I provide honest ratings and reviews on tech, toys, and consumer home goods that I've purchased and used. Reviews are based on hands-on testing and personal observations. All opinions and comments are my own.

Disclosure: ReviewedbyPhil is reader-supported. If you click on or buy something via an affiliate link on this site, I may earn a commission.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Jiffy Seed Starting Peat Pellets Review

Jiffy Seed Starting Peat Pellets Review

Buy it at Amazon: Jiffy Seed Starting Peat Pellets [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: These pellets also have a good saturation rate and don't leave any dry, hard "chunks" of peat in the middle after expanding.

Because peat is a sterile medium, I don't have to worry about soil diseases or fungus killing off my seedlings early on. If you live in a cold climate and need to start tomatoes or peppers indoors, these are a must have. I found that the pellets rehydrate more quickly when you soak them in hot water. If you use hot water, wait till they are cooled completely before planting any seeds in them! The fine netting on the outside is thin, which is good because you want the roots to be able to escape the net when these are transplanted in the ground or a larger pot. The 30mm size expands to 1.5" x 1.5" and are a compact 1.25" x 0.5" when dry. I planted a whole tray of 72 plugs last week and already many seedlings have emerged and are doing well under grow lights.

The case price for these pellets is very economical (about $0.07 a piece) and since they have a a long shelf life, I can use them over many years; just be sure to store in a cool, dry place!

Buy it at Amazon: Jiffy Seed Starting Peat Pellets [Affiliate Link]
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Aukey 12000mAh External Battery Charger (PB-N28) Review

Aukey 12000mAh External Battery Charger (PB-N28) Review

Buy it at Amazon: Aukey 12000mAh External Battery Charger (PB-N28) [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: The size, shape and finish means that this battery travels well in a laptop bag and can be stowed easily in the glove compartment for emergencies.

This battery pack comes in a matte black finish, weighs 8.5 oz, measures 6x2x0.5 inches, and the included microUSB cable is 13 inches long. It requires 5W/2A input for charging and outputs up to 3.4A (variable based on the device you are charging) via two standard sized USB ports (output only). There is a built-in flashlight that turns on by pressing and holding the power button. When charging, the LED indicator behind the logo will glow red and turn white when the battery pack is fully charged. To check the battery life remaining on the unit, while unplugged, press the power button and the LED indicator behind the logo will be white when the battery is between 60-100%, green when 20-60%, and red when 0-20%. The ranges here are pretty wide so there is no way to tell, when there's a white led, if the battery is fully charged or at 60%. Despite this, in general you'll only want to charge this when the battery is in the red to avoid the depleted battery "memory effect".

The battery pack had a partial charge out of the box and fully charged in a couple hours. When charging my devices it performed as well as their original chargers plugged directly into the wall. While I found this unit to be a bit heavy, it's still fairly compact and provides a lot of power before needing to be charged again.

Buy it at Amazon: Aukey 12000mAh External Battery Charger (PB-N28) [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

TaoTronics Bluetooth Sport Headset (TT-BH05) Review

TaoTronics Bluetooth Sport Headset (TT-BH05) Review

Buy it at Amazon: TaoTronics Bluetooth Sport Headset (TT-BH05) [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: These headphones are lightweight, comfortable and easy to use.

I'm just amazed at what can be packed into small form factors these days. The headphones come with a carrying case, that honestly is way too big given the tiny size of these headphones when they're wrapped up, but the extra room can be used to fit in the charging cable which is a standard microUSB. Note that this set does not include a power brick but should be compatible with most USB 5V adapters. The charging time is only 1 hour and a single charge will last 6 hours of continuous use or 120 standby hours.

These headphones deliver on all fronts. The sound is clear, they fit well, they're light and can take calls to boot. They even remembered to put a silicone dust cover over the charging port. With the limited cord length, the controls sit a bit high for my liking and it's kind of awkward reaching up and feeling around for the right buttons because you can't really see what you're doing, but they function as advertised. Just be aware that the controls only let you answer calls, start/stop and skip tracks BUT do not allow you to adjust volume. As long as you set the volume through your phone beforehand and have an equalizer for your music you should be all set.

My biggest complaint with in-ear headphones is that they hurt my ears because the plugs are too big (and fall out due to this). It's convenient that the unit is shipped with a variety of plug sizes so you can find the one that fits you best. The silicone is soft and pliable so they're comfortable even for extended wear. I'm not sold on the wings that are supposed to stabilize it in your ear, but they're there if you need them.

Buy it at Amazon: TaoTronics Bluetooth Sport Headset (TT-BH05) [Affiliate Link]
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TaoTronics Colored String Lights Review (TT-SL037)

These Colorful LED String Lights Add Magical Fun and Fancy to Almost Anything

Buy it at Amazon: TaoTronics Colored String Lights TT-SL037) [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: These lights are a low powered, but bright set of color LED lights on a thin copper wire (33 ft long).

