updated 12:00 pm EDT, Thu September 20, 2012
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If you're a gadget addict and a jet-setter, you probably already know you're living in something of a golden age for both of your big interests. Travel has become cheap and easy; meanwhile mobile technologies have advanced to the point that one can bring a staggering range of gadgets on the road without breaking the bank or breaking one's back lugging them around. Still, there is a wide range of devices out there, and it can be hard to know what to choose for the best travel gadget setup. Electronista has your back, though: and we've tracked down the best gadgets to rig yourself out with for the open road, the train station, the air terminal, and all parts in between.
The Notebook: Apple's MacBook Pro w/Retina Display
Apple has been leading the way in notebook design for quite some time, and the Retina MacBook Pro represents probably the company's best achievement in the field to date. Weighing in at 4.5 pounds, it's not as portable as Apple's MacBook Air, but the processing power and screen quality you get with the Retina MacBook Pro constitute a solid trade-off for overall portability. It's only 0.71-inches thick, which means it will fit easily into a backpack with lots of extra space left over, and it packs a huge battery that gives it up to seven hours of operating life at a charge.
The Retina MacBook Pro is going to be the central hub for your tech-travel experience. With 8GB of RAM and a powerful processor, this sleek notebook is more than powerful enough to handle just about anything you throw at it: video editing, graphics-intensive games, you name it. Aside from its power, the Retina MacBook Pro comes with a range of software offerings included, allowing you to surf the web, send emails, and create documents from the road. With access to Apple's Mac App Store, the Retina Mac Pro also allows for easy downloads of any other programs you may find you need.
The Tablet: Google's Nexus 7 (16GB)
With the power of the Retina MacBook Pro in your backpack, you may be tempted to skimp on performance for your travel tablet. Fortunately, Google's Nexus 7 tablet means you don't have cut corners when it comes to tablet power. The 16GB version of the Nexus 7 features storage space enough to carry tons of media, games, and apps for those times when you might not have the elbow room to whip out the full-sized notebook. It packs a quad-core Tegra 3 processor from NVIDIA and 1GB of RAM, which means it's remarkably fast, and its 7-inch 1280x800 HD display has a pixel density of 216ppi, making movies, games, and apps crisp and bright.
If you're connected to a Wi-Fi network, you can use the 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera on the Nexus 7 to video chat with the folks back home. There are a range of video and camera apps compatible with the Nexus 7, allowing you to connect with friends and family through just about any of the major video chat services.
One of the absolute best uses for the Nexus 7 is as an e-reader. If you're on the road a lot this fall, you likely won't be carting around too many books. Installing one of the myriad reading apps available for Android turns the Nexus 7 into a veritable library, and one you can fit into your back pocket at that.
The Nexus 7 connects to Google's Play Store, which gives access to thousands of movies and hundreds of thousands of apps and songs. It runs the latest version of Google's Android 4.1 mobile operating system, which is faster and smoother than previous versions and has a number of nifty features built in. It also has near-field communications (NFC) technology, allowing the Nexus 7 to act as your wallet if you need it to. The Nexus 7 packs all of this into a frame about the size of a hardcover book, making it perfect for toting around in a backpack, purse, or just in the palm of your hand.
The Phone: Samsung's Galaxy S III
If the Retina MacBook is your travel-tech hub, the Galaxy S III is your line out to the rest of the world. Samsung's 2012 flagship smartphone packs the power and portability to keep you connected no matter where you go. It's got a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display that outputs at 1280x720 HD resolution. That means that images virtually jump off of the screen, making for crisp and colorful viewing, whatever the subject. Inside, it's got Qualcomm's dual-core Snapdragon Krait, a chipset that makes the Galaxy S III positively blaze through apps, games, and web surfing. It runs Android 4.0 right now, but Samsung promises that the S III will get an upgrade to Android 4.1 in the coming months, bringing along the smooth operation and extra features you'll find on the Nexus 7.
The S III comes with a 2,100mAh battery that makes it capable of getting you through a full day's worth of usage. If you're a heavy phone user, though, you can pop off the back of the device and pop in a fresh battery very easily.
The Galaxy S II also features NFC technology, meaning you can use it as a wallet or even beam content back and forth between it and your Nexus 7 if you see fit. That means you can snap a picture with the S III's 8-megapixel camera, tap the phone against your Nexus 7, and view or edit that picture on the tablet's bigger screen. The S III's camera also records 1080p HD video, making it perfect for pulling out of a pocket in order to capture a classic moment abroad.
The Camera: Sony's α (alpha) NEX-5N 16.1 MP
Of course, if you're absolutely serious about your travel photography this fall, you'll want a dedicated camera for the best image quality. Since we're talking portability here, a DSLR is kind of out of the question, but Sony's α NEX-5N bridges the gap between power and portability nicely.
The NEX-5N has a 16-megapixel sensor, enabling finely-detailed image capture. Its processor is optimized to yield an ISO sensitivity of up to 25,600, which is about as high as one can get for a compact interchangeable camera. It also records in 1080p video with stereo audio and 10fps burst shots.
The NEX-5N is also compatible with a range of NEX lenses from Sony, ranging from 50mm f1.8 to 24mm f1.8. The ability to swap out lenses, in combination with the device's compact form factor, makes the NEX-5N hard to beat when it comes to travel-oriented dedicated camera devices. It provides professional-grade photography in a size that will fit nicely into a backpack.
...and don't forget...
So now you've got the notebook, the tablet, the phone, and the camera. You're about ready to go, once you find somewhere to stow all that. We recommend that you take a look at some of the solar-powered tech bags on the market. They'll help to keep your tech trove charged while you're in between hotel rooms. While you're looking, make sure to grab yourself a few voltage converters if you're going abroad. Very little worse in this world than finding out you don't have the right equipment to plug in.
And there you have it: Electronista's ultimate travel gadget package. With this lineup, you're set for just about anything the open road can throw at you, ready to document your travels, share them, and connect with the people back home the whole time through.