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.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Vdomus Microfiber Shag Bath Mat Review

Vdomus Microfiber Shag Bath Mat Review

Buy it at Amazon: Vdomus Microfiber Shag Bath Mat [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Soft and cushy, easy to care for, absorbent and dries quickly.
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Bestek 8 outlet Power Strip Surge Protector Review

Bestek 8 outlet Power Strip Surge Protector Review

Buy it on Amazon: Bestek 8 outlet Power Strip Surge Protector [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Conflicting specs, questionable certs and surge protection, works fine as power strip.
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Friday, July 28, 2017

Manual Rotary Vegetable Cutter Grater and Shredder Review

Manual Rotary Vegetable Cutter Grater and Shredder Review

Buy it at Amazon: Manual Rotary Vegetable Cutter Grater and Shredder [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Smaller than expected, but quickly grates and slices thinly, easy to clean, good for slaw, chips, and cheese.

This tool is basically a manual food processor, like a salad shooter or rotary grater. I thought it would be bigger, but actually I'm glad it doesn't take up as much space in my cabinets. Note that none of the blades will "spiralize" to make long veggie noodles. You'll receive the base w/suction cup, food hopper, a crank handle, a food pusher, a slicing blade drum, a small shredding blade, and a large shredding blade. Assembly is straightforward and all the pieces lock into place. Even though the construction is plastic, the body feels sturdy and durable. There's a large suction cup on the bottom of the base so you can press it onto any flat smooth, surface like a granite counter top, and then twist the knob on the front to lock it down. Once locked it'll be almost impossible to move without disengaging the lock. To use it, you just have to add your vegetables to the hopper, apply some downward pressure, and turn the handle clockwise.

The hopper opening on top is only about 2.5" square so large potatoes and wide veggies have to be cut down sometimes. My garden zucchini are almost never small enough to fit so I have to shave them down. The slicer makes great thinly sliced chips, less than 1/16th of an inch which are great for frying or dehydrating. I've tried it with Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) and potatoes and the chips turned out great in the air fryer. The blade in the drum is sharp and slices quickly with just a couple turns; much more uniform and faster than I could do by hand. After a several turns though, my first use through, the green grip on the handle popped off because the white tab at the end fell out. I just had to pop that back in and it was fine. Even though being able to disassemble the handle is nice for cleaning, I ended up gluing it on. Changing the blades and disassembling the unit is fast too with the simple locking tabs. One thing to note is that the outlet is only 3-4" high, so you'll need a plate of short bowl on the other side to catch your food.

There's very minimal waste when you get to the last bit of slicing/grating, though you do have to reach inside the drum to scrape food out (it's safe, and not sharp inside the drum). The large grater works well for making slaw with cabbage, zucchini, and carrots. The cut slices are like 2" long shoestring fries and make great potato hash browns. The small grater drum didn't do great with veggies because it tended to pulverize and make them mushy. I found that it worked better for cheese like Parmesan and cheddar and for mashing aromatics like garlic and ginger. All the parts are easy to clean with just a rinse of water and light scrubbing, and overall I was happy with its speed and performance in slicing and grating vegetables. It could stand to be a bit bigger to accommodate a taller catch bowl or to fit larger pieces of produce, but if you're short on space to store it, it's a good size.

Buy it at Amazon: Manual Rotary Vegetable Cutter Grater and Shredder [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Minix Neo K2 Wireless Keyboard and Mousepad Review

Minix Neo K2 Wireless Keyboard and Mousepad Review

Buy it at Amazon: Minix Neo K2 Wireless Keyboard and Mousepad [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Lightweight, portable, and durable wireless keyboard; compact w/long battery life and range.

You'll receive the wireless keyboard, a charging cable, and an instruction manual. The keyboard is small, about 1/2 the size of a traditional keyboard, but with a surprising heft that's still fairly lightweight. It measures 10.25" x 3.25" and is about 3/4" thick. The touchpad portion is 3.25" x 2". The body is made of an aluminum with plastic keys and on the bottom towards the back is a long foot with rubber bumpers for stabilization on a flat surface. The unit connects to devices via a wireless USB receiver dongle which is stored behind the door on the right hand side of the foot.

The keyboard has an internal 280 mAh Li-ion battery which can last weeks in standby without needing to be charged. The 30" Y-split charging cable has a pass through USB port so you can use and charge the device with a single USB port.

Scrolling, typing, and clicking is straightforward and responsive.The keyboard has the feel of laptop keys with a little resistance and springiness. The keyboard works from about 30 ft from the receiver. It'll enter standby after 3 mins of inactivity and sleep after 2 hours, but you can also switch the unit completely off using the power switch on the back. The only problem I had was one of the rubber feet kept falling out but I was able to glue it in place. Overall, I the keyboard worked great for what I needed it for; it's portable, durable, and easily stored.

