skipping CES this year, but that doesn’t mean I’m staying put entirely. Throughout most of 2016 — and into the new year — I’ve been back and forth to events and product launches on the other side of the Atlantic.
And just like the rest of the AC team, when it’s time to hit the road, I have my own preferred loadout of gear. Some of this stuff will be making way for newer, upgraded equipment in the run up to Mobile World Congress this February, but for the moment, here’s what I’m using.
Behold, my gear bag, and the technology which lurks within.
The bag: Hammond & Co Black Leather Dispatch Bag
When I’m lugging around a laptop, camera, lenses, power banks, phones and assorted cables and accessories, this leather messenger bag strikes just the right balance between bulk and capacity. The main body is divided up into two main areas — one laptop-sized, the other for general storage. And the three inner pockets are ideal for storing lenses, batteries and other gubbins.
See at Amazon
The Phone: Google Pixel XL
What can I say. The Pixel’s camera (and to a lesser extent, its software) has ruined me for just about every other phone — to the point where I’m using it over the GS7 edge despite its relatively dull appearance, its tendency to get scratched up around the back, and lack of value-add features like water resistance and wireless charging. (To say nothing of its mere 32GB of non-expandable storage.)
When I’m traveling, I want to be sure I’m carrying the best possible camera with me at all times. In a phone-sized device, that’s the Pixel. And I’m using the 5.5-inch version because I’m a fan of big phones — for me, a 5.5- to 5.7-inch display is big enough to be spacious without adding extra bulk in the pocket.
I also enjoy the simplicity of Google’s Pixel UI, not too far removed from vanilla Android, while differentiated with some useful additions, and a handful of neat live wallpapers.
See at Google Store
The backup: OnePlus 3T
There’s a lot to like about the OnePlus 3T — up to 128GB of storage is immense, 6GB of RAM means there’s plenty of breathing space for multitasking, and the latest Qualcomm processor pushing a 1080p display makes for a tremendously speedy device. And with the new Nougat update, OnePlus’s software experience goes toe-to-toe with the Pixel, offering differentiating features of its own — mainly extensive customization options.
Dual-SIM support is also useful to have when traveling overseas, though not an essential. And Dash Charge, ludicrously fast as it is, is a fantastic way to turn just a few minutes on the charger into a battery level that’ll set you up for the rest of the day.
I’ll be honest: If the OnePlus had the Pixel’s camera, I’d probably be using it instead. There are definitely instances where the 3T feels faster than Google’s phone, and I prefer in the less slippery in-hand feel of OnePlus’s flagship. But while this device has a great, competent camera, it’s no Pixel.
See at OnePlus Store
The watch: Huawei Watch
I inherited this silver Huatch from Jerry (Hildenbrand. AC editor of dope shit), complete with metal band, and despite the charger being a constant source of annoyance — you’ve got to be really careful lining up those charging pins — it’s the best-looking smartwatch in my loadout by a long way, which is why it’s paired to my Pixel.
There’s not really much to say about the way I use this watch. It’s basically a glorified notification mirror, and I’ll occasionally use it for music controls and dismissing unwanted calls. And that’s all I want from a wearable right now.
See at Amazon
The tablet: Huawei Mate 9
No, you didn’t read that wrong. I’m not a big tablet guy in general. For that reason, the 5.9-inch Huawei Mate 9 is my go-to device when I need something portable, but with a larger screen. It’s surprisingly close in size to one of my favorite tablets of all time, the venerable 2013 Nexus 7, only it’s packing way more performance, cellular connectivity and a pretty good dual-lens camera with some neat software tricks (though admittedly, it’s no Pixel camera.)
It’s also got battery life for days, which is important in a device I’m not using (and therefore charging) on a daily basis. The Mate 9 also has Huawei’s new EMUI 5 software going for it, based on Android Nougat — a huge upgrade on the weird, bad Huawei software of yesteryear.
