Welcome to IRL, an ongoing feature where we talk about the gadgets, apps and toys we're using in real life and take a second look at products that already got the formal review treatment.
It's been a hectic week, what with Amazon trotting out a little something you may have been expecting (along with a few things you weren't). We won't lie: some of us now know what we're getting our friends and family for the holidays, but gadgets we may or may not be purchasing doesn't cut the mustard for IRL, now does it? Until we pull the trigger, we'll keep on talking up and dressing down the stuff we're already using. This week, Jose from Engadget Spanish takes his newly minted NEX-C3 on vacation, Dana outgrows her Forerunner 110 and Darren shows you just how your hands-on video sausages get made.
An Engadget hands-on video? Not without this.
Elgato's Turbo.264 HD has been saving me storage (and time) for years. Put simply, it manages to compress every 720p or 1080p video I shoot -- be it for work or pleasure -- to around half the original size, and honestly, the quality difference is imperceptible on YouTube. Exporting an edited vid in iMovie? Oh, around six minutes for a 15-minute production. It has quite literally saved me hours on end, and my hard drives has a heck of a lot more free space on 'em due to the magic it works with file size. And I don't use the word "magic" lightly. For anyone who shoots a plethora of videos (and owns a Mac), this is one of the best $85 purchases you could ever make.
On the downside, a physical USB stick is required to get the most out of it. Yeah, there's a software-only version, but it's not nearly as quick. Having to both remember a USB key and keep it safe from sliding face-first into the floor (I speak from experience) is an annoyance, and being the technophile that I am, I'd probably pay someone a solid fee for ripping my MacBook Pro open and infusing this thing to the internal circuitry. The only other negative? No Windows support. Seriously, Elgato -- it's time to reach across the aisle. You could charge double for this thing with Windows compatibility, and I know a slew of colleagues who'd be first in line. Get to it!
-- Darren Murph
On vacation with the NEX-C3
For a couple of years, my wife and I had been planning a trip to Asia. In preparation, we had to buy appropriate clothing (summer in Bangkok is no joke), get our visas and passports and, of course, acquire a new camera. I ordered my NEX-C3 and 18-55mm kit lens the week it went on sale, and told Zach Honig that if I didn't like it, I would send him the bill. He replied, "I'm not worried."
As expected, the trip was fantastic, and while my wife didn't fully agree with my idea of buying a new camera before we left, she was more than pleased after seeing the results. We visited magical places like Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok in late August / early September, the hottest time of the year. Carrying the NEX-C3 around my neck was not an issue, as opposed to what would have been the case if I had a full-bodied DSLR in tow. For about $18, I also purchased a small Case Logic case that strapped to my belt and allowed me to hide my wallet and camera while walking through street markets.
Not everything is perfect, and I have to admit that I miss having a viewfinder, but the LCD does a decent job, even with the bright sun shining on it. I do worry that the screen isn't protected when not in use, so I avoid damage by just keeping the camera in its case.
The NEX-C3 performed amazingly in all types of situations, including those of the low-light variety: hot and humid evenings in Hong Kong while taking pictures of the Symphony of Lights show, and dark nights in Bangkok with street vendors selling cockroaches and crickets. Walking up the Great Wall for a couple of hours was not easy, but I didn't even feel the weight of the camera. We now have over 2,000 amazing pictures of our trip, and they are of the best quality I could have ever asked for.
-- Jose Andrade
More bells and whistles, please
It wasn't until I ran my first marathon last year that I felt worthy of a GPS-enabled watch. Just eighteen months earlier, I was managing a scant three miles at a time, so it was tough to justify a $200 toy when running merely felt like a hobby I'd taken up on a whim. Even after I got those 26.2 under my belt, I settled on the Garmin Forerunner 110. Sure, it was bare-bones, but it did everything I wanted it to -- namely, track my distance, time and pace.
And track it does. The mileage count comes in handy as I attempt to monitor how far I've run in a given pair of sneakers (you're supposed to replace them every 300 to 500 miles, don'tcha know). Back before I got injured, the narcissist in me used to like seeing my pace drop as the weeks passed -- evidence that all those dead lifts and calf raises were working. The battery isn't quite what it used to be (it often shows three out of four bars after a night of recharging), but even that's enough to get me through a three-hour run with juice to spare. I've trotted it out in the rain and sub-freezing temps, but it still performs like a champ and doesn't have much wear-and-tear to show for it either.
Friends, I want to sell it. It takes its sweet time to determine my location -- something newer models claim to do faster. I often page my coordinates minutes before my run, lest my training group takes off and I have to start the clock when I'm already half a mile out. The honeymoon really wore off this summer, when I was returning to running following a stress fracture, and used run-walk intervals (e.g., three minutes on, one minute off) as a way of easing myself back into the sport. The 110 doesn't do interval training, though everything above it in the lineup does. It means I have to glance at my watch and count the minutes, instead of wait for a beep when it's time to slow down. I know, I know: it's not the 110's fault it can't do what it doesn't promise to do. Nonetheless, I'm seriously considering trading up, even it means coping with some sticker shock. Better, I've learned, to buy a gadget with a few more bells and whistles than I think I need.
-- Dana Wollman