In a sea of same same android phones and devices, here comes the Planet Computers Gemini, an android device with a keyboard. Here is my review, mostly from a photographer's perspective.
Ever since I was a kid I had a fascination for gadgets. It all started when I saw an uncle with an old Rolodex organizer. I was so amazed by it that my uncle bought me one to play around with…and I was hooked to portable computers and organizers ever since.
I had a LOT of organizers, plamtops and the like. I had the Nokia E90, Sony Clie, HP200lx, Sony Vaio UMPC, Sharp IS01, Viliv N5…Yeah I was addicted to these things and had more PDAs, gadgets than most. But you know, each and every single one of them had a problem holding them back.
Example? The hp200lx is one of best palmtops ever made. The database program, the word processor…a lot of the best articles on this very site were written on there. It`s greatest flaw is the keyboard. If you are a heavy writer these little keys will hurt your thumb. I could go on and on about the biggest issues about each and every single one of these devices, but I would surely lose the non geeks reading this.
Simply said, after a while, I simply gave up trying to get the perfect device for productivity. Then the Planet Computers Gemini was announced on Indigogo. I never backed anything in my life, but the fact that these were ex-Psion employees, makers of the venerable Psion 5mx computer, I couldn`t shove my money quick enough down their throats.
And now, after having it and using it for a few months, here`s my Planet Computers Gemini PDA review from a photographer's perspective.
Before getting into the review proper, I need to say something about backer expectation. Story time. Picture this: It's my very first day of school. I don't know, I was 5 I guess. Nobody told me anything, prepared me for anything. All I know is, I left home and I was in a classroom full of strangers and kids. It was weird, but still ok.
Then I saw my dad leaving me behind, closed the door and I panicked. I screamed my lungs out. The poor ol' teacher was trying her best to call me down. I was yelling and crying even more. Then all of a sudden she yelled her lungs out too.
Why? Because I bit her as hard as I could, that's why. I remember her screaming and looking at my work (dental marks) on her skin.
I eventually calmed down. But compare my experience to another kid I've read about. A week before school, his dad took him around, told him how fun it was going to be, how great it will be making new friends, etc. Let me tell ya, that kid had a better first day of school than I did.
Thanks for the story. Now, what's this all about? Expectations. Here's my point: A lot of harsh criticisms about this device I think are unfair, simple reason because backers had the wrong expectations. If you are looking into this device, keep this in mind when reading the reviews of backers. My expectations were pretty much absent. I just wanted something that had a keyboard. Let's get to the review proper:
The Gemini is a beauty. Probably one of the sexiest gadgets I have ever owned, it is unbelievably stylish. Everything about it screams quality, even when it closes it has a certain sound to it that feels premium. It looks and feels great so it's perfect pull out in a business meeting or to poke fun at those lwho are lugging around a laptop at Starbucks. Just kidding.
The design of the device is stylish, however there is an odd design choice in the back. When you open the device, it pops out of the case, and when you close it takes the form the case. It`s insanely cool…until you trap your flesh in it. I did that twice and this thing hurts like hell. Your finger has to be at a certain angle to actually be trapped in it but it's painful enough to tell you to be careful.
The only negative thing I have against the externals Gemini is simply that it is too hard to open. It requires two hands near the opening to open it, and sometimes I just slide my fingernail in to open it around the corner. Like everything in life, this simple annoyance becomes part of the background and you don`t think about much after a while. The other potential annoyance is, you need a cover removal tool in order to access the sd card and sim card. I've tried to do with with my fingernails but I can't open the back. Since those are rarely accessed it shouldn't be a problem, but it might be for you.
Remember that part I wrote about expectations? As I was waiting for my device, I was getting worried because everyone was saying how the keyboard was worse than the Psion 5mx and how it was terrible. I don't know why they had such expectation, it`s a great keyboard. It does what it does.
Lots of discussions about the Gemini remind me of discussions about cameras and how one has slighly larger megapixels than another…stuff that don't matter in the grand scheme of things. I don`t use it as a normal computer keyboard with the device on a table and two hands typing. I thumb type with it. I used to do it on my Blackberry Passport but now it is mostly done on the Gemini.
