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Gnarbox 2.0 backup SSD is a photographer’s best friend in the field and at home

18:06 | 9 October

Working photographers, and enthusiasts who just love taking plenty of pictures, know that even the biggest SD cards can sometimes fill up, especially when you’re working with large file sizes, shooting both JPG and RAW, and shooting 4K video. The solution? A good mobile backup drive. There are a number of options out there that fit the bill, but the newly released Gnarbox 2.0 might be the best of them all, because it works like a miniature independent photo computer in addition to packing speedy SSD storage onboard.

This is the second generation of Gnarbox’s backup solution, and while I used the original, HDD-based version to great effect for a long time, the 2.0 version adds a ton of useful features, including super-fast SSD storage ranging from 256GB to 1TB in capacity, a new OLED display that makes it even easier to use in the field, and a removable battery that means you can pack spares to stay powered up and ready.

Simple, no fuss backup

It’s not the fanciest feature that the Gnarbox 2.0 offers, but it might be the one you use most: Quick and painless backup of SD cards. There’s an SD port on the device itself that can transfer at speeds up of to 75MB/s, and it has USB-C ports that can transfer direct from cameras or from card readers at up to 350MB/s depending on their transfer capabilities. When you plug in an SD card or camera, you get an option on the screen to totally back up the contents of the attached drive with one click, which makes it incredibly easy to dump and delete and clear up space to keep shooting.

Gnarbox 2.0 6

During a 9-day trip that included two events and a vacation to shoot, I made frequent use of this feature. Shooting with the new Sony A7R IV in both RAW and JPG, even my 128GB SD + 64GB SD backup cards filled up pretty quickly, but I would just slide one of the cards into the Gnarbox’s slot and hit the backup button before changing venues and it’d be fully backed up within a few minutes.

In my experience, this process has been rock-solid reliable, and gives me effectively 10x the space for a shoot vs. just relying on my cards alone (I don’t typically have a similar sized backup SD card on the road, let alone 10). By default, the Gnarbox 2.0 stores all your media in backup folders organized by capture date, too, which makes them super easy to sort through once you get back to base.

A mobile review and rating machine

Once all that great capture content is on your Gnarbox 2.0, you can also very easily connect to the drive using Gnarbox’s mobile apps to either review what you’ve got, or go through and rate your photos quickly to make the process of working through them once you’re installed at your workstation easier.

There are two apps from Gnarbox available right now, including Gnarbox Safekeep and Gnarbox Selects. Safekeep gives you access to all your device’s settings and can also act as a file browser for shuttling photos between apps. But Selects is probably what you’re going to be using most – it not only offers fast RAW previews (compatible with every major camera’s RAW formats) but also lets you quickly add ratings, keyboard tags and more to make sure your collection is primed for edit when you get back to your desktop.

With Selects, you can review either files on the Gnarbox SSD itself, or on attached memory cards or storage media (so yes, you can use this with something like a Samsung T5 if you’re already using that as a backup solution). All this info will then show up in applications like Adobe Lightroom to expedite your workflow.

This can shave hours off the process of organizing your photos, since it means you can do the rating and reviewing up front without having to wait for everything to import and then trying to recall what you were going for with the shoot in the field after the fact.

Easy sharing from the field

Speaking of saving time, the Gnarbox 2.0 also helps you move more quickly from capture to sharing, which is incredibly useful if you’re working on a live event or doing photojournalism of something happening in the moment. The device supports Lightroom mobile out of the box, meaning you can navigate to it as a source for a new collection and move files over directly when connected to your phone or tablet. This makes it awesome for adding quick edits to RAW files, exporting finished JPGs and sharing directly to social apps and websites.

With Apple’s new iOS 13 filesystem changes, the Gnarbox 2.0 can also be addressed as a mass storage device, so you should be pretty wide open in terms of options for working with various editing software. This is also great for mobile video workflows, since Gnarbox 2.0 works just as well for storing video capture as well as photos.

