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.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

B-Qtech D6-WI TPMS Tire Pressure Monitoring System Review

B-Qtech D6-WI TPMS Tire Pressure Monitoring System Review

Buy it at Amazon: B-Qtech D6-WI TPMS Tire Pressure Monitoring System [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to install and use, accurate readings, durable w/changeable batteries.

You'll receive the LCD display, four tire valve sensors, a windshield mount with ball joint, a 13' charging cable cigarette lighter adapter, a ball joint cigarette lighter adapter, two plastic gear wrenches, a metal nut wrench, 5 retaining nuts, and an instruction manual.

The sensors have a brass threaded side for screwing onto your car's tires. The LCD display panel shows you information about your tires like current pressure, temperature, and sensor battery life. The visible screen diagonal is 2" and the unit measurements overall are 1.75" x 2.5" x 0.5". On the right hand side are two USB ports (1A output) for charging your devices. There's a short barrel style plug that comes off the back for attaching to either power adapter. If you'll be using the ball joint adapter, the display will sit right above the cigarette lighter, but if you use the windshield mount ball joint, it adheres via a Velcro sticky pad to your windshield and you need to run the long power cable to your cigarette lighter; it's long enough for you to hide the wire underneath the trim in your car.

The plastic gear nuts are for disassembling the sensors so you can change their batteries. Unlike the TPMS sensors that came with my car, these sensors don't have to be replaced when the batteries run out and you don't need a tech to do it for you. The batteries used are CR1225 coin cells, and I'll update this review when one runs out so you have an idea of how long they last..

Installing the sensors took only a couple minutes. When I started up my car, the sensors took a few minutes to pair with the LCD display. I had to take off and reinstall two sensors before they would show an accurate tire pressure reading, but all the measures from temp to PSI appeared to be accurate when checked with a gauge and thermometer. Pay attention to the letters on the sensors when installing as they tell you which tire they go on e.g. RF = right, front (passenger side) and LR = left, rear (driver's side) etc. The sensors don't screw in all the way, so when finger tight, loosen the retaining nut back up to the sensor and then tighten with the metal nut wrench until the sensor is secured.

The display beeps and flashes when trigger thresholds are passed for high temperature and low/high pressure. You can change the settings be pressing and holding the 'Menu' button below the LCD and using the left/right arrow keys to navigate and modify values. You can also use the arrow keys to change the brightness of the display: low/medium/high. The only drawback to using this external system is that I need to use the wrench tool to loosen the retaining nut and remove the sensor in order to inflate my tires. However, it's pretty quick and the convenience of having the tire data live is worth the extra 5 seconds it takes to do this. When I take my car in for a tune up, I remove the sensors and put the regular valve caps back on.

Overall, the TPMS is able to show me important data related to my tires, so I can keep them well maintained and operating safely, for example, if I have a leak in one. It also shows the voltage level of the car battery as a bonus, and the sensor batteries can be easily replaced. It's easy to install and simple to use.

Buy it at Amazon: B-Qtech D6-WI TPMS Tire Pressure Monitoring System [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

eSun 2-Way Convex Blind Spot Mirror Review

eSun 2-Way Convex Blind Spot Mirror Review

Buy it at Amazon: eSun 2-Way Convex Blind Spot Mirror [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Quick and simple to install, allows full view of blind spots at a glance

You'll receive 2 glass convex mirror rounds and 2 optional plastic mounting arms. The mounting arms sit on small ball joints so you can adjust and swivel the mirrors after they are installed. These 2" diameter mirrors have double-sided foam tape on the back to attac them to your side view mirrors. I installed the mirrors with the mounting arms because you can adjust them if you have multiple drivers for the car. The only caveat is that you see a reflection of the rear side of the mirror because it sits about 3/4" away from the side mirror surface. The typical placement for the mirror is on the far outside corner of the side view mirror. Now when I look in the small mirrors I can see what is in the blind spot whereas that field of view was not visible in the side view mirror alone. Overall, these mirrors were a breeze to install and took less than a minute. They let me see clearly what's in my blind spot without having to look over my shoulder or turn my head. I simply have to glance at the side view mirrors and I can see any oncming traffic in the blindspot in the smaller mirrors.

Buy it at Amazon: eSun 2-Way Convex Blind Spot Mirror [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Aosta Nylon Braided Lightning Charging and Data Cable Review

Aosta Nylon Braided Lightning Charging and Data Cable Review

Buy it at Amazon: Aosta Nylon Braided Lightning Charging and Data Cable [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Works fine for charging and data transfers, though perhaps not as fast as OEM

You'll receive three 2 meter Lightning cables for charging the iPhone and Apple products. The cables are wrapped in strong braided nylon that is wear and break resistant. The cables have metal connector housings at the end which won't crack or shatter and under each connector is a thick, strong strain relief to ensure your cables don't bend too much and break at this point. I tested each cable with the iPhone 6 and 7, and I found that these do indeed work for charging and data transfers. They performed about the same as the original Lightning cable that came with the phone. I didn't time it so it's possible things take slightly longer, but if they did I didn't notice it.

