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.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Apalus Electric Hair Straightening Brush Review

Apalus Electric Hair Straightening Brush Review

Buy it at Amazon: Apalus Electric Hair Straightening Brush [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Heats up fast, straightens just by brushing, features no-burn safety guards.

This brush is fairly large at 10.5" long. The paddle/brush head is 5" long and 3" across. The unit has a 6.5" long extension cord with built-in GFCI unit that cuts the power if the unit is accidentally dropped into water to prevent electrocution. The way the brush is designed to prevent burns by setting the heating element back in the brush and with rubber massage spikes that prevent your hands and skin from coming into contact with the hot plate. Only your hair makes contact with the straitening heating elements, so you won't get burned. However, your hair must be a minimum of 2" long for this to work effectively and you won't be able to straighten right at the root.

The power button for the unit is on the side and the unit heats up in about 90 seconds to 180 degree Celsius or about 356 degrees Fahrenheit. There's an LCD panel here that will indicate the current temperature, but note that the temperature can only be displayed in Celsius and cannot be switched to Fahrenheit. You can adjust the temperature by 5 degrees C using the '+' and '-' buttons to the right of the power button: the min temp is 80 C/176 F and the max is 230 C/446 F. Use higher temps for thick and wavy hair and lower temps for delicate, fine hair.

Since my hair is thick and wavy, I set this on 220 C. This brush works really fast, safely and efficiently and the heat from the pad took all the waves out of my hair in just a few strokes. My hair actually feels lighter and more manageable when straightened, and there wasn't that burning hair smell when I was done, as long as you keep the brush moving and not sitting in one spot, you should be able to avoid burning your hair. When using it your head feels a bit warm, but you're never at risk of burning yourself. My straightened hair was also easier to style.

Buy it at Amazon: Apalus Electric Hair Straightening Brush [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Aukey Bluetooth Speaker (SK-M7) Review

Aukey Bluetooth Speaker (SK-M7) Review

Buy it at Amazon: Aukey Bluetooth Speaker (SK-M7) [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Good sound, compact, loud, easy to use.

The Buetooth speaker comes with an aluminum carabiner clip, and 24" audio and microUSB cables. The unit is encased in a soft touch matte silicone with a metal speaker grill on the front. There is a plastic ring on the left hand side for the carabiner clip so you can hang this speaker vertically and the bottom has 4 feet so this can sit firmly on a flat surface. The speaker measures 7.5" by 2.5" by 2" and weighs just over 13 oz.

The unit's power switch is on the back along with a line in and out, and microUSB charging port. The unit charges in about 4 hours and can last for about 12 hours of continuous playback depending on volume level. To connect your mobile device to stream audio to it, turn it on to put it into pairing mode. Select Aukey SK-M7 in your Bluetooth menu. When paired wirelessly to a phone, the speaker can make and receive phone calls via the speaker's built in microphone as well. If you don't have Bluetooth you can connect your device's headphone port to the AUX in port using the included cable. Note that when paired via Bluetooth you can play/pause skip tracks and adjust volume using the buttons on top, but in Aux-In mode you can only adjust volume.

When this unit is plugged in and charging, the unit will enter pairing mode for 10 minutes so you can pair and stream music to it even if the power switch is set to off. If no device is paired within that time, the unit will just charge. For whatever reason I never got the Line-Out port to work, not with headphones, another powered speaker, while paired with Bluetooth nor using Aux input. It's unclear whether or not, when functioning correctly, music would be output from both the speaker and the device connected to the Aux out or only the device connected to the Aux out will play audio, for example, plugging in headphones for private listening.

Regardless, the sound from the speakers was very good for the unit this size and it stands on its own. The high, mid and low ranges are well balanced and the sound can get decently loud. There's also a moderate amount of bass on this unit. While the unit isn't waterproof, the unit works well both indoors and outdoors and is great for travelling and parties.

Buy it at Amazon: Aukey Bluetooth Speaker (SK-M7) [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, October 26, 2015

Accuslice Stainless Steel Juliene Vegetable Peeler Review

Accuslice Stainless Steel Juliene Vegetable Peeler Review

Buy it at Amazon: Accuslice Stainless Steel Juliene Vegetable Peeler [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Worked well a few times, then the blade snapped.

