For anyone unaware, when you go to a typical LAN party one of the things you need to bring along with your PC is an ethernet cable. The length of the cable depends on where your seat is and where the switch is located but most events just recommend bringing a 25-foot cable. Any cable will get the job done but you want to be able to spot it and you want to be able to pack it up quickly when the event is over. For me I use bring orange cables for both my wife and I so they stand out at the switch and then I just use Velcro cable wraps on the cable to keep it all bundled up. This gets the job done and helps maintain my cable, but it isn’t the fastest to pack up at the end. I do have to take my time winding it up to prevent damage and to make sure next LAN I don’t have a mess. Well a while back a good friend of ours Matt who you might know better as Vector from PDXLAN introduced me to Nick aka Vaelin who has been to PDX events from the beginning. Long story short, he has designed a solution to all of this in what he calls the LanReel. It is a 25-foot network cable that can quickly be spooled back up and packed away in your LANbag. He sent one over and I’ve been playing with it for a little while now, today I wanted to talk a little more about it and show everyone what it is all about.
Product Name: LanReel
Provided by: LanReel
Written by: Wes Compton
Pictures by: Wes Compton
Where can you get one: PDXLAN Forums
Photos, Features, and Performance
So what’s the LanReel all about? Basically, Vaelin has combined a slim Cat5e network cable with a 3d printed casing to allow you to wrap the cord back up quickly and easily. What surprised me though was that this actually takes up a lot less space than expected. My 25 foot of normal cord is much larger, being able to use the slim cord helps shrink things down, not to mention the reel keeps everything a lot tighter and taking up less space. So when I compare the LanReel to my normal cable bundle, even with the addition of the plastic it is an improvement. This makes packing it away a lot easier as well.
So being 3d printed, the casing does have some in perfections when compared to an injection molded product but as far as 3d printing goes this isn’t too bad. I did notice that the LanOC logo has a touch of black in it where the previous print most likely was black. The LanOC logo impression also showed up on the other side of the LanReel, I’m not sure if the still warm part was put on top of the other part with our logo or if the build surface transferred it. But they would be considered very small and not important defects at best.
If you have never 3d printed or had a 3d printed part you might also be concerned with the lined finish inside of the LanReal logo, LanOC logo, and the grip holes, that is just the finish a printer gives when you are printing an overhang compared to the smooshed surface from printing on to the heatbed. I personally think it gives a nice contrast to better see the logos.
So to get the cord you just have to pull on the one end and it will all start to come out of the spool. Loading it back up you stick your finger up against one of the three circles on the side near the black screws and you just reel it back it like a fishing reel. You can then hook that end up to the switch on your table so you only have to pull out what you need, this prevents a big mess of wires as well.
Then for the other end of the cable, they have wrapped up a small section into the center hole. You can pull this end out and hook it up to your PC. You get about 16 inches of cord and for most cases this should be enough to reach the rear I/O while sitting the LanReel on the table, if it doesn’t you can sit the LanReel on its edge and gain a few more inches or if needed you can use this end for the switch end of the cord.
When all wrapped up the cord pulls right back into the recessed hole. I was really liking this because it protects the plug when you aren’t using it.
So for testing, I didn’t end up making it out to any LAN events but I have been playing around with a small LAN space in our basement so I did get to test it out there, hooking it up to our Project Carmine build and pulling the cord down to the switch a few tables down. This setup is a lot simpler than what I currently use in my LAN bag. Because I keep my cable wrapped up in a specific way I spend a lot of time unwinding it so it doesn’t get twisted and only unwinding the length of cable I need so setup was much quicker. Cleanup was even easier as I don’t have to worry about getting it all wrapped up perfectly as well. Then on top of that, the cord and reel take up less space in my LANbag now. Given how important space is in that bag I can’t complain about that.
Overall and Final Verdict
So the LanReel isn’t an overly complicated product so obviously, this isn’t a really long review. It is designed to a simple job and it does that job well. It's not even the first cable reel I’ve ever seen but it is a lot cheaper than what is out there and considering the ethernet cable is also included it makes it a nice setup.
I found that the LanReel was a big improvement over the network cable normally in my LANbag both in setup and cleanup time but also in the amount of space it takes up in my bag. With my old cable packing, it up would have me walking behind everyone at my table while carefully wrapping it all up. With the LanReel I can just unhook the plug at the switch then go back to my PC and reel the cable in and be done. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
As for downsides, there aren’t too many. If you aren’t experienced with 3d printed parts you might be surprised to find that there will be some imperfections, but from what I can see this is actually an easy to print design and Vaelin did a great job printing it (though I think his live z needs a small adjustment :D). So I wouldn’t consider any of that to be an issue. I think the design could be improved if the cable matched the LanReel color or if the switch end of the cable had a small tag on it. At an event, you have to be able to figure out which cable is yours when it is plugged into the switch. I use an orange cable for this, with black it blends in with most everyone elses cables. If you leave early you don’t want to unhook someone in the middle of a tournament or anything.
Beyond that, the only other issue I have with the LanReel is that I now need to get two more. One for my wife’s LANbag and one to replace the loaner cord we always bring with us. I have a feeling if I loaned out a LanReel it is going to be harder to get it back from someone after they try it out. So how much would another cost me? Well, you can currently only get them directly on the PDXLAN forums at THIS link or by reaching out to Nick on FB HERE. One will run you $25 but if you want to have your username included it costs $35. At $25 I think it is priced about right. A flat cord is going to run you about $10 online and the reel itself. Buying a 25 foot cat5e in a big box store is going to cost you nearly the entire $25, in fact, the closest Best Buy to me has two cords, a Cat-5e for $19.99 and a Cat-6 for $24.99. I would take the LanReel any day of the week over those. The $10 for customization seems fair, it does take time to make your logo or name into a vector file and then to add it to the original 3d file. But even just getting to pick from a few colors for the reel itself is enough customization for most. So if you are going to be hitting up a few events this year, I would highly suggest you check out the LanReel.
Where to buy: Etsy