My initial GNARBOX review – managing HD photos & videos while adventuring, all without needing my laptop

The Problem

You shoot 4K video & RAW photos but can’t edit & share those files on the go. Phones & tablets don’t have the means to edit your hefty footage to its full potential. You need to download them to your laptop first but you don’t carry your laptop on your adventures.

By the time you’re done with your adventure you have thousands of stills and hours of video to sift through.  It’s so much of a gargantuan task that you just say screw it, I’m going to the bar.  And that footage never again sees the light of day, as the saying goes.

The Solution

The GNARBOX!  Backup, organize, edit, and share your photos & videos as they happen, at their native resolution.  All on a device with the processing power of your laptop but only slightly larger than a deck of playing cards.

gnarbox

The GNARBOX next to an iPhone SE in its natural environment. All you need for RAW & HD processing.

Update 10/21/17: The developers at GNARBOX have been very busy the past few months.  They’ve made some major enhancements to both the software and firmware – all of which have increased productivity and ease of use.
I now use Lightroom Mobile to process RAW photos based on new capabilities.

GNARBOX crowdfunding background

I forget where I first heard about this project, but the Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign started in July 2015.

The project sounded like the perfect solution to my dilemma – I couldn’t edit RAW files on my phone; I needed my laptop but I don’t carry my laptop in the field. This little device would make that possible.

Travis Rice (snowboarder & filmmaker, The Art of Flight) & Dustin Walker (photographer, see his Instagram), along with many others, put this device through the wringer and helped the team refine the GNARBOX.

Shipping was delayed quite a bit; I was hoping to have it before leaving on some adventures in 2016 but it wasn’t shipped until May 2017. No worries, I’d rather have a phenomenal product late than a mediocre product on-time.

GNARBOX features at a glance

  • 5.3″ x 3.4″ x 0.8″, 10 ounces
  • Dustproof, shockproof, and waterproof to 1m
  • ~6 hours battery life with integrated 4000mAh battery
  • 128GB storage & 2GB memory
  • SD, MicroSD, USB2, & USB3 slots
  • Dual band 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi
  • Intel QuadCore 1.92GHZ CPU & 4 Core Intel HD Graphics GPU
  • Supported file types: MP4, MOV, AVI, RAW, CR2, ARW, NEF, RAF, ORF, JPG, PNG
  • Supported video resolutions: from 720p @ 240fps to 4K @ 30fps

Using GNARBOX in the field & during travel

1 – Download the app

The GNARBOX app is available for both iOS and Android devices, including tablets.

2 – Connect the GNARBOX

Power it up and connect your phone or tablet to the GNARBOX WiFi access point.

3 – Load your photos

Insert your SD and/or MicroSD cards into the corresponding slots, or connect your devices via a USB cable to the GNARBOX.

4 – Organize & backup as desired

Sort files based on type, preview, and mark your favorite files for backup.  Copy those files to the GNARBOX’s 128GB hard drive to have both as a backup, and to edit.

5 – Edit your photos & videos

Photo editing controls are very similar to what you’d see in the Basic menu of Adobe Lightroom…Exposure, Contrast, Temp/Tint, Highlights, Shadows, and setting the white/mid/black points for individual RGB values.  There’s also Intensity, Saturation, and Punch controls that have different effects for making the image pop. Update: I’ve changed my workflow to directly edit RAW photos in Lightroom Mobile.  The GNARBOX app can now directly export RAW photos to Lightroom Mobile.  Yes, all on your mobile device.

Video editing has most of the same image controls, with the ability to grab individual frames.  Swiping actions make it quick & easy to trim your clips and add them to your highlight reel.  Once you’ve added all the clips you want to your highlight reel, you can rearrange the clips and remove the ones you don’t want.  If you want to add a soundtrack, you can do that here and also add a “hit point” – tell the GNARBOX where in your reel you want the music to climax, and it’ll sync the track for you.

6 – Export to your destination

You can export photos as 4K JPGs (if shot at that resolution or higher).  Normal video clips will be exported in their native resolution, but you can choose the resolution for exporting the highlight reel, from 720p to 4k.  Export to either the GNARBOX or directly to your phone.

Then share to your social media channels, connectivity permitting!

7 – Backup everything again all at once

When you get back to your laptop you can transfer all your files directly to another drive without having to fiddle with all your different devices & memory cards.

First videos with the GNARBOX

Reviewing the GNARBOX – first impressions

The GNARBOX is awesome.  In short, I have no regrets in backing this project.  Is there room for improvement?  Absolutely.

But it solves one of my biggest dilemmas, and that’s not being able to edit any high-res photos or videos without my laptop.  The interface is intuitive and the controls easy to understand.  It’s simple and gets the job done.  No unnecessary bells & whistles; you won’t get lost in menu hell.

Support has also been great.  I’ve contacted them a few times about some minor bugs I’ve found and some suggestions for improvements, and they’ve always responded promptly and with open ears.

Some things to note:

  • Be patient when powering up.  The WiFi access point takes a short minute to fire up.
  • File indexing can take a while if you have a ton of content on your device that hasn’t seen the GNARBOX yet.  You can still copy & edit those files that have been indexed before it’s all complete.  One of the latest updates has fixed this problem.
  • There is no “auto” functionality for editing exposure, white balance, etc. as is often found in other image editing software, but that’s coming.  I now export RAW photos directly to Lightroom Mobile and prefer this workflow.
  • There is also no histogram at this time, if you’re one of those who relies heavily on a histogram.  That too is a feature they said they’re adding.
  • I haven’t tested the GNARBOX in extreme temperatures yet.  The manual didn’t list any operating temperatures but I’m sure it’s in the standard consumer electronics range of 0F to 100F, plus or minus.
  • On that note, this thing can get hot like most electronics so be careful after it’s been on for a while, and keep it out of the sun.
  • The advertised battery life is accurate, but five hours can go faster than you realize.  Carry a portable power source like the Anker 20100mAh external battery for long trips.
  • I can’t seem to mount it to my MacBook Air.  I don’t know if that’s a bug or not.  But I store all my files on an external drive anyways, and I can connect the primary drive to the GNARBOX and directly transfer the files where they need to go.  My fault – the you need to connect your mobile device to the GNARBOX first and change the settings to “Mass Storage Device” before connecting to a computer.

But yeah, really, those are my only complaints.  Trivial stuff, right?

One thing I’d really love to see in the future is some of the capability of GoPro’s video editing apps – like the ability to pan & zoom video, add subtitles, fading, etc.  GoPro apps offer these functions but the maximum resolution is 1080p.  GNARBOX did say they’d be adding slo-mo functions soon.

gnarboxGet your own GNARBOX now

I hope this GNARBOX review helped you decide if it’s right for you.  I’m loving it so far and have a feeling it’ll open up a whole new world of possibilities for me, much like buying a drone did.

Ready to purchase?  Get it on Amazon:  

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