I really wanted to like this peeler since it's made from stainless steel and appeared to be high quality and could do both peeling and julienne strings. I was able to peel and julienne and dig out potato eyes fairly easily when I first got it. Unfortunately after only several uses the peeling blade snapped, on a carrot of all things. So now it's unusable and while the julienne blade technically still works, its durability is called into question, and the peeler is really the more useful of the two blades that I would use.

Buy it at Amazon: Accuslice Stainless Steel Juliene Vegetable Peeler [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, October 9, 2015

Mouselemur Bluetooth Selfie Stick (LR-1288) Review

Mouselemur Bluetooth Selfie Stick (LR-1288) Review

Buy it at Amazon: Mouselemur Bluetooth Selfie Stick (LR-1288) [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Longer than most selfie sticks, versatile, with a few quirks.

The selfie stick is 19.5" when retracted which is fairly large for a selfie stick so it'll be tougher to travel with, but in exchange for compactness, you get a longer reach of four feet when fully extended. The telescoping portion is made of a lightweight and strong aluminum alloy, much like a camera tripod. It uses three tension snaps, also like a tripod, that can be set to any length in between max/min length. The phone mount on top has foam pads on the back and arms to help keep a firm grip on your phone and accommodates phones with widths between 2.25" and 3.5". The mount can swivel forward or back 180 degrees and is locked by a plastic thumbscrew. It's not my favorite phone grip because its core is light duty plastic versus sturdy metal. The arms don't wrap or bevel around the front of your phone for a better grip, so there's a chance it could slip forward and fall out. It's also pretty shallow so some phones will have to be removed from their cases to fit in it or stay firmly gripped.

What's interesting about this monopod is that the phone mount on top is removable because it's screw on using a 1/4" mounting screw. This is the standard screw used for most camera mounting holes and allows you to swap to a GoPro adapter mount, change the orientation of the mount from vertical to planar, or even mount a compatible digital camera to use with an infrared remote or Bluetooth if it supports it.

The USB port for charging and the power switch are located on the bottom of the handle. Pairing to the device was straight forward and quick by selecting LR-1288Plus in the Bluetooth menu. There are three buttons on this selfie stick, a shutter button and what I assume are two buttons meant for zooming ("+"/"-"). However, on my LG G2 Android phone, all three buttons resulted in a photo being taken, so no zooming capabilities. Also, I had to be careful not to press any button too hard or for more than a click or the camera would fire multiple times, and I'd end up with 2 or more rapid fire photos (one time 5 shots!). The selfie stick works for starting and stopping video too, as long as you are in video mode in you camera app when using it.

The main issue here is that the battery does deplete itself over time between uses, even if you never turn the selfie-stick on. I'm not sure how long this takes, since I don't use my selfie stick often (maybe a week?), so what usually happens is, if I know I'm going to need my selfie stick, like on vacation or for a shoot, I will charge it up the night before just to make sure it won't be dead when I go to turn it on. You can charge with any standard microUSB cable plugged into the base of the stick and make sure the power switch is set to off while charging. When charging the LED light will be a solid red. Depending on the output of the USB port you're using this can take anywhere from 2-4 hours.

When the unit is done charging the LED will shut off. When you turn the power switch to on, the light will flash blue indicating that it is in Bluetooth pairing mode and looking for a device to pair with. After a device is paired with the selfie stick the light will turn off. In general the selfie stick worked fine, has a long reach and allowed me to take photos that I wouldn't have been able to without it. I like that it's adaptable with the changeable mount and orientations, but it's a large unit and cumbersome to carry, the battery doesn't last long between charges, and there are a few quirks in the software, and it potentially has some compatibility issues with some devices.

Buy it at Amazon: Mouselemur Bluetooth Selfie Stick (LR-1288) [Affiliate Link]
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Etekcity Glass Digital Body Weight Scale Review

Etekcity Glass Digital Body Weight Scale Review

Buy it at Amazon: Etekcity Glass Digital Body Weight Scale [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Consistent readings, though sometimes over, sometimes under.