Buy it at Amazon: Minix Neo K2 Wireless Keyboard and Mousepad [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

x96 Android KODI Internet Video Streaming TV Box Review

x96 Android KODI Internet Video Streaming TV Box Review

Buy it at Amazon: x96 Android KODI Internet Video Streaming TV Box [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Responsive, HD output, great for internet video streaming.

You'll receive the Android TV box, a remote control, an HDMI cable, A/C adapter, sticker mounting bracket, IR extender, and an instruction manual. The unit is made of a lightweight plastic and measures 3.5" square by 3/4" tall. It features a microSD card slot, two full sized USB slots, IR extender port, A/V input, Ethernet jack, full-size HDMI port, optical audio out, and D/C power port.

The bottom of the unit has four rubber feet so you can set this on a table, but you can also hang it on a wall using the included mounting bracket with double sided sticky tape on the back. If you'll be hanging this on the wall behind your TV, use the IR range extender so the remote control will work without having a direct line of sight to the box itself. The unit is basically plug and play using the HDMI cable. Once up and running you'll want to connect it wirelessly to your home WiFi network. This will allow you to browse the internet and stream video from online. You can also attach a wired or wireless keyboard which I think makes it a lot easier to type and control with the mouse pointer. With the KODI app, you can search for your favorite TV shows and movies to stream online, but I also have Netflix and Amazon Prime video. You can also stream music and content within your network or on a USB device or SD card. There's not a lot of space left on the internal memory for adding a lot of additional apps, so it's a good idea to delete the ones you don't use from the start to free up more space.

Overall, the TV box works great. The interface is fast and responsive (2GB RAM) and the picture quality is HD. You can also use the optical out to connect to a sound bar. There's relatively little lag with loading, though it could happen on occasion especially if you have a slower internet connection.

Buy it at Amazon: x96 Android KODI Internet Video Streaming TV Box [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

TackLife Cross Line Automatic Red Laser Level Review

TackLife Cross Line Automatic Red Laser Level Review

Buy it at Amazon: TackLife Cross Line Automatic Red Laser Level [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Great for indoor leveling projects though fades quickly in bright light/sun.

The laser level comes in a nylon zippered pouch. Inside you have the laser level, a magnetic mounting plate, and 2 AA batteries. You'll also receive an instruction manual. The laser level measures 3" square x 2" wide and weighs about 1/2 lb. The sides of the device have rubber bumpers on them to help absorb small bumps and impacts, but note that the laser level is a fragile tool and susceptible to damage so be careful not to drop it. At the front of the unit you'll see where the lasers are emitted vertically and horizontally. Directly under that is the lock switch which has a lock symbol on the left and an unlock symbol on the right. On the bottom towards the back is the battery bay door and in the middle is a 1/4" threaded mounting hole for the magnet mount or a standard tripod mount. On top you'll find the out-of-level alert button. The level attaches to the mount by tightening the thumb screw on the bottom and you can stick the mount to any magnetic metal surface.

To turn on the laser level, first you need to put the lock switch in the unlocked position. This activates the laser beams. The unit will automatically level the line within 4° of horizontal or vertical. There are two operation modes for this laser level. If you have the out-of-level alert on, when the unit is out of self-leveling range, the laser beams will flash quickly. If the alert is turned off, the laser beams will blink once every five seconds when out of self-leveling range. This allows you to set the angles manually which is helpful if you need a straight line that is on an angle that is not perfectly level.

When self-leveling the lines will bounce around a bit until they stabilize, and this can take a second or two. I found the automatic leveling to be accurate when comparing with my bubble level. The one thing with using the self-leveling laser is that it's sensitive to vibrations and shaking so even footsteps in the same room can throw the lines off for a second. Other than that, the light is bright and easily visible indoors from up to 50 feet away, though the further away from the target you are the dimmer the lighting needs to be to see the line. When used outdoors in bright conditions, the laser is barely visible even from a few feet away, and you'll likely need a line detector in these situations. Green lasers are typically a bit bright and work better outdoors. This tool can help you with all sorts of alignment projects from hanging picture frames to tiling, and it can run for around 12 hours on a fresh set of batteries.

Buy it at Amazon: TackLife Cross Line Automatic Red Laser Level [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, July 21, 2017

Kameleon iPhone 7 Kickstand Review

Kameleon iPhone 7 Kickstand Review

Buy it at Amazon: Kameleon iPhone 7 Kickstand [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Overall, a great hands-free case with durable kickstand, but the plastic bumper may shatter/crack if dropped.

