New gadgets are the stars of CES, but there was a ton of gear behind the scenes that was instrumental to our coverage of the event. Here's what kept us alive in Vegas.
Let's get this out of the way: MacBooks. We all use them. Except for Rosa.* It hasn't always been this way—a few of us are recent converts—but the fact of the matter is that Windows Vista couldn't handle the multitask demands of the field—running 3G while switching from Photoshop to a video editor to 15 different open tabs in Firefox, dealing with God knows what Web 2.0-related antics all the while. Maybe Windows 7 can be a great field-reporting platform, but at this point, it's all Mac.
We used some great lenses too, from BorrowLenses.com, including one of our two Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, a Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 vrii, a Canon 35mm f1.8. The wide aperture lenses helped us shoot in low-light situations, and the zoom was great for picking up far-off demos, like Ballmer's unveiling of the HP slate. The video we shot with these DSLRs surprised us with its uniformly high quality, and we needed a tripod, the Manfrotto 785 Modo Maxi proved to be a videographer's dream.
You'd think that internet connectivity would be a given at a convention with over 100,000 gadget-lovers, but bandwidth was anything but guaranteed at this year's CES. To connect, we used a variety of 3G cards from Sprint, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, the last two of which were the most dependable of the bunch.
We also dipped our toes into the pleasant pool of 4G, first with the Clear Spot hotspot and then, briefly, with the Overdrive hotspot, both of which let several of us connect to WiMax at once. The connection cut out here and there, but when it did work, we were able to tether five machines all running at nearly 4 Mbps, with (mostly) no trouble. Clear's USB WiMax modem doesn't have drivers for Mac yet, so all of us except for the lone PC user were left to access the hotspots wirelessly.
For the most part, the Gizmodo team wielded iPhones, though AT&T's coverage was often frustrating and we had to switch to EDGE to receive calls with any reliability. This made the two newly-minted Nexus Ones and the pair of Droids in the mix all the more covetable. One of those Droids tethered like a champion all week long.
We operate under the notion that every person on the team should be able to publish a story at any time, and because of this, we just can't be waiting for the press room's connections, or someone else's camera, or a public computer to free up. All of this gear enabled us to capture the best moments of CES and to report them on a moment's notice. We don't know what we'd do without it.
Special thanks to BorrowLenses.com and also Canon and Nikon, for providing us with our camera gear; thanks to Clear for the WiMax Clear Spot, and also Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon for the 3G connections.
*while writing this, Rosa e-mailed everyone to ask what applications she should download. On her new MacBook Pro.