Buy it at Amazon: Aosta Nylon Braided Lightning Charging and Data Cable [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, November 27, 2017

Miusco Outdoor Lighted Extension Cord Review

Miusco Outdoor Lighted Extension Cord Review

Buy it at Amazon: Miusco Outdoor Lighted Extension Cord [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Works great indoor/outdoor; works fine w/my power drill, circular saw, and other tools.

The extension cord I got measures 25 ft long and both the male and female ends are clear. The female side is split into 3 outlets and when you plug the cord in, there's a small light appears on one side of the splitter. Even though the male end is clear, there is no light on this end. I like that there is a light on the end to let me know if that the cord is receiving power. The cable works great inside and outside. It's also weatherproof and durable at 14 gauge. It worked fine with my power drill and mini circular saw for some outdoor building projects. It's rated to handle up 15 A and 1875 Watts so I could even use a few tools at once if I needed to.

Buy it at Amazon: Miusco Outdoor Lighted Extension Cord [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, November 24, 2017

Diamond Finish Protector Cleaner and Polish Review

Diamond Finish Protector Cleaner and Polish Review

Buy it at Amazon: Diamond Finish Protector Cleaner and Polish [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Smudge free and crystal clear cleaning, leaves a dry protective dust/oil/water barrier.

You'll receive the cleaning solution in a 4 oz spray bottle and a 16" square microfiber cleaning cloth. This spray is a one-step cleaner, polisher, and protector for a variety of surface types. The instructions are simple, just mist a surface and buff it off; there doesn't seem to be a need to wait any significant amount of time. The ingredients aren't listed on the bottle. It only tells you that the solution is appropriate on glass, marble, granite, stainless steel, tile and paints (etc.). It does not list wood as a safe surface to use it on, but does note that the solution contains no ammonia, silicone, petroleum, wax, nor harsh chemicals. The other thing to be aware of is that this leaves a slightly glossy, but dry, barrier on the surface to resist fingerprints and repel dust and water, but it may be slippery so it's not recommended on floors or tubs.

The spray itself has a floral perfume to it, similar to hairspray. I've tried it on a bunch of surfaces, mirrors, glass doors, windows, mobile device screens, interior car windshield, stainless steel appliances crystal fixtures, and so far it's worked great on everything. It leaves a clean shine where soap/water and other cleaners have left streaks and smudges. I do recommend "pre-cleaning" grime and caked on stuff like cooking grease if it's really heavy before using this polish. It's more of a final touch and adds that protective nano layer that keeps the smudges, oil and watermarks off (at least, for a little while). Eventually this wears off but it lets you go longer between cleanings. Overall, the polish works really well, and I've been impressed with its cleaning and protective abilities on a variety of surfaces.

Buy it at Amazon: Diamond Finish Protector Cleaner and Polish [Affiliate Link]
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Lipo Safe Explosion & Fireproof Battery Charging Bag Review

Lipo Safe Explosion & Fireproof Battery Charging Bag Review

Buy it at Amazon: Lipo Safe Explosion & Fireproof Battery Charging Bag [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Safely charge your Lipo batteries in a fire/explosion-proof bag.
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Thursday, November 23, 2017

EcoPlugs Smart WiFi Outlet Socket Plug Review

EcoPlugs Smart WiFi Outlet Socket Plug Review

Buy it at Amazon: EcoPlugs Smart WiFi Outlet Socket Plug [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Works great, easy to control via voice/app/button, but requires yet another app.

You'll receive the smart outlet and an instruction manual. The WiFi outlet is made mostly of plastic and it measures 3.5" x 2.25" x 1.5". On the back is a single 3-prong plug and the stated voltage ratings are 120 VAC for 15A and 1000W max load. It's designed for indoor use only and is not waterproof. On the bottom is a single 3-prong socket for plugging in any device. On the front of the unit is a single power button and WiFi and power indicator LED lights. The unit is basically plug-and-play so let's take a look.

In a dual socket panel you'll want to plug this into the bottom socket so you don't block the other one. Once plugged in the blue WiFi light starts flashing rapidly. This unit uses the EcoPlugs smartphone app, though it would have been great to have it use Tuya or Smart Life as nearly all my other IoT devices use that service. Setup took about 5 minutes between downloading, entering passwords and making sure all the appropriate checkboxes are ticked off in the settings. Once connected, it'll show up as a 'button' in the app along the top left of the screen.Just tap the 'power button' to turn the socket on or off. You can also add timers for the unit for example set a weekly schedule, countdown, sunrise and sunset timer, or even random times for when you're on vacation and you want it to look like someone is home. To be honest, the app interface isn't that pretty, but it works. The timers are convenient and setting them is simple and straight forward.

With the Alexa functionality turned on and set up, I was able to use voice commands to turn the socket on or off (but not set any of the timers). Otherwise I haven't had a problem with it like disconnecting randomly from the network. Overall, it provides easy on and off control to the outlet via the app or Alexa voice commands, and you can set a variety of timers for the outlet. You'll just have to remember to open up a separate app if you use different smart devices in your home.

