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, September 29, 2017

Yummy Monsters Reusable Food Pouches Review

Yummy Monsters Reusable Food Pouches Review

Buy it at Amazon: Yummy Monsters Reusable Food Pouches [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to fill and clean, freezer safe, leak-free, and environmentally friendly

You'll receive 6 plastic caps, 6 re-usable pouches in 3 colors, two spoon tips, and a small nylon bottle brush. The pouches have fun, named monster characters for each color, Meg is poink and purple, Bill is green and blue and bob is red and yellow. Each pouch can hold up to 5 oz of food. They are PVC, Phthalate, and BPA free, dishwasher safe and freezer safe. However, not that you should not microwave them or boil them to disinfect. The caps screw onto the tops for an airtight and liquid tight seal. The spoon tips are great for babies that are eating solids but aren't yet feeding themselves. There's a small opening at the back of the spoon so if you squeeze the pouch gently the spoon with fill with your food puree. Yummy Monsters also sent a free e-recipe book along with the purchase via e-mail. The recipes are pretty simple and make some tasty meal portions for kids. They generally involve both fruit and vegetables that lend some sweetness to the mix or smoothies using yogurt.

The pouches fill from the bottom and utilize a double seal zip-top to ensure your pouches are leak-free. This also makes them easy to open and clean with the included brush. Just make sure to place the cap on first and do not to fill them past the max-fill line. On the front of each bag are dotted lines so you can write the contents and date in marker. If you use permanent marker, a bit of alcohol will take it off for reuse. If you need to defrost or warm food in the pouch, you can place it in a cup of warm water. The instructions also state not to soak the pouch in water for too long. Just add some warm soapy water to the pouch. Shake it around and rinse well, using the brush to get out stuck or dried bits.One really important thing to remember after cleaning is to allow the inside of the pouch to dry completely to prevent mold growth. One trick I learned is to gently pinch the sides of the pouch in which will keep the ziptop wide open allowing water to drain out and air to circulate. This lets you stand the pouches up to dry or you can wipe them out with paper towels.
The kids love them and they're convenient and environmentally friendly because you don't create waste with each meal.

Buy it at Amazon: Yummy Monsters Reusable Food Pouches [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Supmoon Mini WiFi Smart Socket Review

Supmoon Mini WiFi Smart Socket Review

Buy it at Amazon: Supmoon Mini WiFi Smart Socket [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy set up, effortless wireless control, reliable

The WiFi outlet comes with a brief instruction manual that shows you how to setup the app for wireless control of the unit and make is work with Amazon's Alexa assistant. The smart plug has a plastic housing with a 2" in diameter. It will stick out 1" from the wall when plugged in. Also, if you plug it into the top outlet of a two outlet panel, the lower portion of the plug might block part of the bottom socket, so I recommend, instead, plugging this unit in the bottom of a dual socket panel. The unit has a single power button on the side for manual on/off and the button has an LED behind it to indicate the different modes. When plugged in for the first time, it will start flashing rapidly, which means it's ready to be added to your home WiFi network. Using the Tuya Smart app, you can add the device and give it your home network's WiFi password. Once connected to the network, you can use the app to switch on and off the outlet and whatever is plugged into it. The app also has the capability to set a coutdown timer trigger or a set daily or weekly schedule for on and off times. Amazon's Alexa can find and control the socket as well using the Tuya Smart skill for powering on and off the outlet. However, the voice commands don't work for setting scedules and delayed triggers.

Setting up the unit only takes a few minutes and it works great for its intended purpose both for remote control via the app from anywhere you have an internet connection and via the voice commands. Just remmeber that the socket has a few load restrictions and can handle devices up to 10A and 1100 Watts.

Buy it at Amazon: Supmoon Mini WiFi Smart Socket [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Tacklife Universal Battery Tester Review

Tacklife Universal Battery Tester Review

Buy it at Amazon: Tacklife Universal Battery Tester [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Fast readings, basic, easy to read charts, versatile

The battery tester measures 4.25" x 2.25" x 1" thick. The orange positive contact slides to accommodate a number of different sized batteries like AAA to D. The gauge on this battery tester is an analog needle meter and it doesn't actually tell you the voltage level of the battery. Instead it gives you a general sense of battery health by indicating if the battery is good, low, or needs replacing. A second smaller chart appears below the main chart for use with coin cell batteries. The unit is a bit awkward to hold since the batteries don't "clip" into anything. Instead, you have to hold the unit with one hand while holding the battery and sliding the orange positive contact with your other hand. This is nearly impossible to use one-handed.

It does however accommodate the battery sizes it claims to with the unit sliding just wide enough to accommodate a D battery. One thing to note is to not keep the battery in the tester for too long because it will actually run down the battery. This tester can test 1.5V coin cell batteries, but not 3V batteries like a CR2032. For 9V batteries, use the two contacts on the side of the unit with the positive side of the battery touching the left contact point. Overall, this basic battery tester is versatile and effective for 1.5V and 9V batteries if you don't need an exact voltage reading. The charts are easy to decipher, and it lets me know when batteries need to be replaced.

Buy it at Amazon: Tacklife Universal Battery Tester [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

This Bar Saves Lives Granola Bars Review

This Bar Saves Lives Granola Bars Review

Buy it at Amazon: This Bar Saves Lives Granola Bars [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Contribute to a good cause when you buy these wholesome and delicious snack bars.

If you haven't heard of "This Bar Saves Lives" before, it's a snack food company that contributes humanitarian aid to countries with starving children with each bar that you purchase. The way it works is that each time you buy one of their snack food products, they donate food in the form of a nutritious Plumpy'nut package to feed malnutritioned children. The food is life changing and life saving for these kids, so it's always nice to buy something where you know the proceeds are going out and making the world a better place. But, no one's going to buy them if the bars don't taste good, right? So I gave a few different flavored bars to see if the bars taste as good as the change they hope to make in the world.

