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.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

JETech Carbon Fiber iPhone 6 Case Review

JETech Carbon Fiber iPhone 6 Case Review

Buy it at Amazon: JETech Carbon Fiber iPhone 6 Case [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Average protection against scratches, bumps and drops; comfortable in hand w/extra grip bar.

The JETech case is composed of two pieces: the outer plastic bumper case and an inner TPU rubber layer. The plastic bumper is thin and flexible but under enough stress or impact, could snap or shatter. The rubber button covers for the sleep and volume keys are part of the inner rubber layer and there's an airgap between the bumper and the inner layer that distributes and absorbs some shock from impacts. The interior of the rubber layer has a striped pattern for shock distribution and is soft and flexible as to not scratch the back of your phone. The iPhone 6 slips in smoothly and stays firmly in the case once installed. Around the screen is a raised edge that protects your phone's screen when placed on a table face down.

On the back is a carbon fiber texture with precise cutouts for the camera, sensor, flash, and Apple logo. Towards the bottom is a raised bar for additional grip for your fingers which is nice because the case actually feels somewhat slippery in the hand. The only issue i had with it is there was a small bump on the bar (from the molding process) which caused a raised area right in the middle. It's slight but still noticeable, though I was able to remove the bump with a razor blade. Along the bottom you have fitted cutouts for the Lightning port, headphone jack, speaker, and mic. Lastly, on the side you have access to the mute switch, but it's set pretty far back. The case itself is lightweight and moderately protective. It'll be able to absorb everyday bumps and hard contact but a drop from a few feet might shatter the bumper and direct hit to the phone's screen wouldn't be covered at all. However, the body of your phone will be shielded from most dents, scratches, and scrapes.

Buy it at Amazon: JETech Carbon Fiber iPhone 6 Case [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Solar Motion Activated Ultrasonic Pest Repeller Review

Solar Motion Activated Ultrasonic Pest Repeller Review

Buy it at Amazon: Solar Motion Activated Ultrasonic Pest Repeller [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Seems to work against birds to reduce damage to garden veggies.

The pest repeller can be mounted to a wall or post or planted on the stake in the ground. The main body of the pest repeller measures 5.25" x 4.25" x 1.75". It has a solar panel on top for charging the internal battery pack, an ultrasonic emitter in the front, a motion sensor, flashing LED lights, and two control dials. The one on the left controls the frequency ranges it outputs and the one of the right controls the sensitivity or distance the sensor will be triggered. The unit comes with an instruction sheet and a frequency range chart. For example, low frequencies like 3.5 – 20 KHz is supposed to be effective against mice, foxes, and canines while 25 – 34.5 KHz is supposed to deter bats and birds. Each setting emits a particular range of frequencies that is supposed to surprise/annoy the target animals, while setting 5 emits all the frequencies for all critters. The maximum hearing ranges for humans is typically around 18-20 KHz so when in settings 1, 2, and 5 you'll probably hear a bit of high pitched ringing as it cycles through the frequencies. In setting 3 and 4, the unit is silent because our ears can't detect those frequencies.

I'm trying to keep away primarily birds in my garden, so I can choose either setting 3 or 5. I leave it on 5 just in case there are other animals like mice, rabbits, and groundhogs who might want o steal my vegetables (though I haven't seen any lately, but this doesn't mean they're not out there!). When assembled the stake is 12.5" long with the bottom 4.5" inches meant to go in the ground. The main unit simply attaches to the top of the stake and will sit about 8" high. However, you can also use the hanger and attach this to a wall or post so it's higher up.

The unit charges each day from the sun so you don't need to worry about turning it on and off or replacing the batteries often. When the unit is triggered, the sensor will turn red and it will emit the specified range of ultrasonic frequencies twice over the course of 30 seconds. The LEDs will also flash several times during this time to visually frighten the animals, which should be more effective at night time. The range of the motion sensor on the lowest setting is about 8 feet while on setting 5 I was able to trigger it from 25 ft away.

