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.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sansco 4 Channel NVR Security Camera DVR System Review

Sansco 4 Channel NVR Security Camera DVR System Review

Buy it at Amazon: Sansco 4 Channel NVR Security Camera DVR System [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Good quality hi-res video, mobile app for remote viewing and image/video capture.

You'll receive the NVR unit, 2 each of the bullet cameras, mounting hardware packs, video and power cable, and A/C adapters, a 4 to 1 power cable adapter, a USB mouse, a software CD, a RS-485 PTZ jumper, and a pair of quick setup guides. The NVR unit has a 1 TB 3.5" SATA Toshiba hard drive pre-installed inside (I opened it to verify). On the back of the unit are 4 coaxial inputs for up to 4 cameras (the unit only comes with 2), an RCA audio out, HDMI out , VGA out port, 4 audio RCA inputs for cameras that support audio, Ethernet port, 2 USB ports, RS-485 port for PTZ (w/compatible cameras), and DC power port. On the front are the menu selection keys, menu button, escape button, status LEDs, and IR receiver for a remote control, though one is not included.

The bodies of the cameras are body made of powder coated metal and durable for weather-resistance for outdoor installations. Each camera has 36 infrared LEDs surrounding the lens for night vision. Coming off the back are two cables for the power and video feed. These will connect to the 50 ft cables so you can run the wires across rooms, through walls and to different floors of your home if necessary. The camera can pivot 180 degrees on a single joint and rotate 360 for positioning and orientation, but you'll need the small Allen wrench in the hardware pack to set the angle. Make sure you loosen the joints fully before modifying the position because the teeth on the gears seem very shallow and may strip with excessive grinding.

Setup is basically plug and play. You plug the cameras into the cables, hooks them up to the NVR (cables are clearly marked which end goes where) then supply power to the NVR and the cameras. The camera power cables go into the 4 to 1 adapter and uses a single A/C adapter for all of them. Once plugged in the cameras are all swithed on. There is no power switch on them. One thing to note is that when watching the feeds on a TV, even at 1080p resolution that what you see on the screen is slightly degraded quality than the actual video file if you were to pull them off the NVR and watch them on a computer. The included cameras' native output resolution is HD at 720p although the system is capable of handling up to 1080p output. Because the resolution is 720p and not higher, the images can still be somewhat blurry and you may not be able to make out fine details when something is moving. The colors are somewhat washed out and the contrast is a bit too harsh. You can play with these settings on the NVR but I didn't find that the overall quality changes much. The infrared lights allow you to see everything in the dark as if it were daytime, even in pitch black conditions, however, everything will be in black and white. Outdoor color reproduction isn't that great, with blown out areas in bright sun, strong contrast, and faded colors. However, when used indoors with indirect daytime lighting, the color accuracy seemed pretty good and the contrast looks normal. With 2 cameras 30 mins for recorded footage takes up about 1 GB (based on backup file sizes) so the hard drive can save about 21 days worth of footage before overwriting the oldest files. With 4 cameras you'll be able to save about 10 days worth of video.

If your system is connected to your home network, you can also download the Android or iOS app, XMEye, for remote viewing on a mobile device. The app requires you to sign up for an account if you want to use it remotely from anywhere with an internet connection, but this is not required for local network viewing. After adding the NVR to the list of devices, you'll be able to see the live camera feeds on your phone. You can view one camera at a time and save the footage and capture images in real-time or view all the cameras at once.

Overall, the security camera system is simple to set up and use. Checking on the cameras from the main unit and mobile app is easy to do, as is retrieving saved video files and backing them up to a USB thumb drive or hard drive. Just note that the video files are encoded with a *.h264 extension and you'll need an appropriate viewer to watch the files. I used AVC to convert the videos the MP4s and that quadrupled the file size.

Buy it at Amazon: Sansco 4 Channel NVR Security Camera DVR System [Affiliate Link]
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iDobbi Mini Smart Wifi Outlet Review

iDobbi Mini Smart Wifi Outlet Review

Buy it at Amazon: iDobbi Mini Smart Wifi Outlet [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Quick installation and setup, stable connection, simple voice/app controls

You'll receive the WiFi outlet and a brief instruction manual. The outlet has a plastic housing and measures 2" in diameter and 1" thick. It has a three prong grounded plug and a single power button on the left hand side with an embedded status LED. To set up the socket on your home WiFi network and control it, you'll need to download and install the Tuya Smart app (or other IoT control app) to a mobile device. Just plug the device into any outlet and the LED light should start flashing quickly indicating it's ready to be paired. Note that with the socket plugged into the top of a dual outlet panel (US), while the bottom outlet is still accessible, it may me partially blocked. Setup took less than 5 minutes. With the Tuya Smart app enabled in my Amazon Alexa app, I was able to easily control the power of the outlet via voice commands. The app also lets you add timers (count and daily/weekly schedules) and control the outlet remotely from anywhere you have an internet connection. the outlet works great, but keep in mind the load capacity maximums are 10A and 1100 Watts. The plug is also compatible with the Smart Life app.

Buy it at Amazon: iDobbi Mini Smart Wifi Outlet [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, October 30, 2017

Furmax Ribbed Leather Office Chair Assembly and Review

Furmax Ribbed Leather Office Chair Assembly and Review

Buy it at Amazon: Furmax Ribbed Leather Office Chair Assembly and [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Simple assembly, comfortable, nice material, wheels and arm rests could be improved.

