More digital gadgetry

Way back in September of last year I acquired a brand new laptop, specifically for my photojourno-type activities. A super bit of kit, quite highly spec’d and, best of all, from one of my fave manufacturers… Samsung. You can read the full story here.

Well (and no, I’m not going off-topic), when I changed the theme of this blog to its present one I added a little bit of blurb to the sidebar that, for years now, has been my own personal “motto” sort of thing… “It seemed like a good idea at the time”.
From which one could legitimately and quite accurately infer that all those things that seemed to me like a “good idea at the time” in fact turned out to be utterly naff.

And so it was with this super-duper Samsung laptop. To start with, the bloody thing’s too heavy. Admittedly quite a bit lighter than a lot of laptops of comparable size but, when I took it with me for an all-day trial walkabout I discovered that, along with all the other photokit I carry as standard (on “events” at least), I ended up… er… what’s the phrase I’m searching for?
“Bleeding knackered” is I think how they describe it.

As if that weren’t enough, and given that its primary purpose was to enable me to offload from the camera(s), process, and upload to the Web photos in “real time” so to speak (that’s to say, pics of events as they’re happening or as near as makes little difference… virtually “live” in other words) I discovered that, notwithstanding its impressive specs, its graphics capability is crap!
You’d think, given that I wanted to use it primarily for photo-processing purposes, that’d be one of the very first things I’d have checked wouldn’t you? Yeah. Dream on.

Still, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

So much of a good idea in fact that I revisited the problem (of processing and uploading pics “in the field”) and now think I’ve come up with the ideal solution…

Another laptop!

Or, rather more accurately, what they call a “notebook”. Specifically, the Acer Aspire One Notebook.
And, I have to say, it seems to be a super little bit of kit. Half the size and less than half the weight of the Samsung, where it earns gold stars by the fistful is in its graphics. Its super. Its brilliant. Its great.
From which you can deduce I’m quite impressed.

A tad on the “cool” side maybe, but no doubt that can be adjusted by tweaking the colour balance. Though it suits me just fine exactly as it is. And the resolution’s superb.


Okay, the screen’s a bit small but its still possible (with a bit of determination) to do some “quick and dirty” pic processing. Certainly sufficient/adequate for the type of usage/pics I have in mind. Funny thing is, screen size was one of the things that drove me to the Samsung in the first place. But now I’ve had an actual hands-on play with the smaller screen its nowhere near as much of a problem as I thought it would have been (though I do have to wear specs to see just what the hell I’m doing!).
Plug in a web’n’walk dongle thingy (and yep, the one I’ve already got works with it fine. Bonus!) and, providing I’m in range of cellnet coverage, essentially I’m sorted. In theory anyway.

I don’t think its an especially fast processor, and only a Gig of RAM but with XP I’ve found that it’ll run a resource-intensive app (such as, for example, Adobe Lightroom) without even pausing for breath. Even more impressively, it’ll handle the whopping great 24Mb RAW files off the GX20 without pausing for breath either.
I know cos I did a test import of a batch of 130 or so of these huge files and it just breezed through them. That’d have my normal pic-processing laptop (also an Acer coincidentally) screaming for mercy… before just rolling over and dying. I know. Its happened before! So when I clicked the “Import” button in Lightoom I found myself cringing, just knowing it was a bloody stupid thing to do. But no probs! The tiddly little Aspire just chomped them up seemingly without a care in the world.

Its got no CD drive (hence the light weight and diminutiveness) but it has got two memory card slots… one that’s a multicard slot and the other for SD cards (including the high capacity ones) that it’ll read as a logical drive. Super. Means you could carry a load of apps on a card and just plug ’em in when you want them (I tend to use the portable “stand-alone” apps whenever I can as well… ideally suited to this sort of usage). Also good for more… ah… “sensitive” type stuff.
Plus there’s three USB slots, and a few other holes to poke things in. And it comes with a 160Gb hard drive! A nice little bonus if you run short on memory cards cos you can just dump a load of pics onto the hard drive for sorting later if need be, so it can double up as a slightly larger than normal portable storage. Great stuff!

All that remains now (having already done a test all-day walkabout) is to lug it along to some event “for real” and see exactly what the practicalities are of using it “in the field”.

The only criticism I have of it so far is that the battery life seems a bit rubbish. That may prove to be a bit of a problem if processing a lot of pics, particularly in Lightroom. But given that Acer knock out an accessory six-cell battery pack (as opposed to the three-cell pack that comes as standard) I’m thinking it’d be worth investing in one of those as well soon as finances permit. Maybe even investigate the possibility of some mini solar recharging panel also. Thus I’m quietly confident.


Hmm, I said I had only one criticism but, come to think of it, there is another little gripe. Only a very small one though…

Someone really should have a word in Acer’s ear about that stupid wifi switch on the front. A proper “click one way its on, click the other its off” would have been a damn sight better than that stupid sprung-loaded affair which doesn’t offer a positive confirmation of whether its on, off, or loitering somewhere in limbo. But in fairness this is a very minor gripe.

About fotdmike

Occasional photographer; occasional writer/blogger; occasional activist; occasional computer-geek. Bit of a fool really.
This entry was posted in Kit, Photography Chat and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to More digital gadgetry

  1. forkboy says:

    Two laptops in a matter of months. Tisk, tisk, tisk. Sounds like you’re compensating for something, but I shan’t elaborate.