Buy it at Amazon: EcoPlugs Smart WiFi Outlet Socket Plug [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

ForLifeStore 10L Dry Bag and Waterproof Cell Phone Sleeve Review

ForLifeStore 10L Dry Bag and Waterproof Cell Phone Sleeve Review

Buy it at Amazon: ForLifeStore 10L Dry Bag and Waterproof Cell Phone Sleeve [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Keeps your stuff dry w/o any leaking. Floats for easy retrieval.

The 10L dry bag comes with a smaller smartphone dry bag and a 40" adjustable shoulder strap. The cylindrical shpaed dry bag measures 18.5" tall and has a 12" diameter. It is made from a thick waterproof vinyl and has a clear window so you can see its contents. The should strap attaches diagonally so the bag can be worn cross-shoulder like a knapsack or duffel bag. Using the drybag is easy. Once you place the items you want to keep dry inside, close the opening and roll it down 3 or 4 times before snapping the clasp together. This creates a water and airtight seal. The capacity of the bag is about 10L and if you leave some amount of air in the bag, it should float when placed in water. The waterproof cellphone bag works in a similar way. It's got 3 press seals like a ziptop bag and after you seal them, roll them down the opening three times and clip the bag shut with two snap buttons. The cellphone bag is clear on both sides so you can see the phone's screen. You can even use the touchscreen through the clear window. It also floats if you leave some air in the bag and it has a 21" adjustable neckstrap. The cellphone bag measures 9" x 6.5" which is large enough for any cell phone and could even fit a small tablet. Overall, both the dry bag and the cellphone bag worked well for keeping their contents dry, and I didn't experience any leaks with the bags being left in water for 10 minutes nor being splash/sprayed directly with water at close range.

Buy it at Amazon: ForLifeStore 10L Dry Bag and Waterproof Cell Phone Sleeve [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tonbux 4K Action Camera Review

Tonbux 4K Action Camera Review

Buy it at Amazon: Tonbux 4K Action Camera [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Decent video though not super crisp/smooth, audio just ok.

You'll receive the action camera in a waterproof housing, an extra battery, a spare waterproof housing door, microUSB charging cable, a variety of clamps, mounts, sticky pads, straps, and accessories camera mounting and an instruction manual. The camera lens has a 16MP sensor and 170 degree wide-angle field of view. For ports it has a microUSB charging port, microHDMI output port and microSD card slot which accepts up to 128GB cards, however, one is not included. This camera supports WiFi for connecting to the smartphone app to use as a remote control and remote monitor. On the back is a 2 inch diagonal LCD screen. On a full charge, the camera runs with the LCD on for about an hour of recording time.

The quality of the video is decent. It got a high resolution (3840 x 2160), but fast motion tends to look blurry and a bit choppy. This is likely due to teh compression of using a h.264 codec. The white balance and color control isn't always perfect and bright scenes can look washed out while dark ones are grainy and dim. The anti-shake feature removes a little bit of the jitteriness of handheld filming, but it's not super smooth. I recommend a steadycam or gimbal to smooth out the video or simply mounting to a stationary tripod. The audio when inside the waterproof housing is virtually unusable, but out of the housing it seems to be okay though. If you download the XDV app, you can use your smartphone as a remote screen for the device over WiFi which seemed to work fine.

It's a pretty basic action camera that can be used for water sports and in wet conditions. While this is a much cheaper alternative to the GoPro, the video quality is not as smooth or crisp due to the video compression. However, the resolution is HD and it has a nice wide angle which might make it fine for a bit of B-roll footage.

Buy it at Amazon: Tonbux 4K Action Camera [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, November 20, 2017

Comica CVM-VS08 Mobile Phone Shotgun Mic Review

Comica CVM-VS08 Mobile Phone Shotgun Mic Review

Buy it at Amazon: Comica CVM-VS08 Mobile Phone Shotgun Mic [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Louder more focused sound, but adds background static; wind screens may intrude in video footage.

You'll receive the microphone, mini mount, a foam wind screen, a wind muff or dead cat, and an instruction manual. The microphone is made from machined aluminum and feel durable. It is small and compact and measures just over 3 inches long and weighs a little bit over an ounce. It has a 3-pin 1/8" jack in the middle that plugs into your phone's headphone jack. On the back of the mic is a pass-through headphone port for sound monitoring. The mount snaps onto the back side of the mic and slides up to meet your phone to provide a bit of stability whether pointing in the same direction as the rear or front camera.

Then the foam screen slides onto the front of the mic, or you can optionally use the wind muff over the foam screen. With my phone, since the headphone port is close to the rear camera, if I use either the foam screen or wind muff they show up and partially block the shot. With the front camera, I can use the foam screen, but not the dead cat. Disappointingly, the sound from the shotgun mic is much worse than the sound from the onboard mic of my phone. It's grainy when the room is silent and while it picked up my voice and made it louder, it just added too much static to the background. The sound was also flatter and not as "round" sounding making vocals sound flat and dull. When using headphones this was very easily noticaeable, but if you have speakers that raise the noise floor, this may limit the perception of the noise, but it will still be in your source file. The only practical use would be for conducting interviews or recording conversations where background noise is not an issue or that will be transcribed later on.