I tried three flavors which is just a sampling of some of the flavors available: 1. Madagascar vanilla, almond, & honey 2. Dark chocolate, peanut butter, & sea salt 3. Dark chocolate, cherry, & sea salt.

The bars have between 160-190 calories with the cherry on the low end and the chocolate peanut butter on the other. The ingredients of the bars are non-GMO verified, gluten-free, and fair trade. They are sweetened with cane sugar and raisin juice and don't contain high fructose corn syrup. Even though only one bar contains peanuts, all of them are processed in facilities that also handle nuts and other potential allergens like milk, eggs, wheat, and soy.

Dark chocolate, peanut butter - It's got a thick layer of chocolate on the bottom, lots of puffed rice and roasted peanuts, and chocolate drizzle on top. The texture is chewy with a little bit of crisp, like a Rice Krispy treat. It's pretty sweet and the chocolate tastes more like milk chocolate without the signature bitterness of dark chocolate. The peanut flavor comes across prominently but isn't overpowering and the nuts add a nice crunch.

Madagascar vanilla, almond, & honey - This one has more of a traditional granola mix with rolled oats and flax along with the puffed rice. It's also a lot softer than the chocolate one because it doesn't have a solid chocolate layer. The vanilla makes it taste like it's made with marshmallows and the crushed almonds and sunflower seeds add a nice crunch with a full nutty flavor.

Dark chocolate, cherry, & sea salt - It has a chocolate backing layer, a nice mix of puffed rice and wheat, flax, peanuts, and pumpkin seeds. The dried cherries give is a nice bright sweet tart flavor. Again the chocolate here tastes more like milk chocolate and I would have liked a darker bitter flavor if you're going to call it dark chocolate.

I also tried two bars of This Kid Saves Lives, which is a spin-off product geared towards children's palates but with the same humanitarian aid contributed per box of bars. These are smaller bars that are nut-free in flavors like wild berry and chocolate chip. These smaller servings have only 110-120 calories with added vitamins and minerals and 6-8 grams of sugar per bar. The wild berries bar is pretty soft and chewy. It's a bit sweeter than the larger bars which kids will probably enjoy. The flavor of the dried blueberries really comes through and the dried cranberries add a little tartness. The chocolate chip bar has a solid layer of chocolate on the bottom for a firmer bar. The flavor is pretty good and a on the sweet side, but I think kids will enjoy it.

Overall, I think this brand has a really cool business model and great tasting bars. It's awesome to know that when choosing to spend your money with them that you know that you'll be helping people at the same time.

Buy it at Amazon: This Bar Saves Lives Granola Bars [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, September 25, 2017

Blusmart Thermal Hot and Cold Laminator Review


Blusmart Thermal Hot and Cold Laminator Review

Buy it at Amazon: Blusmart Thermal Hot and Cold Laminator [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to use, versatile for hot/cold sheets, great results.

The laminator measures 15" x 5.25" x 3.25" and the power cord is 5' long. In front is the slot where you'll insert your sheets to be laminated. Note that the laminator doesn't come with any lamination sleeves, so you'll have to buy those separately. This machine works with both hot and cold lamination for thermal activated adhesive pouches and pressure activated adhesive pouches. On the right side of the unit are the power switch and the toggle switch for hot or cold lamination. For cold lamination, simply turn the unit on. Place the sheet inside the pouch and insert the edge into the opening in the front, which is wide enough to accommodate up to A4 sized sheets. The rollers will automatically grab and move the pouch through the machine. When it comes out the other side it should be laminated.

If choosing hot lamination you have to wait 3-5 minutes for the heating element to warm up and the green "ready" light to come on before you start. Then you just do the same thing and place the edge of the pouch into the opening and the rollers will pull it through. When the sheet comes out the other side, it may still be hot to the touch so give it a few seconds to cool off before handling it. If you need to switch back to cold lamination, you'll have to wait for the unit to cool down first. The laminated sheets come out perfect. They're smooth, glossy, and flat with no wrinkle or bubbles. The thickness of your lamination sheets will determine how rigid or flexible the final product is, but either way your photos, business card, and other stationery will be protected from liquids, oil, stains, and dirt.

On top of the unit you have a three blade rotary cutter that can help you finish the edges of your laminated sheets or even just plain paper. These symbols here indicate what kind of cut you are using: this is the straight cut, then you have a perforated dotted line cut and the third is a wave cut. To use it, position your sheet under the clear plastic ruler. The blade will cut along the edge of it. Then press down on the rotary cutter and slide it across to the other side. This is the straight cut. To change the blade, pull up on this red locking tab, spin to the symbol for the blade you want. Let's try the perforated cut. Again, press down on the cutter and slide it to the other side. The perforated cut is pretty cool and is great if you're creating a sheet of multiple take-aways that you want to tear of individually. Then the last cut is the wave cut which makes a fun wavy edge, like pinking shears might.

The grids on the top also help you measure and create different angles easily. On the bottom of the unit is a slide out corner rounding tool. This is like a hole puncher but instead of holes, it rounds off pointed corners which is great for laminated projects because the sharp plastic corners tends to poke or scratch otherwise. You simply place the corner of your project into the tool and press down and the corner will be rounded. The clipped corners get caught in the clear receptacle underneath which is easily emptied later. Overall, the laminator does a great job with laminating, both hot and cold pouches. It's also got some nifty features to help you finish your projects so that they look neat, clean, and professional.