This case is a single piece snap-on shell case. There are a couple different layers of protection: a plastic bumper that goes around the sides and top,a hard backing with vegan leather on the exterior, a flexible shock-absorbent TPU layer, and a microfiber padding for the back of your phone where it touches the case.

On the back is the signature kickstand that's made of aluminum with the same color finish as the bumper. You've also got an ample cutout for the camera and the Apple logo. The kickstand isn't flush with the case and it sticks out a bit even when closed. The phone slips easily into the case for a tight fit. The camera isn't obstructed at all by the low-profile cutout. The volume buttons and sleep key are covered and there's a cutout for the mute switch that's easy to access. On the bottom, are cutouts for the speaker and the Lightning port. The Lightning port cutout is ½" wide and allows you to use more third-party cables and accessories than narrower port openings. This cutout works with most if not all of the Lightning accessories that I currently have.

The stand is quite nice and you can stand the phone up in landscape and in portrait mode. This is great for FaceTime, skype, and of course watching videos. The case is pretty slim and military-grade drop tested. This means it should decently protect your phone from drop up to several feet high, but I found out this doesn't necessarily mean the case will survive. After a few drops onto a hard surface, the plastic bumper cracked in several places. The rim on the front isn't very high either so if you've got a tempered glass screen protector, for example, you'll likely end up being very close to flush with the edge of the case.

I'm a bit disappointed that the bumper shatters so easily given this case's price point, it's relatively expensive. However, as a kickstand case this feature works really well and just for that I would use this case for the convenience. The call quality with the case on is fine and it feels good in the hand, but it's not that great if you drop your phone a lot.

Buy it at Amazon: Kameleon iPhone 7 Kickstand [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sutefoto S40 Handheld Camera Stabilizer Review

Sutefoto S40 Handheld Camera Stabilizer Review

Buy it at Amazon: Sutefoto S40 Handheld Camera Stabilizer [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Fairly smooth footage on a budget, bubble levels were useless but simple to balance.

The steady cam stabilizer comes with the gimbal, 2 quick release mounts, and 6 weights on the sled. The body is made of a durable and lightweight aluminum alloy; the weights come in two sizes: four 3.5 oz weights and two 7 oz weights. You'll also receive a basic fabric carrying case. Both quick release plates have bubble levels in them, but since they only work in the horizontal position, they're not actually useful in helping balance the stabilizer. The handle on the gimbal is wrapped in a neoprene sleeve, though because of the way it was packaged, mine has a slight depression in the foam that's permanently flat and doesn't puff back up. The entire assembly without a camera weighs about 4 lbs.

The gimbal is in a fixed position on the telescoping boom but the lower thumb screw allows you to extend the arm from 10.75" up to 15" for additional leverage. The handle is hollow so you can place it on a stand for balancing. I was able to balance both my Canon T3i and Sony a6300 on it without a problem. They range in weight from 0.75 lbs to 1.75 lbs. The weights on the sled slide along a track, so in order to ensure I have them placed in the same spot and opposite each other I like to keep them tightened at the outermost point. Balancing the unit after mounting my camera typically takes about 5 minutes because fine tuning the two quick release plates is a bit tricky. This unit tends to rotate a bit more than more expensive units, but you can counteract the rotation by lightly gripping the boom just below the gimbal with your free hand if it starts to turn.

The resulting footage using this is fairly smooth and cinematic and vastly improved over footage filmed by hand (I keep the image stabilization off when using the steadycam). It performed well within my expectations for an entry-level product and I found that it removes almost all the shake from holding/moving the camera to create nice gliding pans, follows, and fly-arounds. Overall, I think it works really well for a unit at this price point; it's easy to balance and a great tool for those just getting started in cinematography and filming who need better upfront stabilization on a budget.

Buy it at Amazon: Sutefoto S40 Handheld Camera Stabilizer [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Jaco VacPro Handheld Cordless Vacuum Cleaner Review

Jaco VacPro Handheld Cordless Vacuum Cleaner Review

Buy it at Amazon: Jaco VacPro Handheld Cordless Vacuum Cleaner [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Lightweight, compact, low noise w/wireless charging; picks up a lot of dust/hair, easy to empty.