The scale has a fairly small profile with an 11" square face and height of 1.25". It has 4 rubber non-slip feet on the bottom for stability on tile and wood floors. In general, you'll want to use this scale on hard, flat, and level surfaces. Before you use the scale, open the battery bay and remove the battery to take out the plastic battery saver tab. Inside the battery bay there's a switch to turn the scale off and change the units to kilograms or pounds. This glass scale looks nice and is fairly accurate in its measurements. It's very consistent and general gives the same reading over and over with the same object. That said, I benchmarked this against a different digital glass scale that I own and noticed that the weights don't always agree with each other, even when I swap them and place them in the exact same location. This scale tends to be a bit underweight when weighing light objects and overweight when weighing heavier objects. I used a number of free weights with predefined weights on them to determine this. E.g. 10 lb weight came in at 9.8 lb, 50 lb weight at 50.9 lbs and so on. The weight is never off by much and is within a couple pounds of actual weight. Most applications don't need very exact measurements and the scale is consistent across readings so for body weight, if you don't care that the scale is probably adding a pound or two the unit works fine.

Buy it at Amazon: Etekcity Glass Digital Body Weight Scale [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Nordic Lifting Neoprene Elbow Sleeves Review

Nordic Lifting Neoprene Elbow Sleeves Review

Buy it at Amazon: Nordic Lifting Neoprene Elbow Sleeves [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Good support, a comfortable fit, reduces elbow stress.

The elbow sleeves are made with a 5mm neoprene material with reinforced stitching around the seams to endure the strain and stress of stretching while lifting. These sleeves help support your elbows while weight training and during heavy lifting to help avoid injury, increase performance, and alleviate muscle and joint pain. I measured the circumference of my elbow while slightly bent and though I'm right at 10.5", I ordered the small size because I was concerned the medium might slide down my arm if it was too big. The fit was just about right, though after some training, these may not fit anymore, and I'l have to get the next size up anyway. When putting these on, make sure the point on the seams faces towards your shoulder and goes partway over your bicep. In addition to weight training with these, I used them while moving 2 pallets of 50 lb blocks for a backyard project; they helped alleviate some of the strain from the heavy lifting and allowed me to keep going for longer. They are durable and comfortable to wear. These are also hand washable in warm soapy water and dry quickly.

Buy it at Amazon: Nordic Lifting Neoprene Elbow Sleeves [Affiliate Link]
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Harmony Life Teeth Whitening Kit Review

Harmony Life Teeth Whitening Kit Review

Buy it at Amazon: Harmony Life Teeth Whitening Kit [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: A moderate change in tooth color, some sensitivity, but easy and inexpensive whitening.

This teeth whitening kit contains 14 individual packs of whitening strips pairs for your top and bottom teeth. You're supposed to use 1 pair of strips everyday for 2 weeks straight. In addition to the strips, you'll receive a color chart so you can track the progress of your whitening and compare the results before and after. Before you start, compare your teeth to the chart and find your number. They claim that the average improvement is about 10 shades.

In each packet there are two strips: the longer strip is for your upper teeth. Wear the strips for 30 mins once a day every day for 14 consecutive days. After wearing the strips, you'll experience some sensitivity to hot and cold foods. But this sensation will fade over time. Try using these before bed to minimize any discomfort. The peroxide in the strips also tends to burn if you get it on your gums so try not to stick the strips too far over the edge of your teeth.

Overall the strips were easy to apply, effective and convenient to use. In my trial, according to the chart, to the best of my ability to match the colors the change went from shade 21 to shade 9. They're not super bright white, but there is a difference in color. These are a low cost way to brighten your smile and remove staining from tea and coffee.

Buy it at Amazon: Harmony Life Teeth Whitening Kit [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, October 1, 2015

GBGS Solar Lotus Leaf Water Pump Fountain Review

GBGS Solar Lotus Leaf Water Pump Fountain Review

Buy it at Amazon: GBGS Solar Lotus Leaf Water Pump Fountain [Affiliate Link]
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Takeaway: A nice decorative green energy pump for larger aquafeatures.
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TeiKis Measuring Cups and Spoons Review

TeiKis Measuring Cups and Spoons Review

Buy it at Amazon: TeiKis Measuring Cups and Spoons [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Handsome looking set, durable, accurate.

