Gadget indecision leads to overpacking

Shift_vs_d4While packing last night for an extended visit to California, I encountered a UMPC-related problem that I resolved in a ridiculous way. I couldn’t decide which of my UMPCs to take with me, so I ended up stuffing 11.5 pounds of gadgets (and their accessories) in my suitcase, carry-on, and purse.

Along with my Vaio TZ notebook, two of my five UMPCs will board the plane with me today to meet up with the Fujitsu U810 my husband took for his flight a few days ago. Since I’ve declared my love for the HTC Shift before and I still can’t put my Willcom D4 down, it’s not difficult to guess which UMPCs I’m talking about. If the trip was a quick weekend getaway, I would’ve been able to leave the house with just one computer, UMPC or not. But because I’ll be gone for several weeks, I had to decide which of my favorite daily-use devices to leave behind. Whoops, I mean I was supposed to decide which one(s) to leave behind.

I don’t plan to do any work outside of the hotel, so my 2.7-pound TZ should be the only PC to accompany me. For a reasonable person without a gadget addiction, this decision is a no-brainer. For me, however, it’s another story.

To rationalize my foolishness and accept my inability to travel lightly, I’ve put together a list of the mobile gear I’m taking and added a brief explanation of why each one "had" to come along.

Overpacking_tz What: Sony Vaio TZ170N notebook

Why: This is my primary computer, so being without it for weeks was never an option. I use the TZ for at least 10 hours each day at home and also relied on it as CES 2008 (it’ll be with me at CES 2009 too) so I already know that it travels well and does what I need/want it to do. Vista Business awakens and connects to the internet (via wi-fi or ExpressCard modem) in seconds, making the time between wanting to do something online and actually doing it virtually nonexistent. The TZ170N’s specs aren’t considered top of the line anymore (it’s more than a year old, after all), but I’m still pleased with it and have no urge to upgrade to a newer model.

Overpacking_shift What: HTC Shift X9500

Why: Do I really need to explain this one? I’ve already said it so many times before: the Shift is my hands-down favorite UMPC. I know it’s not perfect in a general sense (poor battery life, low resolution, expensive, A110 processor, etc.), but it’s nearly perfect for me. I love the way it looks, the accessible SIM card slot for instant HSDPA, and the Windows Mobile component. I use it every morning for Pocketables housekeeping, reading RSS feeds, and checking/writing email; my usage of the Vista UMPC in California will be the same. On the plane, the Shift will be sitting on the tray table playing movies stored on its hard drive and an SD card.

Overpacking_d4 What: Willcom D4 (Sharp WS016SH)

Why: I concluded my D4 review by calling the device one of my favorite UMPCs. The Shift, I said, was still sitting pretty at the top of my list. Today, however, nearly eight weeks after first unboxing the slide-and-tilt handheld, the D4 is now sharing the top spot with the Shift. In the same way that I can’t bear the thought of being without the Shift for the next few weeks, I refuse to head to the airport without the D4. I use the UMPC (with extended battery) daily and find the keyboard good enough for thumb typing emails, forum posts, and even Pocketables entries relatively comfortable. As with the Shift, I’m enamored with the D4’s gorgeous design and want to pick it up whenever I look at it.

Overpacking_iphone3g What: Apple iPhone 3G

Why: The iPhone 3G is my current cell phone, so traveling without it would be pure madness. I’m still not thrilled by the handset’s performance (the new 2.1 software update has improved the system’s stability, but Safari still crashes regularly) and I hate its crippled Bluetooth, but the web browsing is good and I’ve become addicted to all the games in the App Store (despite the store’s poor organization). Even though I don’t use the multimedia features at all, the iPhone 3G will be in my hand during the flight because of all the games. I’m a very casual gamer who loves playing word and puzzle games in short bursts; the iPhone excels in providing this function for me. The games I play most often are Scrabble, Trism, Lexitron, Elevens Balls, Stroll Garden, Aurora Feint, Jewel Quest II, and Tiny Freecell. I also love Koi Pond (anecdote: my dad guessed that the app was $150!).