The chair comes disassembled so you'll have to put it together yourself but it only takes about 15 minutes and the instructions are clear and illustrated. The chair itself has a nice cushy seat that's not too hard nor too soft. The seat back can lean back a few inches, though if you tighten the tension knob on the bottom you can reduce or restrict the rocking of the back. Another way to restrict the rocking is to simply push the lift lever inward. Raising and lowering the seat wasn't a problem even at my weight of 125 lbs. In general the chair rolls ok, but not super smoothly. Sometimes the wheels stick a little, even on smooth flooring. For me, the arm rest were positioned a little too far back for working at a desk. It feels a little awkward using them even if you're leaning back and relaxing. The top of the seat back comes up just to the top of my neck. Overall, the chair is pretty nice for a low cost office chair. It's comfortable, durable, quick to assemble, and easy to adjust. The leather material feels nice and is smooth with clean stitching. The only thing I would have liked more would be if it came with smoother rolling casters and arm rest that were longer or slightly more forward.

Buy it at Amazon: Furmax Ribbed Leather Office Chair Assembly and [Affiliate Link]
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Starsprarie Multi-color Solar Spotlight Review

Starsprarie Multi-color Solar Spotlight Review

Buy it at Amazon: Starsprarie Multi-color Solar Spotlight [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Bright colors, waterproof, long run-time, easy to use, ground/wall mountable.

You'll receive a lawn stake, a bag of mounting hardware with screws and dry wall anchors, the LED spotlight with attached solar panel, and an instruction sheet. All the components are made using a hard and lightweight plastic. The solar panel measures about 5.5" x 3.25" and the angle can be adjusted. Once you find the right position, twist the thumb screw to lock it in place. Similarly, you can change the angle of the spotlight by about 70 degrees.

The only assembly required is attaching the base of the light to the 6" stake if you'll be plating it the ground outside. Otherwise, you can use the wall mounting hardware to attach it to a wall. On the back is a single power switch with two modes. The light has 7 individual LEDs which, in mode 1, cycle through a kaleidoscope of colors: red, green, blue, orange, cyan, magenta, and warm white. In mode 2, you can set a specific color by waiting until it comes up in the cycle and then quickly switch to mode 2 to set that color and intensity. If you want a dimmer color, you have to wait until the color starts to fade then switch into mode 2 to capture that brightness level (a bit tricky). The light will only activate when it is relatively dark out.

The light is IP55 waterproof rated and can survive outdoor weather conditions. On a full charge, the light should last about 8-12 hours and it charges the quickest when placed in full sun. I'm using the light to illuminate a fruit tree in my yard and the light is pretty and bright. Overall, as landscape lighting, it adds a cool and interesting effect which looks great.

Buy it at Amazon: Starsprarie Multi-color Solar Spotlight [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, October 27, 2017

i8S True Wireless Earbuds Review

i8S True Wireless Earbuds Review

Buy it at Amazon: i8S True Wireless Earbuds [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Decent sound and comfort, short battery life, left earbud not independent, they sometimes fall out.

You'll receive the earphones in a hard clamshell plastic case with vinyl wriststrap. The case doubles as the charging station and is itself charged via microUSB, which holds up to 6 charge cycles for the earbuds. When fully charged the earbuds can run for 2-3 hours at a time before needed a charge. Included is a magnetic microUSB mini charging cable, a microUSB male to female USB-A adapter, a cleaning cloth, three additional sets of rubber ear tips: small, medium, and large, and an instruction manual.

Syncing the two earbuds together and pairing to the phone was easy, but note that only the right earbud can pair to the phone, so the left one can't be used independently. The connections seemed stable unless I wandered too far off from my phone (about 30 ft). The sound on these earbuds is decent but not amazing. The balance is sculpted towards the bass and trebles which tends to crowd out the midranges and produce forward though somewhat overly sibilant treble ranges. For the best isolation, make sure you use the pair of eartips that fits your ears best. This will also help the earbuds stay in your ears as I found they would fall out easily when working out or running. There is no volume control on the earbuds, the volume is controlled solely by the transmitting device. You can, however, start and pause playback by tapping the power symbol on either earpiece and double tapping it will advance to the next track. The touch control on the earbuds work, but sometimes double-taps register as single taps and you have to be pretty precise about where you touch.

One interesting feature is that there's no way to power off the earbuds, not without the case, anyway. When not paired to a device they'll simply shut off due to inactivity after 5 minutes. If you put the earbuds in the case, and it has a charge, the earbuds will power off and start charging instead. The case will automatically stop charging the earbuds when they're full (or it runs out of battery). When charging, the number of times the blue LED flashes indicates its battery life.

The few usage quirks aside, the audio quality of these earbuds is not bad and they are fairly comfortable to wear. Without additional ear stabilizers though, they may not stay in your ears during rigorous physical activity. The battery life is a bit short at 2-3 hours depending on playback volume, but at least the case can charge them up in less than an hour for a couple more hours of playback. Be sure not to lose the case though, because that's your only way to charging the earbuds.

Buy it at Amazon: i8S True Wireless Earbuds [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Audiocast M5 WiFi Multiroom Streaming Music Receiver Review

Audiocast M5 WiFi Multiroom Streaming Music Receiver Review

Buy it at Amazon: Audiocast M5 WiFi Multiroom Streaming Music Receiver [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: A few bumps during setup but easy to use once connected to WiFi, perfect sync w/multiple units.

The Audiocast receiver comes with a gold-plated 3.5mm audio cable, microUSB charging cable, power adapter, and an instruction manual. The Audiocast's design looks a lot like the Chromecast Audio, only a little thicker. It's a round puck made of plastic with a rubber foot on the bottom and textured grooves on the top that resemble a tiny record. The Audiocast has the audio jack in the front, microUSB power port on the back, and WPS button on the right-hand side. Setup for me was quick as I used the WPS button on the device and my WiFi router. The only hiccup I had was that the app told me the first device failed to connect to the network but when I re-launched the app I found that it had been added successfully. This did not happen with the second unit that I paired immediately afterward.

