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, June 30, 2017

Gongpon Mini HD Camcorder (HDV-G5) Review

Gongpon Mini HD Camcorder (HDV-G5) Review

Buy it at Amazon: Gongpon Mini HD Camcorder (HDV-G5) [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Works best in well-lit scenes when stabilized /tripod mounted, poor low light and fast-motion capture.

You'll receive the camcorder, a Velcro-cover nylon carrying case with belt loop, a battery, headphone jack to RCA cable, miniHDMi to HDMI cable, lens cap, remote control, miniUSB charging cable, power adapter, and an instruction manual. The camera is pretty small and fits in the palm of your hand. It measures 4.5"L x 2"W x 2.25"H and weighs 10 oz. Macro focus is good for subjects less than 1 foot away; use landscape for farther distances. The focus in the 1-2 foot range is not always crisp. The built-in microphone work well within a couple feet from the sound source, but note that there is no jack to attach an external microphone. The layout for the buttons in ergonomic and allows you to reach all the camera functions with the fingers on your right hand.

On the left hand side is the flip out LCD monitor; the camera turns on automatically when it is opened. The screen is fully articulated and locks in at every 90 degrees and can lay flat with the screen facing out. A fold down panel below the power button hides the miniUSB charging port, AV out port, and the min HDMI out port. There is no external charger for the battery. Plugging the microUSB cable into the camera while the battery is loaded charges the battery.

On the bottom of the camera is a flip open door for the full size SD card slot. This camera has no internal memory but supports up to a 64GB card. When the battery is removed, the clock and date settings will reset; this is pretty annoying if you have a spare battery to you want to swap in for extended recording time. There's a 1/4" mounting hole on the bottom of the camera for tripod mounting. Just under the lens is an LED light for extra lighting at night and although the menu option say "IR LED" this light is not infrared and will not allow you to see "night vision."

For daytime recording, outdoors, in full sunlight, the image quality of the video and photos is clear and detailed. Still frame photos and fixed position video look pretty good, but motion, and especially fast motion, tends to cause the image to show digital artifacts, look choppy, and cause blurriness. With the anti-shake off I couldn't really tell the difference. The zoom on this camera is all digital and broken down into 2 stages for a total of 16x zoom. At fully zoomed in the image quality was greatly reduced, grainy, and soft. The microphone from the camera picked up my voice on camera fine as long as I was within a couple feet. The macro footage was actually a lot better and clearer than I thought it would be.

When filming indoors, there will be quite a bit of graininess/noise in the video. In pitch black and very dark conditions, you won't be able to see anything. Turning on the LED light only helps if your subject is within a foot of the lens in total darkness.

Overall, the camera captures video and images at high resolution. It's not going to produce super smooth video, and it doesn't do a great job capturing fast moving action sequences. It performs best in well-lit, preferably outdoor, conditions and from a static or stabilized mount like a tripod or gimbal.

Buy it at Amazon: Gongpon Mini HD Camcorder (HDV-G5) [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Lonpoo Bluetooth Soundbar (LP-609B) Review

Lonpoo Bluetooth Soundbar (LP-609B) Review

Buy it at Amazon: Lonpoo Bluetooth Soundbar (LP-609B) [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Decent sound in movie mode, good sync and volume output.

You’ll receive the sound bar, a remote control, AC adapter, male-to-male audio cable, RCA audio cables, digital coaxial cable, optical Toslink cable, a set of wall mounting hardware, and an instruction manual. The speaker measures 31"0W x 2.5"H x 2"D. There are two main drivers in this sound bar and a bass reflex port in the middle. Along the right hand side are the physical controls: Power/Source, Volume keys, and Aux-in port which they’re calling Aux 2. Aux 1 is actually the RCA input.

On the back are the inputs for the RCA cable, optical TOSlink, digital coaxial, and power port. This sound bar does not have an internal battery and must be plugged in to operate. The remote requires 2 AAA batteries which are not included. There are additional functions on the remote like mute, music playback controls for streaming via Bluetooth, source selection, and EQ selectors. You can adjust bass/treble up and down or select a preset mode like music, TV, movie, and the speaker default. For me, movie mode produces the best sound with enhanced bass, fully supported mid range and sparkling trebles at a overall louder volume level that far beats what comes out of the TV's built-in speaker. The sound quality of the soundbar is pretty good for a low-cost sound bar and I’d say comparable to a Vizio sound bar. The sound is clear and full and as long as you don’t push the volume to the max, is largely free of distortion. When using the optical input with my TV, the sound is perfectly synced and there is no delay, so the TV sound can be on at the same time and you won’t hear an echo.

When selecting the different sources, the only indicator for mode are the LEDs in the front, blue is Bluetooth mode, Yellow-Green is digital coax, orange is RCA, white is optical TOSlink and bright Green is Aux in. The Red light indicates the soundbar is plugged in and receiving power and in standby or Off mode. The remote must be pointed at the top right hand corner of the speaker with a clear line of sight in order to work, though it'll work from about 20 ft away. When using the optical cable, don't forget to remove the protective caps over the tips of the connectors; also be sure not to pinch or bend the thin gauge cable too sharply or you could damage the glass fibers inside that carry the sound signal.

This sound bar works great in a small bedroom for watching TV shows or movies and also doubles as a wireless Bluetooth speaker if you're looking to spend on a budget. The only minor issue I had was line noise in Aux-in and RCA mode if no sound was coming in from the source, but unplugging the cables gets rid of the noise.

Buy it at Amazon: Lonpoo Bluetooth Soundbar (LP-609B) [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Zhiyun Crane V2 3-Axis Gimbal (Mirrorless Camera Stabilizer) Review

Zhiyun Crane V2 3-Axis Gimbal (Mirrorless Camera Stabilizer) Review

Buy it at Amazon: Zhiyun Crane V2 3-Axis Gimbal Review (Mirrorless Camera Stabilizer) [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Smooth cinematic video, compact for travel, durable build, good on-board controls and remote app.