Buy it at Amazon: Comica CVM-VS08 Mobile Phone Shotgun Mic [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, November 17, 2017

Niubier Guitar and Ukulele Capo Review

Niubier Guitar and Ukulele Capo Review

Buy it at Amazon: Niubier Guitar and Ukulele Capo [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Works exactly as advertised, no string buzzing or uneven pressure; stays in-tune.

The capo comes with 3 plastic guitar picks. It is made from a lightweight yet durable aluminum alloy. It's got a strong stainless steel spring and silicone grips where it squeezes the strings and neck of your guitar. I actually use this with my ukulele as it functions the same way as on a guitar. You simply have to clip the capo over the strings at the fret position of the number of steps you want to change the key. It works exactly as expected and presses all the strings to the fret board does without creating any buzzing or affecting the tuning of the instrument. It's simple, works well, and is nicely constructed.

Buy it at Amazon: Niubier Guitar and Ukulele Capo [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Oneach Wood Floor Lamp with Shelves Assembly and Review

Oneach Wood Floor Lamp with Shelves Assembly and Review

Buy it at Amazon: Oneach Wood Floor Lamp with Shelves Assembly and [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Simple and fast assembly, fashionable modern look, functional shelves and light.

The lamp comes disassembled but is pretty easy to put together. You'll receive a ½" base, two ¼" shelves, a square frame, the light fixture and top assembly, a four sided fabric screen, twelve 1" square posts in a bag marked B, 4 posts in a bag marked E, a pack of hardware marked H, and an instruction sheet. All the posts, shelves and frame are made from wood with a black semi-gloss stain/paint. The fabric shade is a clean white and made from an opaque plastic sheet with a rigid wire frame around the top and bottom. Following the directions is straightforward and they're well laid out with illustrations. There isn't an elegant solution for the power cord running from the light fixture tot he floor. Included are two zip ties so you can bind it to one of the leg posts, but you'll have to cut the tails off to neaten them up. After binding the cord to the post, you've got 6' of cord left to go to the outlet. The final height of the light is 62 inch or just over 5 ft.

To turn on and off the lamp, simply pull on the chain. Using a 100 Watt equivalent fluorescent bulb the lamp gives off a warm yellowish hue, but if you use a daylight white bulb the light has a more bluish-white hue. The shade itself dampens the light somewhat, so you'll lose a bit of lumens through it but since the top is open, you'll get some light spread above as well. This light looks modern, minimalist, and stylish, and I like that the shelves are functional rather than the typical metal pole of floor lamps that simply takes up space. Overall, the lamp was easily and quickly setup which only took me about 10 minutes. The wood, shade, and finish are of decent quality, and it's lightweight once assembled. Most importantly, it looks great and is functional as well.

Buy it at Amazon: Oneach Wood Floor Lamp with Shelves Assembly and [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Zhiyun Smooth-Q 3-axis Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer Review

Zhiyun Smooth-Q 3-axis Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer Review

Buy it at Amazon: Zhiyun Smooth-Q 3-axis Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Lightweight, fluid motion, easy to handle and operate, great for those on a budget.

The gimbal comes in a semi-rigid clamshell carrying case that you can wear with a 5' adjustable shoulder strap; included is a flat microUSB cable for charging and an instruction manual. The gimbal is made mostly from plastic that is lightweight yet seems fairly durable, considering. The gimbal uses a built-in rechargeable Li-ion battery rather than removable batteries, eschewing the need for a charger. Instead, it charges simply using a microUSB port on the side and that'll last up to 12 hours of use on a single charge. You can also use its battery as a mobile power pack via the full size USB output port on the front of the handle near the base. On the handle facing you where your thumb sits are some on-board controls. There's a 4-directional joystick for controlling pan, tilt, and roll, a zoom slider, mode button, and shutter/record/power button. All the buttons are easily accessible using your thumb and the handle is curved and ergonomic for a comfortable hold despite lacking any sort of rubber grip padding. There are also two indicator LEDs for battery life and status. On the bottom of the handle is a ¼" mounting hole for standard tripods and mounting systems.

The tension mount that holds your phone expands to accommodate phones with width of 3.25" and action cameras like the GoPro that are mounted in a special adapter (sold separately). My phone is on the large side with a 5.5" screen size and I found that with the case on it was a really tight fit and the thickness prevent the phone w/case from seating properly into the rubber grips. For most smartphones I think you'll find they'll fit a little better out of a case. The max payload for this gimbal is 200 grams or about 7 oz so consider this when deciding to add other accessories like a clip-on microphone or lens adapters.

The gimbal requires minimal balancing with a single thumb screw to control rotational level which can be accomplished in a few seconds. The grip mount itself slides up and down to a small degree which will also help with tilt and maybe even charging port/headphone access, but if the grip sits too far to either side, it will interfere with the tilt axis mobility.

When powering on the gimbal, it defaults into Pan-Follow mode which allows the camera to follow the movement of the gimbal when turning left/right but locks the tilt and roll axes. In this mode the joystick adjusts the tilt. The second mode is locked mode which freezes the motion of all three axes so that the camera is always pointing in the same direction. The joystick in this mode controls tilt and the pan. The third mode is Follow mode and the camera will pan and tilt based on the motion/direction of the gimbal. The joystick here controls the roll. Finally, triple clicking the mode button spins it around so the camera is facing you for selfie mode. The gimbal works in both upright mode and upside down orientation, although on some phones the video may appear upside-down.