I don't have a Hi-Fi system, but I've used the Audiocast with multiple Bluetooth speakers and they worked great. The unit doesn't have an internal battery so it needs to be plugged in during operation, but you can use an external battery pack to make it mobile. Then you connect the Audiocast with any speaker or sound system using an auxiliary port and set it up using the Audiocast app. The app looks a lot like other multi-room speaker apps that I've used previously (iLive, GGMM, etc.) In fact those other apps were also able to pickup the Audiocast as a compatible device, so I was able to group other speakers with the Audiocasts, which was unexpected but really convenient. When the app recognizes multiple devices you can group and sync them together to play the same music simultaneously. The feature works very nicely and there's no lag or delay between the units even when placed in different areas of the house. You can even define which speaker plays the left and right audio channel for true stereo playback.

The Audiocast can stream music that's stored locally on your phone, so it doesn't require an internet connection unlike the Chromecast Audio. It also supports DLNA and Airplay for iOS users. It also has a decent list of compatible streaming radio services that includes TuneIn, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Spotify. Note that in order to stream Spotify you will have to subscribe to their premium paid service. Once you find a station you like, setting it as a favorite is easy, just tap the "speaker" icon on the right side of the bar for that station and choose a preset slot. The only confusing part of the app is that the stations don't show up in the "favorites" section of the main menu, this is reserved for individual tracks stored locally on your phone that you've favorited. Instead, the presets are found by tapping the gear icon for the Audiocast in the device list and then going into 'Preset Content.' It's not very intuitive, but I'm familiar with the process because I've seen it in other apps for other multi-room speaker devices.

Overall, the streaming ability of the Audiocast is pretty good, and so far I haven't had any connectivity issues. It's able to stream a broad range of internet streaming radio services, though is by no means exhaustive. I like that it is compatible with any speaker with an Aux-in jack and DLNA, Android, and Apple devices. Since these work with devices you probably already own (and like) syncing the audio throughout your home with a bunch of these would be far less expensive than buying a complete set of multiroom speakers.

Buy it at Amazon: Audiocast M5 WiFi Multiroom Streaming Music Receiver [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Pixel MC-50 Shotgun Camera Microphone Review

Pixel MC-50 Shotgun Camera Microphone Review

Buy it at Amazon: Pixel MC-50 Shotgun Camera Microphone [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Focus, amplified subject audio, good from a distance up to 10 ft, some noise towards the floor

The shotgun mic comes with a drawstring carrying bag and a set of instructions. It measures 8" long and sits 3" above your camera's hot shoe on a rubber shock mount. The mic has a 12" cable with TRS plug for a standard camera stereo audio input jack. On the bottom of the shock mount is a ¼" thread screw hole for mounting to a tripod and a foot and thumbscrew for mounting via a hot or cold shoe. The microphone requires 2 AA batteries which are not included. There are two switches on the side of the unit. The first is for power on and low cut mode. The other switch changes the gain from 0 to +/- 10dB.

Overall, the shotgun mic does a pretty nice job focusing in on the subject it's pointed at. When filming from a distance of 6-10' away from a speaker it picks up their voice better than the on-board mic on the DSLR for sure and reduces, though doesn't eliminate noise and ambient sound from other directions. The +10 dB gain is nice for boosting the range of the mic, though this adds a lot of ambient noise. There's always a bit of noise toward the noise floor (even at -10 dB) but generally that can be scrubbed in post or you can use low cut mode; however, this tends to make voices sound a bit boxy.

Buy it at Amazon: Pixel MC-50 Shotgun Camera Microphone [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

GoolRC Racing Boat GC001 Review

GoolRC Racing Boat GC001 Review

Buy it at Amazon: GoolRC Racing Boat GC001 [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Fast, fun, easy to learn to drive, pairing remote was tricky at first.

You'll receive the boat, remote control, three-piece stand, battery wall charger, spare propeller, two bow guards, and instruction manual. The RC boat is made of a thin lightweight plastic. It measures 19" from bow to end of the propeller, 6" wide and 4" tall. The stand is easily assembled by inserting the two side pieces into the base bar. The battery can be found inside the boat and charges in 3-4 hours. The boat can run for about 15 minutes on a full charge depending on throttle speed.

The remote requires 6 AA batteries which are not included. At first I was having trouble pairing the boat to the remote control. I was setting the boat in water to turn it on and you can hear the rudder self-calibrate as soon as you put it in water. Then I would flip the switch on the remote and wait for the light to turn green but I wasn't able to control the boat. I found that the time window for pairing is very very short. You basically have to place the boat in water and immediately turn on the remote, while the rudder is calibrating, to get it to pair. Under the plastic door on top of the controller, there is a dial for throttle trimming. The dial below that controls the sensitivity of the rudder for a tighter running radius.

The controls are pretty easy to learn and this boat is a lot of fun. It can go really fast at full throttle (which also drains the battery faster), so I recommend starting out slow to get a feel for the controls and handling of the boat and to extend use time, if not racing. If the boat capsizes, you can flip it over using the remote control and keep going. The turn radius is super tight at the fastest speed, about 2 ft. The boat is also pretty durable despite being made of plastic and the bow guard helps protect it from damage from bumps and crashes. Due to its size and speed, it's not suited well for the pool but works great on lakes, bays, and slow moving streams/rivers. Overall it's a well-made toy that's fast enough for racing and a lot of fun to drive around an large body of water..

Buy it at Amazon: GoolRC Racing Boat GC001 [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, October 23, 2017

iBestWin 16GB MP3/MP4 Player IB01 Review

iBestWin 16GB MP3/MP4 Player IB01 Review

Buy it at Amazon: iBestWin 16GB MP3/MP4 Player IB01 [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to use interface, durable, great sounding, works well.

