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.

IRL the iPad mini and racing the Lexus IS with Google Glass

Like every good sitcom family, we've got friendly neighbors who sometimes drop in to say hello. This week, at least, that neighbor is none other than SlashGear Editor-in-chief Vincent Nguyen, who played wingman to Darren Murph as he attempted to use Google Glass to film a first-person test drive in the 2014 Lexus IS. Also after the break, Andy Bowen makes a case for why the 4G iPad mini makes a better hotspot than a run-of-the-mill MiFi device.

Racing the 2014 Lexus IS, as captured by Glass

IRL the iPad Mini and racing the Lexus IS with Google GlassI'll confess: I have an open invitation to spend $1,500 on Google Glass due to my presence at I/O 2012. After using the set that Mr. Tim Stevens purchased, however, I decided to hold off. Recently, I had the chance to race Lexus' redesigned 2014 IS at the famed Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina, and SlashGear's own Vincent Nguyen rode shotgun in order to capture my lap via Glass. (P.S. -- His take is here.)

You see, the new IS is a beast unto itself. The acceleration, handling and overall seating comfort have been markedly improved compared to the 2013 edition (which I also drove), and the technology used to help the vehicle corner better is immediately apparent once turning into The Rock's interior road track. But aside from strapping a bunch of GoPro cameras around, how's a guy to get a video of such an event? Glass was made for situations like this. Vincent could interact with me and enjoy the turns without worrying over his job as a videographer, and the camera itself did a satisfactory job of capturing what was going on. In fact, it was probably a bit too good -- the smoothness of the capture downplays the pressure I was feeling when pressing through turns at nearly 60MPH.

2014 Lexus IS reveal at Rockingham Speedway

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Glass actually made a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that much better. It captured the essence of the moment with aplomb, and simply got out of the way. Throughout the event, Glass managed to capture moments without breaking the concentration of those around. Something tells me that consumers at large are going to embrace wearables if pricing ever sinks south of the stratosphere. I witnessed around 10 folks from all walks of life -- golfers, automotive technicians, PR professionals, waitresses, etc. -- try Glass on for size. Not a single one of them reacted with anything short of wonder, amazement and pure exuberance. Which, incidentally, is exactly how I felt mashing the pedal to the floor on a vehicle that looks devilishly good with a red interior...

-- Darren Murph

iPad mini: the ultimate hotspot

IRL the iPad Mini and racing the Lexus IS with Google GlassWhat can make the internet more awesome than it already is? A constant 4G LTE connection while traversing the real world. I tried the mobile-hotspot thing for a while with my 4S, but quickly got tired of fumbling around with cables and the like. Plus, the handset gets quite hot under that kind of use. So, after considering the options on my existing provider (AT&T), I decided to use the iPad mini as a hotspot. Did I need another tablet alongside my second-gen iPad? Of course not, but then again, who wants 3G tethering? By doing this, I've come out with much more speed and functionality -- AT&T's MiFi Liberate may have a touchscreen, but the mini almost doubles its six-hour battery life. In the end, I actually purchased my data plan via Verizon at $30 per month for 2GB. For the same price, AT&T will provide a whole gigabyte more in data, but my decision with Verizon ultimately came down to the spectrum I wanted.

The biggest problem I have with regular MiFi units is their contracts. Comparing the $459 I paid outright for the mini with the $50 price tag on the Verizon Jetpack MHS291L and MiFi Liberate seems like an easy comparison, but those low prices assume two-year contracts. For month-to-month service, you're gonna pay $229 for the Jetpack -- a small block of plastic -- which is a bit less than half the price of the mini. That's a lot to consider when you're trying to come out on the winning end of a mobile connection purchase; carriers, units, amount of data, pricing and so on. Taking into account the fact that I can toggle my iPad mini data service on and off from month to month helps me justify the extra price of the iPad. Really, it depends on the person, but for me, purchasing the iPad mini as a hotspot first and tablet second has allowed me to get the most 4G bang for my buck.

-- Andy Bowen

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IRL: the iPad mini and racing the Lexus IS with Google Glass