Buy it at Amazon: Blusmart Thermal Hot and Cold Laminator [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, September 22, 2017

GoolRC High Speed Racing Boat GC002 Review


GoolRC High Speed Racing Boat GC002 Review

Buy it at Amazon: GoolRC High Speed Racing Boat GC002 [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Fast, durable, and fun! No assembly required, easy to get the hang of the controls.

You'll receive the boat, remote control, instruction manual, three-piece stand, USB charging cable, a small wrench, tiny tube of grease paste, a spare propeller nut, and spare propeller. The RC boat is made of a thin, lightweight plastic. It measures 14" from bow to stern (rudder), 4.5" wide and 2.5" tall. The stand is easily assembled and not only nicely displays the boat when not in use, it protects the propeller from getting damaged. The battery can be found inside the boat, but needs to be connected and disconnected between uses.

The remote requires 4 AA batteries and a mini screwdriver to open the battery bay door, neither of which are included. After connecting the battery inside the boat, place the boat in water to turn it on. Then just flip the switch up in the middle of the remote, and it'll beep when paired. On the remote, the left joystick controls the throttle to move the boat forward and put it in reverse while the right joystick controls the rudder for turning. There are also keys for trimming if the boat drifts. The LCD screen shows you the signal strength between the controller and the boat and the remaining battery life of the boat.

Getting a hang of the controls is pretty easy. The boat can go really fast at full throttle (supposedly up to ~13 mph) and was a bit too much speed for a small swimming pool; it'll perform much more impressively on a lake or river. The turning radius is ok, but wide at about 6-7 ft depending on your speed. While I haven't had the boat capsize (in the pool), if it does, you can flip it over easily with the controls. The boat is also pretty durable despite being made of plastic. It bumped and banged around the cement pool quite a bit quite without sustaining any damage that I could see. Overall, it's a fun, easy to learn toy that's definitely suitable for racing if you've got more than one. Great for kids and adults!

Buy it at Amazon: GoolRC High Speed Racing Boat GC002 [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Inflatable Travel Pillow and Sleep Eye Mask Review (SSG Elepowstar) Review


Inflatable Travel Pillow and Sleep Eye Mask Review (SSG Elepowstar) Review

Buy it at Amazon: Inflatable Travel Pillow and Sleep Eye Mask Review (SSG Elepowstar) [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Soft, compact, comfortable; inflates/defaltes quickly, convenient and portable.

You'll receive the eyemask and travel pillow in a drawstring bag. The eyemask, bag, and pillow are all made with a fabric plush velour fabric and it's very fine, smooth, and soft to the touch. The eyemask measures 3" tall and 16" wide. It has a lower pillow area on the back to help block light from creeping in under the mask, and it's held on by a Velcro adjustable elastic band. It's pretty comfortable to wear and you can adjust the tightness to your preference. I might be imagining it, but mine smells very faintly like lavender, which is a known sleep aid.

The inflatable pillow is u-shaped and has a large fill nozzle on the top right hand side. This nozzle has a leak-stop valve that prevents air from escaping the inner tube until you press the release button in the middle. This allows you to blow the pillow up in intervals quickly without worrying about the air leaking out when you have to stop and take a breath. The pillow takes a minute or two fill up by breath. Once inflated, the pillow is soft and cushy and easily worn around your neck. It provides a nice supportive surface for you to lay your head on or rest your neck while seated, no matter how you travel. It's much more comfortable than leaning up against a window or your seat mate's shoulder and you're less likely to wake up with a sore neck. When you're done, it deflates and packs up compactly.

Buy it at Amazon: Inflatable Travel Pillow and Sleep Eye Mask Review (SSG Elepowstar) [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Lineway A1 WiFi Smart Light Strip Review

Lineway A1 WiFi Smart Light Strip Review

Buy it at Amazon: Lineway A1 WiFi Smart Light Strip [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to setup, remote control with app or Alexa works well, bright and colorful.

You'll receive two 40" RGB light strips, a 6" Jumper cable, a hardware pack with 6 mounting brackets and 12 screws, a power adapter, and a setup instruction sheet. The length of the power cord before and after the brick is 38" and 34" with a 5" long brick for a total reach of about 6.5 feet. The light strips have 28 LED in each of them. On the back is some double sided adhesive sticky tape behind the protective blue film. On each end are either male or female connectors and the two strips can either be connected directly to each other or joined by the jumper cable allowing you to turn a corner or make a gap between the two strips. When plugging in the jumper or the power cable, make sure the small arrow on the connector is pointing to the top of the strip so that you can read the lettering inside the rubber casing.

I used the Tuya App to control the light strip and set it up on my home WiFi network to work with Alexa. The setup process was simple and took only a few minutes. However, you don't have to have an Alexa enabled device to use this light strip, since you can use the Tuya Smart app as the remote to control it, as long as you have a WiFi netowrk at home. You can also control the device from anywhere you have an internet connection. Alexa just makes it convenient to just call out commands, though keep in mind that some features of the lights cannot be accessed by Alexa like scenes, flashing colors, and setting a timer schedule. Overall, the light strip is bright, colorful, and easy to use.

Buy it at Amazon: Lineway A1 WiFi Smart Light Strip [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Yeco Mega Building Blocks for Kids Review


Yeco Mega Building Blocks for Kids Review

Buy it at Amazon: Yeco Mega Building Blocks for Kids [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Bright colors, semi-soft plastic, easy to assemble; comes w/train cars, wheels, and sticker sheet.