You'll receive the MP3 player, a set of headphones, a microUSB charging cable, an extra set of ear tips, and an instruction manual. The MP3 player measures 3.5" x 1.5" x 0.25" thick. It's hefty at 3 oz but feels very durable. The outer casing is made of machined aluminum and the entire front is glass with integrated touch controls on the lower portion (but the LCD is not a touch screen). At the top, there is a gap so you can attach a lanyard to the player. The screen on the player has a 1.75" diagonal. This MP3 player has a microSD card slot which supports up to 64 GB, although the player also has 16 GB of memory built-in.

The home screen has icons for the 9 different functions: music, video, FM radio, Photos, Recordings, Ebook, Folder, Pedometer, and Settings. Use the play/pause button to make a selection and I found the touch keys are sensitive and responsive. The included earphones actually have decent sound quality for freebies with resonant bass, adequate isolation, and a nice balance across ranges. They are comfortable to wear and the last couple of inches of wire right before the earpieces is also semi-rigid so you can wrap it around your ear for stability. The volume control is an analog slider that works pretty well.

Loading music to the player is easy using the included cable and you simply drop all the files into the Music folder. In video mode this player only supports AMV files, but there's software included on the player that can help you convert other file types to AMV. Photo mode supports jpgs, bitmaps, and gifs. Just note though that because the screen is small, the resolution won't look that great, however, the colors are bright and the screen is clear. You can activate voice recording by pressing the one-touch voice recorder button on the side. The radio mode functions fine and picks up plenty of local FM stations. In e-book mode you can read text files but not word documents, pdfs, or ebook formats.

Overall, for a budget MP3 player, this unit is pretty nice. It has a nice range of features, easy navigation, and a bunch of different playback options. With 16GB of internal storage and the ability to add up to 64GB, it also makes for a decently sized portable drive and card reader.

Buy it at Amazon: iBestWin 16GB MP3/MP4 Player IB01 [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, October 20, 2017

Camview 4 Channel WiFi NVR Security Camera System Review

Camview 4 Channel WiFi NVR Security Camera System Review

Buy it at Amazon: Camview 4 Channel WiFi NVR Security Camera System [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Fairly easy and quick setup, clear HD video (no audio), handy mobile app, instructions could be better.

The NVR unit comes with a quick installation guide, a pack of 4 hard drive screws (for 3.5" HDD), a remote control, an A/C adapter for the main unit, a USB mouse, a 3 ft CAT5 Ethernet cable, and 4 individually packed wireless cameras with A/C adapters. The only thing you'll need to provide is a SATA hard drive up to 6GB for recording the video footage. I used a Western Digital 500 GB 2.5" HDD, but because it's smaller I had to use different screws than the ones that were included to mount it to the NVR housing. On the back of the NVR are two 7 inch wireless antennae and along the bottom is the VGA outout, HDMI output, WAN port, USB port, and power port. In front, you have some on-board playback controls and menu selection keys as well as various indicator LEDs. This model does not have a front USB port so only one USB device can be used at a time e.g. mouse, USB thumb drive.

Each camera comes with a 7" antenna, waterproof housing for the Ethernet connection, a pack of wall mounting hardware, and A/C adapter. On the front under the lens is a light sensor so that the camera can detect when there is low light to activate infrared night vision. The camera can pivot 90 degrees and to set the angle at the joint use the small Allen wrench in the hardware package to loosen the adjustment screw. Rotation can only be set at the point of installation when you drill the holes to mount the camera. The camera body is made of metal and very durable for weather-resistance. Setup is basically plug and play. The power cable connects to the barrel port on the extending cable. The other connector is for an optional LAN connection but does not need to be used (no cap is included to cover the unused port). Once plugged in and powered on, the camera will be transmitting a live feed, so all you need to do is turn on the NVR unit.

When connecting the NVR to my TV via HDMI for monitoring the output resolution is HD at 1080p; each camera when viewed indivually also supports 1920x1080 resolution. Once booted up, the NVR will search for the 4 cameras and connect to them automatically which takes a few minutes. You do have to format the hard drive before it can record to it, and I found it easiest to navigate the menus using the USB mouse since the cursor is tricky to maneuver with the arrow keys on the remote. The remote control which requires 2 AAA batteries which are not included. In the settings you can change the network settings, schedules, and triggers for the camera for recording. You can also monitor the cameras using your smart phone by downloading the CamView Cloud app from the Google Play or Apple store. The app requires you to sign up for an account to use it. The instructions don't tell you how to add the NVR to the list of device in the app, but in the app, tap the '+' icon in the upper right and select "Add device by ID." Then use the "Cloud ID" found in the bottom right corner of the monitor screen (hook up NVR to TV) and provide the default login of 'Admin' and a blank password.

After adding the NVR to the list of devices, you'll be able to see the four camera feeds live on your phone. Tapping one screen will zoom in on it. The infrared lights allows you to see everything in total darkness as if it were daytime, but in black and white. On the phone, the video image appears slightly washed out, but the color representation and resolution are actually decent on a TV/computer monitor. In the app, you can playback and save previously recorded video and capture still images. You can also download videos directly to a thumb drive on the NVR with a USB thumb drive, though you won't be able to use the mouse the navigate the menus while the thumb drive is plugged in.

Overall, the security camera system is pretty quick the setup, and it's easy to use. The instructions could be clearer on how to add the NVR to the mobile app and it doesn't tell you the default login for the menu is 'admin' with a blank password. However, once you're up and running it's dead simple to check on the cameras and review or save recorded video.

Buy it at Amazon: Camview 4 Channel WiFi NVR Security Camera System [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Divine Lighting T2.5A Slow Blow Time Delay Ceramic Fuses Review

Divine Lighting T2.5A Slow Blow Time Delay Ceramic Fuses Review

Buy it at Amazon: Divine Lighting T2.5A Slow Blow Time Delay Ceramic Fuses [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: All 5 work fine, quick and easy repair for travel adapter and electronics.