This set comes with a glass liquid measuring cup, 5 dry ingredient measuring cups, and 5 measuring spoons. The glass measuring cup has a large capacity and can hold 1/2 liter or about 2 cups of liquid. It has measuring lines for both milliliters and ounces, but it doesn't have units in cups. Just remember that there are 8 oz in a cup (16 oz = 2 cups, 4 oz = 1/2 cup, 2 oz = 1/4 cup etc.). For the dry ingredient cups, you'll get 1, 3/4, 1/2, 1/3, and 1/4 cups. These are made of a heavy gauge stainless steel and appear quite durable. The handles are welded on and are thick enough that they do no bend. The spoons are also made of stainless steel but the alloy is much softer. They are easily bent and will stay bent, so you have to be more careful with these. There is 1 Tablespoon, 1/2 Tbsp, 1 teaspoon, 1/2 tsp and 1/4 tsp. The approximate metric milliliter measurements are also printed on the handle of the spoons (but not the cups).

Note that the sets of cups and spoon are linked together using a standard keychain ring. While soft and flexible, this makes it hard to separate and connect them again. A quick release ring would have been preferable. When compared to my other measuring utensils, the measurements of this set were accurate. I also found that the tablespoon is fairly wide with a 1.75" diameter and didn't fit in some of my spice jars. However, overall this is a nice set for anyone who enjoys cooking.

Buy it at Amazon: TeiKis Measuring Cups and Spoons [Affiliate Link]
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45W Submersible Water Pump Review

45W Submersible Water Pump Review

Buy it at Amazon: 45W Submersible Water Pump [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: A powerful pump for large aqua-features and aquariums.

This pump is heavy duty in terms of output. It'll move 11 gallons/minute or 660 Gal/h. It comes with two output nozzles for hookin gup to tubes and one input nozzle. The unit is made of a hardshell plastic and measures 5.5" W x 3.5" H x 2.5" D and weighs 2 lbs. The power cable is about 6 ft long which is a little short, but still usable. This pump is suitable for large aquarium, pond and landscaping uses and is tolerant to salt water application. The only slight problem I had was with the rubber feet, whose quality is poor and one foot ripped along the edge and the attachment nub tore off due to the softness of the rubber.

While the unit's instructions didn't explain how to access the inlet hole to attach the hose nozzle, it was fairly easy to pop off the filter cage that covers it. Just make sure you have water in your tube and that the tube is submerged before you plug it in, if you are using an inlet hose.

The unit is basically plug and play after assembly, and the water pressure is quite high. The water moves fast so this pump is good for large scale aquatics but not so great for small aquariums. NOte also that this unit doesn't have a filter and its purpose is to move and aerate water. I use this pump to quickly empty out my rain barrel at the end of the fall season for winter storage, but occasionally I find other uses for it too.

Buy it at Amazon: 45W Submersible Water Pump [Affiliate Link]
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Nekteck Solar Power Bank Battery Pack Review

Nekteck Solar Power Bank Battery Pack Review

Buy it at Amazon: Nekteck Solar Power Bank Battery Pack [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: High capacity, waterproof, rugged with emergency solar charging.

This battery pack is built for travel with its hardshell construction and rubberized sides and back panels. It feels solidly constructed and is sealed for watertightness. In addition to the charger, you'll get a 24" microUSB charging cable and aluminum carabiner to clip this to your belt or backpack. The unit measures about 6.5" H x 3.25" W x 0.75" D thick. It weighs 10.5 oz and has a 12000 mAh capacity that will provide about 4 full charges for most smartphones.

First and foremost, you should note that while this powerbank CAN be charged via the solar power, the manufacturer recommends that this should NOT be used as the default charging method. Rather, charge it like a normal powerbank using the included cable and plugging it into your computer's USB port or appropriate wall adapter. You should only charge the unit via the solar when absolutely necessary and only if the battery life of the power bank is below 75% as doing otherwise may damage the battery. I noticed that while charging via the solar panel the sun, the unit gets extremely hot which is part of the reason why it should not be used on a regular basis or for long-term charging. Also, it takes a really long time to charge the unit using just the sun, and if you have your device plugged in, it will only act as a trickle charge to maintain or slow the drain of your device's battery.

There are 4 charge indicator LEDS, each representing 25% of battery life. The left most LED will be green when the battery pack is charging via the solar panel. The two standard USB ports on each side output up to 1 A each. This unit also has a built in LED flashlight that you can turn on/off by pressing the power button twice. This battery can charge two devices at the same time if it has sufficient power. It functioned well for charging my devices, and I was able to charge it up using both the USB cord and via the sun. As a power bank it works well and has the added bonus of being able to charge up via the sun in emergency situations and when you are away from a wall outlet.

Buy it at Amazon: Nekteck Solar Power Bank Battery Pack [Affiliate Link]
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