I've had this device in my garden fora couple weeks pointed right at my tomato plants from a distance of about 6 feet. My personal observation is that it seems like there are fewer tomatoes with holes in them from bird pecks. While I I haven't seen any birds in the garden when I tend to it, I only get out there in the evenings which may not be their prime feeding hours. Birds typically they peck small holes in the tomatoes which makes them rot, so hopefully I'll see less of that over the rest of the harvest season. I'll keep an eye out to see if I notice birds hanging out int he path of the repeller which could indicate that they're simply getting used to the sound and lights and no longer afraid of it. With all the rain we've been getting, the repeller is still working normally so at least I know it's waterpoof. As a side note, my cats didn't really seemed bothered by the sounds when it was triggered, some curious looks, but not enough discomfort to move away from it. Perhaps they aren't as skittish as feral cats/animals or maybe they don't like it and are just too lazy to get up and move.

Buy it at Amazon: Solar Motion Activated Ultrasonic Pest Repeller [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Wall Mount Combination Key Lock Box Review

Wall Mount Combination Key Lock Box Review

Buy it at Amazon: Wall Mount Combination Key Lock Box [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Sturdy/durable box, easy-to-set, smooth scrolling nums, but small interior, no backup way to open.
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Monday, August 28, 2017

Purelux Press Spring Pop Up Drain Review

Purelux Press Spring Pop Up Drain Review

Buy it at Amazon: Purelux Press Spring Pop Up Drain [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Large plug, easy to install,drip/leak-free, looks great.

I got the brushed nickel version to match my Purelux Gibbon faucet. The unit is made with brass components and measures 8.5" long including the tail pipe. The plug was easy to install, with the hardest part actually being removing the old lever style old pop-up plunger. The press to pop-up drain works great and I don't need to worry about any plastic components breaking which always seems to happen with the lever stoppers. The overflow for the sink also works fine with the water draining through the holes in the side of the plunger assembly. I did add a ring of plumber's putty into the "cupped" portion of the mack washer under the sink because my sink hole was a bit too narrow for the silicone inner lip to fit inside the cutout. However, there were no leaks from any of the connections after I did this and the drain stops/opens when you press the center of the plug. Overall, I'm happy with the stopper's performance.

Buy it at Amazon: Purelux Press Spring Pop Up Drain [Affiliate Link]
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Saturday, August 26, 2017

iLive Concierge Wireless Alexa Enabled WiFi Speaker (ISWFV387G) Review

iLive Concierge Wireless Alexa Enabled WiFi Speaker (ISWFV387G) Review

Buy it at Amazon: iLive Concierge Wireless Alexa Enabled WiFi Speaker (ISWFV387G) [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Works great for Alexa features, sound quality is decent, but could be better.

The Concierge speaker comes with a male-to-male audio cable, a microUSb cable, and instruction manual. This speaker looks similar to the Amazon Echo but is a little bit smaller. It measures 7" tall and has a 2.75" diameter. The speaker weighs just under 1 pound. The housing is made of plastic with a twill fabric wrapped around the grill. The Concierge is compatible with Amazon's virtual assistant, Alexa which you can set to listen for voice activated commands. Setting up the speaker on your home WiFi network is wquick and easy using the iLive app. Make sure you're connecting to a 2.4 GHz band network because it currently does not support 5 GHz connections. The speaker automatically reconnects to the WiFi network each time it is powered on and switched into WiFi mode.

In the app, you can change the settings for the speaker. If you log into your Amazon account you should be able to access Alexa features. The speaker is always listening when it's on, even if it's not pluffed in. This tends to drain the battery quickly and it'll last about 5 hours at 50% volume on a full charge. In the app, you can see how much battery is remaining for the speaker. You can also mute the mic by pressing the second button on the control panel on the speaker. This also saves a little bit of battery. If you have a second iLive speaker, you can sync multiple speakers together for multi-room playback with a simple drag-and-drop. I found that the synced connection perfectly aligned the music playback so that there was no lag or delay between the outputs from the speakers. You can set each speaker to play only the left or right for a true stereo experience.

The app also lets you stream from a handful internet radio stations like Pandora, TuneIn, IHeartRadio, and Spotify, although you'll need a premium subscription to stream Spotify. You can save any of the stations for any service to the speaker by clicking the speaker icon and then selecting a preset content slot. You can save up to 10 total stations.

The sound from the speaker is pretty good but not spectacular. The balance is weighted towards the trebles and mid-bass but there isn't a ton of bass or low bass present in the mix to balance it out. As a result the mid-ranges get a little bit lost making the sound less full. At the loudest volume, there's some distortion from the housing vibrating and the quality overall is a bit boxy. It's likely that the fabric layer softens and somewhat dulls the sound giving it a muffled quality rather than the clean, crisp audio I was hoping for. You can also stream to the speaker using Bluetooth or Aux-in with the included wire. However, with Bluetooth I found the connection to be somewhat unreliable with occasional dropped connections and garbled blips. These issues were not present using a wired connection.