Overpacking_fuze What: SanDisk Sansa Fuze

Why: I seem to have an aversion to reviewing SanDisk players for some reason; the Fuze is my third Sansa device and like the Clip and View, it will never be reviewed here. I really don’t know why, as the Clip and Fuze are two of the best-sounding flash DAPs around. They are highly regarded by audiophiles, so I know it’s not just my ears that are impressed. I don’t like the Fuze’s user interface and don’t use its other features (video, photo, FM radio), but the stellar sound quality, seamless microSDHC integration, and terrific battery life (about 24 hours) have made it the DAP I use most often at home and the only one I’m traveling with today.

Overpacking_ue What: Ultimate Ears super.fi 5 Pro

Why: Until I upgrade to the $400 triple.fi 10 Pro or $500 Shure SE530 earphones, my ears will only allow the super.fi 5 Pro inside them. They’re a massive improvement to my old Sennheiser CX300S IEMs (no surprise considering the price difference) and I use them with everything. The super.fi 5 Pro is equipped with two different drivers, which allows me to hear instruments and other sounds in my music that I have never heard before. The wires tangle easily and the tips get uncomfortable after a few hours, but I’ll happily tolerate them on a long flight.

Overpacking_tekkeon

What: Tekkeon MP3450 myPower ALL

Why: I gave you a quick look at this portable power station a few months ago, so I won’t beat you over the head with its triumphs. It’s a fixture in my travels because of its compact form factor and compatibility with most of my gadgets. I’m bringing just two of the eight tips that came with it because they’re all I need to charge the Vaio TZ, HTC Shift, Fujitsu U810, and the USB-chargeable devices I have in my bag and my husband already has with him. I’ll keep it connected to the Shift during the flight so I don’t have to worry about the UMPC’s battery life when I’m watching a movie.

Overpacking_cradlepoint

What: CradlePoint CTR500 Cellular Travel Router

Why: I wrote about this the other day, so I’ll just repeat that what I plan to do with this travel router is plug the ethernet cable provided by the hotel into it to blanket our room with secure wi-fi. I still haven’t figured out how to use the CTR500 with my ExpressCard modem, but I’ll deal with it after the trip. I’m nervous that I’ll forget to take the router home because I’m just going to plug it into the wall when I get to the hotel and treat it like any old wi-fi router set up anywhere.

Overpacking_expresscard What: Option GT Max 3.6 Express

Why: Since the iPhone 3G is untetherable, I’m taking my AT&T Laptop Connect card to use with the Vaio TZ (which has an ExpressCard slot) when I’m at the airport. If I could get it working properly, the card could also be inserted into the CTR500 router (above) to provide wi-fi for my other gadgets. I especially wish I could use the Willcom D4 on the go; I actually almost packed my old AT&T Tilt just to tether it. My husband is using the GoPhone SIM in my first-gen iPhone for this trip, so I only have the iPhone 3G SIM and a paperclip to work with until we get home.

Overpacking_outlets What: Monster Power Outlets to Go

Why: This mini power strip is available with more outlets, but I bought the one with just three because of how small it is. I don’t ever need to charge more than three gadgets simultaneously anyway, as nothing I use while traveling is ever in need of a recharge at the same time. The accessory is useful when there’s only a single outlet available somewhere (usually in a public place) and lets me work where I want to, not where there are several free outlets.

So that’s what’s coming with me. Wondering how this stuff could possibly add up to 11.5 pounds?

Overpacking_chargers

The chargers and power cords. They’re to blame for a third of the weight of my travel gear. The only AC adapter I’m leaving at home is the one for the HTC Shift; I’ll use the Tekkeon MP3450 battery to keep that charged. Everything else either has a proprietary connection or is just impractical to use with the MP3450 in a hotel room with ample outlets.

I used to have a mesh bag designed for holding chargers and cords, but since I can’t find it, I’m using a plastic freezer bag to keep everything together this time.

Overpacking_cased

Everything else is in a real case:

Here’s how everything looks:

Overpacking_all

The items are split up according to how I’ll use them (e.g., the chargers are in my suitcase), so my actual in-flight setup weighs about 4 pounds and looks like this:

Overpacking_plane

The HTC Shift, Tekkeon MP3450, Sansa Fuze, iPhone 3G, and Ultimate Ears super.fi 5 Pro will get me through the 5-hour flight from Hawaii to California with ease.

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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