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.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Beauty Union Teeth Whitening Strips Review

Beauty Union Teeth Whitening Strips Review

Buy it at Amazon: Beauty Union Teeth Whitening Strips [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Slight improvement, maybe removed some surface stains.

The teeth whitening kit contains 14 individual packs of whitening strips for both your top and bottom teeth and the instructions state that you should use 1 pair of strips everyday for 30 minutes 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.

The strips were a bit trickier to apply than others that I've used because your teeth have to be dry. It helps to use a tissue to wipe the surface of your teeth first for better adhesion. As soon as the strips come in contact with your saliva though, they get very slippery and become hard to adhere to your teeth. The gel has a minty flavor like toothpaste and is mildly spicy. They also sometimes got stuck to the inside of the foil bags. A few individual strips were misshapen, because I had they in my travel toiletries and the got squished. The gel is super thick and is difficult to rinse out of your mouth after you discard the strips.

The instructions do note that you are not to brush our teeth within 1 hr preceding the use of these strips. I didn't notice a ton of whitening after 2 weeks. It may be because my teeth weren't all that dark to begin with. In natural lighting, my teeth look pretty white but the deep stain/color in my teeth is still there. I'm not convinced this product actually penetrates your teeth to remove deep stains. It may only be removing surface stains which, unfortunately, could be detrimental to your tooth health due to etching from the citric acid which is a main ingredient in this whitening kit.

Buy it at Amazon: Beauty Union Teeth Whitening Strips [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, November 20, 2015

Kinga Ultrasonic Spatula Face Scrubber Review

Kinga Ultrasonic Spatula Face Scrubber Review

Buy it at Amazon: Kinga Ultrasonic Spatula Face Scrubber [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Softer, smoother skin in less than 10 minutes.

The ultrasonic spatula, also known as a skin scrubber, comes in a plastic case with two snap clips on the front. Inside you'll find a safety manual, the spatula, and 6 ft miniUSB charger. The unit is made of a lightweight plastic with a stainless steel forked tip with rounded tabs. The charger plugs into the unit on the bottom and it takes a few hours to fully charge. With this tool you can do exfoliation of the face, extractions to clear clogged pores and product penetration. However, be warned, the use of this device can cause serious and permanent injury if not used properly and proper safe use and handling must be followed.

This unit did not come with any use instructions and the manual only describes a handful of safety warnings about using the device in water or excessive temperatures. The one thing it seems to have left out that's extremely important when you use this on your face, is that your skin MUST be damp. If it's not, it can BURN you; not from heat, but by the intense vibration of the skin caused by the ultrasonic frequencies. It's basically like getting rug burn on your face and can leave your skin red and inflamed and in severe cases cause serious damage. Even knowing this, I managed to irritate my skin in several spots. It's best to practice using this device on the low setting if you're not a professional aesthetician.

USE INSTRUCTIONS:
Exfoliation - First you'll want to cleanse your entire face. Then get your face nice and wet. You can optionally apply a light scrub or cream to the face as lubrication. Turn the spatula on, and set it to scrub by pressing the left most key that looks like a squiggle. Set it to high/low by pressing the +/- keys. With the spatula angled down towards the surface of the skin use slow fluid movements and glide across the skin, wiping the spatula off between swipes. This will give the skin surface a nice peel and exfoliation and you may notice mist coming off the surface of the skin as the spatula vibrates. It'll take 1 to 2 minutes to do the entire face. Do NOT pause in any one spot for longer than 1 second, as this can lead to irritation and burning. If you experience any tingling or pain at all, STOP. Turn the unit off and let your skin rest. Apply aloe to any minor burns.

Extractions - To do extractions you'll want to put the spatula on pulsating mode, that's the right most key that says PAD on it. Again you want the area you're using it on to be moist and then you're going to hold one of the rounded tips of the spatula right next to the clogged pore with your finger on the opposite side and hold it there for a second applying a bit of pressure. The black head should come out with little effort. but if it does not, do not leave the spatula against your skin. This mode vibrates with less frequency than the scrubbing mode and you can safely press the tip against your skin for a second or two, but no longer.

Product penetration - Apply any product you want to use on the face generously, it can be a gel mask or retinoid treatment. Turn the unit on in scrub mode, choose high/low and place the flat side of the spatula against the skin (flip the spatula over from the position used for exfoliation) and use slow motions to glide the tool upward along your face. It should take 1-2 minutes to complete the entire face. Longer treatments of 5-10 minutes can aid in overall lifting and toning of the skin.

After using this tool, I noticed a marked improvement in skin tone, clarity, softness, and a reduction of the appearance of pores and acne scars. But again, immediately following treatment, I did notice some red and puffy areas (and some awful looking swollen red lines), particularly in spots where I knew I paused for a moment too long or areas that felt a little dry which I failed to re-moisten before a second pass with the scrubber. This irritation subsided by the next day, and the results were pretty great, but I can't stress enough that this tool must be used with the utmost of care.

