Welcome to IRL, an ongoing feature where we talk about the gadgets, apps and toys we're using in real life and take a second look at products that already got the formal review treatment.
In this, our last edition of IRL before worldwide eat-Chinese-food-and-go-to-the-movies day, we're unpacking our gifts a few days early. Darren replaced his document scanner after his old one went to wherever it is that deceased scanners go, Joe finally settled on a gadget bag stylish enough to go with his skinny jeans and Brian's given himself the gift of a Spotify premium account. So how's it going, here in real life? Head past the break to find out.
Oakley AP backpack 3.0
What you're gazing at is currently my ideal gadget / travel bag: Oakley's AP backpack 3.0. The catch? It's not technically a "gadget bag." To put it simply, I'm a bit obsessed with fashion, so finding bags I'd actually be caught dead wearing -- and that adequately carry my gear -- is quite tricky. On one hand, many companies make awesomely functional bags that look plain terrible, while others offer insanely stylish choices but forget that it's what you can fit inside that ultimately counts. Suffice to say, I spent a lot of hours scouring the in-store and online shelves of many a retailer in search of a perfect option. Eventually, I stumbled upon the AP 3.0.
At its core, it's a giant military-styled cinch pack with tons of external pockets, along with a laptop compartment that makes the whole thing look like a backpack. And geez, have I managed to stuff this bag -- all while keeping it organized and compact enough to fit under most airline seats. On the most rigorous of trips, we're talking nearly a week's worth of clothing, a 15-inch MacBook Pro, an iPad 2, various cables and adapters, a pair of on-ear headphones, a Canon Vixia camcorder and a Nikon D5000 with a 35mm prime lens. The craziest part is that even with all that, there's usually still a fair amount of space left over.
Of course, there's one major caveat to contend with, for all the bag's good looks and spacious interior -- it has virtually little to no padding, even on the shoulder straps. Still, though, I admire how flexible the AP 3.0 has been, whether I need to pack it to the brim or just slip in my DSLR and 11-inch MacBook Air for a press event in New York City. My favorite feature is the top flap that clamps down with two hooks over a cinched cargo area, ensuring that would-be thieves don't have a quick way in. Best of all, I've beaten this bag along various transit systems, and it still looks almost as new as it did the day I walked out of the store with it.
-- Joe Pollicino
Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 Receipt Scanner
Every traveling businessperson hates 'em, but on the same token, you best not misplace 'em. Years back, I sprung for one of the "cheaper" image scanners; it was a $150 ordeal that allowed you to feed sheets in one hand at a time. It'd save the documents to an SD card in JPG format, and for my purposes, it worked well. Unfortunately, that beast died last month after assisting me for hundreds of hours, and it wasn't long before Fujitsu's ScanSnap S1300 showed up as my chosen replacement.
At $250, it's without question one of the most painful purchases of my life. $250! For a glorified receipt scanner
! This is the thing I promised myself I'd never do as a child. But actually, I've fallen head over heels for this thing in just over a week of use. For one, you can both power and
transfer information over USB; of course, you need two USB ports to make the magic happen, but it's certainly better than lugging an AC adapter around when you travel. Kudos, Fujitsu! Furthermore, it scans double-sided documents (auto-deleting blank pages to save space), ingests around 15 sheets in a row and automatically makes the text searchable in the resulting PDFs. Oh, and there's fantastic
Mac software, which is super hard to find in this category.
The only issue I've had is this: occasionally, it'll eat two or three pages from the sheet feeder instead of just one at a time, forcing me to cancel the job and start again; thankfully, it holds its place in line, so you don't actually have to redo the entire
thing. Basically, I bought a receipt scanner and ended up with an all-purpose scanner, and for cataloging important tax documents and the like, it's proven a huge asset.
-- Darren Murph
As I thought it would, Spotify has all but replaced iTunes as my go-to music player. Once it got done scanning my library, the competition was pretty much over. Between cloud-based access to my music collection and the unlimited streaming that comes with a premium account, there's simply no comparison. The real godsend here is the Swedish company's iPhone app, which has been the perfect gym companion. Some days the stair machine calls for those early Black Flag EPs and other times it's the new Wild Flag record -- never really know until you're in the moment, and thankfully, the service does a pretty good job covering it all.
It's not perfect, of course. The app goes offline at random moments, even when I've got a solid signal. Other times, songs take seemingly forever to load. I've also found some holes in the catalog, from the more obscure (no early Verlaines?) to the super popular (okay, I wasn't really expecting Led Zeppelin anyway), but those cases are decided exceptions. The offline listening feature is terrific too; it's just too bad I rarely have the foresight to know what I'm going to want to hear during a long subway ride.
-- Brian Heater