The blocks come in a zippered storage bag and inside there are 86 assorted pieces in four bright colors: red, green, yellow, and blue. The blocks are made of a semi-soft plastic that's slightly flexible. They are various sizes of 4, 3, 2,or 1 "hump." There are also cap pieces and cars with wheels that you have to assemble yourself but can be chained together like a train. The blocks are easy to stack with nice large connectors. The only tricky part for kids might be snapping the wheels onto the cars because you have to press pretty hard. Included is a sticker sheet with the numbers, letters and various cars, trucks, food items, and animals. This set can provide hours of fun and educational learning for kids, and my nephew really loves it.

Buy it at Amazon: Yeco Mega Building Blocks for Kids [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, September 18, 2017

Mini Handheld Cordless Vacuum Cleaner Dust Buster (FD-CMV) Review


Mini Handheld Cordless Vacuum Cleaner Dust Buster (FD-CMV) Review

Buy it at Amazon: Mini Handheld Cordless Vacuum Cleaner Dust Buster (FD-CMV) [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Ok for small/light cleaning, flimsy dust bin flap, relatively short run-time.

You'll receive the vacuum cleaner, a microUSB charging cable, a brush nozzle, a gap nozzle, and an instruction manual. The vacuum measures 11" long without the nozzles, and about 3" in diameter at the widest section. The unit weighs just under 1 lb. On top you have a red charging indicator light, the microUSB charging port, and a release button for the dust bin. The dust bin pops off easily and inside is a dust filter, but note that the dust filter doesn't snap into anything so be careful when opening the dust bin because it could just fall out. The dustbin is quite small and can only hold about a 1/3 cup of debris. Inside is a rubber flap that's supposed to block debris from falling back out the nozzle, but in general it's too thin and lightweight to keep the opening tightly sealed. You'll likely notice a gap here or in some cases after use, that it stays wide open. The nozzles fit into the opening at the end and cannot be nested, so you can only use one at a time. I like that the unit charges via microUSB because this cable is pretty ubiquitous and you can use any cable to charge the device from a USB power source, although it did not come with a wall adapter. When the unit is charging the LED indicator light will blink red. When it's done the light will be a steady red. The manual says that charging time is about 8 hours, which I think is a bit lengthy given that the run time is only about 25 minutes. This should be long enough to finish a small cleanup job and since the coverage area is so small, you probably don't want to be using it for any longer than that.

To activate the vacuum, you simply pull the trigger and hold it down. The trigger must be held down to continue operation. The suction from this tiny vacuum is light so it picks up mostly dust, fine particles, and light dirt/debris. It's nice for the car because it's portable and lightweight. The gap nozzle can also get into some tight spaces. The dust bin is clear so you can see how full it is and pretty easy to clean. Both the dust bin and filter are washable in water, however, the main unit should simply be wiped down with a damp cloth.

Overall, this little vacuum works well in small spaces for light cleanup jobs. Its battery isn't long lived and it takes a while to charge so you should charge it after each use to make sure its ready to go the next time you need it.

Buy it at Amazon: Mini Handheld Cordless Vacuum Cleaner Dust Buster (FD-CMV) [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, September 15, 2017

Kaisi Magnetic Silicone Project Mat S-140 Review


Kaisi Magnetic Silicone Project Mat S-140 Review

Buy it at Amazon: Kaisi Magnetic Silicone Project Mat S-140 [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Good non-slip texture, many trays for small parts/screws, could use more magnetic surface.

This silicone mat measures about 13.5"W x 10"L. The mat is about 1/16" thick and has a smooth yet high-friction surface texture. Around the mat are different sized shallow trays for project pieces and on the right hand side are 116 small square depressions for storing screws and nuts in numbered order, so you can keep track of where they go as you assemble/disassemble your projects. I was a bit disappointed to find out most of the mat is not magnetic and only three small areas are. There's the circle in the top left corner and two smaller trays to its right (the magnets positions are visible from the bottom of the mat but they are sealed inside and not removable/replaceable). These three areas are labeled 'magnetic' and work as advertised. Small screws stayed adhered to the magnet even when I lifted up, flipped over, and shook the mat. The numbered section is pretty useful for tiny screws and nuts. those the numbers can be a bit hard to read. There's also a 24cm ruler along the bottom of the mat, but again the lettering and markings are hard to make out as they don't have a contrasting color.

Since the mat doesn't slide around and provides some grip, I'm less likely to lose any small pieces when taking apart my electronics to fix them on the mat. When you putting parts in a non-magnetic section (or working with non-metal parts), you have to be careful not to lift or move the mat because the pieces could fall out of the trays. The depth of the tray keeps them in place but only to a point and moving the mat when it's full of stuff can be a challenge. I recommend putting the mat on a cookie sheet in case you need to transport the entire thing to another location. On the main section, the screws didn't roll or slide off when I shook the mat slightly thanks to the mat's grippy surface.

Overall, the mat works well and helps me keep track of and organize small parts when assembling and disassembling electronics or models. There are a multitude of trays for separating pieces of various sizes from different sections of your project. The magnetic sections work well, but I would have preferred more of them or a more significant portion of the mat to have magnetic coverage. The silicone is easy to clean/wipe off when the mat gets dirty and it supposedly has high heat-resistance which I did not test.

Buy it at Amazon: Kaisi Magnetic Silicone Project Mat S-140 [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Panda Bath Toy Organizer Hanger Review


Panda Bath Toy Organizer Hanger Review

Buy it at Amazon: Panda Bath Toy Organizer Hanger [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Strong suction cups, quick drying mesh toy hanger with cute/fun design.