Now we are getting serious for photographers. The screen is amazing. It is large and has a high pixel density. Everything is sharp, colorful and spacious. The only caveat here is the resolution. The screen is large but because the default resolution is small, the apps appear large. The trick is to set a higher resolution, and apps like LIghtroom borderline looks like their desktop part. Here is an illustration of what I mean. On the left is a resolution of 300 and on the right is 600:
This is important. The device at 600 resolution is a different device at 300 resolution. Just look at the screen real estate for Gmail, you can barely see a few lines at 300, while at 600 you have almost a paragraph of text. For Lightroom, you can see how much more pleasurable the experience is. At 300 the top menu is over the image, and the right menu hides part of the image.
At 600, the full image is untouched, the whole right menu extends beautifully and nothing is touching the image. You can set your device to 600 resolution in the developer options. (Go to settings>About phone> and click about 7 times on build number. In the new developer settings scroll to find resolution and set it at 600)
The only caveat with the 600 resolution is, when you try to open a document or something else, it will crash, so you need to go back to 300 to open the document and then revert back. Or you could root the Gemini to have a permanent resolution. Haven't tried that and wouldn't know how to root it.
I believed I would have an issue with the rounded corners (it makes the reading of the photograph different as I show in One Word Composition) but truth is, I rarely look at photos fullscreen so that`s not a problem. The only issue I have with the screen is the lack of a pointing device. I`d love to have a little optical mouse like in the Viliv N5, where it`s just a little bump that you slide your finger over.
Why? Because It`s one thing to have a touchscreen on a slab type device, but it`s a different experience touching a screen palmtop format.
Using it for photography
Long story short, this is by far the best device I have ever used. I like it so much, I want another one I have a ring behind the cover so that it is always safe when I hold it.
This device is the ultimate photographer companion, not only because it is great, but also because of the current tech we have today. Let me explain. A few years back, I had an Epson p5000. It was a different time. A 4gb sd card was a lot but filled up quickly, so I needed a device to dump all of my images in.
The epson 5000 had a beautiful screen with a huge-for-the-time 40gb drive. I couldn`t help but dream…man, if only I could edit my images on there!
Fast forward to today, not only you have micro sd cards that dwarf 40gb, but you also have access to extremely powerful desktop class apps like Lightroom.
Just imagine traveling, shooting for the day and while coming back home you simply dump your card on the device itself (wifi in cameras are comon these days, in any case there is a usb c port for a card reader or you can always get a wifi sd card) and you can edit right in there as you would on a computer.
The device is great, but coupled with cheap storage and powerful photography apps, you have the photographer's best friend. Just look at this screenshot:
Even if you need some extra space, you can simply add an external device with the other usb c. You could potentially leave the laptop behind for days because this device eliminates the need for a portable drive and a laptop for editing while on the go.
Even more, it is particularly well designed to publish those images. For example, every image I shoot for my personal Instagram (@fstopeight) account has a border around them. Right after I export from Lightroom, I fire photoshop touch and I add the image under a layer with the border. I then simply hit publish.
The gemini is equipped with a decacore processor, and coupled with a long aspect ration, you might forget that you are not on your desktop. Sometimes I go in Lightroom and start editing, and because editing the RAW files are so snappy, and the interface is pretty much the same as on the computer (Lightroom CC) I completely forget that I am on my mobile device.
And of course, you have snappy keyboard, so all of your posting and writing duties can be done there for those of you who have a blog. I'm almost done writing my 3 street photography books and I've written mostly on the device itself.
The Gemini PDA is the best device I have ever owned, period. The screen, the powerful processor, and capacity to have a large micro SD card make this a great companion for street photographers. Once you have a way to dump your images on the device either trough wifi or a usb c dongle, you pretty much have yourself the full blown Lightroom experience right in your pocket.
The compination of powerful hardware, and the fact that Adobe gave us the full Lightroom means you can really edit anywhere at any time without the laptop. It's really THE mobile editing solution that everyone was hoping for in the Epson photo viewer days. I understand that some backers were disapointed, but this is all I ever wanted from a device. If it breaks I`ll get another one.
You can get yours here direct from Planet Computers
Get a phone ring here
I used a netdotcable for charging
Gamer stickers here (warning: they scratch off)
I use a Sandisk micro sd cards
USB C card reader for SD cards
For wireless downloads used a wifi sd card)