It had to happen on #13 right? On my recent 14-day tour of IFA and IDF (Berlin, San Francisco) I prepared myself with four devices. One Windows laptop. One Chromebook. One smartphone and one featurephone. What I didn’t plan for was a total failure of the main Windows laptop. Chromebooks don’t work as a fallback laptop.
Everything had gone very smoothly with my Haswell-based Ultrabook. The platform has great battery life (in this case, all-day working without a charge) and 1080p video editing and rendering for my (admittedly basic) YouTube videos. Photo editing (for blogs) is easy and there’s enough space in a 128GB SSD for a two-week session. When your Ultrabook fails, however, you’ll need a backup. I’m usually equipped with a second, lower-powered Windows laptop or tablet but this time I only had the Lenovo N20p Chromebook. While that has battery life, a quality browser, good WiFi and a keyboard that won’t drive me crazy it can’t handle video editing. When you’re producing up to 15 videos for YouTube per day you need local processing. Lesson learnt. A Chromebook is not a fallback solution.
Every August I get myself organized for IFA and IDF, the two most enjoyable and informative events on my circuit. CES in Las Vegas is fun but there are more relevant products and information for me at IFA and IDF, the Intel Developer Forum. This years tour is 14 days long so once again I need reliable kit. In 2013 I took an Ultrabook, a 270-degree rotating touchscreen netbook-style laptop and two Nokia phones along with my bridge camera. This year I’ve got the same line-up but with three different computing devices. I’ve dropped my Acer W510 and replaced it with, no, not the Acer Switch 10, but a Chromebook. The two Nokia phones are also different.
The Chromebook I’ve chosen (I bought it, it’s not a loaner) is the Lenovo N20p shown above and I chose it because since I reviewed the Lenovo Flex 10 I’ve been a huge fan of 270-degree fold-back screens. It permits lay-flat mode (ever used that in bed or to raise the screen up in a seat-back scenario? If not, you should) and the really useful, casual and coffee-table friendly tablet-stand mode.
The Lenovo N20p Chromebook won’t be with me during the working day but it will be my travel companion. Films (most carried on the MyDigitalSSD PocketVault USB3.0 SSD drive) and consumption of RSS/Magazines/podcasts should be the main scenarios (the latter will be an interesting challenge for a cloud device while in the air) but I also expect to use offline Google Drive to write the occasional blog post.
I expect the N20p to be my consumption device in the evenings while the Ultrabook crunches videos and images. With 7-8 hours (measured) of video battery life and an estimated 6 hours of casual web browsing the Lenovo N20p is likely to be well-used over the next 14 days.
Moving on to the smartphones I’ve got the Nokia Lumia 1020 (bought very recently) with the Xenon flash and 42MP sensor. I expect to be able to get some good low-light photos and some quick videos. It’s got all the maps on it, my music, podcasts, RSS feeds and of course, Twitter, Skype, Facebook and Whatsapp for messaging. In the background will be a Nokia 808 running 2G with no data connection a multi-SIM card (same phone number as on the 1020) It’s simply my back-up phone (it will last over 7 days without charge in this scenario) and backup camera if everything else goes wrong. Talking of cameras I’m still using the Panasonic Lumix FZ150. I didn’t upgrade to the FZ200 but having read some reviews on the FZ1000 I’m close to buying something new in the telephoto camera/video department. Why a bridge camera? It’s light and it’s good enough for online photography and video in almost any light. I’ll stress that again – I’m creating news content for online usage, not creating 4K documentaries.
The usual paraphernalia will go with me. A USB power pack, Bluetooth headphones, cables and cards and as with last years tour (mobile reporting kit 12) it won’t be a lightweight kit. Perhaps the Lumia 1020 and the Ultrabook would be enough on their own but for a 14-day tour that would be too risky.
There’s one thing I want to highlight about my year-old Haswell-based Ultrabook. The battery isn’t as strong as it was and although I’m still getting 6+ hours out of it, it’s going to be a risk if I don’t take the power adaptor. Remember this, if you’re thinking about an all-day PC, it might not be ‘all-day’ a year later.