You'll receive the handheld vacuum, a canvas travel bag, 27"extension hose, brush nozzle, crevice nozzle, charging base/stand, power adapter with 5' cord, and an instruction manual. The vacuum has a plastic exterior and weighs only 2 lbs. It measures 15.5" long and has about a 5" diameter. The dust bin on the unit is a transparent gray acrylic so you can see how full it is. It releases easily with the press of a button for emptying. The filter inside has two pieces: a rigid plastic grille and HEPA filter. All parts of the bin and filter are washable in water (the motor unit is obviously not). Even the HEPA filter part rinsed clean easily which was surprising, although it did take a while longer to dry. The unit charges wirelessly when you rest it into the base which needs to be plugged into a wall outlet. Note that there is no way to charge the vacuum without the base, so be sure not to lose it.

The extension hose attachment is made from a flexible tube and lets you reach areas that might be too small for the vacuum to fit. You can also attach either nozzle directly to the front of the vacuum and the brush attachment nests onto the crevice attachment as well. When the unit is on, the fan exhaust blows out from the sides of the unit. It's not that loud during operation, about as loud as a hair dryer on the low setting. I like using this unit for cleaning my car because I don't have to park it in the garage and try to get the central vacuum hose to reach every crevice. It's small enough to get in tight spaces, and the hose lets me reach in between the cushions. I also don't have to have the car on and the vacuum plugged into the cigarette lighter port like my travel car vacuum. It's great that there are no wires to deal with. I found this unit useful for cleaning the stairs and under the couch cushions rather than getting out the floor vacuum or dragging the 30 ft central vacuum hose through the house. The suction on this unit is pretty good, though not as powerful as the floor/central vacuum. It did okay on the carpeted steps and floor mats, but it definitely performs better on flat, smooth surfaces like hardwood, tile, and counter tops.

The dust bins collects a lot of stuff and you can see how full it is and when it needs to be emptied out. Overall, the unit works well, is easy to clean, and lightweight, which makes it a good companion to a floor or central vacuum system for smaller clean up jobs.

Buy it at Amazon: Jaco VacPro Handheld Cordless Vacuum Cleaner [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Kytchen Lab Fruit and Vegetable Spiralizer Review

Kytchen Lab Fruit and Vegetable Spiralizer Review

Buy it at Amazon: Auto-vox M6 Rearview Mirror Dashboard Camera [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: HD front video res, rear camera doesn't record but works great at night, easy setup/use.

UPDATE: There's a firmware update to enable rear recording, but you have to request it from the manufacturer here: http://www.auto-vox.com/index.php/Contact/index.html

The Autovox M6 rearview mirror camera comes with an instruction manual, microfiber cleaning cloth, cigarette lighter power adapter w/11' cord, two sets of mirror attachment bands (one normal, and one extra strength for thicker mirrors), a backup camera with license plate mount, and 30' rear video input cable. Note that a microSD card is required for operation but not included, which for the price you pay is disappointing.

The mirror measures 12"x 3". The LCD screen on the left hand side has a 4-3/8" diagonal and has a dark silver tint to it. The front camera is on the windshield side and sits on a ball joint which allows you to orient the camera. There's an external speaker for listening to audio during video playback.

Installing the mirror unit only took a minute, though installing the rear camera to the license plate and hooking it into the reverse light took about 15 minutes.

Because my outlets are off when the car is off, when I start the car the camera comes on automatically. I found the touchscreen controls to be fairly intuitive and easy to use but you do end up with a lot of fingerprints on the mirror. When I put the car in reverse, it automatically switches the LCD display to show the back camera and puts up the reverse guides. The guides are pretty straight on and help with parallel parking and give me 6-8" of clearance when the line overlaps the curb.

Note that this unit only records footage from the front facing camera. The three resolution modes are all HD from 720p to 1296p at 30 fps. In general, the video is clear and detailed with natural looking colors, good saturation, and decent white balance that doesn't change abruptly too often. The audio captured isn't great though and is sort of muffled with plenty of road noise. However, it's clear enough to make out conversation if there's not loud radio blasting. At night, everything is pretty dark but still clear and detailed. You don't exactly get night vision, but lights are bright and you can even read the license plate of the car in front of you.

Overall, the video quality is good for a relatively inexpensive dashboard camera though the audio could be improved.

Buy it at Amazon: Auto-vox M6 Rearview Mirror Dashboard Camera [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, July 17, 2017

Auto-vox M6 Rearview Mirror Dashboard Camera Review

Auto-vox M6 Rearview Mirror Dashboard Camera Review

Buy it at Amazon: Auto-vox M6 Rearview Mirror Dashboard Camera [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: HD front video res, rear camera doesn't record but works great at night, easy setup/use.

