After some camera-heavy IRLs lately, this week's edition is more of a mixed bag. Darren tests out a camera backpack big enough to carry his D3S and D3200, Sean buys a Corsair K90 keyboard for his homemade gaming rig and Edgar makes the jump from iPhone owner to proud Jelly Bean user.
I've tried a plethora of camera-minded backpacks over the years, from Kata's 3N1-33 to a couple from Maryland's own Ona Bags. Recently, I was able to strap Gura Gear's Kiboko 22L+ on for size. It's a $379 purpose-built bag that's capable of carrying most 15-inch laptops (as well as Apple's outgoing 17-inch MacBook Pro) alongside a litany of camera lenses, bodies and accessories. The primary differentiator here are the "butterfly-style" openings. To me, this design solved the "my lens is stuffed under another lens!" issue that many conventional bags face.
I was able to fit a Nikon D3S, a D3200, Rode VideoMic Pro, Steadicam Merlin 2, a Gorillapod, a lens cleaning kit, remote trigger kit, three battery chargers and six lenses (all under 70mm) into the bag. That's a lot of kit, and there are two ways to look at the results. On one hand, it's actually capable of safely containing all of that in a bag that'll fit into the overhead bin of an Embraer 175 (seriously!). On the other, the carrying mechanisms simply aren't designed to hold that kind of load long-term.
Sadly, the pack's rear is entirely flat (i.e. not curved with the shape of your back like Kensington's magnificent Contour). After 60 minutes of carrying it around Yellowstone National Park, I was aching in a way that I've never ached with my Contour. Sure, you could use either of the two (remarkably study) carry handles, but with that much weight, even that's a poor choice. While I'm thrilled with the unit's overall internal design, it's rigid / rugged nature and the lovely zipper pulls, the $379 price point is tough to swallow given the somewhat disappointing rear strap system. Those carrying lighter loads, however, will find plenty to love.
-- Darren Murph
Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ with Jelly Bean
I'd been an iPhone user since way back in the silver old days, when 3G was becoming the new standard and EDGE was all I had to help me through everyday browsing. But that all changed recently (last week, in fact), after I suddenly became weary of iOS. Now, don't get me wrong, I think Apple's mobile operating system is great -- maybe even the best there is. Still, I needed a change, and the obvious choice for me was to go with Google's flagship handset, the Galaxy Nexus.
Why, you ask? For one, I went went with the HSPA+ variant being sold in the Play store. Thus, I didn't have to extend my two-year deal with AT&T, and since it's an unlocked model, I can use it with mostly any GSM carrier worldwide if need be. Not to mention, it's a bargain at $349 (plus shipping and tax), and I'm likely to always be first in line when Mountain View decides to roll out its latest and greatest software treats. Speaking of which, Jelly Bean was served to my GNex over-the-air soon after my initial setup -- a nice welcoming gift, to say the least.
It's now been a little over a week since I made the jump to Android, leaving behind a good amount of invested cash back in Cupertino's ecosystem. That said, I don't regret my choice one bit. So far, the Nexus has been a great sidekick; it runs smoothly, offers all the apps I want and, more importantly, can get through the day without a recharge -- something I can't honestly say about my iPhone 4S. If only I could match the Nexus' rear camera with that marvelous 4S shooter, and everything would be just perfect.
All in all, it's been a great ride so far, and you know the mythical "Android lag" folks speak of? It's non-existent in the Galaxy Nexus. For my sake, I hope this continues to be a great experience, but if anything changes, you'll be among the first to know. For now, I'm quite content with my pick, even if I have trouble fitting it in my jean pockets from time to time.
-- Edgar Alvarez
Corsair Vengeance K90 keyboard
Between Intel's Ivy Bridge and NVIDIA's latest Kepler GPUs, I couldn't help myself. 2012 was the year I set out to build a new gaming rig. When one concedes one's bank account to the burden of assembling a machine of raw power, it's easy to justify a handful of pricey peripherals. That's how I came across my new mechanical keyboard, the Corsair K90.
It started in the keyboard aisle of my local electronics retailer -- my fingers danced across the keys of various demo units until they stopped on something loud, clicky and familiar. Having been raised on the tactile typewriters of yore, the K90's Cherry MX Red mechanical key switches felt like coming home. Soon, depressing any other type of key felt wrong -- which was really too bad, because doing so is unavoidable. The K90's magical mechanical keys are surrounded by membrane toggles that feel cheap by comparison. None of the keys stick -- nor do they feel particularly mushy -- but switching from mechanical to membrane can be a bit jarring. I eventually adjusted, but the inconsistency still nags at me.
As much as I love the keyboard's fancy switches, it has other notable features. In addition to a few standard media keys and blue backlighting, the K90 features 18 programmable buttons (all membrane, unfortunately.) These are designed to help serious MMO players micromanage in-game macros -- they work well, but the companion software isn't particularly straight forward. In the end, the keyboard has its quirks, but its solid build and Cherry switches overshadow its faults. It's a proud part of my PC gaming arsenal -- though in retrospect I might have paid a premium for a clacker with consistent keys.
-- Sean Buckley
Samsung Galaxy Nexus
Google Android 4.1