A few days ago I packed up and flew out for my much needed vacation in Maui. It’s only a six to eight hour flight from San Diego, but offers well-deserved relaxation, good food and incredible weather. The water is also incredibly warm and clear which is perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. Even though I’m on vacation, I still love my gadgets as much as the next person and had to pick which gear I would bring along on my trip.

I get quite a bit of stuff to review or test as an editor for AndroidGuys. While every individual writer here at AndroidGuys has their own preferences, I have my own as well. Of all of the products I could pick from, which is quite a bit, I’m here to tell you which items made the trip and why.

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Smartphone

The first choice might surprise you as I write for an Android website – I brought along the iPhone 7 Plus as my phone of choice. However, my Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was banned from airplanes so I couldn’t fly with it even if I don’t believe it’s a real explosion risk. Statistics aren’t on the side of the Note 7 being as dangerous as the media makes it out to be, and I believe Samsung pulled it off the shelves to stop the negative press it was getting. It was becoming a household name to people who know nothing about smartphones and Samsung simply needed to put out the fire (no pun intended) before it completely ruined its brand and reputation.

I brought along the iPhone 7 Plus to test out just how good the dual camera is, and I have to admit, it’s a damn good camera.

Taken with the iPhone 7 Plus.
Taken with the iPhone 7 Plus.

I’ve got the Pixel and Pixel XL waiting at home for me in San Diego, and can’t wait to do a head to head comparison. I haven’t used iOS seriously for a long time, and even though it is boring, it is predictable and stable. That’s good for battery life as I know exactly how much I can expect to use my iPhone 7 Plus for which isn’t always the case for Androids. The IP67 water resistance rating on the iPhone 7 Plus is a good thing, especially since I am around water most of the day in Maui. It’s nice to know I don’t have to worry about my phone getting wet and it’s a features all phones need these days. I know Sony and Samsung beat Apple to the punch when it comes to water resistance, but I was hoping the Pixels would have it too.

With all of that said, the iPhone 7 Plus is over priced and it’s bulky. I have a hard time making it fit in my board shorts and can’t wait to get back to Android. The headphone jack really did not need to be removed too. I truly believe the best cameras you can get in smartphones are in the Galaxy S7 edge, Note 5 and now iPhone 7 Plus. I’ll bet the Pixels are near the top too, but I can’t add them to the mix until I get my hands on them.

Headphones

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If you’ve ever been in a German automobile or owned a Swiss Watch, you know the attention to detail is superior to everything else. The headphones I chose to bring along are the Master & Dynamic’s MW60 Wireless Over-Ear Headphones. If I had to use one word to describe the MW60s, I would say “incredible”.

The headphones can be used wirelessly through Bluetooth or wired with the included 3.5mm audio cable. No matter how you decide to use them, they sound equally as good and are the best I’ve listened to in a long time. I used to be a big time audiophile, but stopped to spare my wallet. Audiophilia is an expensive habit, and the MW60s remind me of every reason why I became an audiophile over ten years ago. If you’ve never tried premium headphones, you have no idea what you have not heard, and really need to try the the MW60s out to bring your music to life.

The Master & Dynamic’s MW60 Wireless Over-Ear Headphones are rich, warm, balanced and are extremely comfortable. I wore them for seven hours straight on my flight over, including the time I had to wait in Honolulu for my connecting flight to Maui.

Master & Dynamic pays attention to every single detail. The headphones are made with stainless steel, aluminum and the highest grade leather you can get; the kind of leather that looks better with usage.

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They’re not cheap at $549, but you get what you pay for with the MW60 headphones. If you love music and can afford it, check these out.

I don’t care what anyone else says – these are the best headphones you can get that don’t need a dedicated amplifier. Master & Dynamic is a brand you need to know.

When making a purchase of this kind, make sure to buy direct from Master & Dynamic so your warranty will be honored in full. Sometimes third party sellers resell these items which may cause headaches for you in the future if you have issues.

Camera

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It’s 100% true that the best camera is the one you have on you when the moment strikes. But no matter how good smartphone cameras are these days, nothing beats a true shooter. I’m not a camera expert, but I do know that mirrorless cameras are great options for those who truly love to capture memories to last a lifetime. The lenses and sensors are bigger allowing for much more detail and light capture. For those of you who use the zoom function on your smartphone, keep in mind that is only a software trick. Real zoom comes in the form of optical zoom, which only a handful of smartphones have.

Taken with the Sony a6000 Mirrorless camera.
Taken with the Sony a6000 Mirrorless camera.

You can also swap lenses for macro shots, wide angle or long distance images as well. Mirrorless cameras are not nearly as large as the DLSR cameras, and fit very easily in laptop bags.

I really like the Sony a6000 Mirrorless camera because it has companion apps for iOS and Android where you can connect to it wirelessly from your smartphone. Once connected, all you have to do is transfer all of your images over to your smartphone, and back them up to the cloud using Google Photos. The days of pulling out memory cards are long behind us.

The Sony a6000 isn’t cheap, but it’s an investment in memories that takes better pictures than any smartphone camera. You can get the Sony a6000 from Amazon for $698 which is $100 off the MSRP.

Taken with the Sony a6000 Mirrorless camera.
Taken with the Sony a6000 Mirrorless camera.

Chargers

I’ve brought along two chargers with me on this vacation. One is the FINsix DART which keeps my Macbook Pro 15″ going strong.

