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, March 30, 2017

Ancable Toslink Digial Optical Audio Cable Review

Ancable Toslink Digial Optical Audio Cable Review

Buy it at Amazon: Ancable Toslink Digial Optical Audio Cable [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Connectors wiggle a bit but decently secure; signal transmits fine.

The cable comes with a female Toslink to male mini Toslink adapter. The cable outer layer is made of a plasticky heavy braided nylon and measures 6.5' long. The thick and stiff but flexible cable helps protect the fiberglass core from breaking due to being twisted or bent. On the end of the connectors are rubber caps that need to be removed before use. The adapter is easy to install/remove on end end of the cable.

I use this cable with my soundbar to hook it up to my TV. At the connections there is a tiny bit of wiggle, though it does successfully snap into place. I think this is because the connector is on the short side; when compared to an Amazon Basics Toslink cable, the connector is about 1 mm shorter with more of the pin showing. However, it stays in the optical ports securely and hasn't fallen out on its own. It takes pulling firmly to remove the cable. The cable transmits the audio signal fine from the TV, and I didn't notice any garbled audio or pops and crackles.

Buy it at Amazon: Ancable Toslink Digial Optical Audio Cable [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Taotronics Bluetooth Sound Bar (TT-SK15) Review

Taotronics Bluetooth Sound Bar (TT-SK15) Review

Buy it at Amazon: Taotronics Bluetooth Sound Bar (TT-SK15) [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Okay sound for a budget unit, loud enough for a small room, lacks bass but sound is clear.

The soundbar comes with a 5' power cable, 45" RCA audio cable, remote control, and an instruction manual. The speaker measures 34" across, 3" wide, and 2.5" high. The front is wrapped in a simple mesh cloth. On the back there are two centrally located hanging holes for wall mounting and cutouts with the input ports and power input. On the right side of the speaker is an AUX input port, but it doesn't come with a cable for this connection. The on-board touch controls are along this gray strip in the middle. On top you have the power button, then volume control and then input selection. The LED indicators are for standby, Bluetooth, Aux in or RCA, and Coaxial or Optical. The only setup up required is to plug in the power cable. Then if you'll be using the RCA input, plug that cable in the white and red ports respectively. The black coaxial port is for digital coaxial connections (cable not included). If you'll be using an optical cable (not included), make sure to remove the tip protector first, then align it with the optical port before plugging it in.

The remote control is pretty basic. It's got the power button, a button for each input mode, track navigation, volume control, play/pause, and mute. The remote requires 1 AAA battery which is not included. To connect to the speaker over Bluetooth, touch the Power button to turn it on. You'll see all the LED indicators light up and then shut off one by one. Then press the 'Input' key until you've selected BT mode and you'll see the LED indicator blink blue. Select ‘Taotronics Soundbar' in your device's Bluetooth menu to pair with the sound bar. A couple of folks said that the LED indicators are confusing, but I guess I never really thought about how it's weird to have one LED do double duty by changing colors. Also the Standby/On button just means the unit has the power plugged in, but it's actually 'Off' and won't be outputting any sound.

So far I've used the optical input with my TV, which was confusing at first because the light was green but in coax mode, so pressing the input key again changed the light to red which was optical mode. I was also able to try AUX-in mode while plugged into the headphone jack of my phone; just remember this light should be green as red is used for RCA. I wasn't able to test RCA with my TV because it lacks this type of output. Make sure you are NOT trying to connect the red/white RCA cables to any of the input RCA ports on your TV because, of course, there would be no sound transmitted out of any input ports. I also did not try out the digital coax since I don't have this output on any device either.

However, with the inputs that I did try, they worked fine including Bluetooth and the sound from the speaker is clear and crisp. It tends to lean on the bright side adding extra sibilance to the trebles, and it doesn't have a lot of sub bass response. You'll get a little mid and high bass, enough to elicit tight drum beats, but not enough for a feel-it-in-your-bones kind of rumble. The soundbar does get pretty loud for its size, but the sound tends to crackle at max volume and vibrate the housing a lot. You may also hear an electronic whisper during quiet passages, so it works much better at moderate volumes.

When using the optical output with the soundbar hookup to my TV, there was a very minor delay between what was happening onscreen and the sound coming from the soundbar. With the TV speaker on, you could tell they weren't in sync (slight echo), but with the TV sound off, the delay was almost imperceptible. Overall, the soundbar has decent quality for a budget unit and definitely projects and has better sound than the one built into the TV. It can't compete with higher end soundbars of course, but works well in a small room.

