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May 13, 2010

How I roll: The gear I use everyday

I’ve started to get questions on Twitter, Facebook, around the halls of building 37, and over email to the effect of “So, you get all of this new, shiny gear to test and try out…what stuff do you actually *use* every day?”

Here’s what I have humming in my office, in my bag and in my pockets on a daily basis:

Workhorse laptops: I’m currently splitting time between a Dell Studio XPS 16 and The Muse, my custom-built Dell Studio 15 (see below). Both are big laptops with great screen resolution (1600 x 900 on the XPS, full 1080p-capable 1900 x 1080 on The Muse) and plenty of horsepower – each has a 256GB SSD and 6 gigs of RAM. When I’m hunkered down in my office, I like two things – raw speed and display real estate. These PCs deliver both in spades.


Travel machines: If I’m on the road and need a full-power machine in a smaller package, I use the HP ENVY 13 and the Lenovo x301. The x301 is the lighter and less powerful of the two, and generally the one I use if I’m going to be doing a lot of writing as I’m a sucker for the Lenovo trackpoint (the “eraserhead” pointer) and the sturdiness of the standard-issue ThinkPad keyboard. If I’m demoing, the ENVY 13 is my machine of choice because it has one of the best displays in the business.

Netbook: Recently, I’ve been partial to the Sony W mini notebook that I reviewed a few weeks ago. It’s lightweight, gets killer battery life and puts out 1366 x 768 resolution, so I get a “real” screen in a pint size package.

Phone: Most days I use an HTC Imagio running on Verizon Wireless. It’s a Windows Phone 6.5 device with HTC’s finger-friendly TouchFlo3D interface. The screen is huge and great for email and browsing. And you just can’t beat Windows Phone’s Exchange support.

Camera: The photos I take for the blog I shoot with a Nikon CoolPix s8000. It’s a bright red 14 megapixel point-and-shoot with an excellent macro function that works with Windows 7 Device Stage.

MP3 Player: I currently rock a 32GB ZuneHD that my wife got me for my birthday. In my opinion, it’s the slickest, most modern music player available – and the built in HD radio is indispensible at the gym when I’m trying to watch SportsCenter during my 6am workouts. I thought I’d hate the subscription model vs. buying songs one-at-a-time, but now that I have it, I don’t know how I ever lived without it. My music collect ion is broader and deeper now than it ever has been. Full disclosure: I do have an old 60GB iPod classic and an iPod shuffle as well, but neither sees much play time these days.

Peripherals: Always with me are my Ray-Ban sunglasses, a phone charger, ZuneHD transfer cable, Microsoft Arc Mouse, Western Digital 250GB MyPassport, various flash drives, and a retractable Ethernet cable.


I don’t have an eBook reader as I like the feel of paper and the sense of satisfaction I get when I close a book after the last page. Consider that my one Luddite persuasion. (Note: I am currently reading “The Girl Who Played With Fire” by Stieg Larrson, and a new translation of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”)

That being said, I do periodically use the Kindle for PC app on my travel machines and I will admit that its sometimes nice not having to lug around a few pounds of paper with me.

To keep up with what’s going on outside of Redmond, I often tinker with the “other guys’” stuff. My non-Windows test gear includes:

– A Motorola DROID running Android 2.1

– A 15” unibody MacBook Pro running Mac OS X Snow Leopard

– Various Linux distributions running in virtual machines

I schlep all of my gear around in an OGIO Mastermind backpack. Its side-entry laptop sleeve makes it easy to get even big guys like The Muse and the XPS in and out and there are a million pockets for peripherals, notebooks, folders, books and snacks. If I’m carrying more than one laptop, which I often do, I go with the Swiss Gear Synergy backpack. It’s built like Fort Knox and I’ve fit 7 laptops in it at one time, which made for a REALLY fun day in the SeaTac TSA line…

Now that I’ve shown you my gear list, I want you to show me yours! Leave a comment or hit me on Twitter @BenThePCGuy.