UPDATE: There's a firmware update to enable rear recording, but you have to request it from the manufacturer here: http://www.auto-vox.com/index.php/Contact/index.html

The Autovox M6 rearview mirror camera comes with an instruction manual, microfiber cleaning cloth, cigarette lighter power adapter w/11' cord, two sets of mirror attachment bands (one normal, and one extra strength for thicker mirrors), a backup camera with license plate mount, and 30' rear video input cable. Note that a microSD card is required for operation but not included, which for the price you pay is disappointing.

The mirror measures 12"x 3". The LCD screen on the left hand side has a 4-3/8" diagonal and has a dark silver tint to it. The front camera is on the windshield side and sits on a ball joint which allows you to orient the camera. There's an external speaker for listening to audio during video playback.

Installing the mirror unit only took a minute, though installing the rear camera to the license plate and hooking it into the reverse light took about 15 minutes.

Because my outlets are off when the car is off, when I start the car the camera comes on automatically. I found the touchscreen controls to be fairly intuitive and easy to use but you do end up with a lot of fingerprints on the mirror. When I put the car in reverse, it automatically switches the LCD display to show the back camera and puts up the reverse guides. The guides are pretty straight on and help with parallel parking and give me 6-8" of clearance when the line overlaps the curb.

Note that this unit only records footage from the front facing camera. The three resolution modes are all HD from 720p to 1296p at 30 fps. In general, the video is clear and detailed with natural looking colors, good saturation, and decent white balance that doesn't change abruptly too often. The audio captured isn't great though and is sort of muffled with plenty of road noise. However, it's clear enough to make out conversation if there's not loud radio blasting. At night, everything is pretty dark but still clear and detailed. You don't exactly get night vision, but lights are bright and you can even read the license plate of the car in front of you.

Overall, the video quality is good for a relatively inexpensive dashboard camera though the audio could be improved.

Buy it at Amazon: Auto-vox M6 Rearview Mirror Dashboard Camera [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, July 14, 2017

Crenova XPE680 720p LED Projector Review

Crenova XPE680 720p LED Projector Review

Buy it at Amazon: Crenova XPE680 720p LED Projector [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Great video quality, bright, nice saturation, loud fan but decent audio w/hookup for sound system.

The projector comes with a remote control, 6 ft power cable, 40" RCA input cable, 5 ft gold-plated flat HDMI cable, two spare fuses, 4 mounting screws, an instruction manual, 1" tilt foot, and microfiber cleaning cloth. The projector is mid-size weighing 5.5 lbs and measures 13"W x 9.5"L x 4.5"H. On the front of the projector is the 2.75" lens which has a silicone rubber lens protector. To its right is an IR receiver for the remote control. there's another IR receiver on top along with the power button, navigation keys and OK button, menu key, and source selector, additional functions are on the remote only. The remote requires 2 AAA batteries which are not included. There are a variety of inputs: two USB ports (also can be used for power), RCA audio out ports, RCA/component input ports, TV coaxial, VGA, and two HDMI inputs. There's no headphone jack and the unit does not support Bluetooth, so if you need to hookup an external speaker, it must be able to accept RCA audio input or you can use a converter.

On the bottom are four rubber feet and a small threaded hole for the tilt foot; the tilt foot cannot sit flush with the feet on the unit even when fully screwed in. If you want to ceiling mount the unit, you'll have to remove the four rubber feet to reveal threaded holes underneath for use with a universal bracket. Note however, that there is no 1/4" or 3/8" mounting hole for tripod mounting, and you'll need an additional platform adapter for use with a tripod.

If you have a bookshelf at a suitable height and distance from a flat wall that's also close to an outlet, you won't need an extension cord. Otherwise, it can be tricky to get the placement of the projector in your specific room just right. I prefer to use a tripod whenever possible, so I plan on getting a laptop platform that will fit the projector on top. When set about 11' from the wall, the projected image has about a 9' diagonal. The 2800 lumen brightness doesn't show up that well in a brightly lit room, so this won't end up being your everyday TV projector. When I dim the lights it's a bit better, but the projector is best viewed in pitch dark conditions (no windows or ambient light). The image is somewhat brighter when the projector is closer to the screen, but the image will be smaller, of course. When used with a Chromecast hooked up to the HDMI port, I was able to power the device using one of the USB ports to stream internet video. While the projector doesn't have WiFi capability, the HDMI and other input methods worked fine. Note that while it accepts input resolutions up to 1080p HD, the native output resolution is 1280 x 720p so it's still HD but higher quality video will be downscaled. The screen can be set to 16:9 ratio for widescreen movies and switch to 4:3 ratio for TV broadcasts. The color saturation and contrast is pretty good but the larger the projection, the more visible pixels are and the fainter the colors and brightness look.