Buy it at Amazon: Taotronics Bluetooth Sound Bar (TT-SK15) [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

ZeroEdge Z2 Plus Reaview Mirror Dashboard Camera Review and Full Installation

ZeroEdge Z2 Plus Reaview Mirror Dashboard Camera Review

Buy it at Amazon: ZeroEdge Z2 Plus Reaview Mirror Dashboard Camera [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: A solid dual camera dashcam, high quality front/rear video, decent audio, easy to install.

You'll receive the rearview mirror camera/DVR, an instruction manual, microfiber cleaning cloth, 2-port USB cigarette lighter power adapter, an extra set of mirror attachment bands and clips, the backup camera, two mounting screws and sticky pads, 16gb microSD card, 33' video input cable, a 33" microusb cable, and a 12.5' miniUSB power cable.

The mirror is quite large, it measures 12" by 3.5" and the LCD screen in the middle has a 5" diagonal which is a lot bigger than my car's rearview mirror. The mirror is darkly tinted a deep silver color. While the dark coating does help reduce glare, it tends to look a bit dim and at night. The lens for the camera is on the windshield facing side as well as an external speaker (for playback) and it comes pre-installed with two rubber bands that strap onto your existing rear view mirror. The lens on the camera is adjustable because it's on ball joint. This will help you orient the camera after you've adjusted your rearview mirror. On the top is the miniUSB power port, A/V out port, microSD card slot, and microUSB port for the backup camera (also can be used for power and data transfer).

If you're upgrading from the pervious Z2 model, note that you will not be able to re-use its backup camera (if you were thinking you wouldn't have the run the wires again, you do). The input cable is completely different and the power connector is a 5-pin vs. a 4 pin. However, the new backup camera has a higher resolution and its angle can be adjusted so it's worth swapping out.

I installed the back camera above my license plate with the adhesive foam sticker but didn't use the two mounting screws because I didn't want to drill two holes in my trunk. The sticker I used with the previous camera held up well for over a year so I'm confident I won't need the screws. I also hooked the rear camera into the reverse light power connector so that it comes up automatically when the car is put in reverse gear and throws up the reverse guide lines. It's really important that the camera is center, angled downward, and perpendicular for the guidelines to look correct on the screen. The reverse guides are pretty accurate, though depending on the placement on your vehicle, it may look like you're right up against the curb but you'll actually be about 4-6 inches away. Hiding the cables under the trim and ceiling panels was the trickiest part, but only takes about 15 minutes and can be done with just a screwdriver (or nylon spudger) to lift the trim.

At 1920 x 1080p quality, a 5 minute clip from the front camera takes up about 575 MB and similarly the 2304 x 1296 video takes up about 600 MB (I noticed very little difference between 1080p and 1296p). The video is clear and crisp with realistic colors, good saturation, and white balance that is a bit on the bright side. The rear camera footage averages around 400 MB per 5 minute clip and only records in 720p, but again the video is nice and clear and you can see plenty of detail. It's a lot better than the resolution of the rear camera from the original Z2 model. When watching the rear camera feed on the computer, note that it is a mirror image. At night everything is darker, but I would say still relatively clear. There does seem to be a bit of HDR enhancement going on as the light sources stand out in the video. With the rear camera you don't quite see as much detail until there's a lot of ambient light and the image is much more grainy. The audio in the video is always going to be the same for the front and rear camera feeds over the same period of time. Strangely enough the 720p at 60 frames per second was actually less clear than 720p at 30 frames per second.

Note that if you turn on the unit without an SD card installed, the date and time will reset; so if you take the card out to transfer files to a computer, you may have to update the date and time after you reinstall the memory card. This happened to me because I had park monitoring mode on and every time I took the card out to take in the house, when I closed the car door on my way out the camera turned on, effectively resetting the date which was a minor inconvenience to change back each time.

There are plenty of other features that work decently well like the g-sensor, park monitoring mode, and motion detection. The quality of the video and audio are really good and the camera works about as well as I expected.

Buy it at Amazon: ZeroEdge Z2 Plus Reaview Mirror Dashboard Camera [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, March 27, 2017

Lineway OTG/USB Over the Air Live TV Tuner Receiver Review

Lineway OTG/USB Over the Air Live TV Tuner Receiver Review

Buy it at Amazon: Lineway OTG/USB Over the Air Live TV Tuner Receiver [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Compact/portable, works great w/Android TV and powered antenna, mini antenna not as strong.