The lights cycle through a number of colors at various speeds and patterns. It would have been nice if there was a way to control the blinking and patterns of the lights, like an "always on" mode rather than have a fixed flashing cycle. Note that these lights cannot be linked to another set of lights to extend them. The adapter cord is about 5 feet long.

The copper wire is thin but firm, around 23-25 gauge, with three strands running the entire length. Each wire is insulated with a plastic clearcoat and the adapter connection is fitted with a screw cover making this entire unit water resistant and usable outdoors. The thin wires are easy to bend and shape, and I like that they are almost invisible when strung out and the lights are on in the darkness. However, they are also easy to break if you aren't careful! As with shaping any metal that is thin and flexible, creating sharp angles and bending multiple times at the same point will cause it to weaken and break, so I would recommended re-shaping this string light as infrequently as possible. That being said I found this set of string lights to be incredibly versatile and easy to work with. I did not have any problems unwrapping the lights from the tube they were wrapped around (no tangles!).

The lights are very bright for their relative size and are almost too intense when grouped close together in a small ball, though when fully strung out, the brightness is just right for holiday decorating. The wire gets slightly warm to the touch during operation but not hot, so it's safe to wrap around your live plants. The plug adapter runs a bit hot after a while (about as hot as a laptop battery).

Overall, I thought these lights added a nice bit of fun color and movement to an otherwise dull corner of my living room. I get the impression that these lights would probably do fine outdoors as well, although high winds would likely cause twisting or breakage of the wires so I would only use them wrapped tightly around a fixed object like a post or railing.

Buy it at Amazon: TaoTronics Colored String Lights TT-SL037) [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, March 6, 2015

TaoTronics Humidifier TT-AH001 Review

TaoTronics Humidifier TT-AH001 Review

Buy it at Amazon: TaoTronics Humidifier TT-AH001 [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Adds humidity for comfort and relief from dry air.

This particular humidifier works well and has several useful features. In addition to three fan settings which output high, medium or low mist, it also has a timer so you can have it shut off after a specified amount of time. There's also a humidistat which allows you to set the humidity saturation percentage you want for the room.

The tank on this unit holds about 1 gallon of water, and how long that lasts depends on what settings you use. For example, if you set it on 95% humidity at the highest fan setting, it won't last as long as if you had put everything at its lowest settings. The power cord is just under 5 ft long and the unit is made of semi-durable plastic. The plastic is lightweight, so I don't think it'll survive a drop from a significant height onto a hard surface. The finish is a shiny white and the tank has a transparent blue strip so you can monitor the water level. There is a cleaning brush for the transducer underneath the tank.

There's a filter in this humidifier, though I'm not sure what it is made out of. The filter is cleanable (with white vinegar) and reusable which is good since I didn't see an option to order replacement filters. The nightlight isn't intensely bright, but it does provide a lot of light to the room. I also liked that the unit has shutoff protection when the unit is out of water so you don't burn it out by running it on empty (which I've done before).

When first using the unit, I noticed a pretty strong smell, kind of like chlorine/iodine; the smell was noticeable, but not bothersome, when the unit was operating. However, it dissipated over time and I no longer notice it. The instructions actually recommend airing the unit out for 30 minutes before use for this reason. The unit is quiet when it's operating and outputs a good amount of mist at full blast. On the lowest setting, you can't see the mist but you can feel it coming out the top. In the winter, the air in my home is very dry with the heat running constantly. As a result we have to deal with dry, itchy skin and using a humidifier has helped with these symptoms.

All in all I found that the humidifier works well, provides a bunch of handy features.

Buy it at Amazon: TaoTronics Humidifier TT-AH001 [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, March 5, 2015

RavPower All-in-1 FileHub Review (RP-WD03)

Get On-the-Go Mobile Power with a WiFi Router and NAS Built-in

Buy it at Amazon: RavPower All-in-1 FileHub (RP-WD03) [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Share photos and videos stored on an SD camera card wirelessly.

The device also can act as an access point to boost the wireless signal in rooms that are far away from my router. These are handy features, though I'll mostly just use this as an external battery pack to charge up my phone or tablet on the go. Everything was plug and play from directly connecting to it via WiFi, to linking it up to my network over WiFi. Accessing the device via static IP address was quick and painless. You can also connect to it to use as WiFi storage on your phone or tablet if it doesn't have a card slot to add additional memory. It's a nice travel accessory to toss in the laptop bag because it can replace several devices with just one unit that's compact and functional.

Buy it at Amazon: RavPower All-in-1 FileHub (RP-WD03) [Affiliate Link]
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