Here’s a kit I’ve been having fun with this summer. I’ve dropped the Nokia 808 for the Lumia 1020 (I didn’t have the 1020 until recently) but that Acer W4 (3G version) with the Microsoft Wedge keyboard and Changers solar panel and storage is about as light, as capable and as efficient as it gets right now. If you’re thinking about an ultra-mobile and ultra-light kit this weighs just 1.4KG (ignore the additional stand as it’s included in the Wedge keyboard cover.
I’ve been using the Mobile Reporting Kit V12 over the last 5 days and it’s been working well. The challenge was to work through a day without any cables. No charging! The Harris Beach Ultrabook, Nokia Lumia 925 plus a backup phone (Nokia 808) and a camera (Lumix FZ150) worked together to give me my best mobile media studio yet.
It’s been a long time since I wrote about an Ultra Mobile Reporting Kit. V11 was back at CES 2012 and since then I’ve attended a number of important trade shows where the kit hasn’t changed much at all. Bridge Camera, Nokia Cameraphone, Tablet, Ultrabook. For IFA and IDF, two back-to-back events that start on Wednesday this week I’ve put together something new. It’s Windows-only and the plan is that there won’t be any cables involved outside of overnight accommodation. That means no chargers for laptops and no USB cables for charging phones. It’s a bold move.
At IFA last week I took the brave step of leaving my PC at home. For someone whos job it is to create content for websites and YouTube it wasn’t something that was easy to achieve but over the last year I’ve been getting more and more comfortable with my Galaxy Tab and Nokia N8 as an unbeatable combination for when I’m mobile.
I sacrifice a bit of quality to improved battery life, speed and sharing. It worked out well and I’m doing it again next we at the Intel Developers Forum where Ben and I will be from Monday to Thursday.
The quality of media created when mobile has improved a lot over the years and I’m sure that I’ll have to take steps to keep up but what I find interesting is that tablets and smartphones are leading in terms of quality. PCs just aren’t keeping up. Apps, location, sharing, always-on, cameras and mobile connectivity are often better on these mobile devices. There will always be times when I want to put my bum on a seat and work with multiple windows and multiple media sources to create higher quality content, but not when I’m on the road.
In Part 1 of this series I covered three strategies for ultra mobile video editing and decided that the traditional, PC-based solution was the only real choice for today. I also set out some parameters.
The solution comes in three parts.
1 â€“ The Camera
2 â€“ The PC
3 â€“ The Editing Software
The parameters I’ve set for the project are:
PC and software to cost less than 600 Euros
PC to be less than 1.5KG with 12 inch screen or less.
Total camera + PC solution to weigh less than 2KG and cost less than 1000 Euro
Source video should be 720p
Video sent to YouTube should be 480p minimum
Editing solution must include watermarking, overlays, crossfades, and multiple audio tracks.
I have personal requirements for the camera that mean it also needs to be able to take photographs for the site. It should also include self-shooting (front or swivel viewfinder), built-in stereo microphone. 28mm wide-angle capability. Good low-light performance and long zoom range for close-up to press conference zoom-ins. An external mic input and hot-shoe would be an advantage.
It this stage I have two cameras in mind. The Canon SX20IS and the new (currently unavailable) Fujifilm HS20 EXR which is said to have some good, and very helpful, low-light options. It doesn’t have the self-shooting viewfinder though. I’m still looking at other solutions but for this post I want to refine the choice of PC down to a shortlist.
The current shortlist is shown below. Please feel free to propose alternatives.
12 inch Intel Atom solution: Asus 1215N (Intel N550 + Ion2 with 16-core CUDA) 1.45KG
12 inch AMD Fusion Solution: Asus 1215B (AMD E-350 APU) 1.4KG or HP DM1Z (AMD E-350)
Netbook solutions (*1): Samsung NC210 (N550 dual-core + 6-cells â€“ 1.22Kg) or N350 (N550 + 3 cells â€“ 1KG) or NF310 (N550 + 6 cells + 1366×768 screen â€“ 1.3KG) or ASUS 1015PN (N550+Ion2 â€“ 1.25KG) or ASUS 1015B (AMD C-50) or Toshiba NB550D (AMD C-50) or Acer Aspire One 522 (with AMD C-50)
13 inch devices will remain out of scope because of size. I have to draw the line somewhere and I feel that 13 inch just goes beyond what is acceptable on a seat-back table, in one hand and in a small bag.