There are some limitations to the tilt and roll compensations. While the pan lock allows you to turn the handle 360 degrees on end without a problem. The roll axis can only handle up to about +/-30° and the tilt axis -135° to +185° before it hits a safety stop. The other thing to know when using it is that you'll need to carry your weight differently when moving around with the gimbal since up/down, back and forth, and side-to-side motion are not accounted for by the gimbals' motors. There's still the potential for shakiness if you run with the gimbal but practicing moving fluidly with soft steps and flowing movements helps stabilize your footage even further.

While the plastic doesn't feel very high end and is more susceptible to damage than a full metal construction, it is remarkably lightweight weighing only 1.5 lb even with the max payload. This makes it more usable over long sessions by reducing fatigue and allows it to be very travel friendly. Zhiyun has two mobile apps available to control the gimbal over Bluetooth though from what I can tell they both cover the same features using different interfaces. The ZY Play and ZhiYun Assistant apps lets you manipulate the controls on your phone's screen or a separate device rather than using the controls on the handle. You'll also be able to better fine tune the transition speed of each axis for directional and joystick control. This is also a "face tracking" feature that lets you highlight a face for the camera to follow. This face tracking is not perfect but works most of the time.

Overall, the gimbal is a pretty nice stabilization solution is you prefer filming with your smartphone or action camera. It's lightweight, easy-to-use after a bit of practice, and budget-friendly.

Buy it at Amazon: Zhiyun Smooth-Q 3-axis Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Xgody X200 Pro Smartphone Review

Xgody X200 Pro Smartphone Review

Buy it at Amazon: Xgody X200 Pro Smartphone [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Quick & responsive, speaker/camera/screen res just ok, good for calls/browsing.

You'll receive the smartphone, instruction manual, tempered glass screen protector, microUSB cable, power adapter, and a clear silicone skin case. The phone comes with a PET plastic film protector pre-installed but if you want to use the glass screen protector, you should remove the plastic film screen protector first. I prefer the glass because it's more durable and protective and also resists oil and fingerprints better. The back cover opens from the bottom left corner to access the battery, dual SIM card slots (nano and micro) and microSD card solt.

On the back is an 8 MP camera and flash seated in a textured carbon fiber finish back cover. The front camera is stated to be 2 MP (although I calculated image sizes to be 5MP, so it actually might have a higher resolution). Along the top is the headphone jack and microUSB charging port. On the right side is the volume rocker and power button, and there are no keys on the left hand side. Along the bottom are the mic and speaker.

This phone runs Android 6.0 Mashmallow on an ARM Cortex-A7 Quad Core processor with 1.3 GHz of RAM. It's not super fast, but opening apps is pretty responsive and the lag is minimal. That said, playing resource intensive action games and multi-player arenas might not run as smoothly as on a flagship device from a big name brand. Also the screen resolution, while HD is only 720p. The screen diagonal on this phone is 5". This seems perfectly adequate for watching video and streaming movies, but the external speaker isn't that great and distorts at high volume so you're better off using headphones (Bluetooth or wired) or an external speaker.

Along the bottom of the screen you have a hamburger menu, home, and back key (standard Android keys). The phone has 11 GB of internal storage although 1GB is taken up by pre-installed apps. You can install a microSD card memory card adding up to 32 GB more space. This phone has optional smart wake features, for example double tap to wake up the screen, or drawing specific letters to wake and open a specific app like the camera.

This phone is great for browsing, checking, email and even just taking calls. Call quality is decent and callers didn't have any trouble hearing me on voice calls; even the front camera wasn't too bad for video calling. It's simple and user friendly, so unless you need a powerful phone for very specific needs, this phone is great as an entry/mid-level device, and the dual SIM capability makes it a good companion for traveling as well.

Buy it at Amazon: Xgody X200 Pro Smartphone [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, November 13, 2017

EasyGrowth Mylar Grow Tent Review

EasyGrowth Mylar Grow Tent Review

Buy it at Amazon: EasyGrowth Mylar Grow Tent [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to set up, sturdy, contains heat/light/humidity well, wrong size received but difference refunded.

Although I ordered the 40" x 40" x 80" I actually received a mislabeled box for the 24" x 24" x 55". Be sure to check the size of the tent so you don't have to waste time assembling it if you need to return it. I decided to keep this one since the seller credited me the difference in price, and I couldn't be sure that a replacement wouldn't also be wrong as they haven't had a chance to check/correct the stock. I like the tent, and will end up using it for different plants than I had intended.