I used these to replace a blown fuse in an international travel adapter. It works great now. I tested all five fuses and all five successfully powered the unit. Just as a note, the old blown fuse did not show any signs of damage e.g. turning black, scorch marks. Either test by installing and trying to turn the unit on or use a multi-meter.

Buy it at Amazon: Divine Lighting T2.5A Slow Blow Time Delay Ceramic Fuses [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Roontin Handheld Pruning Saw Review

Roontin Handheld Pruning Saw Review

Buy it at Amazon: Roontin Handheld Pruning Saw [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Sharp teeth, cuts cleanly and quickly, comfortable to hold and work with.

You'll receive the pruning saw and a plastic protective holster. On the back of the holster is a plastic belt attachment bracket that swivels and can also be used to hang the holster on a nail or hook. When you first receive the saw, it is wrapped in plastic and greased for rust resistance. The blade measures 11" long and has very sharp teeth on it. The handle measures 6.5" and has a hanging hole at the end of it as well. The blade is held onto the handle via two screws and the rubberized handle grip is ergonomic and comfortable. The blade is made of a thin but durable and flexible stainless steel. It does bend somewhat under pressure but springs back right away.

As a cutting implement it works well right out of the box and it cuts through tree branches quickly and easily. Green growth up to several inches can be removed in under a minute. With an older dry dead branch, the saw had a harder time getting started, but eventually it sliced through the branch as well. After cleaning, lightly oil the saw to preserve its rust-resistance. Overall, it's a sharp and efficient hand saw that can be used for removing branches too big, dry, or hard for a pair of loppers.

Buy it at Amazon: Roontin Handheld Pruning Saw [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Lenock Vacuum Seal Food Storage Bags Review

Lenock Vacuum Seal Food Storage Bags Review

Buy it at Amazon: Lenock Vacuum Seal Food Storage Bags [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Works with my vacuum sealer, though its not Foodsaver brand.

The Lenock vacuum seal bags come in a dispensing cardboard box and contains two 50 ft rolls of 11" wide vacuum seal storage bags. After popping open the front, feed the roll out of the opening like you would aluminum foil or plastic wrap. But note that there is no cutter so you still have to cut it to size with scissors. The roll unravels easily, though I recommend you dispense slowly to get the right length because it can be tricky to get any excess back in the box. To get a fairly straight cut, I fold the bag first and cut along the seam.

I use the bags with my Crenova vacuum sealer which accepts bags with widths up to 11". The vacuum bags perform as expected, holding their seal without any leaks even when in the freezer for months. While I haven't tried the bags with a Foodsaver brand vacuum sealer, which some users have reported compatibility issues with, I've really had no issues with these bags sealing or leaking air with my vacuum sealer. The thing to remember is to only seal dry foods that have either already been frozen or contain little to no moisture and leave at least a two inch gap to the edge of the seal otherwise you might have wrinkles at the opening. Moisture and wrinkles along the sealing edge are usually the main culprits of failed sealing efforts.

Buy it at Amazon: Lenock Vacuum Seal Food Storage Bags [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, October 16, 2017

Menton Ezil Aviator Sunglasses Review

Menton Ezil Aviator Sunglasses Review

Buy it at Amazon: Menton Ezil Aviator Sunglasses [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Very thin metal frame feels cardboardy, reflective lens causes interior glare, paint chips easily.

The sunglasses come in a rigid, felt lined, cardboard case with magnetic closure. Included are the sunglasses and a soft, microfiber cleaning cloth. The construction is interesting because rather than your typical metal wire frames, these appear to be made from laser cut aluminum sheet. The metal is very thin, flat, and flexible which makes them lightweight, but also easily bent. This lack of dimension makes the wide flat edges feel somewhat sharp, but not enough to cut you. However, it feels a bit like wearing cardboard disposable glasses. On the black painted arms are rubber grips along the last 3.25" to help the glasses stay in place and they wrap around your head rather than over your ears, making them prone to slipping forward off your face. I found the black paint is easily scratched and chipped away.

The sunglasses have the following measurements 60mm lens width, 49mm lens height, 19mm bridge, and 145mm arm length. When wearing the glasses initially everything will have a deep blue tint to it, but your eyes will adjust after a while. These sunglasses feature a reflective coating on the front that's supposed to help cut down on glare and are polarized to cut down on harmful UV rays. But the one thing I noticed is that the inside of the lens is so reflective that sometimes I see a glare and reflection on the inner surface of the lens. It's only in certain lighting situations and at certain angles, but it's enough of a bother for me to only use these as backup sunglasses. I guess that's why they are so inexpensive.

Buy it at Amazon: Menton Ezil Aviator Sunglasses [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, October 13, 2017

MPOW Bluetooth Over Ear Headphones MPBH059AB Review

MPOW Bluetooth Over Ear Headphones MPBH059AB Review

Buy it at Amazon: MPOW Bluetooth Over Ear Headphones MPBH059AB [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Comfortable for long listening sessions, decent sound and performance

The headphones come with a 50" microUSB cable, 50" gold plated male-to-male audio cable, instruction manual, and soft felt carrying bag. The headphones have a hard plastic outer shell with a piano black finish. The interior top portion of the band and earcups are lined with plush and soft faux leather. While there isn't a lot of padding on the top, I found that this wasn't too much of a problem as the side tension is tight enough to keep the unit firmly on my head without feeling uncomfortable. The earcups are adjustable in length and ratchet up and down easily and hold their position without a problem. The earcups also move around a little to fit the contours of your head but do not rotate. The USB charging port is on the bottom of the right earpiece for the Bluetooth function. It takes about 4 hours to fully charge and can last for about 13 hours of playback depending on volume level.

