(Editor’s note: Photofocus welcomes back our founder Scott Bourne. Scott will be contributing articles and reviews periodically. We are very happy to have him return to the site. His thoughts and insights have been missed. Have you missed Scott? Please leave a comment.)
What is a “Gnarbox?”
Gnarbox is a tiny combination of a hard drive and a computer that is packed in a shockproof and waterproof case. You can store and edit your videos and images on the go using your mobile device as a wireless screen. No computer is necessary.
It’s about the size of an iPhone Plus, only a little thicker. It would fit in many pants pockets and most suit coat pockets, not to mention purses and camera bags.
For those who rely more exclusively on mobile devices, this may be all the system you need in the field.
It works with SD and Micro SD memory cards and has a USB 2/3 Interface as well as a wireless interface (Those of you using USB-C read the advisory below.)
- Plug in your camera’s card
With SD, microSD, and USB3.0 you can back up any of your cards to the GNARBOX or a connected HDD or SSD.
- Connect to the GNARBOX WiFi
GNARBOX uses a 2.4ghz 802.11n wireless signal to give you powerful streaming up to 40 feet away.
- Open the App With free apps in both the Google Play and App Store you can download new updates, add new features and find all of the tools you need to backup, edit and share your content.
You can do lots of stuff with this little gem, but for me personally, its greatest utility is as a field backup device. It works like most disk drives only it’s ultra sturdy. I would recommend it for that reason alone. But many of you will take advantage of the unit’s more sophisticated features. Here are some basic factoids about the Gnarbox.
Cool things to do with Gnarbox
- Edit 4K videos: trim crop, color correction, sound
- Edit images, even RAW files
- Back up your files
- Connect SD cards, Micro SD, USB3 Type A, USB3 Micro B, USB2 Type A microSD and SD ports, external SSD/HDD
- Upload in full resolution directly to your social media networks, or cloud storage
- Compatible with Action Cameras, DSLRs, and Drones. GNARBOX is compatible with Android and iOS phones and tablets. It does not work with Windows-based mobile devices
- Back up 128GB of footage at up to 4GB/min to the GNARBOX, then auto-organize your footage by date and camera. Edit and share 4K videos and RAW photos from mobile phone or tablet
- Intel Quad-Core CPU and HD graphics GPU4GB per minute backup via USB3, SD, microSD
- 128GB internal flash storage or connect your external drive (A 256GB version is available and costs $100 more.)
- It features a 4000mAh battery that enables up to six hours on a single charge. I averaged about four to five hours in my tests. That’s more than enough to do most jobs.
- The device is water resistant when the doors are closed and it is light and compact Pairing with an iPhone works nearly perfectly – but it’s not the most intuitive experience I have ever had.
To use the Gnarbox as a standalone disk drive that you connect to your computer with a cable, you need to enable “Mass USB Storage” mode in the settings on your mobile device, which in turn allows the computer to read the drive. It’s inconvenient to have to go to a mobile device and set this up via an app. I am not sure why there can’t be a simple physical switch to achieve the same goal and this is one thing I don’t like about the Gnarbox.
But once you have it connected to your computer, it works as expected. You can import / export data as you would using any connected hard drive.
The Gnarbox has one basic function – to back up files without a computer. Its secondary function is to allow you to edit those files. With a rugged design and a simple user interface, it is great for backing up photo and video files in the field or while traveling. While the 128GB of storage will last most users through a weekend, we definitely appreciate the ability to connect external hard drives for additional space. The battery life will be limiting to editors but it is rechargeable in the field.
I tested the Gnarbox with two different iPhones and two different laptops. If you are using USB-C connections, you’ll need a dongle. The dongle sold by Apple to mate with the MacBookPro doesn’t support the Gnarbox. I contacted their customer support and found out they recommend this one: HooToo USB C Adapter 3.1.
The need to switch via a cell phone app (iPhone and Android are supported – remember – no Windows phones) if you want to use this as a standard hard drive is annoying. I also think that the connection between the phone and the device can be iffy if you’re somewhere with poor cell or wi-fi service.
If you want a way to store or edit video or photos, this is the best solution I’ve seen anywhere. It’s well-built, well-designed, well-conceived, and can be used for a wide variety of things from simple tough storage in the office to remote storage including even editing video in the field, as long as you have a smartphone.
The price seems fair given the quality and utility of the product. I think the 256GB version for $100 more than the one I tested is the better deal and it spreads the cost – lowering the cost per megabyte.