The tent and frame are shipped disassembled but all the parts are clearly marked. The instructions are illustrated and brief, though instructive. The charts explain what each size tent should come with, and I was able to put it together in about 10 minutes. At the top are two hook bars which will overlap and slide freely; they do not lock into any one position and help you adjust the positioning of your lights. The mylar tent has two pieces. The main tent is a single piece that wraps around the frame and zippers up tightly. The second piece is a small waterproof tray that lines the bottom up about 4 inches so spills from dirt and liquids are easily cleaned up. The tent is made from thick heavy nylon canvas and has a durable plastic silver mylar lining inside for reflecting light. The zippers for the side panel are large and heavy duty so they slide smoothly and don't catch. The front door panel opens to the side so you can access your plants for watering, maintenance, and harvest. There's also a built in strap and clip to keep the door open. Inside you have a few vents that are double cuffed to prevent heat, light, and moisture from escaping the tent. The cuff cinches are easy to tighten and loosen and work well to control the conditions inside the tent. On the back of the tent is a small mesh-screened Velcro vent that can be opened for air circulation.

The grow tent works well for hot weather loving plants that you need to bring indoors for the winter. It creates a controlled environment and with a few sensors for temperature, humidity, and light and the addition of fans and grow lights you can help your plant flourish in its optimal conditions. I'll be overwintering my banana tree in the tent and perhaps extend the season for optimal conditions to see if I can get it to flower or even set fruit. Since I'm in Zone 6, I've never had the right conditions for the plant, even when putting it out for the summer, but I think with the grow tent I just might be able to pull it off as the tree is approaching its 7th year. I've already got a couple of LED grow lights for it hanging inside the tent, which is sturdy enough to support up to 20 lbs from the upper bars. The reflective coating does a nice job keeping the light contained inside the tent and ensures the plant gets maximum utilization of the photons. When zipped up, no light escapes which also helps retain heat and moisture for the plant as well. The tent is nicely constructed and a breeze to set up.

Buy it at Amazon: EasyGrowth Mylar Grow Tent [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, November 10, 2017

Arvicka Bluetooth Soundbar R7000 Review

Arvicka Bluetooth Soundbar R7000 Review

Buy it at Amazon: Arvicka Bluetooth Soundbar R7000 [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Syncs w/TV audio, improved sound but the balance could be better, gets pretty loud.

You'll receive the soundbar, a remote control with CR2032 coin cell battery, AC adapter, power cable, male-to-male TRS audio cable, 1/8" jack to RCA audio cables, optical Toslink cable, a set of wall mounting hardware, and an instruction manual. The speaker measures 30.5" W x 3.75" H x 3" D. The front is lined with mesh fabric over a plastic grill which covers the two 2.5" main drivers, 3" subwoofer and dual 3" passive radiators for a combined 60 Watts of output.

On the back are the input for 1/8" jack line in, digital coaxial, optical TOSlink and DC power. There are two built-in metal brackets on the back for wall mounting. This soundbar does not have an internal battery and must be plugged in to operate. On the right hand side are a few on-board controls like power, source, volume control, mute, a USB port for music input and a headphone jack. The remote has additional functions like track navigation, treble and bass EQ control, and a 3D mode. This speaker also supports Bluetooth for wireless streaming, and there's an LED display in the top right hand corner that shows you what mode you're in.

I used the optical cable with my LG TV and the sound output synced up nicely with no latency lag or delay. Just remember to remove the plastic caps on the optical cable connector tips. The sound quality of the soundbar is okay considering this is a budget sound bar. The balanced is on the bright end, lacking in bass response with has somewhat muddy midranges. The volume can get quite loud, however, and fills a medium sized room adequately. I like to keep the speaker in 3D mode as this adds additional bass for a fuller sound but also some excess reverb. I would only use the non-3D mode if you need to keep the volume low because it doesn't sound as good.

Overall, the audio can sound a bit contained/restrained rather than clear and crisp. While the soundbar performs better than the built-in speakers of my TV, the improvement is incremental at best but I wasn't expecting Bose quality sound at this price point. It's fine if you need more projection and sound for a small TV with lackluster speakers, but you won't get anywhere close to an audiophile experience with these. I like that you can also stream music to it wirelessly via Bluetooth, and that it is compatible with Xfinity universal remote controls so you don't necessarily have to add yet another remote control to your TV setup.

Buy it at Amazon: Arvicka Bluetooth Soundbar R7000 [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Aputure AL-M9 Mini LED Camera Light Review

Aputure AL-M9 Mini LED Camera Light Review

Buy it at Amazon: Aputure AL-M9 Mini LED Camera Light [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Small, lightweight, and portable, bright for its size, nice fill/hair light

You'll receive the light, a microUSB charging cable, a cold shoe mount, a neoprene carrying case, instruction manual, and three gels: an orange CTO, a blue CTB, and soft white filter. The gels are pretty basic, a few squares of plastic sheeting but they work.

The light itself is thin and compact measuring 3.25"W x 2"L x 0.5"D and weighs 2oz. It has a magnetic milk diffuser that sticks to the front and cuts down on the glare from the 9 LEDs in the light (3 x 3 rows/columns). On the right side you have the microUSB charging port, brightness adjustment controls and on/off switch for the light. On top is a status LED for charging/power. The light has 10 brightness levels from the very brightest to the dimmest setting (10% increments). The included cold shoe mount is easy to attach to the light and grips it securely. You can also attach it to a tripod use the 1/4"-20 threaded hole rather than your camera's hot shoe. On a full charge, the light lasts over 1.5 hrs of use at maximum brightness, but it takes several hours to charge.