(*1) At this stage it seems fairly clear to me that a dual-core Intel Atom alone isn’t going to be enough on its own to process 720P video which means the pure netbook solutions fall away leaving only the Ion2-enhanced Asus 1215N where CUDA could help push the performance. The E-350 CPU performance isn’t a huge step forward from the N550 but with the 3D and HD decoding support, should help the editing experience and, possibly, a 720p-to-480p conversion stage that allows faster editing. Note that the ION2 in the Acer P1015PN doesn’t have the CUDA core required for enhanced video rendering performance. The AMD C-50 based solutions aren’t as powerful as Intel N550 for general purpose computing but do include video decoding support (not hardware encoding) which could help in a 720p to 480p pre-editing conversion process. Due to this, the NB550D and 1215B stay in the shortlist.
Interestingly, the new Intel Oaktrail platform includes 720p encoding and decoding in hardware. Unfortauntely this won’t help much in the video rendering process where almost everything is done in software. It could help with a 720p to 480p conversion process before editing but the CPU and GPU is then unlikely to be strong enough to support a smooth video editing experience.
Am I considering tablets like the Hanvon B10 and the EeePC Slate E121? No, because being lap-capable is critical and inputting text around a video is a requirement for almost everyone. Adding a USB or Bluetooth keyboard is considered a point-of-failure and would bring the weight up by 200gm.
In summary, we have an entry point of 11.1 inch screen and a minimum weight of 1.3KG. I’m surprised that I can’t find anything in the 1.0-1.2KG range. The only solutions available are all close to 1K Euro which puts them out of scope.
Prices of the items on the shortlist range from â‚¬300 to just over â‚¬600
Note: Why limit the price? I want to come up with a solution that as many people as possible can consider.
Where do we start?
I will say now that I’m looking for someone that can supply these devices for testing because i’m not about to go out and buy 5 laptops so – Free series sponsorship to any reseller that can help us with this project – but I will put my own funds into the pot and start with the smallest, lightest, cheapest option. Later today I will be heading out to pick up the 299 Euro Acer Aspire One 522 with the AMD Fusion CPU and 720p screen. For that price, it would be stupid not to!
In my last report – How Was my CES 2011 Mobile Reporting Kit? I didn’t have much positive to say about my plan for quick-fire mobile blogging. 3G failed me and I ended up scrabbling around trying to find WiFi hotspots. Not only is it a pain in the neck, it’s also a security risk. I connected to 18 different SSIDs in Las Vegas!
In Barcelona last week, it was a completely different story. On day-one I used the hotel WiFi but as soon as my 3G card was configured, I didn’t touch another Wi-Fi all week. Everything, including video uploading, was done via Vodafone 3G and finally, because of the 3G, the kit worked together in harmony, including a new photo blogging process that I’ve detailed below.
A reminder of what I’m using:
I took my Atom-powered Gigabyte Touchnote netbook (in use since April 2009) and the Canon S2IS (In use since Mid 2007) I added the Galaxy Tab and the Nokia N8 Smartphone (thanks to Nokia UK for the loan of the phone) and a pay-as-you-go SIM card and 3G data service from Vodafone Spain. Although there’s a nice range of tech there, it certainly isn’t high-end across the board.
As always, the netbook was for long-form typing and video ‘finishing’ and uploading. I didn’t do any live blogs with the Canon S2IS attached via USB this time but the S2IS was used for videos. It’s a rather embarrassing 640×480 resolution and I only get about 9 minutes in before the card runs out because it records in M-JPEG and only supports SD cards, not SDHC but, the optics and Mics are great and the video file is easy to process on a netbook. With the long zoom it also works well in keynotes and press events although I do realise that none of the images taken in low light are anywhere near print quality!