This bath toy organizer has a cute panda face on it and is made of mostly neoprene with a nylon mesh storage bag. Synthetic leather is used for the eyes. It also has two ears tucked in the back and a nylon hanging loop. The organizer measures 15" tall and 13" at the widest section. The mesh bag is 8" tall and about 4.5" deep. It gets narrower at the top so the toys stay inside the pouch. The organizer comes with two suction cups. The larger white suction cup is 3" in diameter and has a screw down style suction cup while the blue hanger is slightly smaller with a 2.75" diameter. Both are easy to adhere to tile, glass, or other smooth surfaces and provide a strong hold. I haven't had the suction cups dislodge from the wall and they can support a decent amount of weight. You'll only need to use one of these hangers with the organizer. Overall the organizer can hold plenty of toys to keep them on hand for bath time while keeping your space neat and tidy. It allows water to drain away from the toys and dried quickly, so they won't get moldy. If it gets wet a lot, however, you may want to flip it around and make sure the back of it gets fully dry once in a while to avoid problems with mildew.

Buy it at Amazon: Panda Bath Toy Organizer Hanger [Affiliate Link]
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Blusmart CR-26A Electric Pressure Cooker Review


Blusmart CR-26A Electric Pressure Cooker Review

Buy it at Amazon: Blusmart CR-26A Electric Pressure Cooker [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Fast and convenient; makes delicious food but no included recipes, could use better instructions.

After owning a stovetop pressure cooker for many years, I have to say there are few occasions now where I would use that over an electric one. The electric ones are more convenient, heat up faster, and don't need constant monitoring. This Blusmart electric pressure cooker has a capacity of 6 qts and measures 15" tall with a 11" diameter. All the accessories are inside when you receive the unit: 4 ft power cord, rice scooper, measuring cup, condensation cup, and instruction manual. The inner bowl and bowl chamber both have non-stick coatings on them for ease of cleaning. On the bottom of the lid is a removable gasket and debris filter, though you have to pull pretty hard on the silicone handle to extract it. The bowl also has measurement lines for the capacity of the unit and water measurement lines for cooking rice.

The manual is readable, but isn't a great English translation. It doesn't explain well what the differences between the modes are or how to use them as there are no recipes included with the unit. You've got presets like rice, cake, chicken, fried foods, and soup. Then the 'manual cook' button allows you to set a delayed start time from 30 mins to 24 hours in 30 min increments. The red key is the power/cancel and keep warm key, and there are up and down keys for time adjustments in 1 minute increments. When you press any of the presets, it'll just input set values for the cooking time under pressure. With any preset, you can increase or decrease the time under pressure and the unit automatically switches to keep warm when the timer runs out.

So far in the pressure cooker I've made rice, chicken stew, beans, steamed veggies, hard boiled eggs, zucchini bread, quick preserves/jam, corn on the cob, and boiled pot stickers (which I later air fried). The unit takes about 5-10 minutes to pre-heat and pressurize, depending on the amount of food you put in, before the timer counts down, so expect a 5 minute setting for 1 cup of rice to actually take about 15 minutes. The one thing that kept throwing me off at first is that the pressure valve isn't marked as to which direction is seal and which direction is release (counter-clockwise is seal). I also recently found out the square tab that sticks out of the stick of the lid is so you can store/stand it upright in the handle on the side of the pit. That's clever, but again, not explained in the manual. There's no recipe book included so I'm kind making up recipes as I go.

The things that really impressed me was the cake function. I didn't actually think it would bake a decent cake, but my zucchini bread came out wonderfully moist, evenly cooked, and fluffy. It also released cleanly from the bowl and wasn't burned at all on the bottom. I liked that I didn't have to fire up the big oven and that it took half the time to finish cooking than in the oven. I was also able to make quick fruit preserves/jam by adding chopped fruit, lemon juice, and sugar with a splash of water and putting it under pressure with the release valve open for 20 minutes. This eliminated the hours of standing in front of the stove stirring and reducing jam and it came out wonderful and slightly caramelized.

Overall, the functionality of the pressure cooker is very well done. The construction is solid and durable. It's easy to use and saves me time versus traditional cooking and baking. It's also cleans up easily. My main complaint is that there weren't any recipes included and the different settings aren't explained well. Like for 'fried' am I supposed to use oil and deep fry under pressure? Should I use the gasket or not and should the valve be open or closed in this setting? It's unclear and the instructions weren't too helpful in that respect. A bit of clarification would help me fully utilize the device's potential, which currently I don't feel like I have enough information to do. Otherwise, I'm quite pleased with it and plan to use it a lot more and experiment with different recipes.

Buy it at Amazon: Blusmart CR-26A Electric Pressure Cooker [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Anguo Bluetooth Sport Earphones Review


Anguo Bluetooth Sport Earphones Review

Buy it at Amazon: Anguo Bluetooth Sport Earphones [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Ok audio for the price, bright trebles and lacks bass, poor isolation, short run time.

The earphones come with a USB charging cable, three sets of eartips: small/medium/large, two ear stabilizers, two over the ear hooks, and an instruction manual. The left earphone has the Anguo logo on it and the right earpiece has the charging port and controls for volume up and down keys, and on/off button. The earphones are lightweight, at only 0.5 oz and the wire between the earpieces is 19" long. The ear stabilizer wings are designed to slip into the curvature of your ear so they won't fall out easily, but may not fit everyone's ear so you can optionally use the over the ear hooks which snap on to the earbud stem which work great. The unit takes about an hour to charge and lasts up to 4 hrs of use depending on playback volume, though at slightly above 50% volume I found they only last a couple of hours. You may get more use out of them at lower volume. When charging, the LED will be red and it changes to blue when fully charged. To pair to your phone, press and hold the power button for few seconds and it'll turn on, but continue to hold it down until you hear the 'ready to pair' prompt and it should show up in your Bluetooth menu as "A1."