The gimbal comes in a plastic briefcase that cushions and stores all its components. Inside you'll find an instruction manual, the gimbal, the battery tube, microUSB charging cable, one pair of IMR 26500 3.7V 3600mAh flat top batteries, a battery charger, two 1/4" mounting thumb screws, and a lens bracket. Every item has its place in the case and can neatly be stored away after each use. This kit also includes a mini tripod which is made of steel and rubber which is super useful for using the Crane remotely and balancing your camera.

The gimbal is straight forward to assemble, but must be disassembled to be put away in the case. It only takes a minute to set up though. With the included tripod, balancing the camera goes pretty quick. The tool-less adjustment thumbscrews make balancing the Crane easy, though I recommend adding a quick release adapter to save even more time if you have a primary camera that you use exclusively. The gimbal is designed for mirrorless cameras, but you can also use it with DSLRs that have mirrors too. I've mounted my Canon T3i to it and it supported its 2lb weight and has a max payload weight of around 4 lbs. Keep in mind though, the gimbal weighs 2.5 lbs itself so you'll be carrying all that weight with one or both hands. I also used the gimbal with my Sony a6300 and LG G5 smartphone for some awesome smoothly cinematic video shots. It's nearly fully articulated, but at some angles and rotations, the balance plate and/or may knock into the top of the handle, so that's something to watch out for.

There are three modes on this gimbal: the default mode on startup is the Pan follow mode. This mode keeps the camera level allowing you to pan left and right as you move around and twist the handle for very smooth traveling shots. You can change the tilt in this mode by using the joystick in the handle. If you single press the mode button it will switch to locking mode which locks the pan and tilt so that the camera is always facing forward. This is great for shots where you change the height and don't want to accidentally pan side to side. If you do want to change the pan and tilt you can use the joystick on the handle to do so. The third mode is following mode and basically the camera will smoothly follow the direction that you move the handle whether you twist from side to side to turn or tilt back to point higher or tilt forward to point down. The joystick in this mode controls the roll axis if you want to change the level of the horizon. The mobile app for this gimbal also comes in handy if you want to control the gimbal remotely like if it's attached to a tripod. You have access to all the modes and can control the pan, tilt, and roll for each mode. The gimbal can be inverted quickly for low and near to the ground shots as well. If you have a compatible camera, you can connect via a camera USB cable to use the on-board shutter and zoom controls on the Crane's handle.There's also an optional Bluetooth remote control that you can buy separately if you don't want to use the smartphone app, or rather so you can control the gimbal and use a different smartphone app to control/view your camera remotely.

Overall, the Crane helps you create awesomely smooth and stable video. You do have to practice how you walk and move as you film and there's some technique involved, but the gimbal takes care of most of the stabilization. It's got a 10-12 hr run time on a full charge so you can film all day.

Buy it at Amazon: Zhiyun Crane V2 3-Axis Gimbal Review (Mirrorless Camera Stabilizer) [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

XYJ Stainless Style Damascus Pattern Chef's Knife Review

XYJ Stainless Style Damascus Pattern Chef's Knife Review

Buy it at Amazon: XYJ Stainless Style Damascus Pattern Chef's Knife [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Good balance and handle comfort, sharp for smooth slicing on boneless foods, durable metal.

The chef's knife measures 12.75" with an 8" blade and 4.75" handle. The widest part of the blade is 1.75". The knife is weighted slightly towards the handle and weighs 6.75 oz overall. The literature says the material is Japanese VG10 steel, but it's marked on the side as 7Cr17MOV, a common Chinese low-grade steel. While it has a decent hardness rating that allows it to hold its edge for a long time, it makes it more difficult to sharpen as well.

Identical laser etched wave patterns appear on both sides, called a Damascus pattern. The etching is not very deep and is barely visible, so it doesn't look as stark as acid washed or pattern welded steel. The Damascus pattern, however, complements the woodgrain in the handle, which has a dark walnut finish. The spine of the blade is not visible throughout the handle so it may not be a solid piece throughout. The knife has a partial bolster which lets you sharpen the entire length of the knife blade. Without a heavy heel on the blade, though, you won't be able to do heavy chopping, cut bone, or cleave through pumpkins and things with hard shells. The Japanese style knife has a straight blade which limits the amount of rock available for mincing and chopping. However, the knife is excellent at making thin delicate slices.

The blade is sharp out of the box. The knife makes quick work of prepping vegetables, fruits, and boneless meats. Corrosion resistance is decent, and it doesn't rust.

Buy it at Amazon: XYJ Stainless Style Damascus Pattern Chef's Knife [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, June 26, 2017

Minibot X5 Robot Vacuum Water Tank and Mop Pads Review

Minibot X5 Robot Vacuum Water Tank and Mop Pads Review

Buy it at Amazon: Minibot X5 Robot Vacuum Water Tank and Mop Pads [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Good for light mopping but needs close monitoring, wipes up mild sticky/damp messes, easy to clean.

If you bought the standard Minibot X5 robot vacuum package, it doesn't come with this water tank, which I got because I have a lot of tile, cement and hardwood flooring that it could work well on. The tank comes with two microfiber mopping pads, one which is pre-installed. This tank replaces the standard dust bin on the vacuum, so you can only use one at a time. Note that the water doesn't have a motor inside whereas the normal dustbin does. This means that while mopping, the robot vacuum will not have suction. It will simply wet (or dry) mop your floors and the front of the bin will collect anything kicked in by the main roller. Also, because it doesn't have a motor, the tank is fully submersible and washable in water, unlike the standard dustbin. The pads are held on the tank by micro-Velcro strips under the dust collection opening and on the bottom of the tank.