The mini TV receiver comes with a pre-installed antenna and optional coaxial connector. The unit is super tiny measuring 2" x 1.25" x 0.25" thick. The antenna on the unit measures 1.5" when retracted and 6.5" when extended. The unit has a male microUSB connector that can plug into an Android phone charging port that supports OTG. On the other side is a micoUSB in port that you can use with a standard microUSB cable to connect to a full sized USB port like a PC or Android TV box. Swapping the connectors is pretty easy.

I was able to use the device with a microUSB to USB-C adapter for my LG G5 phone. With this receiver is that you don't have to use your WiFi or data plan to receive the content. It's completely free since it's over the air waves. I verified this by receiving content with my WiFi and Data turned off.

You'll need to download the LiveStation Player app to your phone which is available in the Google Play store. If you need the PC software, the manufacturer can email it to you on request. Scanning for channels takes about 10 minutes. With the mini antenna (indoors), I was able to find 11 TV stations and 1 radio station. If the signal isn't strong you might end up with a lot of digital noise and distortion in the video and audio. I wasn't able to get channel information like station name or program info. I also received some foreign language programming in my local area. The one thing that I didn't like is that the input USB cannot be used for pass through power. That means this device will eventually drain your mobile device of battery if you don't have a splitter for the OTG.

The unit performed better with a powered antenna connected through the coaxial connector. The picture and audio quality was a little more reliable but the initial loading of each channel always took about 15 seconds for the audio to catch up to the video. I tested the antenna with the computer software and received about 45 channels with fairly good quality for the video and audio overall. The difference here is that since my computer is powered, I don't have to worry about it running out of battery as I would using it with OTG on a mobile device.

Overall, the receiver worked a lot better than I thought it would using the indoor powered antenna and I think it could be a great supplement to my Android TV box since I no longer use cable service as most of my content is streamed via the internet. The mini built in antenna is more of a novelty but that could be nice to have for a picnic and it's something you can carry around easily.

Buy it at Amazon: Lineway OTG/USB Over the Air Live TV Tuner Receiver [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, March 24, 2017

OKCS Magnetic Charging Cable for Lightning and microUSB Review

OKCS Magnetic Charging Cable for Lightning and microUSB Review

Buy it at Amazon: OKCS Magnetic Charging Cable for Lightning and microUSB [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Strong magnetic hold, easy and fast connect/disconnect; doesn't work with all phone cases.

You'll get a 40" rubber cable with aluminum connectors and two magnetic swap-able tips for microUSB and Lightning ports. The small connectors are designed to stay plugged into your device for a quick and easy magnetic connection. Bringing the magnet end close to one of the tips causes them to stick together and make a connection. If it doesn't seat right, just press gently on the connection and it will snap into place. It works the same way for both magnetic tips and the magnet works from either side so you don't have to worry about which side is up. The metal casing on the connectors seems durable and below them is a thick strain relief to prevent breakage and wear.

With the USB cord plugged into a power source, the LED on the magnetic connector shows green; when it snaps onto a tip to make a connection, it changes to red to show you that it is charging. The magnetic hold on the cable breaks away smoothly with a firm tug making connecting and disconnecting to the magnetic tips pretty quick.

Removing the tip is simple too, there's a notch on either side so you can get your fingernail between the tip and the edge, and you just pull straight out. With the Lightning tip I ran into a few issues with different phone cases. You'll need a little extra clearance in the charging port cutout to be able to use the cable, at least 1/2". The best case I found for use with the iPhone 7 is Moshi's Kameleon case, which has a pretty wide cutout for the Lightning port. It's got just enough extra leeway for the connector to fit in over the magnetic tip.

Overall, the cable works pretty well for charging and is easy to connect and disconnect, but if you'll be using a case, make sure the opening for the port is at least ½" in order for the connector to make the connection properly.

Buy it at Amazon: OKCS Magnetic Charging Cable for Lightning and microUSB [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Yiyu Collapsible Silicone Water Bottle Review

Yiyu Collapsible Silicone Water Bottle Review

Buy it at Amazon: Yiyu Collapsible Silicone Water Bottle [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Travels well, lightweight/compact, tastes plasticky at first, outside attracts dust/lint but easy to clean.

When the water bottle when is collapsed, it measures about 3" tall and 4" across. Empty it weighs 3 oz. On the side is a small carabiner clip for tethering to a bag or belt loop and a silicone elastic band keeps the bottle rolled up. The bottle is semi-transparent and measures 7" tall when expanded. Inside the drink spout there is an integrated mesh filter. The drinking cap is made entirely of plastic and is watertight when the lid is closed. The bottle is somewhat squishy with a soft rubbery feel and impressively doesn't leak any air or liquid when squeezed.