The unit paired quickly easily with my phone and the controls worked flawlessly with my Android device for volume control, skipping tracks, play/pause and answering incoming calls. You can also use the headphones with a non-Bluetooth device by plugging the audio cable into the bottom of the left earpiece and then into your device's headphone port. Note that when using the cable, you don't have to power the unit on but you also won't be able to use the controls on the right earpiece. Also, if you use the AUX cable while the unit is charging you'll hear static in the output from the line noise coming from the charging cable.

The passive sound isolation on the earphones quite good and even with music playing at low volumes, you'll find yourself fully immersed in the music. The ear cups are a tad narrow and don't encapsulate my ears fully and instead sit partially on them. However, I found them pretty comfortable for extended wear. The audio is balanced and suited for a wide range of genres. The bass is present with decent depth and punch but not overly heavy like the Beats headphones. Overall, I like the features, fit, and sound quality of these headphones and think that you get a good value for what you pay.

Buy it at Amazon: MPOW Bluetooth Over Ear Headphones MPBH059AB [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Konln Patio Chair Cover Review

Konln Patio Chair Cover Review

Buy it at Amazon: Konln Patio Chair Cover [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Fits nicely over stack of small patio chairs; protects against sun, rain, snow, and dirt.

The chair cover comes inside a 10" x 9" fabric storage bag that has a nylon hanging loop in the corner and a zippered front. Inside the chair cover has a small handle (on the back towards the bottom) and unfolds to an ample 35" x 38" x 31". The cover is made from a single layer of waterproof UV-resistant nylon canvas. I'm using it to cover 6 plastic/metal wicker chairs that are stacked together which measure about 22" x 28" x 38" so I know the cover won't quite reach the ground. At both front corners on the bottom of the cover are snap buckles on loops to anchor the cover to the legs. In the rear right corner is the cord cinch to tightly wrap the cover around the base. With the cover, the chairs are protected from sun, dirt, and the elements. This is my first season using it so we'll see how well it endures through the winter. Overall, the cover fits my chairs pretty well and feels somewhat secure/durable. I would have preferred anchor points in all four corners instead of just the front two, but it may not be a problem; I'll have to see if it blows off during a storm.

Buy it at Amazon: Konln Patio Chair Cover [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tacklife Mini Circular Saw CSK76AC Review

Tacklife Mini Circular Saw CSK76AC Review

Buy it at Amazon: Tacklife Mini Circular Saw CSK76AC [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Saw cuts fine, but rip guide attachment not square and can't be used.

The saw comes with a vacuum hose, rip guide, three 4.5" wood saw blades, and an instruction manual. The tool is pretty heavy-duty and of medium grade construction similar to that of a Black and Decker or Dewalt saw. The base is made of metal while the body and thumbscrews are made from ABS plastic. The power cord is about 6 ft long and has a Velcro cable tie and Allen wrench keeper. The instruction manual is well-written and easy to follow; its worth a read if you're unfamiliar with the tool's capabilities and proper safety measures for use.

This saw has a couple of safety features like a lower blade guard, a lock-off button that prevents the trigger from being activated accidentally, and spindle lock. On the saw you can adjust the blade depth with this thumbscrew on the right hand side from 1.5" on down. In front, you can adjust the blade angle from 0-45 degrees. Then on the tip you have the line-of-cut indicator where the left most side indicates a 0 degree cut and the right most side a 45 degree cut with intermittent angles falling in between. If you have a shop vac, you can attach the hose to the dust extraction port using the included adapter to minimize dust blowback.

Installing the blade was straight forward and took less than a minute. Installing the ripguide is also pretty simple, but I noticed after I installed mine that the guide wasn't parallel with the blade. It turns out, the included rip guide with mine isn't perfectly square. This would cause the cut to be on an angle or could increase the risk of kickback (where the saw jumps out of the cut and moves towards the operator) which is a safety hazard, so I wasn't able to use that attachment.

Otherwise, operating the saw is easy and safe as long as you follow all the proper safety precautions. Like most circular saws, the lower blade guard opens on its own as you advance into your cutting project and snaps back closed when you're done. The only time you'll need to manually lift the lower blade guard is when making pocket cuts or compound cuts. Overall, the saw with the included blades cut smoothly and straight, though the cut ends of my 2x4s were a little rough and needed a bit of sanding. The unit is easy to setup and is versatile but is best suited for working with plank lumber and plywood boards.

Buy it at Amazon: Tacklife Mini Circular Saw CSK76AC [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

VDS Tension Curtain Rod Towel Bar Review

VDS Tension Curtain Rod Towel Bar Review

Buy it at Amazon: VDS Tension Curtain Rod Towel Bar [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Quick and easy installation, springless w/firm hold, able to hold a bit of weight.

The telescoping bar is easy to install, but the locking mechanism is different than with spring loaded tension bars so be sure to read the simple illustrated quick installation guide to see how to set it up. When fully retracted it measures 28.5" long. It has a stainless steel two-section bar in the middle and two plastic compression feet on the ends with rubber pads o the ends. To extend it, grasp and rotate the inside bar counter clockwise. This allows you to pull it out of the larger bar. The fully extended length is about 47.5" inches. Once you've reached the desired length, twist the inside bar clockwise to lock the inside bar again, but note that this shortens it a fraction of an inch. So for fine adjustment and tensioning, twist the white nut next to the smaller bar's foot counter clockwise to incrementally increase the length for a tight compression hold (up to about another 1" or so).

I'm using this bar as a towel bar above my kitchen sink for my dish towels. The bar fit nicely in the space between my cabinets, about 43". Installing it only took a minute. The feet do twist a little bit when tightening the tension but it's pretty easy to orient them level. The bar has a pretty tight hold, and I can pull on it a bit without the bar falling down. This is a really nice no-drill solution for setting up the towel bar where I can hang the dish towels up out of the way and access them quickly. The bar could also be used as a window or shower curtain rod (open stall) or closet bar for hanging some lightweight clothes.