The capacity of the water tank is 300 milliliters; about 10 oz or 1.25 cup. There's a gray stopper in the top left hand corner that's easy to opena nd seal for filling the tank. The opening isn't terribly large, but it's big enough you don't need a funnel to fill the tank. Then just insert the tank into the robot vacuum and run like normal.

Instead of suction, the pad slowly draws water out of the tank and mop your floors. It starts off a bit slow, but the entire mop pad eventually gets saturated. It only work on hardwood and tile, not carpeting or rugs. As the unit moves around it leaves a light wet water trail, like a snail. After about an hour the tank was nearly empty. When I removed it from the unit, there was quite a bit of dust and debris in the catch bin, though not as much as when running in normal vacuum mode. A lot of the contents were damp which meant shaking it out wasn't so effective, but you can just rinse out the bin in the sink. The mop pad wasn't as dirty as I thought it would get, but it was easy to wash/clean too.

Overall, the mop function did an ok job polishing the floors and picking up any dust and kitchen stickiness that might have been missed in the normal vacuum mode. However, since there wasn't any detergent and not a lot of pressure applied, it wasn't a super deep clean. I did like that it didn't use a lot of water and the floors dried fairly quickly (~15 mins) You do have to make sure you're around to remove the water tank in case it goes back to the charging base before its empty, otherwise water pool around it, which isn't a good combo. You also don't want it to get stuck somewhere and just leak water all over and you can't pre-fill the tank for a scheduled run, so it's not as easy to "set and forget" as the vacuum dustbin. Mopping performance was decent as an intermittent wet clean option.

Buy it at Amazon: Minibot X5 Robot Vacuum Water Tank and Mop Pads [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, June 23, 2017

AKingACE Mens Fishing Shorts Review

AKingACE Mens Fishing Shorts Review

Buy it at Amazon: AKingACE Mens Fishing Shorts [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Accurate sizing, lightweight, dries quickly and comfortable to wear.

The fishing shorts come with a 41" x 1" braided nylon strap belt with a simple plastic snap clasp. The material of these shorts is 100% nylon and they have a slightly rough textured feel like active drywear. The interior of the side and thigh pockets use a soft fabric mesh, like swim trunk lining to allow water to drain through. Inside, the shorts are not fully lined with an interior mesh, it is simply the pockets that use this fabric.

The outseam is 21" and the inseam is 9". At the fly, the button is actually a slide catch like on khakis or dress pants. The thin, metal zipper pull slides smoothly. On the sides at each hip is an elastic area that offers a couple inches of expansion so that the size Small fits 29-31" waists. At each thigh, there are zippered pockets with a nylon and rubber zipper pull extension that measure about 7" x 6". On the seat of the pants are two 6" x 6" Velcro pockets that do not have the mesh inside, so these may fill with water if you wade with them. The right rear pocket has a smaller pocket knife compartment on its face. The only embellishment on these plain looking shorts is a small bit of branding along the top of the left thigh pocket.

As someone with a 28" waist, I ordered the smallest size available (Small) and found that they fit somewhat loosely without the belt (which I expected given the fit on the sizing chart). They were also longer than I'd wanted cutting off just below the knee when sitting low on my waist, whereas I prefer shorts that end above the knee. However, the overall shape of the shorts isn't baggy around the legs and they actually look quite stylish. The pockets are easy to access though the thigh pockets are a bit low for my reach. Because of the stretchiness at the hips, these actually slide off pretty easily without undoing the button or fly. The belt, for the most part is pretty simple and effective. It's easy to adjust to tighten of loosen, like the straps on a life jacket, and keeps the shorts on. The one thing I noticed is that it does feel a little constricting for very athletic movements. So they're not great for running but are comfortable and functional casualwear for fishing and outdoor sporting. Plus the nylon doesn't absorb or retain water easily which makes it quick drying for wet conditions when you're out on the water.

Buy it at Amazon: AKingACE Mens Fishing Shorts [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Seydi F1 Dashboard Camera Review

Seydi F1 Dashboard Camera Review

Buy it at Amazon: Seydi F1 Dashboard Camera [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Clear and crisp HD video, wide angle, decent features, okay night footage.

The dashboard camera comes with a suction cup mount with integrated GPS, cigarette lighter adapter w/12 ft cable, 40" USB cable, CPL filter, 32GB microSD card, and a user manual. The camera is compact measuring 3.75"W x 1.75"L x 1.25"D including the lens. It is powered via miniUSB and has mini HDMI output. The screen on the back has a 2.5" diagonal. The CPL filter is optional and can be installed on the lens to help reduce glare, darken bright skies, and cut down on reflections.

The camera setup is simple and straightforward. There are plenty of settings and options in the menus that aren't explained too fully in the manual but could be useful if you play with them a bit. I particularly like the time lapse parking mode and different HD resolution sizes. On the back of the suction cup is the GPS receiver which is integrated and cannot be removed. The GPS will still be on if the cable is plugged directly into the camera body, so if you don't want to use the GPS features like location and speed tracking, turn it off in the settings.

The camera has a number of different resolutions and all of them are HD. The highest resolution is 2560x1080P which is super wide angle at 170 degrees. The lower resolutions have tighter fields of view. I like the 60 fps 1080p resolution because for me the video looks smoother and clearer. During the day the video quality is high def and captures a lot of detail; you can read license plates off the car in front and in adjacent lanes within 1-2 car lengths. At night the video is a bit harder to see, perhaps even somewhat blurry depending how much ambient light there is. But the quality is not bad, and you can see enough detail that the footage could be helpful in the event of an accident.

The player downloaded from Seydi's website shows a map of the trip (per clip), speed, and direction of travel when using the GPS. It'll also show you G-sensor info. Overall, the camera is easy to install and use. It has some of the highest video quality that I've seen for a unit this size in this price range and has a decent feature set.