Home workstation companion

Gnarbox 2.0 3The Gnarbox 2.0 is great on the go, but it’s also perfect for plugging in as a home work drive once you’re back from the shoot. I’m reviewing the 1TB version, so the amount of available on board storage is a big advantage here, since it can essentially provide all the space you need to give you all of your working files in one place.

As mentioned, it supports high-speed USB-C transfer, which makes working with the files directly from the drive on your main workstation much more pleasant. That also means you don’t necessarily have to move things over local to get to work, which saves you a step and spares your computer’s disk space.

Gnarbox 2.0 switches to USB Mass Storage mode pretty easily, using the onboard OLED menu system. You do need to make this switch manually however, because by default the USB-C port that it uses to make the computer connection is used for charging the Gnarbox’s battery. Once you’re in that mode, however, it’s as easy as connecting Gnarbox 2.0 to your computer and then navigating to it as you would any other connected mass storage device.

Photos on the drive are organized by capture date, as mentioned (you can customize how it creates its folder structure if you want) and you can also select it as an import target in any photo editing software, like Lightroom or Capture One.

Bottom line

Gnarbox 2.0 5Gnarbox has taken their time to create a thoughtful and thorough successor to their original product with the Gnarbox 2.0. It’s a unique blend of field photo server and mini computer, made more versatile with clever touches like the removable battery packs and dust/splash resistance. Ultimately, there really isn’t anything in the market that can compete with the Gnarbox 2.0 on everything it provides, though devices like WD’s My Passport Wireless Pro and the LaCie Rugged Boss SSD can offer some key parts at lower prices depending on your needs.

At $899 for the 1TB version I reviewed, ($499 and $599 for the 256 and 512GB versions, respectively), the Gnarbox 2.0 clearly isn’t for everyone. It’s a professional tool for a professional workflow, and it’s priced as such. That said, the value it provides for busy photographers who need a companion storage solution with utmost flexibility for working both at home and on the road is definitely going to make it worth the cost of admission for some.



Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga get thin and light refreshes

04:00 | 8 January

Lenovo is announcing a ton of stuff this week at CES. Because, well, that’s what Lenovo does. Along with new gaming laptops and a ton of accesories, the company also refreshed its flagship notebook lines, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga.

Both models are thinner and lighter than their already thin and light predecessors — making them a pretty strong contender for the top premium Windows notebooks out there. And, as ever, they’re priced to match, starting at $1,710 and $1,930, respectively.

The X1 Carbon now weighs 2.5 pounds, with a 15 mm thin design and a woven carbon finish. There’s an 8th gen Intel Core processor inside, coupled with 8 or 16GB of RAM and up to 2TB of storage.

The Carbon’s display is 14 inches with optional touch, and the speakers are Dolby Atmos-tuned, along with four far field mics built-in for voice. There’s also a healthy number of ports on board, including two USB, two thunderbolt 3s and a headphone jack.

Per the Yoga, the fourth generation of the convertible laptop is now 11 percent thinner than its predecessor, with thinner bezels and an overall smaller footprint. Like the Carbon, it sports 8th gen Intel Core processor, a 14 inch display and Dolby Atmos speakers. The laptop weighs a hair over three pounds and features an improved RGB and IR camera.

Both are shipping in June and, naturally, feature Lenovo’s familiar orange pointing stick.

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Lenovo’s new $300 Android tablet features the Yoga Book’s keyboard/sketchpad

11:01 | 6 February

Lenovo’s Yoga line has offered some of the most innovative tablet form factors around, from modular projectors to digitizing pads of paper. The A12 borrows the latter from its predecessor — and manages to do so at a dollar under $300.

The specs are fairly middling, as out would expect from the price point, but the 12.2-inch HD display swivels around at 360-degrees from the keyboard, so users can position it as a laptop, slate or kickstand for movie viewing – you know the deal.

Between the pricing and convertibility, the Yoga looks positioned to take on the likes of Chromebooks like Samsung’s new offerings, though Lenovo’s entry is targeted directly at Android users who don’t want to leave the mobile operating system behind when graduating to a laptop-style computing experience. You also get the bonus of Android’s big ecosystem of apps, though most Chromebooks will be able to say the same thing in the near future.