Overall, the Concierge does a decent job with the Internet of Things functions. I like that I can sync multiple speakers to play the same music and control different devices on my home network using the always listening Alexa service. It's also nice that there's an internal battery, and I can move the unit from room to room and still access Alexa. The audio quality and Bluetooth connection reliability could be a bit better, but it gets the job done.

Buy it at Amazon: iLive Concierge Wireless Alexa Enabled WiFi Speaker (ISWFV387G) [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, August 25, 2017

Forager Go Metal Detector Review

Forager Go Metal Detector Review

Buy it at Amazon: Forager Go Metal Detector [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to assemble, lightweight, loud speaker, fun to use; comes w/handy field guide.

The metal detector comes in several pieces and requires assembly, which seems to be the main complaint of a lot of folks, but I didn't have a problem with putting it together. It sounds like the piece that gives folks the most trouble is the tightening collar that connects the lower half of the shaft to the upper half. Make sure to unscrew the outer collar on this sleeve and slip the threaded side onto the upper shaft until the snaps click into the holes on the pole; then loosely place the tightening collar over it, insert the lower half of the shaft into the upper half and tighten the collar. You'll also receive a mini fold-able shovel, a set of instructions, and a field guide.

The control box contains the electronics for the device. On the front you have a detection display, a discrimination dial which filters signals based on metal type, a sensitivity dial which can increase the range and depth of detection and also serves as the power switch, a volume dial, a pinpoint button, low battery indicator, and 1/8" earphone jack. This unit requires two 9V batteries for operation which are not included. The coil is what detects metal in the ground and it plugs into the back of the control box. The included search head coil is 7" in diameter. When fully assembled the length of the metal detector is about 40".

The travel shovel comes in a green camouflage pouch with a nylon hanging loop and a belt strap on the back. The shovel also requires a bit of assembly, too. First, screw the upper shaft of the handle into the lower half, then unfold the shovel head. Remember to tighten the collar nut underneath the shovel head so that it doesn't move around. You can use this tool as a shovel for digging or turn the head perpendicular to use as a pick (you can also tighten the nut in this orientation, but remember to loosen the collar nut to switch orientations and fold the shovel back up for storage). On the side of the shovel head is a serrated saw blade edge and on the opposite corner is a bottle opener.

The included instructions are pretty basic but explain how to assemble and use the metal detector. The field guide provides more in depth instruction and tips and tricks for getting the most out of your unit which I found pretty useful. There are instructions on how to change the settings to filter out false positives from mineral rich locations and "junk" metal. You just have to turn the discrimination dial clockwise and adjust the sensitivity accordingly. Some folks said they had to constantly use the pinpoint button to get any positive hits, but you shouldn't have to do that if the sensitivity is turned to the max and discrimination set to "all metal." The pinpoint key will be able to locate items that are deeper and the unit detects metal to a depth of about 7 inches. But that's not really an efficient way to use this tool. So far, the metal detector has been pretty accurate for me. I've been able to locate quite a few metal objects, particularly in sand which were close to the surface. A few coins, some stainless steel jewelry, and the occasional odd metal scrap piece. The deepest object I've found was a chunk of aluminum gutter buried about 6 inches in my backyard. Not a great find but good for practice with the detector.

I found the field guide and manual instructive for first-timers, like myself, and being able to use headphones is nice so you don't have to disturb other people with loud beeping all the time. I will say that if you'll be using headphones, you only need to set the volume to just above the minimum as it's plenty loud. Overall, the metal detector works as expected and is a lot of fun to use, even though I haven't found anything worth mentioning here. I have not tried using this in water like a stream or shallows of a pond, so I don't know if it will stand up to its waterproof claim yet.

Buy it at Amazon: Forager Go Metal Detector [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Jacia House Memory Foam Pillow Top Mattress Review

Jacia House Memory Foam Pillow Top Mattress Review

Buy it at Amazon: Jacia House Memory Foam Pillow Top Mattress [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Soft topper, medium firm support springs, comfortable but edges sink a lot

The mattress ships flat and rolled so it is transported in a small-ish box. The twin size mattress weighs about 58 lbs. When you open the package, avoid using utility knives or blades if possible as these could damage the mattress. When you open up the vacuum bag the mattress pops up nearly instantly, however, it's recommended to allow 48 hours for the mattress to fully expand. The mattress does have a foamy mildew smell out of the package (typical of products that contain memory foam); this dissipates after a few days.