Buy it at Amazon: Seydi F1 Dashboard Camera [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Stop and Buy Aluminum Fidget Spinner Review

Stop and Buy Aluminum Fidget Spinner Review

Buy it at Amazon: Stop and Buy Aluminum Fidget Spinner [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Heavy, durable, cool-looking spinner. Rotates fast and for a long time. Fun toy and stress-reliever.

The fidget spinner comes in an aluminum gift box with a clear window. It is made of solid machined aluminum and weighs nearly 2.25 oz, so it's a bit heavier than other spinners that I've tried but still lightweight. It has three rounded spokes with embedded bearings and matching aluminum finger caps.

The entire toy measures 3" in diameter. The finger caps are removable if you want to swap the colors or change the bearing. The bearing inside has 10 fixed position balls for smooth spinning. If you find that the spinner is off balance, make sure to tighten the inner thumb screw that secures the bearing. If this is loose, it may cause judder and friction during use. The spinner is easy to get going and spins pretty fast for a long time. It has a nice balance overall and spins very smoothly allowing you to balance it on a fingertip. I timed it going for more than 3 minutes and a single spin both vertically and horizontally. When spinning, the light reflection creates a loop of white light illusion, and at certain angles creates a double loop. Because the frame is metal this spinner is highly durable and nearly impossible to break, even if you drop it. It's all metal design is heavy-duty and premium looking, but the color can chip or scratch off if you're not careful with it.

Buy it at Amazon: Stop and Buy Aluminum Fidget Spinner [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Danco Next Duo Flush Conversion Kit Installation and Review

Danco Next Duo Flush Conversion Kit Installation and Review

Buy it at Amazon: Danco Next Duo Flush Conversion Kit [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Quick install, saves water, reliable, but a tight fit for smaller tanks.

In the kit, you'll receive the dual-flush controller, the quick fill valve, refill tube, a split handle, a gap cam, black rubber ring, and extra zip tie. The optional J-tube is not included with the boxed set. The installation instructions are divided into two parts: installing the fill valve and then the flush converter. It's was pretty straightforward and took about 20 minutes to install. We have two of these units in our home. We've had one installed for about 3 years in our main bathroom with no problems, leaks, or need to replace the flapper. That was a nice benefit because we were using the big box store flappers and after several months or so they always seemed to leak into the tank and had to be re-seated, cleaned, or replaced. The inside of the tank also stays a lot cleaner with less sediment build up and it fill up much more quickly than it used to. With a "quick flush" you'll notice that it uses significantly less water. We like this system because it helps us save water when you don't need to flush a full tank.

We've since installed a second one in our guest bathroom. The only thing I'd recommend to do first is measure the height of your toilet tank. The tank height of our guest bath toilet was only 11" tall which ended up being barely enough to fit the fast fill valve in (it extends above the tank rim but fits under the raised lid). The height also limits the amount of water available for the quick flush, and it isn't powerful enough to clear the toilet with the smaller tank; you have to hold it down for 2 seconds which still uses less water than a full flush but you have to remember to do it. The full flush on the toilet works fine. With the tank in our main bath which is 12" tall, it works perfectly for both quick and full. The overall installation was very easy.

Buy it at Amazon: Danco Next Duo Flush Conversion Kit [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, June 19, 2017

Portable Popup Beach Tent Review

Portable Popup Beach Tent Review

Buy it at Amazon: Portable Popup Beach Tent [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Compact and portable, no-frills shade from the sun, packs and unpacks in less than 1 min.

The tent comes packed in a 19" nylon carrying bag and weighs just over 2 lbs and has a zipper like a pouch. The instructions for setting up and putting away the tent are printed on a tag inside the bag, so you can't lose them. The tent inside sets up in seconds. It literally pops open and just sits on the ground. Then you'll take the included 6 metal spikes and pin the strap loops down, there are four in the corners and two at the opening corners of the tent entrance. There are also two side pockets along the edges that you can fill with beach sand on a windy day to add some weight, or store some items like flip-flops. The tent is 3.5' tall and the lounging area is 5' x 3.5' or 5' x 5' including the section outside the tent. The tent is large enough to accommodate two people laying down or in a seated position. It provides nice shade from the sun and the vented back lets in air and prevents the tent from blowing away. Keep in mind, this tent doesn't have privacy screens to close off the entrance or vented window in the back; it's very basic but gets the job done in the hot sun. The tent also packs away in under a minute and is extremely light and portable for taking to the beach, picnics and other outdoor events. The only thing to be careful with is when pounding the pins in the ground because they are somewhat malleable and easily get bent.

Buy it at Amazon: Portable Popup Beach Tent [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, June 16, 2017

Pro Under Mens Sport Boxer Briefs Review

Pro Under Mens Sport Boxer Briefs Review

Buy it at Amazon: Pro Under Mens Sport Boxer Briefs [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Soft, comfortable, and breathable; stretchy and non-constricting but a bit loose for smaller builds.

These are the boxer briefs in size small. The advertised waist size is 30-31" but it fit a couple inches more or less. The outseam is 17" and the inseam is 5". Here between the legs you can see there's a wide square cut, which is somewhat wider than typically found on boxer shorts at around 3.5". The seat of the underwear has two seats running down a few inches in from the sides. At the leg hem the material stretches a bit, but there isn't additional elastic here. The material is soft and flexible like most athleticwear and is mostly opaque even when stretched. The waistband is 1-3/8" tall and also has a good amount of stretch. The fly in front is a pass-through flap and offset to the lower right corner. The inside stitching is serged for a smooth and even texture that isn't itchy or scratchy. The material is a blend of 88% polyester and 12% spandex. It can be washing washed in warm water, and ironed on low but not beached, dry cleaned, nor tumble dried.