Inside is a mobile Intel Atom processor and an admittedly scant 2GB of RAM, coupled with 32GB of storage space. There’s also a battery that promises 13 hours of life on a charge, according to the company.

The most interesting bit here is no doubt the Halo keyboard, first introduced on the pricier Yoga Book, which swaps the standard keyboard for a flat typing experience that admittedly takes some getting used to. Flip a button, however, and it converts to a digital sketching/note-taking surface. It also helps keep the system thin.

The tablet will be available February 8th, in gray or rose gold.



Lenovo’s Yoga Book is a fascinating attempt to reinvent the hybrid tablet

22:27 | 21 October

No mainstream electronics manufacture is making more interesting, innovative and downright bizarre products than Lenovo. Between its contorting efforts under the Yoga banner and the modular handsets being produced by Motorola, the Chinese company is taking the sort of form factor risks we rarely see outside of hardware startups.

Nowhere is this better embodied than in the $499 Yoga Book. If nothing else, it’s impressive that the company has managed to produce yet another fascinating take on the well-trod world of the hybrid. This time out, the company leans heavily on the notion that handwriting is one of the great unsung casualties of the rise of the tablet.

In fact, the system is built around the return of pad and paper, incorporating the analog-to-digital output of devices like kind offered by Wacom’s budget Bamboo line into a high-end, $500 device. When we spoke to the company ahead of its launch, they saw it as primarily as a play for college students – a combination note taking device and standalone computer all in one.

It’s a bit of a gamble, as these sorts of radical form factor departures always are. But if nothing else, it’s an utterly fascinating piece of hardware from an industry that too often defaults to more of the same.

By its cover

The Yoga Book is thin as hell. It’s 9.6 millimeters thin. That’s 0.38 inches, compared to the Macbook’s 0.52 and 1.5 pounds to the Apple laptop’s 2.03. It’s perhaps a somewhat unfair comparison, given the difference in screen sizes, but it does drive home how remarkably compact the device is. And indeed, it really does feel like a marvel of engineering – it’s thin and light enough to slip into a backpack with little notice, while maintaining the sturdiness of a full laptop.

The solidness of build quality is due in no small part to the hinge. It looks a bit gauche and out of place at first, like a metal watchband connecting the two panels. It’s perhaps not aesthetically consistent with the other understated pieces, but it manages to contort the system to nearly 360-degrees, never wobbling the whole time.

Closed, the system takes on the appearance of a scaled down ThinkPad – albeit one largely devoid of ports. All you get is a single micro-USB (not USB C, mind) for both charging and plugging in accessories and micro HDMI – more inline with its tablet roots than laptop aspirations. Sandwiched between the two is a micro SD slot. On the other side are the device’s sole physical buttons: power and volume, along with, yes, a headphone jack.

Inside the book are two completely flat panels. Up top is a fairly standard squared touchscreen display surrounded by a thick black bezel, with a two-megapixel camera up top and a silver “Lenovo Yoga Book” logo in the bottom right corner. The bottom panel, however, is where things get really interesting.

Halo, goodbye

It’s also where Lenovo tries to be everything to everyone. Powered off, the bottom panel is entirely black, with the ghostly suggestion of a keyboard. Once on, the keys illuminate. It’s a nice effect – the Halo keyboard. It looks good, and it certainly goes a way toward shedding a few fractions of an inch from the Yoga Book’s profile.

But the drawback is equally apparent. You’re typing on a flat surface, and all of the haptic feedback in the world won’t change that. Granted, I’ve only been using the Yoga Book for a limited period, but I really don’t think the experience is for me. A little give is important to the typing experience, and that much haptic buzzing is more of an annoyance.

Again, Lenovo’s banking on younger users for this device – including high school and college kids – whose formative typing experiences largely occurred on touchscreen phones and tablets. The Android experience also has the added bonus of offering up predictive text as you type, akin to a mobile device, which some users may find to be a plus. Experience will also come down to precisely how much typing you plan to do on the thing. After all, that bottom black surface houses another key feature.