The fan is quite loud on this unit, but I was actually impressed with the built-in stereo speakers because it was pretty loud as well. However, in order to drown out the fan noise, you have to turn the volume way up and the sound started to distort around the mid 50s (of 100 levels). For this reason I recommend using the RCA audio out with an external speaker like a soundbar or surround sound system. Unfortunately, without a headphone port nor Bluetooth capability, it's not directly compatible with most Bluetooth speakers.

Overall, this projector does a much better job at projecting photos and video than smaller mini LED projectors (1500-2000 lumens). It has pretty decent color, brightness, sound, and saturation, although you'll still need pretty dark conditions when using it. I highly recommend using an external speaker to drown out its loud fan. But it's definitely more than suitable for movie night or gaming. In a pinch you can show work presentations as text is fairly easy to read when the projection has an 80" or less diagonal (depends on text size and font type).

Buy it at Amazon: Crenova XPE680 720p LED Projector [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Lasten Pastry Cutter Bench Scraper Review

Lasten Pastry Cutter Bench Scraper Review

Buy it at Amazon: Lasten Pastry Cutter Dough Bench Scraper [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Heavy-duty, stainless steel pastry cutter; great for baking and doughs like bread, and pizza.

This pastry cutter is made of stainless steel and measures about 6" long. There is a ruler with markers on it, but it's actually slightly off and you'll lose about 1/16th of an inch from one edge to the other. The height of the tool is about 4.75" inclusive of the plastic handle. The thick handle is nice and chunky and provides a good grip and the tool weighs about 6oz. The plastic is a thick ABS that won't crack or shatter easily and the unit is dishwasher safe. The tool is heavy duty and doesn't flex of bend under pressure making ideal for dough cutting and bench scraping.

It's sharp enough out of the box to use for baking but not enough to cut your hands. I use it when making pizza for dividing the dough and it cuts in nice straight lines. It's easy to clean and won't rust.

Buy it at Amazon: Lasten Pastry Cutter Dough Bench Scraper [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

CalmTime Electric Air Fryer Review

CalmTime Electric Air Fryer Review

Buy it at Amazon: CalmTime Electric Air Fryer [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Heats up fast, cooks evenly, budget quality but works as advertised; food comes out great.
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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

FunFloaty Winged Unicorn Pool Float Review

FunFloaty Winged Unicorn Pool Float Review

Buy it at Amazon: FunFloaty Winged Unicorn Pool Float [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: HUGE float, fun in the pool! A bit dirty out of box and small leak in mane (repaired)

UPDATE: I did locate the leak in the mane and used the repair sticker to seal it, which is holding up for now. We'll see if it lasts the whole summer.

The float is made from a heavy-duty vinyl and the float weighs 8 lbs (un-inflated). It comes with a small patch of vinyl repair sticker that can be cut to size and seal leaks in the float. Out of the box mine had a few dirty black smudges on it, but those wiped clean with soap and warm water.

The float has five inflation valves: one for the main body near the tail, one on each wing, one on the neck, and one on the mane. You need some kind of pump or air compressor to fill this float. The fill valves are sizeable, and I was able to use a 1/2" rubber hose with an electric balloon pump to fill it up quickly (~8 mins for all 5 sections). The valves each have a leak stop seal that prevents air from escaping, so you can fill in intervals through the black plastic piece. To let the air out, you just pull out the stop valve and the air escapes quickly as you press to deflate the float.The unicorn is really big when fully inflated and measures 9 feet from nose to tail and has a 10 foot wing span. It's about 4.5 feet tall and the raft portion is 5' x 4'. The raft can fit more than one person but you have to be careful to not damage the wings as they are only attached by a few strips of heated sealed vinyl. The white part of the float tends to pick up stains easily if you set it on grass of dirt, however, if you clean it quickly, it'll wipe off with a little bit of soap and not too much scrubbing. The one part that leaked on mine was the mane on the back of the neck, which thankfully doesn't impact its ability to float.

Deflating the float took about 5 minutes which is really fast compared to deflating a raft through those tiny beach ball valves. Overall, the float worked fine; it was quick to inflate and deflate and was really fun in the pool, although it takes up a lot of space. The leak in the mane was from a tiny manufacturing defect (a nick along the cut seam), but it was repaired quickly with the included fix tape. So far the rest of it seems to be leak-free. Even though it seems to get dirty easily, it wipes clean with some soap and warm water.