Fitwise, on my 28" waist and short stature, the boxers were looser than I'd hoped. The waist seems to fit fine, but you can see around the thighs the hems aren't quite tight enough and the boxers tend to bunch up at the upper thigh while cutting off just above the knee, like loose fitting cycle shorts. The material is soft and smooth and allows for a decent range of motion without constriction, but it just feels like there's a ton of extra material in the front; it also wears a bit warm because of the material. One issue for me is the length. If I wear above-the-knee length shorts, the boxers are visible underneath making it look like you're wearing shapewear, just without the benefit of any shaping. The waistband also ends up being a tad high on the waist.

Overall, I think these boxer briefs are actually quite comfortable in general, but just ill-fitted for my body type and stature. If you're taller, heavier, or more muscular they may provide a better fit. For reference, I'm 5'4" and weigh 125 lbs.

Buy it at Amazon: Pro Under Mens Sport Boxer Briefs [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cowin E7 Noise Canceling Bluetooth Headphones Review

Cowin E7 Noise Canceling Bluetooth Headphones Review

Buy it at Amazon: Cowin E7 Noise Canceling Bluetooth Headphones [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Noise canceling adds extra isolation, but average sound; good comfort and lightweight.

You'll receive the headphones, a vinyl carrying case, microUSB charging cable, male-to-male audio cable and an instruction manual. The headphones are made using a plastic housing, hangers, and buttons. The underside of the headband is lined with a soft leatherette as are the ear cups. The ear cups are adjustable in height and ratchet up and down easily on a flexible metal band; they also swivel about 110 degrees.

There are two "On" modes: Bluetooth and Noise canceling + Bluetooth. Note that the active noise canceling cannot be used with the line-in cable and only works in Bluetooth mode. You can even pair via NFC on the right earpiece. The headphones are pretty comfortable to wear and the large 3.5" earcups were able to fully encapsulate my ears. The sound from the headphones using the plain Bluetooth with no noise cancelling is warm and round with fairly resonant bass and supported midrange. The treble ranges sparkle putting a decent emphasis to vocals but tend to distort and get staticky even at moderate volumes. The balance across the ranges however can sound a bit muddy with a muffled quality, especially with classic rock tracks. With more electronic music, the sound is clearer and cleaner. With the noise canceling turned on, while it does seem like external sounds are cut down some, it changes the quality of the music a lot. You'll hear more resonance and reverb as if the sound stage is larger, however, it can also make the trebles sound canned and dry.

The controls on the earpiece are easy to access but result in loud clicking when you press them. Short pressing the plus and minus keys skip tracks forward and back, while holding them down increase and decreases the volume. This makes it a bit tricky to get to fine tune the volume level. Also, be careful of clicking the play/pause button twice because it'll activate the redial of the last number you called.

The unit paired easily with my phone and the NFC worked fine as well. The passive sound isolation on the earphones isn't great and even with the active noise cancelling on isn't amazing. At a bit higher volumes, you'll be able to fully immerse yourself in the music, though the flaws in the audio quality are also more pronounced as well. Overall, for a budget pair of noise canceling headphones, the sound is good but not stunning. They actually perform better soundwise as regular Bluetooth headphones and are relatively comfortable to wear.

Buy it at Amazon: Cowin E7 Noise Canceling Bluetooth Headphones [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

DHD D3 Mini Mesh Drone Review

DHD D3 Mini Mesh Drone Review

Buy it at Amazon: DHD D3 Mini Mesh Drone [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Stable hovering, flies well w/responsive controls; short flights, but a lot of fun.

You'll receive the remote control with the drone, a charging cable, instruction manual, and a microfiber carrying case. The lower portion of the remote stores the drone in a case, which is nice so they won't get separated. The drone itself is small and compact, measuring 2.5"L x 2.75"W x 1"H; it weighs less than 1 oz. The drone rotors are fully contained in a sturdy mesh cage so the blades are always shielded. You also don't get any replacement blades for this reason. On the bottom are four rubber feet for soft landings. The unit charges using a barrel style connector which is right above the on/off switch. On the front of the drone is a white LED light and there are red and green LEDs within the center of the body section that indicate front and back respectively.

When the unit is charging, the LED light in the charger will be red and when the battery is fully charged, it shuts off. With the remote control, hold it with the storage compartment at the bottom and the on/off switch at the top. It requires 4 AAA batteries to operate and a mini-screwdriver to open the battery bay door, neither of which are included. The controls for the drone are quite sensitive and there is no auto-hover function, so you'll have to constantly adjust the throttle to control its height. However, once you get the hang of it, it's not too hard to keep the drone stable and hovering at a specific height. The drone glides pretty smoothly and feels balanced overall. 3D flips are easily executed but tends to make the drone drop a few feet after if you don't increase the throttle immediately afterward. Because it is so light this drone flies best indoors or in windless conditions. Total flight time on a full charge is about 4-5 minutes and the battery took about 50 minutes to charge using a computer USB port.

Overall this drone is a fun, durable toy that's suitable for beginners. While it doesn't have a camera and has a slight learning curve, it's pretty cool once you get it under control, and you don't need to worry a lot about crashing into things and breaking it. You do, however, have to be careful to not let it get too far away from you because the range of the control is about 50 ft. Any further and it may fly off without you. The one-click auto-return feature is imperfect at best and doesn't always make the drone come back directly towards you in normal mode but in headless mode performed somewhat better.

Buy it at Amazon: DHD D3 Mini Mesh Drone [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Penzo Magnetic Charging and Data microUSB Cable Review

Penzo Magnetic Charging and Data microUSB Cable Review

Buy it at Amazon: Penzo Magnetic Charging and Data microUSB Cable [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to install, charges somewhat slowly, fit is a bit snug and connector a tad long.