See at Amazon
The laptop (for now): Ye Olde MacBook Air 13-inch (2012)
A year ago when I filed my last Gear Bag report, I was looking forward to new MacBooks Pro with Intel Skylake processors and discrete graphics in the near future. What a fool I was. The new (late 2016) MBPs didn’t do much for me — it’s weird that they forgot to include a battery and replaced the function keys with emoji, and replaced the all-important SD card slot with a whole lot of nothing. And so I’m looking at moving to a more powerful, GPU-equipped Windows machine for a near-future upgrade.
In the meantime, my (relatively high-specced, for the time) 2012 Air continues to chug along, handling day-to-day stuff without too much fuss, even when hooked up to a 27-inch monitor and a bunch of peripherals. For a four-and-a-half-year-old laptop that’s seen countless international trips in its lifetime, the Air has served me well. But it’ll be time for an upgrade before I head to Mobile World Congress next month.
See newer, fancier MacBooks on Amazon UK
See on Amazon.com
The camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5 II
(The lenses: 25mm f/1.8 pancake; 14-150mm f/4-5.6 superzoom)
I’m continually tempted by the prospect of shooting 4K video, but in the meantime this compact Olympus Micro Four Thirds shooter is a solid go-to camera for just about everything I do here at AC. (Read: Putting pretty still and moving pictures on the Internet.)
It’s small enough to disassemble and store in a messenger bag, while packing important features like a rotatable display, decent (OK — acceptable battery life), laptop tetherability and mic input.
The superzoom lens is pretty versatile, but not great in low light. Increasingly I’m finding the 25mm pancake lens to be my go-to option — it’s ideal for hands-on photos and video, and perfectly suited to shooting in less than perfect lighting conditions. (My Huawei Mate 9 video review was shot using this camera and, for the most part, the pancake lens.)
See on Amazon UK
See on Amazon.com
Batteries: Samsung and Aukey quick-charging batteries
The plastic shell of my 5,200mAh Samsung quick charge batteries may have sustained its share of battle damage over the past year or so, but it’s still alive and kicking — and an great size for throwing in a pocket on a longer day. It supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 (which, ironically, none of my current devices do), but it’ll still juice up phones at up to 2A/5V, which is reasonably speedy.
Should I need to pack in more power, my 10,000mAh dual-port Aukey battery pack is up to the task, with one fast charging port — again, QC 2.0 — which can also put out 2.4A at 5V. And there’s a second port for juicing up lesser devices at 1A/5V. It’s a little bulky, but it’s survived countless trips in all manner of bags, and is always ready to bring my phone of choice back to life at the end of a busy day.
Earbuds: HTC high-def audio earbuds + Samsung Gear Active
I’ll use fancy, expensive headphones at home, but I’m not going to take them on the road. So when I travel, my go-to earbuds are HTC’s high-definition cans, which are small and sturdy enough to cram in a pocket or zipped pouch, but good enough to see me through a reasonably long plane or train ride.
See at HTC
When I feel the need to go wireless, I use Samsung’s Level Active eadbuds. The battery life isn’t quite up there with a decent set of neckbuds, but the Level Actives are infinitely more portable, and way more comfortable than the larger Level In earphones.
See at Amazon
Bag-within-a-bag: Skooba Cable Stable DLX
This case is designed to hold a bunch of cables, but turns out to be a surprisingly good hold for all kinds of smartphone-related stuff — from the phones themselves, to spare batteries, smartwatch charging pucks and other small things that might get lost in a bigger bag. The Cable Stable DLX is just the right size to fit in the main body of my messenger bag, while still leaving room for cameras, lenses and other odds and ends.
If I’m bringing more than a couple of phones with me, the overflow normally ends up in this thing, along with spare USB-C and micro-USB cables.
See on Amazon
That’s a lot of gear
Not all this stuff is the latest and greatest, but most of it has served me well at previous events, and I’ve come to rely on every piece of technology on this list.
Over the next few days, the other AC at CES will be showing off the tech they use every day and on the road, so keep watching in the near future. Be sure to check ’em out if you like to ogle at technology.