Buy it at Amazon: VDS Tension Curtain Rod Towel Bar [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, October 9, 2017

Metal Tire Valve Stem Caps w/American Flag Design Review

Metal Tire Valve Stem Caps w/American Flag Design Review

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Takeaway: High quality, durable, leak-free tire caps.

These are the tire valve caps. They are made of an aluminum alloy and have a black powered coating on the outside. On the side the words motorsports is printed in all caps and on the end of each cap is a glossy acrylic button with the American flag printed on the bottom with red and stainless steel stripes. These caps are pretty heavy duty unlike the plastic tire caps that you typically see and they have small rubber o-rings inside to keep the air from leaking out of your tires. I bought this set to replace the plastic tire caps on my tires which are, at this point mismatched and I'm actually missing one. The tire caps screw on easily and tightly and they look pretty awesome. Just remember to take them off if you get new tires so you can keep the set intact.

Buy it at Amazon: Metal Tire Valve Stem Caps w/American Flag Design [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, October 6, 2017

Gabbay 2L Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Water Pitcher Review

Gabbay 2L Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Water Pitcher Review

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Takeaway: Keeps water hot or cold for a long time, nice finish, easy pour.

The capacity of this water pitcher is 2 Liter or a little over 2 quarts. Empty, it weighs about 1.5 lbs. It measures 11.5" tall and has a 5" diameter. The water pitcher has a brushed stainless steel body, and a shiny chrome spout, lid, and handle though those components are made of plastic. There's a lever on the top of the handle that pops the lid open when you press it down. The underside of the lid has a silicone bung to seal in the liquid and temperature. Note that the lever doesn't close the top, and you'll have to push it down firmly to close it.

The body of the pitcher is vacuum insulated so that hot or cold liquid poured into the pitcher will retain its temperature much better. The outside of the pitcher will also stay close to room temperature rather than getting very hot or very cold. Remember though that the top piece is not insulated, so the shiny part at the top of the pitcher may feel hot or cold. I tested the insulating capability by pouring boiling water in measured at 206° F. Even with all that hot water in there, the outside of the pitcher remained about room temperature and didn't get hot to the touch. After 12 hours, the pitcher still didn't get hot though the cap was a bit warm. I measured the temperature again and it was about 152 degrees F, which is still hot enough to brew tea. Not bad for all those hours later. Keep in mind the pitcher was filled to the max so the amount of heat energy in the carafe was high enough to to keep the temperature up for that amount of time. If the pitcher is only half full, you have less energy to retain and more air inside to pitcher for the liquid to lose the heat, so if you only pour 1 or 2 cups of hot liquid in the pitcher it will not hold the heat for very long. If that's what you're using it for, I recommend a smaller carafe or insulated thermos.

This pitcher also worked with iced water, though since the opening is small, I had to put the ice cubes in only a few at a time. At about 1/2 full I topped it off with cold water and capped it. After 12 hours, while all the ice had melted, the water was still pretty cold at 54 degrees. I didn't have any problems with the pouring and it seemed manageable to me without being messy or splashing too much. One thing to note is that the plug in the top is not completely water tight and may leaked if the pitcher is tipped over.

The brushed metal finish is modern and stylish, but like all stainless steel surfaces, can pick up water stains if you don't dry it right away. It could also scratch or be dented through use. Overall, this pitcher works as expected to keep a good amount of liquid inside either hot or cold for an extended period of time.

Buy it at Amazon: Gabbay 2L Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Water Pitcher [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, October 5, 2017

Shunfa Cable Bike Lock with Keys Review

Shunfa Cable Bike Lock with Keys Review

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Takeaway: Easy to use, quick install mounting bracket, thick cable, durable and weather-resistant.

You'll receive the bike lock, a pair of keys, and a bar holster for the lock. The bike lock cable measures about 4 ft long and has a thick steel wire gauge core covered in a vinyl coating. The bike lock stays coiled up for compact storage but uncurls when you need to use its full length. The lock portion where is the key is inserted has a slide down protective door and the lock bearings are brass. The keys have a unique curved shape and groove design making it harder to pick. You can attach the lock holster to a bar on your bike for easy storage and transportation of the lock when not in use. The lock portion of the cable has as tab that simply slides into the holster and clicks in.

The recommended way to use the lock is to bind one of the wheels to the body of the bike so that it cannot be ridden, though it could still be carried off. Your other option is to attach the body or a wheel of the bike to an immovable post or object. The keys are easy to use and the lock feels heavy duty and weather resistant. Just note that there is no backup method to opening this lock like a combination, so be sure not to lose the keys. Overall, the bike lock feels nicely constructed, is reasonably secure, and works well.

Buy it at Amazon: Shunfa Cable Bike Lock with Keys [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

E-Book Review: Healthy Pressure Cooker Recipes by Pavel Krinitskiy

E-Book Review: Healthy Pressure Cooker Recipes by Pavel Krinitskiy Review

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Takeaway: Consists of "borrowed" recipes from the internet, misleading stock photos, and questionable nutrition info.

First off, I should acknowledge that the recipes in this book are high quality, chef-tested, and make some delicious and for the most part healthy meals (this is subjective based on your dietary needs and preferences, of course). The recipes range from all walks of international, fusion, and home cooking cuisines. What you should know, however, is that every recipe in this book can also be found on well-known cooking blogs, magazines, and publications readily available for free on the internet. What that means is that while you'll get high quality recipes from reputable sources, chefs, and cooking experts, none of them appear to be acknowledged for their contribution or creations.