You'll get a 40" braided nylon cable with aluminum connectors and a separating magnetic microUSB tip. The connector is designed to stay plugged into your device for a quick release and assembly magnetic connection. Bringing the magnetic ends together completes the circuit and the magnet works in both directions so you don't have to worry about which side is up. The metal casing on the connectors feel durable and below them is a thick plastic strain relief to prevent breakage of the cable and wear. The fabric cable is durable, semi-stiff but flexible and helps reduce tangles and knots.

When the cord is plugged into a power source, the LED on the magnetic connector side shows green. For some devices, it'll change to blue when the connection is complete, but on others I found that it remained green so you still had to make sure the magnet was seated correctly and the device was charging. The LED only appears on one side of the cable, though it doesn't need to face any particular direction when connecting to the tip. The connection is a breakaway so that if you move the device while plugged in, it'll simply disconnect rather than dragging the cable with it. The one thing that I didn't like is that the tip is a little bit long which makes it stick out of some devices somewhat awkwardly. This not only exposes it to some risk of damage, but it could also get snagged on something, pull off and get lost. On some devices the tip was really snug in the port and took a bit of work to remove. It would have helped if there was a notch to help you remove it from your device if it is seated flush.

Other than that, the cable works pretty well for charging, but not for fast charging, and is easy to connect and disconnect. Some devices were not recognized using the cable for data transfers, though. If you'll be using this with a phone that has a case on it, you'll need the charging port cutout to be at least 3/8" wide to accommodate the tip and about 1/2" to accommodate the other side of the magnet depending how thick the case is.

Buy it at Amazon: Penzo Magnetic Charging and Data microUSB Cable [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, June 12, 2017

Adoric Pronto Digital Kitchen Scale Review

Adoric Pronto Digital Kitchen Scale Review

Buy it at Amazon: Adoric Pronto Digital Kitchen Scale [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Accurate weighing, clear/easy to read LCD, good size.

The kitchen scale comes with 2 AAA batteries and a set of instructions. The scale measures 7"L x 5.25"W but the front and back edges are curved, so the measuring surface is really only 5.25" square. It's still big enough to fit my measuring/mixing bowls The weighing plate has a shiny, brushed, stainless steel finish and the maximum weight it can measure is 5 kg or about 11 lbs. The battery is bay is on the bottom of the unit. The four rubber feet keep the scale steady on the tabletop but also calibrate the scale and it needs to be set on a stable, level surface in order to be accurate. The power button also zeros or tares the scale after it is powered on with a short press. This is to ensure that your container weight does not get calculated into your ingredient weight; it takes a second to zero out but it pretty quick.

The LCD display uses a dark background with white text that is easy to read from almost any angle. The Unit button to the right of the LCD cycles through the measurement units: grams, ounces, milliliters, and lbs and oz. Only ounces can be measured out to two decimal places, the others are rounded to whole integer numbers. When compared to another scale, the measurements agreed with each other, so I trust that the scale is accurate. It is a bit sensitive to small vibrations which can shift/fluctuate the measurements by a hair, but not enough to affect any recipe. Overall, the scale appears have accurate readings, has a nice size, design and easy to read LCD, and is simple to use.

Buy it at Amazon: Adoric Pronto Digital Kitchen Scale [Affiliate Link]
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Sunday, June 11, 2017

NYNE Rock Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker Boombox Review

NYNE Rock Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker Boombox Review

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Takeaway: Great projection and bass response; bright trebles. Loud but fairly crunchy at max volume. Good for outdoors, but too intense for indoor use.

The speaker comes with a 41" gold-plated male to male audio cable, 5' universal travel adapter with 4 international travel plugs, and an instruction sheet. This speaker is very large for a portable unit. It measures 21" across, 9" from front to back and 6.5" tall and weighs over 12 lbs. It's a bit awkward to carry, but does have a carrying grip built into the back near the top. It packs a lot of power into its housing with 65 Watts of power with two active drivers, twin tweeters and a subwoofer.

The speaker is somewhat waterproof, rated at IPX-3 so it can take some light rain and splashing but can't be submerged. It has metal grilles and a soft-touch finish on its housing so it's not super rugged but doesn't mind traveling. Along the top are the controls for power, call answer, play/pause, track selection and volume control. To the right of them is an NFC area for touch pairing with your mobile device. On the back behind a rubber sealed door are Aux-in, line out, 1A USB output, pinhole reset, charge level and indicators, and the power port.

When you power on the speaker, the control panel on the top lights up. Pairing to the speaker is straightforward whether you select NYNE Rock from your device's Bluetooth menu or tap it to the NFC area, and since it uses the 4.1 Bluetooth standard, you'll be able to get 8-10 hours of playback from the unit depending on volume levels. The 6600mAh internal battery can also be used to charge your mobile devices via the USB port in the back.

The sound is clear with plenty of bass response and depth, however, the trebles and upper midranges are a bit over-pronounced oftentimes results in harsh sounding vocals. As a result, at higher volumes the sound is somewhat muddy with distortion. When indoors, you won't have any trouble filling a large room or event space and in most instances you won't ever need to max out the volume. Even when outdoors at a moderate volume you should be able to hear the speaker loud and clear with plenty of detail a dozen yards away.

Overall, the speaker offers better than average sound with a definite focus on the lower ranges. Its size limits its portability but for specific uses like outdoor party music it does a great job keeping everyone entertained.

Buy it at Amazon: NYNE Rock Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker Boombox [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, June 9, 2017

iLife A6 Robot Vacuum Cleaner Review

iLife A6 Robot Vacuum Cleaner Review

Buy it at Amazon: iLife A6 Robot Vacuum Cleaner [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Works on hardwood/tile/rugs/short pile carpet, picks up a lot, handles most room transitions.