Despite my love for this camera I have to find something that is faster, supports 720p video, is more sensitive and, somehow, supports external audio input. The rotating viewfinder is a must for self-filming too. I really would love Bluetooth support on my next camera for instant sharing/pushing but for the time being, I’m considering an Eye-Fi solution and the Canon SX20 or new Fujitsu HS20. I just cant afford to go to four-thirds and and I can’t justify 1 Kg of DSLR equipment!
The reason I’m so bent on having Bluetooth on my camera is due to the way I’ve been using phone cameras for the last 3 years. The Nokia N82 gave me the ease of transferring images to PCs and other mobile devices for easy editing, sharing and photo blogging. At MWC I used the N8 for just that and the experience was amazingly stress free and flexible. Far more than simple photo-bogging.
Photo blogging like never before, without a PC!
Take one Nokia N8. Pair it over Bluetooth to a Samsung Galaxy Tab, connect the Galaxy Tab to the internet via a 3G service and boom! You have one of the easiest, richest photo blogging solutions I’ve ever seen. The solution was so liberating that I ended up posting about half of my content last week without the use of a PC. In most of those cases I was standing up and in some cases, even walking! The solution also allows for multiple images in a post. Here’s an example that was posted on the Samsung booth just minutes after shooting a video.
Note that this process also works with Twitter, Email, Pixelpipe, Evernote, Facebook and other sharing targets. That’s the flexibility of the Android sharing subsystem coming in to play.
Unfortunately, the size of the N8 720p videos and the low speed of the Bluetooth 3 protocol (remember, the N8 and the Tab don’t have the ‘HS’ Wi-Fi extension that speeds up transfers) mean it can’t be used for that but 480p is possible on the Galaxy Tab, with video light and pause capability. There’s no continuous auto-focus but if I can find a video splicing application that fits my needs, it might work! [I’m currently testing Clesh the web-based service which now has an Android client]
Other improvements could be made too. Ideally I’d like to be able to auto-send an image to the Galaxy Tab although selective sending isn’t exactly a problematic or time-consuming task. The best improvement would be in the WordPress editor. Inclusion of html source, bullet-point support and positioning of photos (rather than just at ‘top’ or ‘bottom’) would make posts look less samey and if the WordPress application could support the sending of ‘custom-fields’ I could feed more layout info to my back-end.
Some of you might be thinking – “Why not use Pixelpipe or get a slider phone or Use the camera on the Galaxy Tab.” Yes, this is something I’ve tried to do in the past but there are a few problems with that. Number 1 â€“ The N8 takes extremely good low-light and close-up photos without flash. 2 â€“ The large screen of the Galaxy Tab allows me to thumb type and review a lot of text (see pic below. )The WordPress application adds a lot of value to the processes enabling auto-resizing, links, tagging, geo-tagging and more. The portrait mode keyboard on the Galaxy Tab is superb. Haptics and Software work well together.
Take a look at this pic, taken with the N8 and transferred by Bluetooth of-course! You can see how much screen area is still usable with the keyboard on-screen.
The N8 also has an excellent photo gallery application (fast, smooth, usable), high quality audio recording capability and good outdoor screen clarity. Its the perfect device for this set-up.
In terms of rich photo blogging, I’ve found a great pair of devices in the N8 and Galaxy Tab. So much so that I might reverse my original decision to hand back the N8 and look for a different phone.
As far as the camera and netbook go though, a move to 480p 720×480 or similar is a must. This is potentially a 1000 Euro and 2KG decision so I’m not going to do it without a lot of thought. The ideal solution will give me 720p source and 480p editing in 1.5 Kg but that will be very tough to achieve. The AMD Fusion platform (Toshiba NB550d perhaps?) and a Fujitsu HS20 could be a good place to start. I’ll be testing soon so keep an eye out for the next mobile reporting kit.
I’ll be at CeBIT, Hannover next week where the kit will be in action again.