The Gear of ZDNet Series: Featuring Christopher Dawson

The first installment of the Gear of ZDNet series highlights the mobile gear used by Christopher Dawson of ZDNet Googling Google and Education fame. Christopher has almost as many tablets as I do.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor on

I spend a lot of pixels on ZDNet Mobile News explaining what mobile gear I use and why it works for me. My goal is to give not just reviews of the latest gadgetry but to detail what sets them apart or sets them back, to give you a feel for how they might fit your needs. ZDNet has a lot of very smart folks blogging about different technology sectors, and since multiple views are valuable I present the first in the series: The Gear of ZDNet. This series will take a look at the mobile gear in use by the ZDNet bloggers, along with how each uses the technology to get things done.

Today I highlight Christopher Dawson, one of the bloggers with ZDNet Googling Google and ZDNet Education. When Christopher is not chasing down the happenings at Google and helping make our kids smarter, he is an educator, freelance writer, and he heads up the U. S. business development for WizIQ, a virtual classroom and e-learning SaaS provider. He is a kindred soul as he is also a consummate gadget junkie who justifies his habit as "research." Like me, gadgets aren't toys, they are tools.

JK: Christopher, what is your current smartphone and why? How do you use it daily, and how is it working out for you?

The Motorola Droid RAZR. I use it almost constantly for business and personal communications via email, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as heavy web surfing, tethering as a mobile hotspot, e-reading, and casual gaming. It's by far the best phone I've ever used. The screen size makes heavy use easy on the eyes and system responsiveness is very good. It's actually a bit large for me - my hands are pretty small, but screen size, light weight, and durability more than compensate.

JK: Is there a phone you are jonesing for?

The RAZR was it and it's definitely lived up to expectations. The battery life is even fairly good. Not to say I'm not looking forward to the new quad core phones around the corner, but this will at least keep me happy for a year (which is a long time for me). Give me Android 4.0 and I'll be even happier.

See also: Motorola Droid RAZR: Not quite thin enough to cut metal (review)

JK: Do you have a tablet? Which one and why? How do you like it? Does it fit in your work/lifestyle well?

I have four tablets (yes, 4, and yes, I really do need them for testing and "research"): The Kindle Fire, an iPad 2, a Motorola Xoom, and a Dell Streak. The latter two are very much for testing purposes for the day job looking at performance and usability on two different-sized screens. The iPad is also a test device, but tends to be my go-to tablet when I want to share content with someone (e.g., as my wife and I have been looking at houses, that's our realtor.com-sit-up-in-bed-and-browse-together device.

The Kindle Fire, however, is the device that goes in my bag all the time. The Amazon ecosystem is solid, there is plenty of easy-to-access entertainment, and it's big enough to be quite usable for many purposes without being unwieldy like the iPad can be. I thought I wouldn't use it much with the Razr, but I actually use it very frequently. It's also the one the kids tend to grab and my 2-year old daughter tends to have a tough time accidentally stopping movies or jumping out of her drawing apps because of accidental screen touches, so it's an obvious choice for long car rides, shopping trips, etc.

See also: Kindle Fire: Non-techie perspective; Typical day in the life of the iPad 2; Review: Motorola XOOM, brimming with unrealized potential

JK: Wow, I thought I was crazy owning five tablets but your four tablets is catching up to me. I also think the Kindle Fire is a great tablet for $200, but I am surprised it is already your go-to tablet. Is there another tablet you have your eyes on?

I just finished testing Adobe's new Creative Suite touch apps on a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 which I liked a lot. It was thin, light, and fast. However, if I had to downgrade to just one tablet, it would be the Fire, without a doubt.

JK: How has mobile technology impacted your work/life?

I tend to work all the time -- I have too much going on not to. Mobile tech absolutely enables that, particularly with most of my colleagues at the day job in India. Since our regular work schedules don't always sync up, the ability to be accessible and productive anytime, anywhere is vital. That being said, my ability to be productive anytime, anywhere means that if I want to go Christmas shopping during the day with my wife or go on a field trip with one of my kids, it's rarely an issue. As most of us know, mobile technology is a constant tether to work, but it is also pretty liberating. I certainly couldn't go back to a 9-5 office job!

JK: How does the mobile gear you are using play a significant role in your work?

It's my lifeline. I can write, engage, correspond, or work at will. I have a laptop and a desktop that I use very heavily, but it's rare that my phone and Kindle Fire aren't with me. I can pretty easily leave my laptop behind when I choose and still work very well.

JK: What mobile accessory do you recommend to readers?

I have to recommend two - they're both totally different and are both pretty necessary: The Motorola S10HD stereo headset has become really valuable for me since the voice quality on my phone, whether via Skype or cellular, is generally better than most land lines. Since I use my phone to give webinars regularly, I'd much rather use them than keep a phone (land, mobile, or otherwise) pressed against my ear while I try to drive online presentations. The voice quality is also outstanding and I can use them for Skype with any Bluetooth tablet or laptop.

The second is any Tuff-Luv case or cover. I have one for my MacBook Air (faux leather), my iPad, the Xoom, and one is on the way for the Fire. They sent me a couple test units and I've actually bought more for myself. They're very rugged, feel nice, and look great. They aren't cheap, but there are a lot more expensive cases/covers out there.

JK: Christopher, thanks for sharing your mobile gear with the Mobile News audience. Your gadgetry is top-notch which is no doubt why it works so well for you. I am surprised how quickly the Kindle Fire has fit into your routine, which speaks volumes about how good a job Amazon has done with it.

This wraps up the first installment of the Gear of ZDNet. Be sure and check out Christopher's great work on the ZDNet Googling Google (I love that name) and ZDNet Education blogs.

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