You'll receive the robot vacuum, charging base, remote control, A/C adapter, virtual wall, 2 AA batteries, 2 AAA batteries, 2 replacement sweeper brushes, a replacement main roller brush, a replacement HEPA filter, a cleaning brush and a manual. The A6 vacuum measures 12" in diameter and 2.75" tall so it's compact enough to go under most furniture like beds and couches. Being slightly shorter than other robot vacuums I've used means it doesn't get stuck as often on low appliances and dressers. It has a single power/auto-clean button on the top which is finished with a glossy tempered glass; there is no LCD panel on the robot. The rest of the controls and LCD screen for the settings are on the remote control.

The space requirements for the charging base is narrower than with other vacuums I've used, which is nice for smaller apartments. I didn't really like that there's no other battery life indicator (neither on the unit nor the remote), but the vacuum is supposed to return to the charging base when it's running low on power. For the most part it does end up making back to the dock when it's cleaning 1 room. To set the current time and auto-schedule on the remote control, be sure that the power switch on the vacuum is on and that the remote is within range of the vacuum, otherwise the settings won't "take" on the unit.

As a daily vacuum, the unit does a really nice job in my house which is mostly hardwood and tile with few rugs and very little carpet (low pile). It picks up a ton of dust, hair and other debris from my floors, which honestly always look fairly clean but the dust bin tells a different story. I also have two cats whose hair gets everywhere so I like that this will pick up a lot the shedding on the floor. I've only had the vacuum get stuck a hand full of times, and it's usually over cords or something I've left lying around. With a bit of mindful tidying before it runs, you can avoid this problem for the most part.

Overall, the A6 performed best on hardwood and tiles floors that has few obstacles and an open floor plan. It was able to run fine over my rugs and carpet as long as there was nothing to get tangled in its spinning parts. The glossy finish on it is nice but tends to pickup and show dust on the surface easily. However, the bin is easy to clean out and with it running daily, the floors are much cleaner with a lot of time and work saved for me.

Buy it at Amazon: iLife A6 Robot Vacuum Cleaner [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, June 8, 2017

JJRC H36 Mini Drone Review

JJRC H36 Mini Drone Review

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Takeaway: Fun, toy grade drone; steady controls, good controller range, very durable.

You'll receive the drone, remote control, 4 replacement rotors, a LiPo battery, a USB charger, and the instruction manual. The drone is small and light, weighing less than 1 oz. It measures 3.25" square and is 7/8" tall. It is made of lightweight plastic and the rotors are fully surrounded by blade guards which make the drone more durable against collisions and crashes. In fact, it's taken some pretty hard crashes onto tile and the drone is none the worse for wear. The remote requires 2 AA batteries which are not included. The included LiPo battery is a 3.7V 30C 150 mAh battery and needs to be charged before first use. Note that when charging the charger has no indicators but when the battery is full a red light will illuminate.

The remote pairs easily and quickly the the quadcopter. I found the controls for the drone pretty sensitive, but fairly smooth once I got used to them There is no auto-hover function so you'll have to constantly adjust the throttle to control its height and be careful not to cut the throttle too quickly or it'll come falling out of the sky. The drone is well-balanced and stable once it is several feet in the air. The drone has a 3D flip button which is easily executed but tends to make the drone drop a few feet after if you don't increase the throttle to compensate. The auto-return button works sometimes but isn't always accurate so sometimes pressing it sends it off in a direction where you are not. This could be due to changes in direction from hitting objects or wind. Because it is so light this drone flies best indoors or in windless conditions. Flight time is about 5-7 minutes total.

Overall this drone is a fun, durable toy that's suitable for beginners. While it doesn't have a camera and requires a bit of piloting skill, it's easy to get a hang of, and you don't has to worry too much about crashes. I was able to retain control of the drone from 50 feet away but didn't test the extreme limits of the controller range. If you lose connection with the controller while the drone is moving away from you, there's a chance it'll get away from you for good.

Buy it at Amazon: JJRC H36 Mini Drone [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Fancii Foldable Pocket Utility Knife Review

Fancii Foldable Pocket Utility Knife Review

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Takeaway: Heavy duty, sharp, and compact; blades are easy to change, has a nice heft to it.

You'll receive the utility knife, a carrying satchel with a belt loop, and a case of 5 replacement blades. The utility knife is designed like a pocket knife so that it can fold in half for pocketable storage. The knife weighs just over 5 oz. It measures 4.5" x 1.5" when folded and ½" thick. On the back is a belt clip so you can attach this to your belt or waist band directly, or you can use the carrying satchel, however, it feels just a tad too short for the knife as it's hard to get the Velcro closed. On the front is the release button to open the blade. Note that the button is not spring loaded and you will need to hold it down as you pull or flick the blade open. Once open and you release the button, the blade locks into place and the knife measures 6.5" inches long. The release button also lets you to fold the blade back up.

The knife has a nice solid heavy feel to it as it's made mostly of metal. There's a plastic protector tip on it when you first receive it which you can re-use and store when folded. The blades used are SK5 2.25" utility blades that are easily replaced with the quick release button. Since the blades are double sided, if a blade is worn you can turn it around and use the other side. The blades it comes with are sharp and it cuts through cardboard boxes like butter. It has a nice ergonomic feel, grip, and weight to it and feels durable. The weight is a bit hefty though and could start to fatigue you if you use it for a long time.

Buy it at Amazon: Fancii Foldable Pocket Utility Knife [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Fancii 16 Piece Precision Craft Knife Set Review

Fancii 16 Piece Precision Craft Knife Set Review

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Takeaway: Sharp blades, good variety of blades and handle types, handy storage case.

