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.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Door Peephole Doorbell Camera Review

Door Peephole Doorbell Camera Review

Buy it at Amazon: Door Peephole Doorbell Camera [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: A basic low-res video camera peephole/doorbell with monitor.

The materials used for the peephole and LCD monitor are mid-grade, about what you'd expect from a low-cost unit. There's a protective film on the LCD so at first it may look hazy, but once you peel it off, the screen is clear. The manual indicates that the unit comes with 3 AAA batteries, but none were in my package, so I bought my own.

Installing this on a door with an existing peephole is straightforward; if you don't have one, you'll have to drill a hole in your door. This camera is only activated when a visitor presses the doorbell button on the unit or if you use the viewing panel on the inside; it does not have a motion detector. Keep in mind that this means that no video will be captured if your visitor uses any other existing doorbell that you may have. A five second video is ONLY captured when someone presses the doorbell button (w/o audio). While you can manually turn on the camera from the inside by pressing any of the buttons, it will be in "view only" mode and does not create a recording. You can also manually activate a 10 second audio recording from the panel (w/o video).

Setting the date and time is easy, but I found that it resets when the battery runs out and when new ones are put in. The LCD panel can store up to 2 GB of data which is a lot since each video file is only 2-3 MB and each audio file is 0.5 MB. When the memory card is full you can format it, but you cannot transfer them to your computer without opening up the viewing panel to remove the memory card. While you can review each recording using the panel, you cannot individually delete them.

This camera/monitor is simple and basic. My main concern would be that the battery will run out and without a normal glass peephole, you might lose the ability to see who is at your door. While reviewing recordings to see who stopped by is nice, you will only know who rang your "doorbell" on the unit. Folks who knock or use a different doorbell will not be recorded as there is no motion sensor. If you want a basic camera/LCD viewer and are on a budget, this unit functions as advertised. A device like this could be more useful with a few additional features, but certainly you would pay more for them.

Buy it at Amazon: Door Peephole Doorbell Camera [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, May 15, 2015

Dispho Locust Series Bluetooth Selfie Stick Review

Dispho Locust Series Bluetooth Selfie Stick Review

Buy it at Amazon: Dispho Locust Series Bluetooth Selfie Stick [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Durable, lightweight and compact selfie stick.

The materials used in this selfie stick are of good quality and it feels quite solid without being heavy. The handle is coated in a matte silicone rubber and provides a soft grip. The bracket that holds your phone has a steel skeleton and is also coated with rubber to protect your phone. It can accommodate phones with widths of 2.3" to 3.5". The arm is tightly spring-loaded and did a good job keeping my phone in place even with some vigorous shaking. I didn't detect any slipping or loosening of the phone when using it, though when walking on uneven ground, you may notice some bounce when filming video. The stick is 7" when retracted and extends up to 28". The phone mount swivels 270 degrees, so there's a good range of angles to get the shot you're looking for. I liked that when folded up, the mounting bracket collapses over the handle making it compact and less susceptible to damage. It also comes with an attached lanyard for carrying and security. You should also note that this unit is not waterproof and should not be used in the rain.

The unit charged up in under 2 hours and was straightforward to pair with my phone over bluetooth; it worked with my default camera application for both video and photos. In most cases, there was little to no delay between pushing the capture button and the phone firing, though once or twice the photo was triggered twice in quick succession. This may have happened because I was holding the button too long or inadvertently "double-clicked" it. Nevertheless, you can never have too many selfies to choose from, right? Overall, this product does what it advertises and provides a wide range of perspectives for you to take selfies from, wirelessly and with a easy to use thumb-press button.

Buy it at Amazon: Dispho Locust Series Bluetooth Selfie Stick [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tonor Professional Line-in Microphone Review

Tonor Professional Line-in Microphone Review

Buy it at Amazon: Tonor Professional Line-in Microphone [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Functions as a mic for video chat but doesn't sound amazing. Amazon Affiliate Product Link - Tonor Desktop Mic: http://geni.us/0kab Lavalier/Lapel Mic - http://geni.us/mHtWUUz

This microphone doesn't require external power and is plug-and-play using any standard Aux-in port. The body of the microphone is made of plastic with a black and chrome finish. The plastic is lightweight and inexpensive, like something from the Dollar General. While marketed to be a "professional" mic, its weight and feel is decidedly low-end, but you get what you pay for.