This water bottle can hold 11 oz of liquid and is pretty easy to fill. At first the water does have a bit of a plasticky taste to it, and I find this to be true of most silicone bottles and water bladders. It does take a few uses to dissipate so you may want to fill up, leave overnight, and discard the water in the bottle several days in a row before first use. Other than that the bottle is easy to carry around and drink from and is great for travel since it rolls up compactly.

Buy it at Amazon: Yiyu Collapsible Silicone Water Bottle [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Iaxsee SD-08 Metal Earphones Review

Iaxsee SD-08 Metal Earphones Review

Buy it at Amazon: Iaxsee SD-08 Metal Earphones [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Budget friendly IEM w/ decent sound quality, clarity, and comfort.

The earphones come with 3 sets of eartips, and an instruction manual. The earphones come pre-installed with the medium size tips. The earpieces are made of machine aluminum and have a bullet-style body with a shiny, brushed metal finish. The cord is about 4' long and consists of a tangle-resistant silicone wrapped wire with a copper core and gold-plated headphone jack. There is a reinforced rubber strain relief at the base of each ear piece to prevent the cord from breaking or separating at the joint. On the wire coming off the right earpiece is an in-line mic with a call answer button for hands-free calling. You can also use this button to start and stop track playback when listening to music. Double-clicking it will skip to the next track on some devices.

The overall sound quality is pretty clear and clean, though there is noticeable sound sculpting. In general the bass is over emphasized making it feel heavy and dense; the trebles are somewhat thin sounding and can sound too bright at louder volumes. However, the eartips do a fine job isolating external sounds, so you won't need to increase the volume to uncomfortable or damaging levels to enjoy your music. The sound overall is pretty good considering this is a fairly low budget pair of earphones and they're fairly comfortable to wear.

Buy it at Amazon: Iaxsee SD-08 Metal Earphones [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

KORE Essentials Trakline Ratchet Belts (Hole-less belts) Review

KORE Essentials Trakline Ratchet Belts (Hole-less belts) Review

Buy it at Amazon: KORE Essentials Trakline Ratchet Belts Review (Hole-less belts) [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: These ratchet belt buckles are easy to use, solidly constructed, and provide a perfect fit; full-grain/genuine leather is easy to shorten.

The belts came packaged in a drawstring bag and includes a sizing card to help you shorten the belt properly. The belt buckles arrive detached from the belt, so you can customize the length to best suit your waist size. The Trakline belts don't have holes in them and that's because the end that goes into the buckle has a 10" plastic ratchet along the inside that allows you to find your exact fit down to the ¼" rather than the traditional 1" spacing for ordinary belt holes.

I got two of the Kore belts, one in brown and one in black with two buckle styles: the Intrepid and the Express. The two belts have slightly different edge styles on the leather. On the black one which comes with the Intrepid buckle, the edge is burnished and finished with double stitches so you'll two neat little rows of stitches on each edge. Then the brown belt that came with the Express has a simple finished flat edge. The Intrepid buckle is a bright shiny brushed stainless steel. It's a medium sized buckle measuring 2.25" across and 1.5" tall. The Express is the same size but looks like a traditional belt buckle complete with a false prong in a gunmetal finish.

The belts are 1.25" wide and are delivered at the factory length of 51.5" which is long enough to accommodate a 44" waist. You'll see sizes indicated long the inside of the belt towards the buckle end. To properly size the belt, start with your pant size then add 3-4" and cut along that line. In my case, I have a 28" waist, but decided to cut the belt closer to 30-31" for a shorter tail past the buckle. That's just my personal preference. If cutting for the first time, err to the long side and remember that you can always make the belt shorter, but not longer. Once cut, take the belt buckle and open the belt receptacle, the part that says 'Trakline' with the teeth on the inside; insert the flat end of the belt until it's flush with the inside of the receptacle and then close the clip. You wear the belt in the regular fashion, feeding from left to right and then insert the end of the belt into the buckle and tighten until it is comfortably snug.

Typically the end of the belt to runs about 3-4" out from the end of the buckle. The ratchet system creates a perfectly fitting belt that's neither too loose, not too tight. Loosening and removing the belt is easy too. Squeeze the release lever towards the bottom right corner of the belt and pull the strap out of the buckle. Trakline also has a special hanger you can use which can hold up to two belts and utilizes the same ratchet system to hang the belts up by the buckle.

