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IRL: Skooba Cable Stable, Kanex mySpot and the HTC One X+

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.

We've got some practical considerations on our minds this week. Sensible things, like managing a mess of cables or getting online from hotel rooms. We've found some products that serve us well on both fronts, but there's still at least one conundrum we can't quite resolve: is it better to get a cheapie One X or a slightly faster One X+? We'll hash that one out after the break -- and you can do the same in the comments.

Skooba Cable Stable

IRL Skooba Cable Stable, Kanex mySpot and the HTC One XWhy couldn't I have picked this thing up ahead of CES? There's nothing quite so frustrating as frantically attempting to untangle a pair of cords when you've got to hit a breaking new post -- or attempting to dig a MiFi out of a messenger bag crammed full of press releases. I finally caved when Billy openly mocked my cable situation after Sony's CES press conference. So I bit the bullet. The Skooba Cable Stable isn't particularly cheap, but $30 seems like a small price to pay to get a jumpstart on a New Year's resolution.

At present, I've got a laundry list of gear in there: my MiFi, a battery extender, a laptop power cord, my Gato stick, an Ethernet adapter, several pens, a handful of flash drives, a couple of SD cards, some batteries, a screen shammy, business cards, a flash for my NEX and three or four cables. I've yet to hit a convention floor with the Cable Stable, but it's certainly improved my day-to-day life so that I can actually find things in my bag -- and the whole thing zips up, so even when contents are loosed from their respective bands, they still stay inside.

The one big downside is just that: size. It's not an especially slim case, but in the end it's actually saved me a bit of space, by helping to do away with the tangled messes at the bottom of my bag.

-- Brian Heater

Kanex mySpot

IRL Skooba Cable Stable, Kanex mySpot and the HTC One X"Oh, thank heavens -- someone finally replaced the EOL'd AirPort Express." That's what soared through my synapses upon first hearing of Kanex's $49 mySpot, and those who know anything about my traveling essentials would understand just how important such a thing is to me. For years, I used the old AirPort Express to set up makeshift offices in hotel rooms far and wide. Just plug it into the wall, pop an Ethernet cable in and turn room 409 into an ample hotspot. But for reasons unbeknownst to me, Apple redesigned the AirPort Express in June of 2012, removing its usefulness as a traveling router.

Enter the mySpot. In essence, this is merely a WiFi router crammed into something barely larger than a typical USB key. You plug an Ethernet cord into one end, give it power via USB (a laptop's USB port or a USB wall charger will do), and watch as it creates a wireless network for your bevy of roaming gadgets to latch onto. The best part, however, is the size. It's markedly smaller and lighter than the old AirPort Express, and it works just as well -- even with Apple products.

In my testing, I had zero issues connecting and funneling one of those funky hotel connections -- you know, the ones that make you pay per day with some godawful login screen -- into a room full of WiFi waves. It's a little funny about how long your password has to be, but otherwise, it does exactly what I expected it to. One paid hotel Ethernet connection morphed into a signal that could be used by five-plus devices in the room. Sold.

-- Darren Murph

HTC One X+

IRL Skooba Cable Stable, Kanex mySpot and the HTC One XWhen we first tested the One X+ late last year, it was tough to compare it against the original One X solely based on hardware. The One X+ had a leg up in software by running Jelly Bean, while its ancestor was still saddled with Ice Cream Sandwich at the time. I've since had the opportunity to use both devices running Jelly Bean -- the One X+ on Telus and the One X on Rogers -- to see whether or not it's worth paying extra for the new model when the software is no longer a factor.

It will be if you care about gaming and would otherwise have to buy a Snapdragon S4-based One X, like that on AT&T or Canadian networks. The relatively new Tegra 3 chip still outruns the S4 in just about any app where 3D is involved. Beyond that, however, it's hard to quantify the gains for most tasks: apps and web pages still load ever-so-slightly faster on the One X+, but the code parity makes it rare to find any noticeable speed gains in general use. Jelly Bean irons out the (relatively few) kinks on the older phone and puts its software feature set on par (i.e., you'll still get Google Now and improved responsiveness). If overall speed is the only deciding factor, save your money by picking up the original One X. You'll pocket $129 Canadian on a contract with Telus, and a larger-still $199 US with AT&T.

If anything, the One X+ makes the most sense in every category beyond performance. I'll freely admit that my favorite change in the One X+ is its matte, soft-touch finish, which takes the One X design from slippery to grippy in one fell swoop. The 64GB of storage certainly softens some of my gripes about the lack of a microSD slot. About the only step back is a display color temperature that isn't as warm or inviting as on the original. If you can score a small-enough price difference, buy the One X+ for the design refinements -- any speed bumps are just icing on the cake.

-- Jon Fingas

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