The relatively focused area of illumination makes this light great for subject lighting when used within 3 feet or so. It doesn't throw the light very far though, so it's not great for use as a key. It's got a 5500K light temperature and is a clean, white daylight. You can add any of the gels under the magnetic filter to change the color temperature of the light for a different effect or to compensate the light when selecting custom white balance.

Overall, this light is a pretty useful tool adding lightning to your shoots for both photo and video. It's compact and performs pretty well for its size.

Buy it at Amazon: Aputure AL-M9 Mini LED Camera Light [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

XYUN Olive Oil Bottle and Pourer Set Review

XYUN Olive OIl Bottle and Pourer Set Review

Buy it at Amazon: XYUN Olive OIl Bottle and Pourer Set [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Leak-free drizzle pourers w/tight seal, wide funnel for spices/herbs to make infused oils.

You'll receive a green glass bottle, stainless steel funnel, 1 pourer with a flip cap, and 1 pourer with removable rubber cap. The bottle is dark green to keep out light which helps prevent spoilage of the oil inside. It has a screw on plastic cap and plug which can also be saved and used for storage. The two pourers are nearly identical, but the flip cap one is for frequent usage because it can't be tightly sealed, and the removable cap version is better for storage and transportation since it won't spill if tipped over. The funnel is rust resistant and has smooth edges with a 2" diameter hopper and 1/2" neck diameter, which are both large enough to accommodate dry crushed spices and herbs if you want to infuse the olive oil.

The nozzle diameter of both pourers is about a ¼" so any crushed herbs and even peppercorns can be dispensed with the oil without clogging the tip. The pourers fit tightly into the neck of the bottle and don't leak. I found that the pourers also work well with other bottles, so I can have oil and vinegar on my salads. Overall, the bottle and pourers both met my expectations with leak-free operation and generous drizzle amount.

Buy it at Amazon: XYUN Olive OIl Bottle and Pourer Set [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

AladdinAudio Acrua Pro Metal Headphones Review

AladdinAudio Acrua Pro Metal Headphones Review

Buy it at Amazon: AladdinAudio Acrua Pro Metal Headphones [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Great sound, average comfort due to weight, a few usage and design quirks.

The headphones come in a rigid clamshell carrying case and includes the following accessories: A gold-plated audio cable with right-angled jack, ¼" jack adapter, dual-pin airplane jack adapter, carabiner clip, and microUSB charging cable. The travel case doesn't have an inner pocket for the accessories though and neither cable has any type of cable wrap which seems to be a slight oversight considering all the flashy packaging this came in.

The headphones themselves are quite sturdy, being made mostly of machined metal with thick, steel headband core and a flame-like pattern printed on the exterior of the ear cups and hangers. They are a bit on the heavy side at 12 oz or about 50% heavier than similar sized plastic headphones. The ear cups and headband are lined with plush foam wrapped in synthetic leather. While they don't have the authentic leather smell, they're soft to the touch and look high end. The ear cups fold in nicely for compact storage but don't articulate (rotate or tilt) for a custom fit. I found the tension on the band to be on a strong side, coupled with the weight of the headphones, it feels a bit too bulky. These headphones feature Bluetooth or NFC pairing and the internal battery is charged via a microUSB port on the bottom of the left ear cup. A full charge purportedly lasts up to 25 hours of playback but that would depend on your playback volume. On the right ear cup are the music playback and volume controls which are raised rubber buttons. The center button with the logo is the power button, which also doubles as the play/pause key.

The sound quality from these headphones is really nice. The ranges are balanced with plenty of definition in the bass and even sub-bass frequencies. The midranges are full and well-rounded and the trebles sound crisp and clear. Even at the highest volume I didn't detect any distortion in the sound which is impressive since these can get very loud. The sound stage representation was wide and deep with nice accuracy, and the passive noise isolation was also pretty good while listening at a moderate volume level. When using the playback controls, each button press results in a loud annoying click. At this price range, I would have expected silent capacitive touch controls. The minor annoyance was the piercing tone that sounds when you hit the max or min volume. Connecting to the headphones via Bluetooth/NFC was quick and easy and the connection stayed strong for the duration of my listening sessions. Even the hand-free calling worked well with decent clarity of the microphone.

For me, these aren't headphones that I would want to wear for long periods of time because they cause physical fatigue from all the weight and band tension, which is a shame because they sound quite good. For me, these are my go to travel headphones because they're durable enough to take a beating and the airplane adapter makes using them for in-flight movies convenient.

Buy it at Amazon: AladdinAudio Acrua Pro Metal Headphones [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, November 6, 2017

Supmoon Motion Activated LED Strip Light Review

Supmoon Motion Activated LED Strip Light Review

Buy it at Amazon: Supmoon Motion Activated LED Strip Light [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: A bit brighter than expected, but works well for under bed lighting at night.

You'll receive the strip light in a roll, motion detector, double sided sticky round, 4 cable clips and 6 mounting screws, a large wire clip, A/C adapter, and USB power cable. The motion detector is the control unit for this strip light and there is no separate on/off switch. The light is not dimmable using the motion detector controller.