It sounds boxy/tinny and the ranges of high and low frequencies are clipped. While the microphone didn't perform well at a distance, it did okay picking up my voice when holding it right in front of my face. Surprisingly, it doesn't pick up a lot of background noise, but there's a noticeable humming/hissing of line noise (static from current), especially when the mic is recording dead air. The product functions as a simple microphone if your goal is to use it for video chat or personal recordings, but this microphone just doesn't fit the bill for professional applications.

Buy it at Amazon: Tonor Professional Line-in Microphone [Affiliate Link]
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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Zomei ZM430 Speedlight Review

Zomei ZM430 Speedlight Review

Buy it at Amazon: Zomei ZM430 Speedlight [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Good as a main flash or additional remote lighting, fast response/sync speed, easy to read LCD.

The speedlight includes a dome diffuser, a tabletop stand, felt drawstring carrying bag, and an instruction manual. This speedlight requires 4 AA batteries which are not included and I recommend using re-chargable Ni-MH batteries. The speedlight features a built-in wide angle diffuser plate and reflector that pulls out above the light. The flash sits at -7 degrees vertical and can be adjusted upwards up to 90 degrees and rotates 270 degrees: 90 to the left and 180 degrees to the right. On the right hand side of the unit is the battery bay. On the front, the large red plastic section is the flash sensor for slave modes. On the left hand side there's a rubber door that conceals the PC sync port. On the back face of the unit is the LCD display, on/off button, menu selection keys, flash charge key and indicator, and mode switch button. Finally, on the bottom you have the mounting foot plate and locking nut.

Turn the unit on by pressing and holding the power button. When the flash capacitor is charged and ready to fire, the indicator light will turn blue and the average reset time is about 3 seconds. The modes on this unit are Manual, Multi-Strobe, S1 which is a manual slave mode, and S2 which is a TTL or through the lens slave mode. S2 mode is useful if you're using any kind of pre-flash like red-eye reduction since the speedlight will detect and cancel the pre-flash, so it won't fire until the main flash goes off. On the display, you'll see the mode icons along the top, power regulation meter, power trimming and strobe frequency, slave mode, flash frequency and zoom focal length. If the light starts to overheat, a thermometer will pop up on the screen indicating you should let the light rest for about 15 minutes. Attaching the speedlight to your camera or mount is straightforward. Simply slip the foot plate into the hot shoe and screw down the locking nut to secure it. The bottom of the tabletop stand also has a threaded screw hole for mounting it to a tripod for use off camera.

The flash performed as expected and has a good response time and sync speed. There are plenty of options and settings for those just learning to use speedlights and professionals alike. The color temperature is on the cool side, so using gels, reflectors, and diffusers can help you blend the light better for your shot. The unit is overall easy to operate and functions well.

Buy it at Amazon: Zomei ZM430 Speedlight [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Friendly Swede Egg Shaped Hand Exercise Rehabilitation Balls Review

Friendly Swede Egg Shaped Hand Exercise Rehabilitation Balls Review

Buy it at Amazon: Friendly Swede Egg Shaped Hand Exercise Rehabilitation Balls [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Exercise and strengthen your hands; useful for injury recoveries!!

I dislocated and tore the muscle in my thumb along my palm back in January of 2015. While it took about a month or two to regain full use of my hand, ever since there's been some lingering tightness and occasional sharp pain when grasping objects or applying pressure with my fingers. Although stretching helps, to strengthen the muscles in my hand over time I needed to provide some resistance, which is where these exercise balls come in.

The egg shape of these is more ergonomic than a round ball and small enough to fit into the palm of my hand. They are about the size of medium or large eggs from the supermarket and have an "orange peel" textured feel. They are made of a thermoplastic rubber but don't have a strong rubbery odor. There are three resistances: soft (yellow), medium (red) and firm (blue). They have a dry feel to them with a fair amount of friction, though the soft one has a slight tackiness to it. It's not sticky per se, but pet hair and dust will definitely adhere to it. However, these are washable with plain water.