This is an inner coil spring mattress and any reference to memory foam applies to only a few layers in the topper rather than the entire mattress being made out of foam. The fully expanded mattress is about 11" tall, including the 3" tall pillow top. The pillow top is soft to the touch and depresses easily under any kind of weight. If you like to sit on the edge of your bed, you may find that it sinks a lot. This might not be a good thing if you like to sleep near the edge of the mattress. When laying down in the middle of the mattress, your weight feels more or less evenly distributed and while I did sink in some, there's plenty of support from the springs without feeling like they're very hard nor very soft. For reference, I weigh 125 lbs. The twin size mattress is the standard size, and I was able to put a mattress protector and sheets on it with no issues with fit. You may need to use sheets that are made specifically for taller mattresses. I have this mattress set up in the guest bedroom and have slept on it a couple nights, but won't be using it as my main bed. I found the mattress to be quite comfortable. It's not as firm as my memory foam mattress, and I do sink down into the pillow top a little than I'm used to. However, I did sleep through the night and didn't find the mattress very hot, even under a fleece throw blanket. I think it would be fine as an everyday mattress and believe that my guests would enjoy the bed as well.

Buy it at Amazon: Jacia House Memory Foam Pillow Top Mattress [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

FL-V8 Oral Irrigator Water Pik Review

FL-V8 Oral Irrigator Water Pik Review

Buy it at Amazon: FL-V8 Oral Irrigator Water Pik [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Small tank, runs out quick, moderate pressure and cleaning, a bit noisy and messy.

You'll receive the main body of the water pik, two blue and two pink flosser tips, a power adapter, a microUSB charging cable, and an instruction manual. The tips are color coded so you can have two users. They simply snap into the top of the pump unit by pushing it into the hole on top. When attached, the tip can rotate 360 degrees. The unit's water tank reservoir is attached to the back of the unit and removable. It's clear so you can see the water level and has a small door near the bottom for filling. On the front, there's a small rubber plug that covers the charging port. This unit uses a custom USB cable so be sure not to lose it. After charging, remember to reinstall the rubber plug to protect the unit from water damage. There are three modes on this machine: normal, soft and pulse. I didn't find too much of a performance different between the modes though 'normal' has a bit higher pressure than 'soft' and 'pulse' appears to use the pressure of 'soft' in intervals. Filling the unit with water is pretty simple, but you have to tilt the unit to get the tank filled all the way. When you turn it on, it starts in the last mode it was in. It's not very loud when using it, but does make noise and it is very messy. The first time I used it water got everywhere. You'll want to keep your mouth nearly closed, but open enough for water to run out. I found it makes less of a mess when you're hunched over the sink or when used in the shower as the unit is fully waterproof (with the charge port cover installed). The tank only holds enough water for about 40-50 seconds of use regardless of what mode it's in, so it runs out pretty quickly. It works okay, but not as thoroughly as thread floss and you may need to refill the tank a few times in one session to clean all your teeth. While I like that it's wireless and portable, I would have preferred a bit higher pressure and a bigger tank. Unplugging the unit after charging will help preserve its battery life. When you're done with the unit you have to shake all the water out of the tank, run the nozzle dry, and store it with the door open so it won't get moldy/mildew inside.

Buy it at Amazon: FL-V8 Oral Irrigator Water Pik [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

AntDisk Ant-2 WiFi Dashboard Camera Review

AntDisk Ant-2 WiFi Dashboard Camera Review

Buy it at Amazon: AntDisk Ant-2 WiFi Dashboard Camera [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Decent clarity/resolution, easy to use/setup, audio and night video avg, couldn't view GPS data
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Friday, August 18, 2017

C&A Home Bamboo Shoe Rack Bench Review

C&A Home Bamboo Shoe Rack Bench Review

Buy it at Amazon: C&A Home Bamboo Shoe Rack Bench [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Compact bench, fits 4-6 pairs of shoes, lightweight, sturdy but wobbles slightly.