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The DART is the smallest universal laptop charger on the market and is about 75% smaller than the power brick from Apple. It also has an inline USB charging port in the cable which allows me to charge my smartphone or accessories at the same time. It’s $99, but it allows me to leave the large Apple charger at home while saving quite a bit of weight and space in my laptop backpack.

The other charger I brought is the UNITEK 3-port travel charger which is only $7.99 at Amazon with free shipping (with discount code 26FO38S4). It’s not the fanciest charger I have ever used, but it gets the job done and is very compact. I reviewed it just over a week ago and it charges my smartphone, wireless headphones, speakers, Android Wear and portable power bank.

Portable Power

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Speaking of power banks, which I have reviewed over a dozen, my favorite is the ChargeUp 10,000mAh portable battery from Cygnett ($100). I know there are options that cost much less, but the ChargeUp is super reliable, and most importantly it offers a lot of power in a compact package. It can charge two devices at the same time and uses a digital LED which lets me know exactly how much power I have remaining. I had to use it to recharge my smartphone and camera a couple of times while I was away from the hotel in the first few days of my trip.

Portable Speakers

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If you hadn’t noticed, I LOVE my music. I’m not a huge fan of what’s on TV these days and would much rather rock out to some tunes, listen to podcasts or audiobooks. While wireless speakers are completely optional for vacations for most, I can’t live without my music and bring along speakers whenever I leave the home for extended periods.

I’m spending lots of time at the beach, and I need a speaker that has great battery life with durability to keep out sand and water. It also needs to be loud and sound great too. That’s why I brought along two UE BOOM 2 wireless speakers on this trip; I listen to them in the hotel room and while I’m outdoors.

They can play at the same time which increases the loudness, and sound quality with stereo sound. If I had some friends on the island who owned UE BOOM, MEGABOOM or BOOM 2 speakers, we could throw a party by connecting over 50 of them at the same time. UE recently released the PartyUp feature a couple of weeks ago, so make sure you update your Boom apps.

The UE BOOM 2 normally sells for $200, but it is currently on sale for $153 at Amazon. While that may seem a bit pricey for most, keep in mind that UE updates its speakers regularly with software and firmware updates.

Wearable

For almost a year, the Huawei Watch was my default wearable for keeping track of notifications, streaming wireless music while I worked out, and tracking my fitness activities.

However there is a new Sheriff in town and it’s the Nixon Mission Android Wear smartwatch. Many of you already know Nixon for making high fashion and surfing watches, but it recently released its first smartwatch and it hit a grand slam on the first attempt.

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The Mission doesn’t pretend to be water resistant like other sport watches. Instead it’s truly waterproof up to 100M. I wear it will full confidence at the beach in Maui while I surf and snorkel. I even plan on taking it scuba diving with me on Sunday. So while you might wonder if you can shower with your FitBit or other wearable, the answer is hell yes with the Mission.

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It’s big at 48mm, but after about twenty minutes I don’t even remember it’s there. Nixon has been making comfortable watches for a long time, and the Mission is no different.

It looks great in black with a graphite metal crown. The Mission doesn’t come cheap at $450 at Nixon, but you can customize the color of the crown, watchband and even get it etched with a custom design. I get about a day and a half of usage before it needs a recharge, and it doesn’t need more than an hour to get it back to 100%.

The Mission uses the all new Snapdragon 2100 processor, and so far it has proved to be buttery smooth and quicker than any other Android Wear I’ve used. If Nixon’s Mission is the future of Android Wear, I am extremely excited to see what’s to come from other manufacturers that aren’t named Samsung, ASUS, Huawei and Sony. So far this watch kicks ass, and I am excited to strap it onto my wrist everyday.

Oh yeah, I also ordered mine at Amazon for $400 which is $50 cheaper than Nixon.

Earbuds

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Every morning I am up by 5am to get my morning workout in before I head out for the day. Using my M&D over ear headphones isn’t an option in the gym, so I turn to my Focal Sphear headphones that sound fantastic. After about 50 hours of burn in time, there aren’t many earbuds that offer so much sound for the value. They’re have a huge soundstage, are very comfortable, and are rich and detailed.

I’ve never gotten around to finishing up my full review of these, but I choose the Sphears over all other earbuds to date. I hate having to use the lightning adapter with my iPhone 7 Plus, but these simply wow me every time I put them on. You can get the Focal Spear earbuds for $128.99 at Amazon with free Prime Shipping included. You can also learn more about the details at www.focal.com.

How I carry all of this gear

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STM opened up a whole new world of portability with its Drifter Energy 15″ Laptop Backpack. What first attracted me to this backpack was the internal power bank in the main pocket which can charge any of my mobile devices. However what truly sold me on using this backpack for all of my precious gear is its incredible build. There’s a wide range of pockets – I use them for my camera, extra lens and flash, chargers, headphones, tablet, 15″ Macbook Pro, UE Boom 2 speakers, Cygnett power bank, snacks and extra clothing.

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You’d think all of this gear would make this backpack huge, but it barely expands at all. The pockets and seams are right sized, with extra soft padding that protects my very expensive laptop and camera from damage.

I know this backpack is pricey at $240, but it’s worth every dollar. I even used the rain cover in the bottom of the bag to protect all of my gear from the tropical storms in Maui.

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The best feature is the comfort of the Energy Drifter. Many backpacks get uncomfortable with this much weight, but the 3D padding and perfectly designed straps make this a breeze to carry.

Of all of the items I own, these are the select items that made the journey to Maui. These items aren’t cheap but the quality and features set them apart from everything else.

It’s time I sit and relax with a Mai Tai. Aloha from Maui.

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