Pen to paper

Hold down on the little pen icon above the keyboard and you’ll fell a haptic buzz before the surface goes black. The included stylus is the size of a standard pen and features a variety of different tips, both standard plastic stylus and a ballpoint ink variety, so users can write directly on the surface or magnetically snap a pad of paper on top and write the old-fashioned way.

Either way, the surface serves as a display surrogate, with text appearing on-screen in real time, as you write. Using the Note Saver app, you can switch between a trio of thickness options, ballpoint/fountain/pencil, and six colors. It’s fairly simple with an MS Paint-like interface, but it does the trick for note taking.

Unfortunately absent from the app is OCR – which converts handwriting to text. The Lenovo rep I spoke to said the company just didn’t believe the technology was accurate enough to employ this time around – a pretty big downside for those of us with abysmal handwriting that’s only gotten worse as we’ve moved more and more to the keyboard.

At the very least, it’s a less roundabout way to incorporate the sorts of analog to digital note taking capabilities from companies like Wacom and Livescribe directly into a device. For the moment, however, the demand for such functionality still feels about as slim as the device itself

Table of contents

The unit we received runs Android (a fairly old 6.0.1 – with Nougat arriving somewhere down the road). Another $50 will get you the Windows 10 version – probably a worthy upgrade for anyone seriously looking to integrate the Lenovo Book into their daily computing life. If you opt for the Android version, be forewarned that it comes with all of the limitations of that platform.

Both version of the device run on an Intel Atom processor, coupled with 4GB of RAM. It’s enough to get most day-to-day functions accomplished, but don’t look toward the device to do any heavy lifting. The Yoga Book is better suited for in-class/office devices, rather than a full-bodied laptop replacement. The battery, meanwhile, is a hefty 8500 mAh, which ought to get you through a full day’s use, no problem.

A bit of a stretch

The Yoga Book isn’t for everyone. But then, Lenovo’s approach has never been one-size-fits-all. It’s a well designed piece of hardware (though you’ll want to find a spot for your notepad and stylus, so there’s no room on the device itself), that seemed likely doomed for a fairly narrow user-base.

Students and others who have long searched for a well-made tablet with integrated pen and paper note taking capabilities may just have found their dream device. For most of us, however, it’s a tablet oddity. It’s fascinating and a bold attempt to bring yet another take to the hybrid space, but as it stands, it’s not ready to set the tablet world ablaze.



Lenovo’s latest convertible tablet brings a drawing pad into the fold

21:30 | 31 August

If nothing else, Lenovo has certainly demonstrated that it’s not afraid to experiment with form factor. The company’s Yoga line has offered some of the most interesting takes we’ve seen on the tablet space. They have been met with a varying degree of success, sure, but the company always seems game to try something a little different.

The Yoga Book certainly offers one of the more fascinating departures from the company. Its closest precedent is probably Wacom’s Bambo Spark offers, which are an attempt to bridge real world note taking and the posterity of digital. Really, though, the book is a dual-surface tablet.

One one side is a 10.1-inch FHD touchscreen display. The other panel doubles as both a touch-based keyboard (which illuminates when in use) and a digitizing writing surface. Users can place a pad of paper on top of the surface and draw/write. The system will save the scribblings for posterity.

The company says the device is targeted primarily toward college students – users under a certain age who both take a lot of notes and grown up with touchscreen typing, with a little haptic feedback added in to enhance the effect. The move toward a touchscreen adds the benefit of adaptive typing that will learn as you go – if you, say, constantly miss the space bar by a few fractions of an inch as you type. It also allows the company to incorporate predictive text like a mobile device.

The device will come in both Android and Windows varieties. The former runs $499, while the Microsoft version is expected to run slightly higher. It’s certainly an innovative take on the well-trod Surface/iPod Pro world of productive tablets, as well as an interesting attempt to bridge the pen and paper with digital.


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