The leather in the belts consist of a few layers of blue leather. The black is supposedly dyed full-grain leather while the brown is merely genuine leather with a finished surface. Time will tell whether or not the belts will last or crack and fray with consistent use, so I'll update this review sometime down the road after I've had a chance to use it more frequently. Although KORE isn't the first nor the only company to use this technology in their belts, they have a nice selection of buckle styles and the belts overall appear to be well-made.

Buy it at Amazon: KORE Essentials Trakline Ratchet Belts Review (Hole-less belts) [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Pinshow BX200 Metal Bluetooth Speaker Review

Pinshow BX200 Metal Bluetooth Speaker Review

Buy it at Amazon: Pinshow BX200 Metal Bluetooth Speaker [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Stylish metal exterior, durably constructed for portability, good sound and clarity, though light on bass response.

You'll receive the speaker, 48" microUSB cable, 40" male-to-male audio cable, 17" leather carrying strap, two sets of aluminum bolts, and an instruction manual. The unit is small and compact, measuring 7.75" W x 4.75" H x 1.5" D and weighs about 1.5 lbs.

The outer grille is made of aluminum with a brushed finish and comes in gold or silver. The leather strap is optional and can be attached easily by feeding the ends into the slots on the sides, then installing the two small bolts. The speaker has two 5 W drivers, one on either side, and a passive radiator in the center. On top of the speaker are the controls set within a faux wood panel. From right to left you have the power button, track selection and volume keys, play/pause button, and mode key. Then off to the left are indicator LEDs for mode, charging, and battery life. On the right hand side of the speaker you have the microUSB power port, Aux in port, and USB output port for charging a mobile device.

When you plug the unit in, the battery indicators will blink while charging and show you how much battery is remaining in the unit. When full, all three lights will be a solid red. To turn the unit on, press and hold the power key. Then, to connect with your mobile device over Bluetooth, select ‘BX200' in your device's Bluetooth menu. Or you can connect to the unit using the included Aux cable with your phone's headphone jack.

The overall sound quality is clean and clear. The focus for these speakers seem to be in the mid ranges since you lose a little bit of the detail in the trebles. The bass response is fairly shallow though and you won't hear much of any lows or deep lows. That said, at max volumes the sound manages to get fairly loud without distorting at all.

The USB power bank option is useful so you can charge your phone while streaming music to the speaker on the go. The 2200 mAh battery will give most phones about 1 full charge or music playback up to 6 hours depending on your volume level. Overall, this unit has decent sound and is durably constructed. It is a little heavy for frequent travel but small enough to carry in a backpack or purse when you need it.

Buy it at Amazon: Pinshow BX200 Metal Bluetooth Speaker [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, March 10, 2017

Innogear Desk Clamp Mic Boom Stand Review


Buy it on Amazon: Innogear Desk Clamp Mic Boom Stand [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to set up and adjust, holds Blue Yeti mic weigh, strong grip and stable positioning.

You’ll receive the suspension arm, a desk clamp, a mic holder, and a 3/8” to 5/8” thread adapter for larger threaded mics like the Blue Yeti. The suspension arm is made of a medium-weight steel with a powder black coating. The full length measures about 27” with the upper portion being 14” and the bottom 13”. The C-clamp is also made of metal and it has a max truss width of 2.25”. The mic holder and thread adapter are made of plastic and the mic holder diameter is 1” for narrow ended studio mics. Some folks have complained that the locking nut for the post has defective threads; On mine I didn't find this to be the case and the locking mechanism seems to work fine. It's tight enough that I need to loosen the nut to swivel the boom, otherwise the post gets scratched and shredded by the end of the nut.

The arm is pretty simple to assemble although it comes with no instructions. Note that whatever surface you mount it to needs to be flat on top and bottom. If it has a fancy edge or bevel on top, the clamp cannot grip the surface tightly (like some fancy edges to granite countertops). At the end of the arm you can use either the 3/8" mic holder or the 5/8" thread adapter. The mic holder did a fine job holding a 1 lb moving coil mic. It was easy to adjust and maneuver around. The arm is rated to handle up to 3 lbs of weight. With the adapter, the boom also performed well in holding my Blue Yeti mic. The adapter can be a bit finicky to get in flush so be careful not to screw it in skewed or you'll damaged the thin threads. It's probably a good idea to swap in a metal adapter in the longer run if you'll be taking it off and on often. I think as long as you remember to loosen the knobs when you need to make adjustments at the joints you can avoid stripping the threads on the locking nuts. You can even easily add a pop filter to the post that the mic sits on.

