The Gnarbox was the most popular new product at this year's Photo Plus Expo. It's a waterproof external hard drive with card slots, USB jacks, and Wi-Fi. This tiny box allows you to backup and edit your photos and videos from your smartphone without the need for a laptop. But who would want to do that?
What Is It?
External hard drives with Wi-Fi have been available for years but the Gnarbox takes things to another level. It has an SD and Micro SD card slot and two USB jacks. In theory, you could backup data from four different devices at once. It puts all of this into a compact, waterproof package that could easily fit in a bag or pocket. To make it work, you'll need to use a smartphone and their proprietary app connected via Wi-Fi.
Is It Rugged?
Yes. We kicked it down a cobblestone road multiple times and submerged it in water. No laptop could survive this type of abuse.
How Easy Is It to Back Up Your Files?
Backing up your data is relatively easy to do but the app doesn't currently show you a progress bar while it's working. It's frustrating not knowing how fast everything is transferring, and how much longer you have to wait. I personally would not trust this as my only backup solution on the road but I would certainly use it as an additional backup.
Can You Edit Photos With It?
Yes, you can edit raw files with both the native Gnarbox app, or you can import the files into Lightroom Mobile and edit them there. It works, but if you quickly need to edit a couple of images it seems easier to download them directly from the camera (as most new cameras have Wi-Fi) rather than going through the Gnarbox. If you need to edit a lot of images, I would personally reach for a laptop.
What About Editing Videos?
As you can imagine, videos are even harder to edit on a phone than photos. Again, you can use the native Gnarbox app or import the videos into another app like iMovie. As you can see in our review video, it is technically possible to edit videos on a phone but it isn't a pleasant experience and the Gnarbox app, in particular, is missing key features that we rely on with every normal edit we do. Gnarbox claims that you will soon be able to import edits made via the app into Premiere. For some people, this will be fantastic because you will be able to do a rough edit on the road with the Gnarbox and then finish it once you get to a computer.
Why Would Anyone Want to Use This?
I personally hate editing photos and videos even on a laptop. I find the screen to be too small and the trackpad way too slow. I want dual monitors and a five button mouse. The idea of spending any serious amount of time editing professional work on a cell phone is not appealing to me but obviously, I'm not the target market. Most photographers I know these days don't even own a desktop computer and many vloggers are creating videos every single day from a 13-inch laptop. These people just might love keeping the Gnarbox in their pocket while they edit their files on a phone.
Can You Recommend It?
Even though the Gnarbox isn't for me, I can admit that it's an exciting and well-made product. Luckily, it's such a specialized device that after watching our review video, you probably instantly know if you will love it or hate it. So the bottom line is if you think you will like it, you probably will and you should buy it. But, if you're like Patrick and me, old, and stuck in your ways, the Gnarbox will probably not convince you to leave your laptop at home and replace it with your smartphone.