IRL: Nikon D90, myCharge Portable Power Bank 6000 and Phosphor's World Time Sport

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.

Desperate times call for desperate measures -- namely, new gadgets. Disappointed with his Droid Charge's ever-depleting battery capacity, Tim took a $100 portable charger for a spin to see if he could eke out a little extra runtime before racing for an outlet. Meanwhile, Dan agreed to wear his first E-Ink watch after his analog Fossil timepiece outlived all compatible wristbands. Rounding things out, we have a more traditional account of gadget nostalgia from Don Melanson, who explains why he won't be replacing his aging D90 anytime soon.

Nikon D90

Not all obsolescence cycles are created equal. In the days of one or two megapixels, digital cameras fell victim to a particularly rapid refresh schedule. In more recent years, however, digital cameras have become a considerably more stable investment, especially when it comes to DSLRs. A little over two years ago I bought a Nikon D90 (itself released in 2008), and I've yet to find a compelling enough reason to replace it.

Nikon itself has, of course, since replaced the Nikon D90 with the D7000, and by all accounts it is a noticeably better camera. In particular, it's far better with video; the D7000 does 1080p with autofocus, while the D90 is stuck with 720p and manual focus. But, video aside, the D90 hardly feels dated, or any less useful, as some other consumer electronics from 2008 now do.

Indeed, I'm still learning how to get the most out of it, and a recently-acquired 35mm prime lens has almost made it feel like a new camera. As impressive as the D7000 and other newer DSLRs are, however, I'm not sure I'd buy one if I was in the market for a new camera today. The models that most interest me these days are things like Fujifilm's X10 and X100, or Sony's NEX-7, which offer portability with far fewer trade-offs than earlier shooters did just a few years ago. Still, if video isn't a prime concern, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the D90 if you can find one at a good price -- it could easily serve you well for years to come.

- Donald Melanson

Powerbag myCharge Portable Power Bank 6000

When I was given the opportunity to test a myCharge Portable Power Bank 6000 for a little while I couldn't resist. The name was perfect, because I'd be using it to augment the increasingly poor longevity of my personal phone, a Droid Charge. When I reviewed it, as you may remember, I praised its (relatively) long battery life. So convinced, I went out and bought one for myself and it was great -- for a few weeks. As the charge cycles mounted battery life dropped off a cliff and now I struggle to get eight hours of untethered freedom. Increasingly disappointed in my Charge, I was happy to try out a myCharge

It's a 6,000mAh external battery that packs both mini- and micro-USB plugs plus an Apple dock connector and even a full-sized USB port. Sadly it can't jump-start a car, but with all those connectors it can give some juice to just about anything else under the sun. For charging it has a micro-USB input and a series of handy LED indicators on the side that blink merrily when juicing. On my Charge I managed just short of two full charges, which isn't bad. Even better, it has the requisite oomph to power up Apple's tablet, taking my depleted iPad 2 up to an 80 percent charge before itself petered out. For $100 it earns high marks for compatibility and convenience, plus the happy charge indicator lights are a nice touch, but given the thing is almost twice as thick as my phone I think I'll just stick with carrying around a spare battery or two.

-- Tim Stevens

Phosphor World Time Sport Watch

A year ago, I realized my smartphone had supplanted my watch as my primary timepiece. The analog Fossil watch with the cascading Matrix-style digits I'd worn since 2006 had exhausted the company's supply of leather cuffs, so a new wrist-borne statement timepiece was required. Serendipitously, Phosphor got in touch and asked if I wanted to try its new E-Ink watch. Once I'd overcome my snobbery toward digital watches, I gave it a go.

The World Time Sport allows you to switch between white-on-black, black-on-white and calendar modes or, best of all, one of 24 different world time regions at the swipe of a finger. This turned out to be very useful for anyone who deals with colleagues and companies based in New York, California and China. Like a Kindle and other e-readers, the display is excellent in daylight and useless in the dark. It sports a capacitive touch panel (divided into two sections) that you use to control the watch with a series of taps and swipes. Getting the hang of the arcane code (and learning not to stand with my hand over my watch) took some effort, but once mastered you can flick between settings with ease.

Its functional, black rubber strap is the very definition of utilitarianism and it's certainly not a timepiece everyone can pull off. However, like the best things in life, it's not ostentatious; it's interesting. People have asked me why my watch flashes to refresh every minute and where the buttons are, cooing as I show them how it works. It may not be the most useful device in dark rooms, but it's got storming battery life and, face it -- it's pretty cool, too.

-- Daniel Cooper