The sound from the earphones is pretty average. The trebles are overemphasized giving them a shiny almost raspy quality at high volume. Cymbals, female vocals, and violins in the upper ranges tend to sound a bit strained. There's not a ton of bass making the sound somewhat thin and the passive isolation won't block out all the sound around you. The mid and low ranges come across much better balanced with a clear and clean sounds, but the overall brightness may leave your ears fatigued after a long listening session. Not that that's a huge problem, because even at moderate listening volumes I only got a little over 2 hours of use out of them before they were running low on battery. On the plus side, call quality was clear and the caller could understand me fine when speaking at a normal volume, but this is sometimes hit or miss.

In general, these headphones would be fine for a workout or if you're doing something active where you don't want the headphones to fall out of your ears. They're also okay for a commute if you don't need the best sound quality and just need to tune out stuff around you, but don't plan on being able to listen to these all day on a single charge.

Buy it at Amazon: Anguo Bluetooth Sport Earphones [Affiliate Link]
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AmoVee Acrylic Headphone Stand Review

AmoVee Acrylic Headphone Stand Review

Buy it at Amazon: AmoVee Acrylic Headphone Stand [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Simple, very lightweight so it falls over easily, no hanger for audio cable.

The acrylic headphone stand is a simple piece of curved plastic with a glossy black finish. The stand has the brand name ‘Amovee' printed on the side of one of the feet, which is a little intrusive for the branding. The stand is 10" tall, 4.5" across, and 2.5" wide. It fits most standard headphones without stretching them out too much. It helps to extend the headphone's ear cups to the lowest point so that the earcups sit lower in the curvature of the stand. This prevents the pads from being compressed a lot which is important if you plan on keeping the headphones on the stand for a long period of time. Keeping the ear pads compressed could permanently deform them and wear them out faster. The stand is lightweight and balanced, so it won't fall over on its own, but because it's tall and narrow it can be knocked over or tips when if the table is shaken. I would have preferred if there were rubber feet on the bottom for a bit more stability and perhaps a wider stance. I also wish there were someplace to hang an audio cable. Regardless, it works well for temporary storage of a single pair of headphones and can also be used as a display stand for your headphones.

Buy it at Amazon: AmoVee Acrylic Headphone Stand [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Popup Mosquito Net Tent for Beds Review

Popup Mosquito Net Tent for Beds Review

Buy it at Amazon: Popup Mosquito Net Tent for Beds [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Complete coverage from top/bottom, fits queen bed, unpacks and folds up quickly

The mosquito net tent comes in a fabric carrying case that has a handle on the top and a zipper along the bottom. It measures 25" in diameter when packed and weighs just over 2 lbs. On the front of the carrier, in a clear plastic pocket, you'll find the setup and folding instructions. The tent is made from nylon bug netting with flexible steel wire struts. The steel wires are rigid but flex like a foldable car sunshade. When folded, it is held closed by this thin elastic band. the netting is very much like the material used in aquarium fish nets and butterfly nets. The holes are small enough to keep out mosquitoes and knats, though not fleas, lice, nor perhaps bed bugs.

Setting up the tent takes less than a minute as it literally pops open when you unfold it. Once you located the top and bottom, you can orient the zippered doors on the sides of the bed to get in and out of the tent. The fully opened size will cover an entire queen sized bed and the stated dimension are fairly accurate at 79" long, 71" wide and 59" tall. The door panels have dual-sided zippers that you can open and close from the outside and from the inside. Since you'll be fully encapsulated from top to bottom, make sure you bring your pillows and blankets into the tent for use when sleeping. The tent is tall enough for me to kneel on the bed and still have plenty of room above my head. Along the top of each door is a fancy hem and the zippers glide open and closed smoothly without any skips or jams.

I did check the entire net for holes and flaws where mosquitoes could sneak in, but I found none. You do have to be careful with the netting though and not use sharp or hooked jewelry or object near it as once the netting is compromised, it won't be as effective against bugs and mosquitoes. Closing the tent back up was tricky at first, but once I got the hand of it I could pack it up in lass than 30 seconds. The directions, even with the pictures, were somewhat unclear, but you can watch the video portion of this review to see how I do it (I think it's slightly different than the printed instructions, but it works for me).

Overall, this mosquito tent is really quick to setup and put away. It's got nice construction quality and a spacious size for a double or queen bed. It also packs away compactly and is lightweight for travel. It fits in my large suitcase for when I travel and the accommodations lack efficient bug barriers.

Buy it at Amazon: Popup Mosquito Net Tent for Beds [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, September 11, 2017

TPE Silicone Baby Bibs Review

TPE Silicone Baby Bibs Review

Buy it at Amazon: TPE Silicone Baby Bibs [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to adjust neckline, cleans up quickly, dishwasher safe, works great.

The bibs are about 10" wall and 9" wide. They are a single piece and soft/flexible but rigid enough to keep its shape. On the bottom is a 2" catch pocket for dropped or spilled food and liquid so whatever your baby doesn't eat, doesn't end up on the floor. The neck line of the bib is adjustable and the strap is easily attached and adjusted by pressing it into the grip on the side for a looser or tighter fit. On the opposite side is a hanging hole for hang drying and storing the bib. Our little one just turned 6 months and the bib, might still be a tad big on he but serves its purpose for keeping messing on her clothes to a minimum. She's just getting started with solid foods and is still being spoon fed, but when she starts feeding herself, we think the catch pocket will be better utilized. The bib cleans easily under running water and is also dish washer safe. Overall, it works pretty well.

Buy it at Amazon: TPE Silicone Baby Bibs [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, September 8, 2017

Comica CVM-VM10 Shotgun Microphone Review

Comica CVM-VM10 Shotgun Microphone Review

Buy it at Amazon: Comica CVM-VM10 Shotgun Microphone [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Improves targeted audio, moderate noise reduction/improvement, a little grainy at times.