The bench comes disassembled with a pack of screws, an Allen wrench, the bench seat, cushion, two slat shelves, and two side pieces. The instructions are pretty straightforward and the unit is easy to assemble. It took about 10 minutes to assemble, the hardest part being that the Allen wrench kept slipping out of the hex hole in the screws. The screws are nicely recessed and don't leave a head to get scratched or caught on. I received 1 extra spare screw than needed for assembly in the hardware pack. The finished dimensions of the bench are 20.5" x 11.75" x 19". The two shelves are about 5-6" tall with the lower shelf being slightly taller. The lid of the bench didn't lock when opened and had a tendency to slam shut if you let go of it. The bench compartment in the seat is 1-3/4" deep for storing a few items. The firm foam cushion for the top is 1.5" tall and provided a softer spot to sit than on the wood but wasn't exactly soft like a pillow.

When sitting on the bench, it seems to hold up my weight (125 lbs) fine. However, it isn't super secure as it wobbled a bit, so I wouldn't stand on it as a foot stool. The bench is light and weighs only, 11 lbs which makes it easy to move around. Since there's no walls around the cushion, it's possible for it to slide off while seated, but you can add double sided Velcro tape to make the seat adhere yet still be removable. You can also place it aginst the wall so there's a "back" to the seat. The racks beneath the seat comfortably fit up to 4 pairs of sneakers or 6 pairs of narrower shoes. The shelves may not be tall enough for boots and galoshes. The only problem I had with mine is that the legs are not completely square. It wobbles from the front left foot towards the back right foot about 1/16th"". A quick fix for this was to add a felt sticker to the bottom of the ""shorter"" foot. Other than that, it's a nice looking small bench that is also a functional place to store shoes and a few other items.

Buy it at Amazon: C&A Home Bamboo Shoe Rack Bench [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Foseal Compact Car Vacuum Cleaner Review


Foseal Compact Car Vacuum Cleaner Review

Buy it at Amazon: Foseal Compact Car Vacuum Cleaner [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Good for light cleaning in the car; picks up sand, dirt, crumbs, hair and dust; long cable, easy to clean.
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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Oneach Adjustable Bronze Floor Lamp Assembly and Review

Oneach Adjustable Bronze Floor Lamp Assembly and Review

Buy it at Amazon: Oneach Adjustable Bronze Floor Lamp [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Stylish look, easy assembly, durable though a bit heavy, bright w/3 light levels.
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Monday, August 7, 2017

Natural Bug Defense Mosquito Repellent Bands Review

Natural Bug Defense Mosquito Repellent Bands Review

Buy it at Amazon: Natural Bug Defense Mosquito Repellent Bands [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Somewhat effective, stretchy and versatile, reduces chances of mosquito bites but not 100%.

You'll receive two each of the wrist bands in five colors: blue, green, purple, yellow, and pink. When you open the sealed bag, you'll smell the strong aroma of citronella, like the candles that you can burn to repel mosquitos. This repellent is DEET-free and is a natural plant-based essential oil. The bands are stretchy and can be worn on your wrists and ankles. You can wear multiple bands in different places for increased effectiveness. Note though, that if you stretch too far, too fast the bands could break. The smell on the bands is rated to last up to 250 hours, or 10 days out of the packaging. You can place the bands back into the package and seal it to preserve its effectiveness for a little while longer. My friends and I went on a hike in the woods in July and we each wore 2 bands. None of us were bitten on our 2 hour hike, though we may have just gotten lucky. In general these bands are not 100% effective, but can help reduce the number of bites. However, be aware that as the smell fades they become less effective over time and eventually will need to be replaced.

Buy it at Amazon: Natural Bug Defense Mosquito Repellent Bands [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Fifine K034 Wireless Microphone Review

Fifine K034 Wireless Microphone Review

Buy it at Amazon: Fifine K034 Wireless Microphone [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to set up, good clarity and reproduction, nice range, decent volume.Easy to set up, good clarity and reproduction, nice range, decent volume.
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Tenergy Geo Salt Water and Solar Powered Robot Kit Review

Tenergy Geo Salt Water and Solar Powered Robot Kit Review

Buy it at Amazon: Tenergy Geo Salt Water and Solar Powered Robot Kit [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Fun build kit, simple/quick setup, explains the science in manual, nice learning tool.
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How to Install Push Pop-Up Drain Plug Stopper and Review

How to Install Push Pop-Up Drain Plug Stopper and Review

Buy it at Amazon: How to Install Push Pop-Up Drain Plug Stopper and [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Nice finish and durable construction, easy to use but no install instructions, no leaks.
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