The soft one is quite squishy but does offer some resistance, like squeezing your typical stress ball. The medium is a bit firmer and feels like trying to squeeze a lemon. And the firm is more like trying to squeeze a tennis ball. With all of these, the harder you squeeze the more resistance you'll encounter.

Do they work? I've been using these for about a week, starting with the soft one. I can already feel the tightness in my hand is a bit less than before, so next I'll be using the medium one. My hand was probably 90% better already when I started using these, it just had a little weirdness to them when exerting force. I hope this little bit of exercise, about 5-15 minutes a day, will get me back to 100% soon. It's easy because I can just pick one of these up off my desk and go for 5 minutes without interrupting my day. As with all exercise and therapy equipment, individual results may vary, but any kind of resistance training in cases of injury will help rebuild muscle tone and strength.

There's plenty of hand strengthening tools out there and most of them probably work with varying results, so it comes down to preference and what feels right for you. I like these because the egg shape is form fitting for my hands, and I can choose the resistance I'm comfortable with. A tennis ball, for example, would be too big and too hard for me to have used earlier on in my injury.

Buy it at Amazon: Friendly Swede Egg Shaped Hand Exercise Rehabilitation Balls [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Portable Doughnut Humidifier Mist Maker Aeroponics/Fogponics (Unicorntech) Review

Portable Doughnut Humidifier Mist Maker Aeroponics/Fogponics (Unicorntech) Review

Buy it at Amazon: Portable Doughnut Humidifier Mist Maker Aeroponics/Fogponics (Unicorntech) [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Compact but puts out a decent amount of mist.

This humidifier generates a fine mist using just water and is a stripped down version of a full sized humidifier. It has a built-in timer and will run for either 3 or 6 hours at a time. I typically use humidifiers during the cold dry winter months to add comfort to a dry room and help alleviate dry, itchy skin. I tested this unit in my plant cloning mist chamber that I use for propagating plants, but it wasn't a great fit because it runs for those fixed amounts of time, so I'd have to go and turn it on every so often to continue to generate mist.

The unit is very light weighing in at 1.25 oz. The housing on this is a hard plastic like kids toys. There are three rubber feet on the bottom but I'm not sure how useful they are since this unit is designed to float in water. The USB cable is 45" long which I found to be a tad short, though this really depends on how and where you use it. Note that it does not come with a USB wall charger, but you can use any standard 500 mAh USB adapter, and it can also be powered by your computer or laptop's USB port.

The instructions on the box are in Chinese but you basically just place this in a cup of water. There is a touch sensitive "button" on the opposite side of the doughnut from the wire. Touch it once to set the timer for 3 hours, twice for 6 hours and a third time will turn the unit off. The humidifier does generate mist, though at a fairly low volume. It would take a long time to raise the humidity in a large room, but for close proximity and small rooms it would do okay. Getting it to generate mist can be a little tricky. Make sure not to submerge the doughnut or fill the center of the cavity with water or else no mist will come out. This presented a challenge sometimes as the doughnut doesn't always float horizontally and the wire positioning can tilt and flood the center easily. I also found that the touch-sensitive button sometimes gets triggered by the slightest brush and occasionally by the water if the mineral content is high and thus has higher conductivity. However, once you get it to generate mist, if you leave it alone for the allotted amount of time, it will just continue to run and create mist.

It's not as feature filled as a typical larger humidifier as it lacks a fan and directional control or an "always on" mode. However, you can use whatever sized container you want and are not limited to a fixed capacity. It also has automatic shutoff if there is no water to protect the transducer from damage. But if you're just looking to add a bit of humidity to a dry room with a device that is small, lightweight and portable, this one works pretty well.

Buy it at Amazon: Portable Doughnut Humidifier Mist Maker Aeroponics/Fogponics (Unicorntech) [Affiliate Link]
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