The microphone comes in a semi-rigid clamshell case. Inside you'll find the plastic hot shoe shock mount, machined aluminum condenser shotgun mic, a foam wind screen, a wind muff or dead cat, and two coiled audio cables, one marked for camera, and one marked for smartphones that has the light gray connector. The microphone is small and compact and measures just over 3 inches long and weighs a little bit over 1 ounce. It attaches to the shock mount (which feels a bit flimsy) by snapping the two grips onto the back section of the mic. The mount attaches to you camera into the hot shoe with a screw down nut. Make sure to use the appropriate cable for your device (TRS vs TRRS for mobile devices). The cables are 2.5" long but stretch up to 20".

I've used this mic with my Canon T3i, Sony a6300, and LG G5 smartphone. When compared to the on-board camera microphones, the shotgun mic offers a nice improvement, cutting down on ambient noise from behind the mic and getting a modest volume boost from your subject without having to do any gain adjustment in post. The noise reduction isn't perfect and if you've got stuff going on behind your subject, you'll still hear a fair bit of that too. The mic seems to drop out a lot of lower decibel ranges in order to reduce the amount of noise. This makes the microphone sound somewhat muffled at times. The dead cat did alright with reducing wind noise when used outdoors, but it's not necessary indoors as the extra layer tends to mute the sound a bit heavily. The only issue I had was that the dead cat can't be used with my Sony a6300 mirrorless because the hot shoe isn't high enough and the hairs from the dead cat drift over the lens and get in the shot. With my smartphone, the audio was louder from the subject, but not necessarily clearer. It actually sounded a bit grainy/staticky, which I didn't notice in the DSLR footage.

Overall, the shotgun mic does a nice job capturing the sound that's directly in front of it and eliminating some of the sounds coming from other directions. This results in better targeted and cleaner sounding audio that's good for interviews and capturing audio from a specific source. It's not laser pinpoint focused for sure, but it's a lot better than the built-in mic and more focused than my omnidirectional mic with less ambient noise.

Buy it at Amazon: Comica CVM-VM10 Shotgun Microphone [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Fifine Wireless Lapel Microphone Review

Fifine Wireless Lapel Microphone Review

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

Takeaway: Works ok as a wireless PA mic, a bit too quiet for recording, mono only.

The mic kit comes with a transmitter, lapel mic with 3.5' long wire and 3-pin mini XLR plug (mono), a receiver with 1/4" microphone jack, a pair of AA batteries, a pair of AAA batteries, and an instruction manual. The transmitter unit is pretty basic. It's made of plastic and has a wire belt clip on the back, a mini XLR input for the mic, and power button on the top by the antenna. On front is an LCD screen that shows the transmitting frequency and a door that swings open for loading the two AA batteries. The microphone simply plugs into the port on the top and it has a metal alligator shirt clip. The receiver plugs into your sound system via the 1/4" jack but you can use an adapter to use it with 1/8" Aux-in/mic ports (not included). On the side of the transmitter is the on/off switch and a 2.25" antenna for increasing the reception. On the opposite side is the door for the battery bay for loading the two AAA batteries.

The unit is basically plug and play. Turn on the receiver and transmitter and they will pair automatically. When paired the light on the receiver turns from flashing red to green. The LCD screen on the transmitter displays the frequency as well as remaining battery life. The channel range is 672.5 to 684.5 in 0.5 MHz increments. There are 25 channels on this mic to help you avoid interference with other equipment on mics, and it remembers the last channel you set it to when you switch it off and on again. The LCD dims after 3 minutes to save power and flashes when the unit has low battery.

The lapel mic is directional and should be clipped with the top of the wind screen pointing up towards your mouth. However, even from this short distance of about 6 inches, the pickup from the mic isn't quite strong enough and the audio is fairly quiet. The mic sounds better and is much louder when it's right in front of your mouth, but that's not how it's designed to be used. I was able to use the mic plugged into a portable speaker and it sounded fine, but after I got more than 20 feet away the sound started to audibly fade. I must be one of the lucky ones that got a mic that doesn't pop or crackle as I haven't noticed any static noise when using the mic so far.

Sound-wise the ranges are a bit condensed lending a "boxy" sound quality. Without any post editing, the Fifine mic is much quieter than the Yeti mic that I normally use for recording and doesn't have as good audio quality. Also it only records in mono, and is therefore not suitable for much of my recording needs. However, I would use it as a PA system wireless mic for events and parties or perhaps hook it up to my camera for some B-roll video footage.

Buy it at Amazon: Fifine Wireless Lapel Microphone [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Akface Wifi Smart Power Strip w/Alexa Compatibility Review

Akface Wifi Smart Power Strip w/Alexa Compatibility Review

Buy it at Amazon: Akface Wifi Smart Power Strip w/Alexa Compatibility [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to use and setup, responds remotely to app/voice commands, timers accurate.

The power strip measures 7.75" x 4" x 1" and has a 4.5' long power cord. On top you have a power button, 4 USB ports which can output 1 A each and four 3-prong grounded outlets which are spaced far enough apart to fit large power bricks/adapters. This unit can be connected to your Wi-Fi network via the TuyaSmart app and used with Amazon Alexa voice control. Note that Alexa won't be able to control individual sockets/USB ports, only whether or not the entire strip is powered on or off. The power strip is rated to 1650W.