Overall, this is an inexpensive, functional mic boom that helps you save a little space if you don’t have room on for a floor stand. It doesn't have the longest reach or best dampening features, but it gets the job done for a simple set up.

Buy it on Amazon: Innogear Desk Clamp Mic Boom Stand [Affiliate Link] "
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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Energy Efficient Power Saving 17W BR40 Dimmable LED Floodlight Bulbs Review

Shine Hai BR40 17Watt LED Dimmable Floodlight Bulbs Review

Buy it on Amazon: Shine Hai BR40 17Watt LED Dimmable Floodlight Bulbs [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Bright, warm white color flood lights; uses less electricity than incandescent, smooth dimming, puts off minimal heat.

You’ll receive 6 LED flood light bulbs. The bulbs are the same shape and size of typical incandescent flood lights, however, these are made of plastic and have a heavier feel due to the electronics inside. It has a standard E26 base. I replaced my 100 Watt Sylvania soft white incandescent bulbs with these 17 Watt 3000K warm white LEDs, and it made a huge difference in the room. It’s a lot brighter and these lights don’t put off a lot of heat making the room cooler in the summertime. These bulbs are also dimmable if you don’t need it so bright which helps save even more on electricity. I’ve had these bulbs installed for about 6 months so far. I have them on about 12 hours a day and haven’t had any problems, so hope fully they last the 25,000 hours (8 years!) they're rated for.

Buy it on Amazon: Shine Hai BR40 17Watt LED Dimmable Floodlight Bulbs [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Zomei Q111 Aluminum Camera Tripod Review

Zomei Q111 Aluminum Camera Tripod Review

Buy it on Amazon: Zomei Q111 Aluminum Camera Tripod [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Durable, lightweight, smooth pan/tilt, easy to use.

The tripod comes in a thin nylon bag with a simple drawstring with plastic cinch. It measures about 19” when retracted and has three separate telescoping sections on the legs with quick release leg locks for adjusting the lengths. At the top of each leg is a neoprene handle grip and in the center of the legs is the leg angle lock that allows you to expand the tripod.

When the legs are fully extended the tripod height is about 40 inches. If you extend the center column can increase the final height to about 4.5 feet. The center column handle rotates easily but ratchets stiffly due to the plastic gears. The mounting plate on top has a quick release lever and on the bottom of the foot plate, you can adjust the mounting screw tightener to attach the foot plate to your camera. The pan handle measures about 6.5 inches which gives you plenty of leverage to tilts and pans smoothly. The motion of the pan and tilt are fluid with no jerkiness or stuttering. The side tilt screw allows you to rotate the camera 90 degrees for portrait shots and everything in between.

Just below the pan head, there’s a small bubble level to help you make sure the tripod is level when setting it on uneven ground. Lastly, there’s a counterweight hook in the center of the tripod where you can attach a weight like a sand/bean bag to help keep your tripod stable while you use it, so that is doesn’t move around or worse, fall over with your camera on it. This tripod is constructed from a lightweight yet decently durable aluminum alloy and comes in a variety of bright, bold colors but you can get black too. It works great for stabilizing your shoots for both photos or videos.

Buy it on Amazon: Zomei Q111 Aluminum Camera Tripod [Affiliate Link]
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Vantoo Blue Pinstripe Denim Apron Review

Vantoo Blue Pinstripe Denim Apron Review

Buy it on Amazon: Vantoo Blue Pinstripe Denim Apron [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Lightweight, comfortable, and durable apron. Premium and stylish look and feel w/plenty of pockets.

The apron comes in a reusable non-woven canvas bag. The apron is made of a medium-weight denim with a dark wash and pin stripe pattern. The stitching is clean, neat, and straight, using dark blue cotton thread along the hems and stitches. It has a black leather neckstrap and waist belt. The buttons and fixtures on the apron are brass. At the chest there are two, short pockets, and there are three larger kangaroo pockets at the waist for your kitchen tools. The waist belt cinches on the right hand side. The back of the garment is smooth and finished with no flaws or rough seams.

When donning the apron, I found that threading the cinch on the right hand side pretty easy (I'm right handed) but if you have a narrow waist, you’ll be left with a lot of slack from the end of the leather strap like a tail, so I like to tuck that into the front on the other side. The neck strap is fairly easy to adjust while wearing the apron. Overall, I think it is a good height given the position of the pockets at the chest. The deep pockets in the front are convenient for stowing oven mitts and tools like a spatula, dish cloth or wooden spoon. The apron is a decent length, lightweight and durable, and comfortable to wear. In the summer the leather neckstrap does get a bit sweaty. The leather is not removable when you need to wash the garment, so I suggest handwashing to avoid damaging the leather and hang drying the apron. The apron’s thick fabric helps prevent spatters and liquids from seeping through and ruing your clothes while you cook. It works well overall and looks rather stylish.