Treatments can be done as often as 1 week apart, but generally the effects of a single treatment can last about a month. Exfoliations done too often can lead to skin irritation and damage. The spatula can be used a wide variety of skin treatments to help keep your skin looking young and refreshed.

Buy it at Amazon: Kinga Ultrasonic Spatula Face Scrubber [Affiliate Link]
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Yakaon Ski Goggles Review

Yakaon Ski Goggles Review

Buy it at Amazon: Yakaon Ski Goggles [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Nice, large set of ski of goggles; poor band adjusters placement.

The ski goggles come in a soft microfiber bag to protect it from scratches which also doubles as a cleaning and polishing cloth. The goggles measure 9" across and 4" high so have a fairly wide coverage and visibility. They have a foam cushion that's lined with a thin fleece for a soft fit to your face and it adds a bit of warmth and comfort while wearing them. On the top and bottom of the goggles as well as the top of the lens, are air vents stuffed with porous foam to allow air flow and prevent fogging of the goggles.

Be sure to remove the protective film on the inside of the goggles before use. The head band is a 1.75" wide soft elastic strap that can be adjusted on both sides of the goggles. The lens is one piece of mirrored acrylic with an orangey-red sunset color to help reduce glare from the snow on sunny days and in bright conditions. One interesting feature with this set is that the lens is removable if you flip up the two latches on the sides, so that if it becomes damaged or worn, you can replace just the lens.

When wearing these, everything has a slightly blue hue to it at first since red/yellow light is being reflected, but everything looks normal after a few minutes as your eyes adjust. The goggles provide clear vision and good protection from wind and snow, but I found that because of the strap is so wide, I can't wear the band above my ears and instead the band has to wrap over my ears. It's slightly uncomfortable because the placement of the plastic adjusters happens to be right over my ears, but in general, I would be wearing a hat or earmuffs that cover my ears under the band which would provide additional padding and I couldn't really feel them through the additional layer.

Buy it at Amazon: Yakaon Ski Goggles [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Music Box Studio by Astro Tab Bluetooth Speaker Review

Music Box Studio by Astro Tab Bluetooth Speaker Review

Buy it at Amazon: Music Box Studio by Astro Tab Bluetooth Speaker [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Powerful, clear, clean sound, deep bass, though it's a bit hefty for travel and plain looking.

Included with the speaker is a power adapter with 5' cable and a 2' male-to-male audio cable. The unit measures 8" x 4.5" x 2" and weighs about 2 lbs. The unit isn't very attractive and is plain and industrial looking. However, it feels like it is made from heavy duty and durable materials, from the firm outer metal casing to the thick rubber top and bottom. This speaker features dual 8W drivers with a built-in sub woofer for extra bass. The unit takes several hours to charger up and the charging port and AUX in port are located behind a silicone flap on the right-hand-side. The Aux port can be used with devices that have headphone out ports that do not support Bluetooth. On a full charge the unit can play up to 10 hours continuously.

Along the top of the speaker are the controls including, power, skip tracks, play/pause and volume control. To turn the unit on, press and hold the power button for a few seconds. This speaker uses Bluetooth 4.0 technology and will be called Music Box Studio in your device's Bluetooth menu. The sound is impressively clear with little to no static, stuttering or lagging. At the loudest volume, these speakers can easily fill a room without blowing out the sound and the vibration from the bass can be felt through the surface the speakers are sitting on. There is a built-in microphone, so when paired to a mobile phone the speakers can be used to answer phone calls; use the play/pause button to take an incoming call.

While this isn't the smallest, lightest, or most beautiful Bluetooth speaker out there, it's still quite portable. It packs a punch and outputs great sound which is good enough to get the job done at a party or outdoor event.

Buy it at Amazon: Music Box Studio by Astro Tab Bluetooth Speaker [Affiliate Link]
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ZeroEdge Z2 Rearview Mirror Dual-Camera DVR Installation and Review

ZeroEdge Z2 Rearview Mirror Dual-Camera DVR Installation and Review

Buy it at Amazon: ZeroEdge Z2 Rearview Mirror Dual-Camera DVR Installation and [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Decent, aftermarket dual-camera DVR. I'll show you how I installed this in my car. [UPGRADED VERSION AVAILABLE]

The set comes with the rearview mirror DVR unit which contains the LCD for viewing, front camera, microphone for audio recording, optional GPS input and SD card slot. You'll receive all the cables you need to complete the hookup, a 16GB microSD card, cigarette lighter to dual USB adapter, extra rubber latches or enhanced grip on your existing rearview mirror, and mounting screws for the back camera. This unit is designed to fit over your existing mirror for easy mounting and installation, but note that different car models may prove to have a better fit than others. For reference, I installed this on a recent model Honda Civic.

