Heading to CES 2011 without any UMPCs

Ces-logo I'm off to CES 2011 in a few days and have finally decided which gadgets I'm taking along and which ones I'm leaving behind.

As in previous years, I plan to do quick posts consisting of a single photo and a sentence or two from the showroom floor throughout the day and then follow-up with meatier posts at night. I used a Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 for the former task and my Sony Vaio TZ for the latter last time, and while I've moved on from both of those devices a long time ago, the smartphone/notebook combination lives on.

I think most bloggers covering CES use this combo of devices (perhaps substituting the notebook for a netbook), but I'm surprised that I'll be using it again when some of my most recent UMPCs would probably work out quite well at an event like CES.

If I hadn't determined that the smartphone/notebook combo would be best for me, then my top UMPC candidates would've been the Viliv N5, Fujitsu UH900, Toshiba Libretto W100, and first-gen Sony Vaio P.

  • The Vaio P has served me very well while traveling in the past due to its outstanding keyboard but it's nearly two years old already, which to me means it's long past its prime, especially since mine is still running Vista.
  • The Libretto W100 scores point for its off-the-charts cool factor but the battery life and on-screen keyboard options make it less than ideal as my main CES computer.
  • The Fujitsu UH900 is the best hybrid UMPC for me because I can touch type and thumb type with fairly equal success, but the keyboard feels cramped during long typing sessions and I wouldn't be thumb typing on it at all at the show.
  • The Viliv N5, on the other hand, would only be used for thumb typing, which would have made it more of an option for mobile blogging. Its lack of a rear camera quickly takes it out of the running for that job, though.

I'd have to use a Bluetooth keyboard for lengthy typing sessions on anything except the Vaio P; but as good as my Think Outside Stowaway Universal is, it's obviously not as good as a full keyboard. I can type at almost full speed on it, but when I'm in CES mode, I don't want anything but my brain slowing me down.

My primary notebook at home right now is a 13.1" Sony Vaio Z520N. I use it every single day and the screen is huge to me, but it's too big/heavy and battery life is atrocious. It doesn't fit in my gadget bag and with my 13-month-old baby girl and all her stuff coming along with me, space is at a premium.

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So for CES 2011, I decided to take along an uber thin 11.6" MacBook Air, which I just bought with some of the money I got for Christmas. I chose the Air for its size and weight, full-size keyboard, and speed. It's not a powerhouse but since it's brand new and not bogged down the way Windows can get over time, it's faster than my TZ and Z.

Supplementing my MacBook Air and used for mobile blogging from the showroom floor will be my HTC EVO 4G, iPhone 4, and maybe my Dell Venue Pro. I won't be carrying or using all of them at the same time, but I want to test each one because the methods for publishing posts will be different and I want to see which one works best in practice.

Phones are so small and light compared to UMPCs and other computers that I don't feel crazy for packing too many of them. It's unnecessary, I know, but what's the point of having more than one phone if you're not going to actually use them? And since I can't decide which one would be best because all of them have their strengths and weaknesses, I may as well bring them all, use them all, and find out which one is best for the job.

Evo-ces2011

On the HTC EVO, I'll be using TypePad's email-to-blog feature. I've used Flickr's service in the past but TypePad's was more reliable in the most recent tests I did. It also supports categories, which saves me from having to manually add them to posts after the fact.

All the phones can publish posts via email, but the EVO is the only one that doesn't introduce extra line breaks into the final post. I don't know why iOS and Windows Phone 7 do that, but Android doesn't. I chose the EVO over my Dell Streak and Galaxy Tab because of its size (most pocketable and easiest to type on for me) and 4G connectivity. I will probably still bring my Streak and Tab, but I don't have plans to use either one for mobile blogging.

The main drawback to using the EVO for the task is that the photo will appear below the text. So it'll be Post title -> A few sentences -> Photo. It's not that big of a deal and it will serve as an easy signal that the post was done from the showroom floor, but I can't say that I'm thrilled about it.

I'm disappointed that after all these years, there still isn't a better way to post things to a TypePad blog while on the go. The email-to-blog function (both in TypePad and Flickr) is limited and evidently affected by mobile OS type, the full site doesn't work well on a mobile browser, and there's no dedicated app for Android.

Iphone4-ces

There is an app on iOS, though, so that's what I'll be using for posts from the iPhone 4. Things I don't like about the app are that it's slow, posts can't be uploaded in the background, and it does the same "title -> body -> photo" thing as the email function.

The iPhone 4's camera takes better pictures than the EVO in low and poor lighting conditions and also has a built-in HDR feature. Since CES is notorious for its horrible booth lighting, I think the iPhone will work well there. I'm concerned about 3G congestion on AT&T, though, so I may have to carry a back-up device.

Dell-venue-pro-ces2011
There isn't an official TypePad app for Windows Phone 7 either, but there's a rather robust blogging app that supports the hosted service. It's called BloghuB and it's what I'll be using on the Dell Venue Pro . . . once I can get it to work.

Right now I can't get the app set up due to some sort of "remote server not found" error. If I can't get that solved, I may end up leaving the Venue Pro at home. Oh, who am I kidding? Knowing me and my overpacking tendencies, I'll probably end up bringing it along just for kicks.

In summary:

Mobile blogging

  • HTC EVO 4G and maybe Dell Streak using TypePad's email-to-blog function
  • iPhone 4 using TypePad's iOS app
  • Dell Venue Pro using third-party BloghuB app

Stationary blogging

  • MacBook Air using TypePad website

And that's my gadget plan for CES 2011.

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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