Buy it at Amazon: FunFloaty Winged Unicorn Pool Float [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, July 10, 2017

Homievar Vacuum Wine Bottle Stoppers and Foil Cutter Set Review

Homievar Vacuum Wine Bottle Stoppers and Foil Cutter Set Review

Buy it at Amazon: Homievar Vacuum Wine Bottle Stopper Corks and Foil Cutter Set [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Keeps wine from spoiling for several days, easy to use and durable.
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Friday, July 7, 2017

Oneon NATO Wristwatch Strap Bands Review

Oneon NATO Wristwatch Strap Bands Review

Buy it at Amazon: Oneon NATO Wristwatch Strap Bands [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to install and swap; cool style/colors, durable and dry quickly.

You'll receive 4 NATO watch straps, an instruction manual, two sets of watch spring bars in size 22 and 20mm widths, and a spring bar tool. I'm not sure why I receive the 22mm bars with the 20mm bands, although I suppose you can use them on the 22mm bars since the band is narrower. To determine which width bands you need, measure the distance between the lugs that hold the spring bars on your watch.

I used these to replace a cheap leatherette watch band that lost its band keeper. Using the tool, I was able to quickly remove the old band and re-install the bars. The cool thing about NATO straps is that they are easy to change so you can switch up the style/colors to suit your mood quickly.

Overall, I like the style and ease of installation for these NATO bands and they are comfortable and durable. Because they are nylon they aldo dry quickly if you get them wet.

Buy it at Amazon: Oneon NATO Wristwatch Strap Bands [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Pretihom Salt and Pepper Mill Grinders Review

Pretihom Salt and Pepper Mill Grinders Review

Buy it at Amazon: Pretihom Salt and Pepper Mill Grinders [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to use and fill, nice look, handy carrier; defective unit was replaced.

You receive two identical grinders with glass bases and stainless steel tops with a chrome metal carrying tote, like the ones at restaurants. The glass of the grinder jars is thick like a mason or pasta sauce jar. They have ridges on the bottom for extra grip (when used with a table cloth). The grinders are about 5" tall total with the glass bottom being about 3.5" high and an overall diameter of 2.5". The jar unscrews easily by gripping the neck and twisting the base clockwise and has a capacity of about 1 cup. The opening of the jar is about 1.5" in diameter which is wide enough to make filling it pretty easy, even without a funnel. However, I found that the easiest way to fill is by making a paper funnel as you can adjust the size so it doesn't clog up.

One of the grinder mechanisms was defective upon receipt. The issue was that the lower portion of the grinder spun with every turn, rather than staying still and creating resistance. I could get it to work by holding the bottom plate still with my finger, but that was inconvenient. I reached out to the vendor and received a working replacement set pretty quick. Both grinders have caps on top so excess salt and pepper won't go all over the place, which is a big improvement over the bottom grinding set I had previously which left pepper trails wherever it was set down. You can also adjust the grind size easily by twisting the black cap holding the ceramic gear in place. When the gear is open, you get large peices and more closed a finer grind.

The second set of grinders work well and these have a decent capacity so we don't need to fill them often. We use them regularly for cooking and seasoning dishes and so far they're holding up to daily use these last several weeks. Usually, the plastic inside will crack from the repeated stress from the pressure of grinding. The plastic inside is a bit lighter weight than our previous set which lasted nearly 2 years, so we'll see how long these last in comparison.

Buy it at Amazon: Pretihom Salt and Pepper Mill Grinders [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

iSeason Garden Genie Gloves Review

iSeason Garden Genie Gloves Review

Buy it at Amazon: Garden Genie Claw Gardening Gloves [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Flexible, durable, with waterproof fingers; comfortable but claws are a bit awkward when not digging

The gloves only come in one size, and I'd say it's about a medium to large. The gloves are made of a thick textured rubber material on the palm and fingers that's waterproof and durable. The back of the hand and wrist cuff, however, are made from 100% polyester that's stretchy and breathable (not waterproof though). The left hand glove is supple and flexible while the right hand glove has four hard ABS plastic claws on the finger tips; these are glued on and not removable. The claws are dense and durable and tough to shatter/crack. The claws are not flexible so you'll lose a bit of mobility/dexterity in your fingers since you can't bend the last joint. In general, the gloves are comfortable to wear but the claws feel a little weird and take some getting used to; for example, you can't curl your fist into a ball and it's difficult to grasp or hold stuff like handles of tools and trowels. I did find the plastic claws useful for potting and re-potting plants because I can scoop soil and potting mix easily as well as scrape and loosen any compacted soil around plant roots. The pointed tips of the gloves can get into tight spaces and loosen up soil without stubbing the tips of your fingers or putting holes in the gloves, which always happens to my cloth and leather gloves. I wouldn't use these as my everyday gardening gloves because I need to use my right hand without the claws for most tasks, but for some specific uses the claws are handy. It would have been nice if it came with a third glove where the right hand didn't have the claws or if the claws were removable because I think they would have made a pretty awesome pair of plain gloves as they are.