Buy it on Amazon: Vantoo Blue Pinstripe Denim Apron [Affiliate Link]
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Bonfoto B690A Aluminum Tripod Review

Bonfoto B690A Aluminum Tripod Review

Buy it on Amazon: Bonfoto B690A Aluminum Tripod [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Durable, lightweight, and compact tripod; smooth panning ball head for cinematic pans and panorama photos.

The tripod comes in a heavy duty nylon canvas bag with an adjustable shoulder strap. You’ll also receive a set of instructions and an Allen wrench for tightening any screws that may loosen over time. This tripod is constructed from a lightweight, durable aluminum alloy and weighs about 3 lbs. The tripod measures about 14.5” when folded up and has four separate telescoping sections in each leg with snap locks. At the top of one of the legs is a 6” neoprene foam handle grip. To open each leg, simple pull down until it locks into place. There are three different locking angles and each leg can be adjusted independently from the others. To change the angle or collapse the legs, fold the leg in slightly then press on the switch at the top of the leg to release the lock before adjusting its position.

The tripod comes pre-fitted with a ball head mount, protected by a velvet drawstring bag. The "fully" opened height without the center column extended is about 41". If you extend the center column, which has two twist locking sections, you can increase the final height to about 53.5”. There is a bubble level beside the foot plate on the ball head so you can check your level. If your tripod requires more stability, use the retractable counterweight hook on the underside of the center column to prevent the tripod from tipping over.

On the ball head, the camera attaches to the mount via a screw down quick-release plate. The plate measures 1-3/4” square and has a standard ¼” mounting screw for attaching your camera or other accessories. There are two knobs below the mounting plate; the larger one is the ball locking knob for setting the angle and pitch of your camera. There is a vertical notch on the side of the ball head for taking vertical or portrait style shots. The smaller knob is the panning lock for rotating the camera.The markers along the circumference of the bottom edge of the ball head marks the degrees you’re turning; each tick marks 10 degrees. The panning motion of this ball head is very smooth and even, allowing you to take panorama photos and create cinematic pans. The center column can also be reversed on this tripod for taking macro and low to the ground photography.

Overall, this tripod is a good value for a budget tripod with a lot of features. The construction is lightweight, solid, and durable. It’s a travel friendly and gets the job done for stabilizing your camera for photoshoots and filming.

Buy it on Amazon: Bonfoto B690A Aluminum Tripod [Affiliate Link] "
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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

UPDATE Halo Sport tDCS Review and Results After 4 Weeks Training

UPDATE Halo Sport tDCS Review and Results After 4 Weeks Training

Buy it on Amazon: UPDATE Halo Sport tDCS Review and Results After 4 Weeks Training [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: After 4 weeks of training with the Halo Sport, the results are in and I was surprised by the numbers.

As headphones, I wasn't impressed with the sound quality. It's decent, but not amazing and tends to sound a bit muffled, even when you swap in the closed earcups. You also can't listen to music wirelessly so having the wire there while you're working out is annoying and they don't make for the most comfortable everyday use headphones. I preferred to use nueropriming feature without listening to music for that reason.

For reference my training sessions consisted of 30 minutes of full body interval and plyometric training following the 20 minute nueropriming/warm up session, every other day, resting on weekends. I was able to complete 10 body weight pull ups at the beginning of the trial and 13 by the end of 4 weeks for a 30% improvement. Gains were seen in other metrics in max weights used during anaerobic exercises.

For the typing trial, I used my workout off days to complete keyboard exercises alternating right and left hand focus for the priming sessions. I started with an average typing speed of 40 words per minute and finished at 50 words per minute with and accuracy gain of about 10% according to the Mavis Beacon software I used.

Overall, I believe the Halo Sport did have an impact on the rate and amount of improvement I experienced in such a short time. I felt more engaged and focused during my training sessions and new exercises seemed to be easier to pick up and get comfortable with. Much of the improvement is probably attributable to the simple act of practicing a regular regimen, but I've worked out before and tried to improve my typing skills over the years and I've never had quite the same results that seem to be longer lasting in such a short amount of time.