The mirror is quite large; it measures 12.5"W by 4"H and the LCD screen in the middle has a 5" diagonal. The mirror itself is quite dark and has a deep blue tint to it. While this does help reduce glare, it tends to look a bit dim and at night makes seeing details muddier. The camera for the unit is on the side facing the windshield, as well as its external speaker. There are a variety of options like motion detection, G-shock sensor which will automatically save/lock videos when the camera senses heavy shaking like in the event of an accident or large pot hole, audio recording and date/time stamping on the video.

The rear camera has an adhesive sticky pad to assist in mounting but also comes with two mounting screws which may require drilling into a panel on your car's trunk. It must be centered and is typically installed just above the license plate. If you want to rear camera to turn on automatically when you put the car in reverse, you have to wire the pair of black and red wires coming off the back camera to the reverse light. There are a number of ways you could connect the wires tot he power line too, for example, by splicing the wires into the power line, using a scotchlok or plier tap connector.

As a mirror, it works fine and is quite reflective, though again, it's a bit dark, especially at night. The video quality of the recordings is okay. I have mine set to record in 5 minute intervals and each file takes up about 200 MB (400 MB total with front/rear feeds). That's ~3.5 hours of video on the included 16 GB card. The front and back videos will have the same audio and time stamps so that they are easy to match up. You can hear most of the conversation and radio in the car but there is a bit of road noise as well. It's not a very high definition video resolution, but you can see what's going on around you, which is important in case of an accident. Sometimes the color and white balance seem off and the front camera has slightly better quality and resolution than the back camera but not by much. One thing I noticed is that while the reverse guidelines make it appear as if I have about 6-8 inches from the curb, I'm actually only about 2 inches from the curb though I believe this has to do with the height placement of the camera.

Overall, the cameras will capture enough detail to assist you in you need to refer back to the recordings and the unit was relatively easy to install (took me about an hour).

Buy it at Amazon: ZeroEdge Z2 Rearview Mirror Dual-Camera DVR Installation and [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Zhu Ting 10 Piece Paintbrush Set Review

Zhu Ting 10 Piece Paintbrush Set Review

Buy it at Amazon: Zhu Ting 10 Piece Paintbrush Set [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: A lightweight short handled brush, nice set for beginners.

In this set there are 5 liners brushes (2/0, 1, 2, 3, 5), three Filbert brushes (2, 4, 8), and 2 flat shader brushes (6 and 5/8). The brush handles are various lengths but generally around 5" long. The hair on the brushes is synthetic and may be a bit stiff upon receipt, so make sure you soak them in water and work them a bit to soften them. The brushes are very lightweight and barely have any heft to them at all. The short handle length makes them better suited for small canvasses and detail work.

Although the packaging states that these are "ideal" for all mediums like watercolor, oils and acrylics, that's almost never the case. Yes, they an be used for all mediums but ideally you'd want a very soft brush with snap for watercolors, a medium bristle for acrylic, and a stiff brush for oils. These brushes are best used for acrylics, but again their short handles don't lend themselves well to painting large canvasses. I did find them useful this past Halloween for applying face and grease paints for my costume. They did a nice job with fine lines and filling in small designs. The brushes were easy to control and didn't shed at all during use. The brushes hold the pigment well and release it smoothly and evenly. They were also easy to clean up with some soap and water.

Buy it at Amazon: Zhu Ting 10 Piece Paintbrush Set [Affiliate Link]
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Taotronics Humidifier (TT-AH002) Review

Taotronics Humidifier (TT-AH002) Review

Buy it at Amazon: Taotronics Humidifier (TT-AH002) [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Straightforward, easy to use, lots of mist.

The humidifier splits into two main pieces, the blue tank and the base. The entire unit is made of a shiny hard shell plastic and measures 14" tall when assembled and the base has a 5.25" W x 8.5" L footprint. You'll also receive a cleaning brush for descaling any deposits under the tank and in and around the transducer. The nozzle on top is removable and allows you to adjust the direction of the mist; it splits horizontally so you can direct the mist in two different directions. The capacity of this tank is 3.5L, a little under 1 gallon. The cord on the unit is 5 ft long. Make sure to fill the tank from the bottom and not through the output nozzle as doing so could damage the unit. There is a built-in water filter on the cap of the tank. While it's unclear the lifespan of the filter and there doesn't seem to be a way to order a replacement, the manual indicates that the filter can be cleaned by soaking it in white vinegar for re-use.

The maximum humidifying rate is about 300ml/h or around 1.25 cup/hour. On a full tank the humidifier will run for about 12 hours at the max output until it is empty. The output level is adjusted by the analog power dial. When on, the unit has a small green light inside that will illuminate. This light cannot be shutoff while the unit is running. When the water level gets low, the light changes to red and unit shuts off automatically to prevent damage. This unit is very simple and easy to use and it does a nice job adding moisture back to dry air, especially in the winter time when heating systems tend to dry the air out in the house.

Buy it at Amazon: Taotronics Humidifier (TT-AH002) [Affiliate Link]
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