The knife set comes in a hardshell plastic carrying case. There's an assortment of blades and three different tool handles. The blades are stored in the upper portion of the case and held by a magnet. Each blade has a custom shape for its place in the case. The bottom half holds the three knives which have blades pre-installed. The first has a nice wide chunky plastic handle, like a screwdriver, and is for cutting heavyweight materials where you might need a little extra leverage like cardboard. The medium sized tool is made of aluminum and is about the thickness of a fountain pen. It's good for medium to heavy weight materials like thick card stock. The narrowest tool is this one that is ideal for lightweight and small materials and is most like an X-acto knife. This one works will for detail work and paper crafts. All of the tools use a metal collar nut to secure the blades which is easy to loosen and tighten. The different types of blades and their uses are described in the instruction manual which is well-written. Some blades are only to be used with the lightweight handle while others can be used with both the medium and heavyweight handles.

Overall, I found the blades to be sharp, the tools easy to use, and the blades simple to change. The handles feel lightweight and durable for long-term use. The only thing that I would change is that getting the lightweight tool out of the case is a bit hard to do if you don't remove the medium-weight tool first because it gets in the way. However, I do like that they snap back into the case and stay put.

Buy it at Amazon: Fancii 16 Piece Precision Craft Knife Set [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, June 5, 2017

Ragu Z400 Mini LED Projector Review

Ragu Z400 Mini LED Projector Review

Buy it at Amazon: Ragu Z400 Mini LED Projector [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Decent SD resolution, loud but boxy audio, USB can't power some TV sticks like Chromecast.

You'll receive the projector, remote control, 5 ft power cable, 5 ft HDMI cable, RCA input cable, and an instruction manual. The projector is compact and light, weighing a little less than 2 lbs. It measures 7.5"W x 5.75"L x 3"H. On the front of the projector is the lens which comes with a plastic snap-on lens cap. The lens is 2.25" in diameter. On the right side of the unit are the ports. There's a full size SD card slot, AV input, audio out, HDMI in, USB input, and USB out for charging a device. On the back is the remote control IR receiver, VGA input and power port. On the bottom of the unit there's a screwfoot that can add about 1/2" of tilt which can also fully retract for level viewing. There's also a 1/4" mounting hole for a standard tripod, which I prefer to use.

On top are the controls. You have the power button, input selector, return or exit key, menu selection arrows and OK button. The remote has additional keys and functions like playback controls, volume, menu, and mute. The remote requires 2 AAA batteries which are not included. Just behind the lens are two dials. The first, larger one, controls the image focus while the second smaller one is the keystone for adjusting focus pitch when the projector is projecting at an angle. The power cable for this unit tends to be too short to reach most outlets, so I typically need to run an extension cord. I mostly use this on a tripod, so I can place the projector anywhere in the room to control the size and height of the screen be changing the distance from the wall/screen. The 1200 lumens isn't all that bright, so you'll need really dark conditions to see the screen clearly.

The HDMI and other input methods seemed to work fine, but I found that the USB port can't read my USB 3.0 thumb drives. Also, the USB ports didn't provide enough power to run my Chromecast, which would power on initially but couldn't stay on. Since the remote control is infrared, it only works if you're pointing at the receiver on the back. It won't work from in front of the projector. While this projector accepts input resolutions up to 1080p HD, the native output resolution is only 800 x 480p which is standard definition, so higher quality video will be downscaled. At larger projected screen sizes, the pixels can be really obvious.

I was actually surprised at how loud the volume could get on this unit. It does sound sort of boxy and distorts at higher volumes, and it competes with the internal fan that can be quite loud. Using an external speaker hooked up to the headphone port improves the sound and makes it easier to drown out the fan noise. Overall, the contrast and color saturation appeared accurate to the source footage but wasn't very deep or rich. Sometimes images looked a bit washed out or faded or perhaps too dim/dark. However, this entry-level projector works fine for a family movie night with the kids so you can watch theater style movies at home or even outdoors. It's also fine for running slideshows at parties. Text can be a bit tricky depending on the size (though large captions were fine) so I don't recommend it for business presentations or powerpoint.

Buy it at Amazon: Ragu Z400 Mini LED Projector [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Purelux Calla Kitchen Sink Faucet Review and Installation

Purelux Calla Kitchen Sink Faucet Review and Installation

Buy it at Amazon: Purelux Calla Kitchen Sink Faucet [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Beautiful faucet, works well without leaks, used different counterweight due to pipe impediment.

You'll receive the sink faucet, hose counterweight, stainless steel deck plate, rubber o-ring, brass washer, and brass mounting nut. The faucet measures 15" tall and extends out 9". It has a 10" clearance to the sprayer. The faucet has a single leaf handle for controlling water temperature and the entire unit has a handsome brushed nickel finish. The neck of the faucet swivels 360 degrees, and the sprayer head has a simple push button to switch from a stream to a shower spray. The faucet comes pre-assembled and the shank is 1-3/8" in diameter. It can accommodate counter thicknesses of up to 1.5". The deck plate is optional and is used to cover additional holes in your counter or sink, but it you have a 4th hole you'll need to order an additional hole cap or install a soap dispenser. I like that the outflow hose comes apart with an easy-to-use quick connector if I need to fix anything.

The pull down hose is designed to auto-retract after you install the counterweight on the outflow hose. However, due to the arrangement of the pipes under my sink, some were in the pathway of the hose and weight kept getting stuck on them (because it travels with the hose as you pull). I had to switch the included weight with a heavier, free-hanging doughnut weight and loop the hose around the lowest drain pipe, so that the weight wouldn't rise above any of my pipes and get stuck on top of them. While this slightly restricts how far down I can pull the faucet, at least it auto retracts back into the faucet neck.

Overall, this faucet works well without any leaks. The look of it is much nicer than the old fixture and save for the counterweight adjustment because of the arrangement of the pipes beneath my sink, I had no problems with the installation. If you have tall cabinets beneath your sink or pipes that are low/offset from center, you likely won't run into the same issue.

Buy it at Amazon: Purelux Calla Kitchen Sink Faucet [Affiliate Link]
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