Buy it on Amazon: UPDATE Halo Sport tDCS Review and Results After 4 Weeks Training [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, March 3, 2017

eBoot Mini Rectangular Wooden Chalkboard Signs Review

eBoot Mini Rectangular Wooden Chalkboard Signs Review

Buy it on Amazon: eBoot Mini Rectangular Wooden Chalkboard Signs [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Cute wooden chalk boards, use only dry chalk, not chalk markers, reusable but prone to ghosting.

The chalkboards come individually packed in a 12 pack. Each set has a 4.25” x 3” chalkboard sign and a two piece stand. All the components are cut from a thin sheet of solid wood. Both sides of the board are sanded smooth so you won’t get splinters. The chalkboard side is dyed with a dark colored ink with a 1/16th inch border. The edges of all the pieces are stained a dark brown color.

The stand is really easy to assemble; just insert the groove on one piece into the groove on the other. They should then be able to stand up on their own. You can place the chalkboard into the stand in landscape or vertically in portrait. Qualitywise I only had one board with a fissure where the dye didn't penetrate, which I was able to fill in with a sharpie marker.

It’s important to note that the boards aren’t coated and the dye used isn’t a surface paint. This means that if you use a liquid marker it could stain the wood and it won’t come off easily. For this reason, I recommend using only dry chalk sticks on the boards and not the liquid chalk pens. If you use regular chalk, you can wipe it off, but it take a bit of scrubbing because the surface is porous. I don’t recommend cleaning the board with a lot of water because it could absorb into the wood and warp. Alternatively, you can paint a different chalkboard surface coat on the boards which would make them a bit easier to use and clean. Out of the box, they’re not too bad and they get the job done when used as little signs for dishes at a party.

Buy it on Amazon: eBoot Mini Rectangular Wooden Chalkboard Signs [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, March 2, 2017

AceKool Bluetooth FM Transmitter and Magnet Mount Review

AceKool Bluetooth FM Transmitter and Magnet Mount Review

Buy it on Amazon: AceKool Bluetooth FM Transmitter and Magnet Mount [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Clear audio, fast charging w/strong magnet mount, easy to install, setup, and use.

You’ll receive the gooseneck mount arm, a dual USB charger/FM transmitter, and an instruction manual. The gooseneck mount measures 6” long and at the end is a strong magnetic pad. It comes with a silver disc mounting plate with sticker backing that attaches to your phone or its case. The end of the gooseneck is threaded and simply screws into the transmitter. The gooseneck is pretty stiff but still decently flexible so it'll hold its position while still allowing a bit of freedom to position it. Thecigarette lighter portion of the transmitter is about 4” in length, and it has 2 USB ports. The top port outputs 2.1 Amps for charging devices and can also accept a USB thumb drive with music on it. The bottom USB port is a QuickCharge 2.0 compatible port, which worked fine with my LG G5 for fast charging. On the face of the unit is a rocker dial for selecting a radio station for transmission and doubles as play/pause/track navigation. On the right side is a red button for setting the transmission frequency and checking the input voltage.

My phone weighs about 7.5 oz and the magnet doesn't have any trouble keeping the phone stuck on it. It can withstand some shaking, though big/hard bumps in the road may dislodge it from the mount. The ball joint on the end of the mount allows you to change the angle of your phone and it'll rotates freely on the magnet pad to switch orientation. After plugging the unit in, select 'Carkit' in your phone’s Bluetooth menu to pair with the transmitter. To select a transmitting station, press the red button on the side until the numbers blink and then turn the dial, right to increment, left to decrement, then set your car’s radio tuner to the same station. It works best if you choose a station that isn’t receiving a broadcast in your area. Afterwards, the sound from your phone will play through your car’s speakers. You can adjust the volume using your car’s radio controls or the volume control on your phone.

The other thing you can do is plug a USB thumb drive in the top USB port that is loaded with MP3 files. It’ll start playing the tracks automatically when plugged in and even remembers the last track it was playing and where in the track it stopped. You change/skip tracks forward and back by tuning the tuning dial on the transmitter. If you twist and hold the dial, however, it will change the transmitting station. Pressing the dial in pauses and starts the track and also answers incoming calls for hands-free calling when paired with a phone over Bluetooth.

In general the magnet mount does a nice job holding up my phone. I like that it’s near my console, so I don’t have to look too far from the road (though it could stand to be a bit longer/higher even))and it’s easy to change the orientation with a quick twist. The transmitter works well and has clear audio with very little static depending on the station you choose.

Buy it on Amazon: AceKool Bluetooth FM Transmitter and Magnet Mount [Affiliate Link]
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