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.

For those of you who think all we do in IRL is wax nostalgic about gadgets we've owned for years, you'd be... mostly right. Indeed, this week we've got Mr. Ben Drawbaugh talking up the HDTV he owns (as opposed to the one he wants), and James is here to break down the limitations of his discontinued Tonium Pacemaker. We've got one happy new gadget owner, though, and that would be Zach Honig, who recently traded his iPhone 4 for a Samsung Galaxy Note. So how's that S-Pen working out for him? Head past the break to find out.

60-inch Pioneer Kuro
Up until I bought my Pioneer Kuro in 2007, it was hard for me to make it each year without buying a new HDTV -- I mean, it's been increasingly difficult to ignore the latest smart TVs with 3D panels, super thin bezels, low power consumption and larger screens. But every night when I come home (and find time to watch it) I'm amazed by the deep blacks that have made the Kuro so sought after -- Kuro does mean "black" in Japanese, after all.

Even besides the great picture quality, my PDP-6010FD has served me well. Sure, I never use more than one HDMI input (thanks to my AVR), nor the HDMI-CEC, CableCARD slot or even the included remote. But as a monitor for my Blu-ray player and HTPC, it hasn't missed a beat in four years. It hasn't been perfect, though. For starters, the power supply does have a slight buzz that's only audible during rare quiet moments in my house. And the whites have always been a bit dingy. All that said, I still look forward to replacing it one day with something bigger and better. For now, though, there isn't another TV in the world that I'd rather have -- well, besides the 103-inch Panasonic that I can't afford.
-- Ben Drawbaugh

Tonium Pacemaker

If you're into DJi'ng and gadgets, it won't be long before you discover the Tonium Pacemaker. It'd be crude to call this thing an iPod for DJs, but I suppose that's kind of what it is. Sorta. It sets itself a relatively simple task -- cram the functionality of two decks, a mixer and a hard drive into the palm of your hand. Suffice to say, it does this job well, but not without a few twists along the way. The original Pacemaker packed a 120GB hard drive, but mine is the cheaper second-generation with "only" 60GB on board (that's plenty for me, anyway). Cleverly, it's about the size of a first-generation PSP, so all the cases for Sony's handheld happen to fit the Pacemaker.

All told, it packs a surprising amount of functionality into such a small space. Then again, I've used full-blown DJ consoles with fewer features, that manage to do those few things better. The Tonium's pitch / speed control is forever going out of time, and needs constant readjusting to bring tracks back into the mix (great practice!). The EQ controls make swapping the bass on track A for that of track B pretty clumsy. To be fair, it has a feature to appease this, but it's not the same, and using it can be fiddly at best. Despite all of this, despite the mediocre battery life, it's still a joy to behold -- as long as you don't take it too seriously. I almost never use mine to mix out loud, beyond the privacy of my headphones. It's just a luxurious toy, and since Tonium doesn't make them any more, it's one that many will never get to enjoy.
-- James Trew

Samsung Galaxy Note

Yes, I realize it's the size of a small book, and no, it doesn't have Ice Cream Sandwich, but man am I in love. The Samsung Galaxy Note is one of the few pieces of technology I've bought in the past year or so -- besides my laptop, of course -- but I don't feel a bit of buyer's remorse. I purchased my Note at Carphone Warehouse for roughly $900 (after VAT refund) during a recent trip to the UK, popped a $25 SIM inside and had a total blast using it around London for a week. When it was time to come back home to the States, my AT&T SIM worked just fine on HSPA+, after some minor (and well-documented) APN tweaks in the settings menu.

The Note is certainly not for everyone, if only because of its massive screen, but I've found the size tradeoff to be quite worthwhile. It still fits in my hand and pocket, and the benefits of having such a large touchscreen at all times are plentiful. Naturally, the 5.3-inch, 1280 x 800 display is gorgeous for web browsing, but you can also use that extra real estate to add more icons to the home screen, watch videos with friends, and -- perhaps most notable of all -- take advantage of an enormous onscreen keyboard, both in portrait and landscape modes. I typically use Swype, which often works just as well on smaller handsets, but if you need to type out individual letters, having larger keys is an enormous help.

If I have any complaints regarding the Note, it's about that S-Pen -- Samsung's more-than-a-stylus instrument has a tiny button near the tip, but it's incredibly difficult to press. You need to use it to bring up the quick memo mode or to take a screenshot, and I find myself searching every time. Still, you don't have to use the S-Pen at all, though I do find it quite useful when I need to sign documents, make a quick note or type while wearing gloves. Beyond that, the experience is top-notch. The 2,500mAh battery lasts the entire day (and then some), the camera is decent enough for casual use and the phone is unlocked, so I can use it almost anywhere in the world while paying local rates. The Note is part of my life now, and I can't imagine being this happy with anything else.
-- Zach Honig

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IRL: Pioneer Kuro PDP-6010FD, Tonium Pacemaker and the Samsung Galaxy Note