    I’m sorry it worked out that way with the Samsung. No doubt the combination of its weight and less-than-satisfactory graphics must have been a real downer. But I’m glad for you that you were able to afford a replacement and that it works so well for you.

    Of course, the being all knackered part is probably just as much to do with you being damn near a pensioner as it does with the Samsungs weight 😉

  2. fotdmike says:

    Ah forkboy, I see you understand the problem only too well. I’ve been saying for ages that I’m far too old for all this malarkey but no-one seems to take any notice of me, and people keep asking me to do things. The bloody nerve of it.

    But with this new bit of kit (and I don’t remember saying I could afford it, but when you need something for work, well, what can one do?) the thing that has really impressed me is the graphics capability. Its so sweet it almost makes me wanna cry.

    Its just not right in something that is, after all, pretty much at the budget end of the market.

  3. tam says:

    That little guy has a 160 GB hard drive??? WOW. Impressive indeed.

  4. forkboy says:

    I’m curious….is there a reason you choose a notebook over a netbook? The netbooks would be even smaller and therefore more portable.

  5. fotdmike says:

    Budget. Availability. And it seemed like a good idea at the time. Naturally.

    Plus size isn’t everything, as they say!


    You have to understand that, for me, its a compromise between size and weight. The size isn’t actually an issue (well, it is, but only insofar as it can’t be too small)… the photokit backpack I carry with me by default has a dedicated compartment big enough to take a 17″ screen laptop! Its just that carrying such a lump around weight-wise just isn’t viable.
    And, joking aside, its not all to do with age (the likelihood is I’m probably far fitter than most folk of comparable age… or younger for that matter!). You try accompanying a protest march, running hither and yon from one “incident” to another plus having to rapidly get out of the way of riot cops and suchlike for practically an entire day whilst lugging a bloody great laptop around (and not forgetting all the other photokit that absolutely must come along as well, and emergency rations (er… “energy food”), and a bottle of water or flask of coffee, and some waterproofs, map, first aid kit, blah blah blah) and see how you fare! Oh… and then spend the best part of the evening in processing/uploading pics, swanning from one meeting to another etc… whilst still carrying the laptop. Its the sort of escapade a military type could breeze through… but a civi photog who otherwise has a fairly sedentary lifestyle? You’ve gotta be joking!
    Try it and you’ll begin to appreciate why weight really is an issue.

    So its a trade-off between that and size, or certainly screen size. Which ideally has to be as large as possible to permit a sensible level of pic processing. Sure, folk that don’t know what they’re doing can even process pics at thumbnail size, but that won’t cut the mustard for certain end uses.
    Plus there’s the need to have a machine capable of running all the apps I’m likely to need “in the field”. Not just Lightroom (which, heaven alone knows, is demanding enough) but a whole armoury of other utilities and tools which, on the odd occasion they’re needed, are virtually indispensable.

    Then find a machine which embraces all that capability yet also offers graphics comparable to a much more highly spec’d machine and comes in at a budget price.

    Oh, and there’s the massive storage capacity as well, and the flexibility re card readers.

    Um… have I left anything out?

    All in all I reckon the Aspire has it cracked… unless something better comes along that does all the same stuff quicker, better, and cheaper. But I can’t think of any such beast offhand.


  6. forkboy says:

    Oh, I have no doubt you’re a fit character. You walk about everywhere. There is the requisite work photographing demos and such. No doubt, no doubt….

    It just seemed that since weight was an issue a netbook would have reduced your load be a few more ounces (or whatever weight system you prefer).

    Personally, I can’t stand the things; netbooks. I have enough trouble typing on the diminished size of a notebook keyboard. I’ve tried a few netbooks at my local big box retailer and they all have insufficiently sized keyboards for a guy of my stature. And oddly enough, they aren’t that much less expensive than a competent 15″ notebook/laptop, so I don’t understand the excitement over them.

  7. fotdmike says:

    Yeah y’see, that’s the thing. It was never the size that was the issue (at least, not in terms of getting something small), it was the weight.
    But sacrificing even part of the ability to do all the things I anticipate needing to do just to save an extra few ounces wasn’t an option either.

    Truth to tell, had the Samsung graphics been beyond criticism then I probably would have (reluctantly) accepted the extra load and struggled on somehow.
    Not totally unconnected to this, at the same time that I was playing with the Samsung I was trying to train myself into the acceptance of changing lenses rather then lugging two cameras around. Not an ideal route to go cos there’s still the speed issue to consider. Favourite would be something like an 18-250/300mm lens… when I can afford it!
    But it was all to do with trimming down weight to accommodate the extra weight of the Samsung.

    But the Samsung graphics proved to be the real fly in the ointment so, once I’d accepted I’d need to look for an alternative, the possibility of being able to reduce the weight even further than what I’d achieved with the Samsung also sprang to the fore. But still with the need to do all the stuff I’m anticipating having to do. Plus, as ever, there were budgetary constraints.

    And the Acer seemed to fit the bill on all counts… and it was available straight away.

    Indeed, if I could get something with the same weight and capabilities of the Acer but the size of the Samsung and at a price I could afford (!) then I’d be laughing.

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