A quick search of the ingredients and dish names will turn up the exact recipes found in this book elsewhere on the internet, for example, Health Starts in the Kitchen's Chipotle Chicken Black Beans and Rice recipe appears on page 10/11, MamaLatinaTips' Beef Barbacoa recipe is on page 12/13, and Cooking Light's Prosecco and Parmesan Risotto is on pages 14/15 and so on. The recipes are reproduced in this book with the exact same ingredients and proportions. To the author's credit, he did keep most of the recipes intact without changing the measurements or dropping any ingredients. In most cases the order of the ingredients was simply switched up and occasionally there was an insertion of a small quantity of an aromatic, possibly to make the recipe appear, but not taste, entirely different.

The author did attempt to standardize and condense the steps by using the same terminology and generic pressure cooker settings in each recipe. However, I was disappointed that the photos that accompany each recipe were not representative of the dish as these were also stock images found from around the internet. For example, the first photo of the Spinach and Tomato Quiche, shows it in a quiche pan with a pastry crust, but the recipe instructs you to use a casserole dish and the recipe is for a crustless quiche; clearly not the one depicted in the photo. My biggest pet peeve was the lack of consistency and personality throughout the book. Cookbooks should be more than just lists of ingredients and 4 or 5 steps to complete them. I've always enjoyed reading cookbooks because the authors share their expertise, tips and tricks in the kitchen, and meaningful stories about food with the readers. Without those touches, it is dry, impersonal, and simply an "index card" recipe box, which may be useful for some folks, but hardly makes for a good read. The paragraph leading into each recipe reads like a fluff advertisement with little insight or substance to what you'll be making. Also, because the recipes come from different chefs with different preferences in ingredients choices, there's a bit of inconsistency in how ingredients are called out, for example, in two different recipes you'll find an ingredient listed as "Beef Chuck Roast" versus "Canadian Beef Chuck Roast" - which is simply a branded product as the original recipe was sponsored by a company called "Canadian Beef" on the blog where it first appeared. Really? You didn't remove the branding from a sponsored post when copying the recipe? Or was the branding simply not clear because you didn't read the entire original recipe and, not being a chef, didn't know that Canadian Beef Chuck Roast is not its own separate thing? The editing for this book just feels rushed, lazy, and sloppy.

Which brings me to my next point. It's unlikely the author has personally re-created each and every one of these recipes in his own pressure cooker. That's a shame because it means that while the author trusted the original recipe's creator to their skill and talent, he also used their recipes without giving them credit. I'm also doubtful of the authenticity of the nutritional information found at the end of each recipe. For example calories are "measured" in Grams at the end of each recipe which makes no sense because a calorie IS a unit of measurement for energy. It is not something that can be measured by mass. As for protein and carbohydrate content, most of the original recipes didn't even have this sort of information to begin with, so at best, without scientific measurement, these figures are estimated and at worst, simply random numbers.

So in summary, the recipes are fine, and I'm sure if you follow them you'll get some fantastic ideas and dishes out of them because they are created by real chefs with real talent. However, be aware that this book is simply a collection of publicly available recipes collected from around the internet, which are free. All it saves you is a bit of time researching and reading recipes for pressure cookers. If what you're looking for is just a boxed set of short, easy-to-follow pressure cooker recipes, this book might actually be useful, as long as you don't mind the false imagery/advertisement, questionable nutritional information, and quasi-intellectual property infringement of talented and creative cooks.

Buy it at Amazon: E-Book Review: Healthy Pressure Cooker Recipes by Pavel Krinitskiy [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

ForLifeStore Aluminum Silver Fidget Spinner Review

ForLifeStore Aluminum Silver Fidget Spinner Review

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Takeaway: Spins fast, over 90 secs, cool looking but mine has a slight cosmetic defect.

The fidget spinner comes in an aluminum gift box with a clear window. It weighs 1oz and has three arms and gold colored finger caps (also avilable in gold with silver caps). The entire toy is made of machined aluminum and measures 3" in diameter. I did find 1 cosmetic defect in mine. If you look closely at the grooves you can see on one arm they aren't etched as deeply and you can barely see the pattern. It's not noticeable when the unit is spinning. The finger caps are also made of metal and unscrew if you want to switch them. The bearing inside has 8 fixed position balls for smooth spinning. The spinner is easy to get going and spins pretty fast for over 90 seconds. It has a nice balance overall with very little judder allowing you to balance it on a fingertip. When spinning, the grooves create the illusion of 3 complete circles. Because the frame is metal this spinner is highly durable and almost impossible to break, even if you drop it. Its all-metal design is premium looking. It's just too bad mine has a cosmetic defect.

Buy it at Amazon: ForLifeStore Aluminum Silver Fidget Spinner [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, October 2, 2017

Shan Zu Black Ceramic Kitchen Knives Review

Shan Zu Black Ceramic Kitchen Knives Review

Buy it at Amazon: Shan Zu Black Ceramic Kitchen Knives [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Beautiful everyday kitchen knives, sharp and holds edge well but handle with care

You'll receive a set of 3 ceramic knives in a gift box. This is the 11" Chef's knife w/6" blade, then you have a 10" utility knife w/5.5" blade, and an 8" paring knife with 4" blade. Each knife comes with a plastic blade guard to protect the edges from chipping when you place them in your drawers. The knives are lightweight and slightly weighted towards the handle with a center of balance along the bolster.

The knives are all very sharp out of the box so handle them with care. Each cuts cleanly with very little effort through paper (edge sharpness test). You will want to be careful not to drop of smack the knives against hard surfaces like the sink or countertop since, being made of ceramic, they could shatter. They should also only be hand washed since the abrasives in dishwasher detergent could wear the edge down faster; these require specialized sharpeners to put the edge back on. I love using ceramic knives in the kitchen because with proper care they stay sharp for a long time and make any cutting, slicing, or mincing task quick and easy. These are more affordable than the ones in the stores with similar quality to Farberware ceramic knives. You should be able to slice pretty thinly with these, though over time if they dull these are not easily sharpened.

Buy it at Amazon: Shan Zu Black Ceramic Kitchen Knives [Affiliate Link]
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