Buy it at Amazon: Garden Genie Claw Gardening Gloves [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Quojeily LED Sneakers Review

Quojeily LED Sneakers Review

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Takeaway: Fun shoes to wear out, blinking/flashing colors and strobe mode. Fit is ok, but narrow width; fixed a loose connection.

I ordered the shoes in size 41 EU which should be a US mens 8. The fit of the shoe seems accurate in terms of length, although I found them to be a bit narrow. I do usually wear wide shoes though. The shoes are made of PU leather which is a partial synthetic with a smooth grain finish. It comes with two pairs of shoelaces: pre-laced round ones and spare flat laces. You'll also get a split microUSB cable so you can charge both shoes at the same time.

The shoe itself has a plain typical sneaker design, with a closed toe area and 3/4" rubber sole that is translucent with LEDs inside. The USB port and power button are hidden along the instep of the shoe, right below the laces. This makes it look clean on the outside.the button turns the lights on and cycles through the colors and modes. The colors available are red, green, blue, yellow, cyan, purple, and white. Then there's a white strobe mode, and three flashing and fade modes with colors. I found that the connector rubbed a little against my foot sometimes which was mildly annoying. There is also no arch support in the shoe whatsoever.

I did have a problem with the left shoe at first. After turning them on and wearing them around, I couldn't shut the off or change the mode. I removed the insole to check out the electronic components in the sole. What happened is one of the connectors inside came loose, due to a bent pin in the connector. I was able to fix with a pair of small tweezers and some super glue which only took a few minutes.

Overall, I think these are a fun pair of shoes to wear out, especially at night or out at the club. However, it's not comfortable enough to be my everyday walking shoe, and it isn't appropriate for athletic use or in wet conditions.

Buy it at Amazon: Quojeily LED Sneakers [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, July 3, 2017

Fotowelt Shoulder Rig Camera Stabilizer Review

Fotowelt Shoulder Rig Camera Stabilizer Review

Buy it at Amazon: Fotowelt Shoulder Rig Camera Stabilizer [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Basic shoulder rig that stabilizes video shots, preserves some natural motion, light and comfortable.

The shoulder rig arrives disassembled so there is some assembly required though the unit does not come with instructions in the box. You'll receive the shoulder pad, camera platform and rails, handle grip mounting bar, and two rubber hand grips. The unit does not come with any counterweights, so I highly recommend that you buy them separately to use with the rig. All the components are made from machined aluminum that is durable but still lightweight. On the bottom of the camera platform are two standard mounting screw holes for 1/4" and 3/8" so you can mount it to a tripod. The blue thumbscrew locks are made of plastic and twist easily to adjust the platform up and down or forward and back along the rails. All the rods are 250mm in length and 15 mm in diameter.

To assemble the unit, first decide which shoulder you're going to use it on. Since the pad is tapered, if you'll be using it on your left shoulder, the narrower side of the channel in the pad should face the left; it'll be the opposite for your right shoulder. You may need to flip the bars around so the male threaded ends face front so you can attach them to the bars on the camera platform. When fully assembled the shoulder rig weighs 2.75 lbs.

The mounting plate measures 3"L x 1.5"W. On the mounting platform the camera is adjustable forward and back by 5/8" in either direction. The thumbscrew has a bubble level in it, but I'm not sure how it's useful because it can only tell you if you're level with the bars positioned vertically (sideways), which won't be the case when using this rig. For me the crossbar was a bit narrow, and I would have preferred a wider grip but I'll probably just end up adding a 6" bar to extend the grip. When comparing footage shot with the shoulder rig versus simply filming freehand, the shoulder rig footage is a lot smoother. It doesn't remove all motion like a steadycam or gimbal but a lot of the shake from your hands and small movements are eliminated.

If you combine that with your camera or lens image stabilization, you can typically get a fairly smooth shot if you move slowly and with small steps. This does take a bit of practice and overall, the motion that remains looks natural and puts your viewer in the scene, giving a sense of presence and realness to the shot. Panning is also more fluid and easier to control. You'll also be able to add other accessories like a follow focus and matte box. Keep in mind the size of the rig is small and meant to be portable so it may not accommodate every single accessory on its frame. One thing you might want to add is an angle bracket to offset the camera so that it's more in front of your face rather than off to the side.The rig itself is lightweight and the shoulder pad is comfortable but for heavy setups and extended shooting, make sure you use counterweights to take the stress off your arms and back to avoid fatigue.

Buy it at Amazon: Fotowelt Shoulder Rig Camera Stabilizer [Affiliate Link]
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