Connecting the unit to my home Wi-Fi took less than a minute, but you can also use the plug without Wi-Fi like a normal strip plug. Just press the power button so that all the red LEDs next to the ports are all on. With the Tuya app, you can control the on/off status of each outlet and the group of USB ports (as a set of 4). You can even name them to match what's plugged into them for easy identification. Using Alexa voice commands, I was successfully able to turn on and off the whole power strip, but it would have been more convenient to be able to access each individual outlet this way. Even so, it's easy enough to open up the app to switch on/off each outlet manually if I need to. I also liked that each outlet can be set with its own set of timers on a daily, one of, or particular set of day schedule. Not only does it eliminate the need to use a timer with each socket, it's also simpler to create the timers and toggle them on/off than on the "dumb" outlet times that I've been using.

I haven't had the power strip randomly disconnect from my Wi-Fi network on its own, so it seems to be pretty reliable with a stable connection. It's good that I can control it remotely from anywhere there's an internet connection. I can switch things on and off when I'm not at home or on vacation. Overall, the power strip works well and although the Alexa voice commands would have been more useful if they could control the individual outlets, I find that even without that, this unit is worthwhile since that level of control is present with the timers in the app.

Buy it at Amazon: Akface Wifi Smart Power Strip w/Alexa Compatibility [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Yegu Hot and Cold Water Toilet Bidet Review

Yegu Hot and Cold Water Toilet Bidet Review

Buy it at Amazon: Yegu Hot and Cold Water Toilet Bidet [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to install, leak-free, gentle but effective spray for washing up.

I used to be one of those folks a bit turned off by the idea of a bidet, but after installing one in the guest bathroom last year and using it regularly, I knew I wanted another one for the master bath. My first one was a cold water only one and while that was okay, the addition of hot water with a temperature mixer is multitudes of times better. In this self-install kit, you receive the bidet, 6.5' of hot water tubing, two seat couplers, a 25" flexible metal braided hose, 7/8" T-adapter with rubber gasket, a 3/8" T-adapter with rubber o-ring, and a set of illustrated installation instructions. The instructions are pretty basic and only show installation and not operation. A few quick observations: If you will hooking up the hot water, it's more convenient to have a sink within a few feet of the toilet with an exposed hot water line. If you have a sink over a cabinet, you may need to drill a hole in the cabinet/wall in order for the hot water to reach the inlet of the bidet. Also if you need longer tubing, you may need to reach out to the vendor for it. Like with the sink, it may take a minute for the water to warm up so if you want warm or hot water for immediate use with the sprayer, it helps to run the hot water in the sink first and also run the bidet cleaning mode to clear the cold water from the line so you'll get a warm spray from the get go. The hot water line installation is optional, and you can keep the cap on that inlet line if you'll be using cold water only.

The other tricky thing is that to activate the water stream you have to lift the temperature control handle up, which isn't described in the instructions. Turning it left and right only sets the temperature and pressure. The smaller dial changes the mode from bidet spraying mode to nozzle cleaning. Nozzle cleaning mode basically runs water out of the nozzle tip in case it gets soiled. In bidet spraying mode, make sure you're sitting on the toilet when you turn it on, otherwise water will shoot out of the toilet.

I recommend you turn the dial in the desired direction very slowly until you reach the temperature and pressure that's most comfortable for you. I found that even at the highest pressure the spray felt comfortable and gentle (unlike my other one which feels like you're being blasted with a fire hose at anything over the lowest flow setting), although this will depend on the pressure in the lines in your home. Overall, the installation of the bidet was pretty simple and straightforward and I haven't experience any problem with leaks. The bidet works well for its intended purpose and I think it does a great job of refreshing and cleaning your bottom versus using toilet paper alone.

Buy it at Amazon: Yegu Hot and Cold Water Toilet Bidet [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, September 4, 2017

Oittm Outdoor Smart WiFi Outlet Review

Oittm Outdoor Smart WiFi Outlet Review

Buy it at Amazon: Oittm Outdoor Smart WiFi Outlet [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Simple setup, easy to control w/app or Alexa, outdoor weather water-resistant, works great.

The outlet main body measures about 5"L x 2.5"W x 1.5"H. It has a 7" three-prong grounded plug and a 3-prong receptacle on the bottom. This device only has one button on the front for on and off (manual control). This outlet is rated to handle up to 2000W and output 16Amps. It is IP44 water-resistance rated, so it should be able to handle wet outdoor conditions, though cannot be submerged obviously.

To use the WiFi remote control feature, you'll need to connect the device to your home WiFi network. Just plug the device in and a blue LED light in the power button should start flashing quickly. The manual recommends the Oittm app as the controller, but since I'm already using Tuya Smart for most of my IoT devices, I added it there instead and the functionality is identical. To control the device via Alexa voice commands, make sure you have the associated app Skill enabled in Alexa. Whatever you name the outlet will be your "call out" name for triggering commands. In the app you can turn the outlet on and off or set timers/schedules for it and even check the device's current and historical electrical usage. I like this feature a lot because I can monitor and manage my electrical usage for whatever is plugged into the outlet, like an A/C unit. The Alexa voice commands let you turn on and off the power to the outlet, but I didn't find a way to add timers or scheduling for the unit, so I think you have to do that fro the app. It's pretty straightforward though and you can set daily/weekly repeat schedules, quickly toggle individual triggers on or off or a countdown timer in the app. Because the unit can be used outdoors, it's also a good device for controlling outdoor lighting installations like holiday or landscape lights.

Overall, the outlet works exactly as I expected it to and is pretty convenient to control remotely. Even if you don't use Alexa, you can control the outlet from anywhere there's an internet connection with the smartphone app.

Buy it at Amazon: Oittm Outdoor Smart WiFi Outlet [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, September 1, 2017

XYJ Laser Etched Damascus Pattern Utility Knife Review

XYJ Laser Etched Damascus Pattern Utility Knife Review

Buy it on Amazon: XYJ Laser Etched Damascus Pattern Utility Knife [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Lightweight, sharp, cuts cleanly and smoothly; easy to handle
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