The dome on top senses motion in a 120 arc from up to 12-15 ft away and is only triggered when the room is quite dark. A moderate amount of ambient light is sufficient so that the motion detector won't go off. Once activated, you can set the light to stay on for 30 seconds to 10 minutes (timer starts counting down once motion is no longer detected). The time is an analog dial though, so you have to test the light to figure out how long it'll stay on if you set it between 30 second and 10 minutes. The light strip measures about 5 ft long and has double sided sticky tape on the back to mount to a wall, cabinet, or furniture. It was a little bit long for my full mattress frame so wrapped it around the corner partway under the foot side of the frame, but the strip can also be cut to length. The LEDs are spaced about every 1.5 inches and I have the lights pointed "down" towards the floor. The lights were a bit brighter than I had expected. It's not so bright that it'll shock you awake if you get up in the middle of the night, but I would have preferred a more gentle glow. This effect may be achievable if you face the LEDs in towards the underside of the bed instead of down at the floor, but I didn't want to mess with the tape since it's stuck on pretty good. So far the tape seems to be holding up and the lights are working fine (been a couple weeks).

Buy it at Amazon: Supmoon Motion Activated LED Strip Light [Affiliate Link]
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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Pacific67 Chef's Knife Review

Pacific67 Chef's Knife Review

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Takeaway: Sharp, well-balanced, durable and beautifully made knife.

The chef's knife's blade length is 8.5" with a height of 2" at its widest section. It has a 4.75" handle which comes in 5 color choices: blue, green, gray, black, and red. The balance of the knife is dead center between the blade and handle and the weight overall is just over 6 oz. On the right side of the blade the steel grade VG-10 is printed next to the logo. The hardness rating for this steel is 62 HRC and the blade has a 17 degree sharpening angle more typical of Japanese blades than American ones.

On the sides of the blade are a laser etched design called a Damascus pattern. The etching is identical on both sides, though isn't very deep and may wear off over time. Its wavy wood grain-like pattern matches the Pakkawood handle. This partial bolster knife allows you to sharpen it along its entire length. However, you won't have a heel for heavy chopping making this knife unsuited for cutting through bone and hard shelled produce like squash. However, the knife is adept at making thin, delicate slices, chopping, and mining.

Out of the box, the blade is very sharp and slices through paper like butter. The cuts are clean along the entire length and requires little force to cut. For cooking, this makes food prep for vegetables and boneless meat fast and effortless. This steel grade has high corrosion resistance, so it won't rust and the blade should hold its edge pretty well, which means less time sharpening and more time cooking. Overall, it's a very handsome chef's knife that's nicely constructed, durable, and performs well in the kitchen.

Buy it at Amazon: Pacific67 Chef's Knife [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, November 3, 2017

S2 True Wireless Earbud Earphones Review

S2 True Wireless Earbud Earphones Review

Buy it at Amazon: S2 True Wireless Earbud Earphones [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Decent battery, nice sound/features, convenient charging case.

The earphones come with a lipstick style battery pack that doubles as a case and charger for the earbuds. You'll also receive 2 additional sizes of eartips (large and small), a microUSB charging cable, and instruction sheet. The earbuds are stored in both ends of the case using magnets and simply slide in and out. They charge using wireless contacts. On the side of the charge you have and 'IN' and 'OUT' rubber door that cover the microUSB charging port and full size USB output port for charging your phone or mobile device. This power button activates charging for both the earbuds and the USB port. When the battery pack is activated the LED in the front shines red and the earbuds have a red LEDs when charging which change to blue when the battery is full; charging the earbuds takes about an hour. On a full charge, the earbuds will last about 4 hours of continuous playback, depending on volume level.

The earbuds themselves are compact, if not a bit bulky for true wireless earbuds. They measure ¾" x ½" x 1" and weigh about ¼ oz a piece. Each earbud has a power button that you press and hold for a few seconds to turn them on. It's recommended that you turn on the right earbud first, then the left to get them to pair to each other automatically. Then you can pair them to your phone. If you need to get them back into pairing mode, turn them off, then press and hold the power button until it turns on and continue holding it until it says 'pairing'. This lets you re-sync them to one another and even use each each individually with different devices since they can both be used as a stand alone unit. Occasionally they'll drop their connection with each other or with the source device but the blip usually resolves itself and lasts for only a second.

The sound from these is not bad. It's balanced with well-supported mid and bass ranges for full and rich sound, though it lacks any definition in the low bass. At higher volumes the treble ranges distort a bit and can take on a harsh edge. However, the passive isolation was decent even at moderate volumes. For me, because of the angle of the eartips, I found that they seat better when rotated towards the back of my head rather than remaining vertical. This also helped keep the earbuds in my ears, as I found that they would fall out easily otherwise. There is no volume control on the earbuds, and the volume is only controlled by the source device. You can, however, start and pause playback by short pressing the power symbol on either earpiece. There are no additional playback controls, however, you can answer or disconnect calls by short pressing the power button and re-dial the last number by double pressing it; note you can only do phone functions with the right earpiece.

The earbuds are stated to be IP67 waterproof rated and I have gotten them sweaty and rinsed them under water and they still work fine. Overall, the audio quality of these earbuds is pretty good for the price, and they are fairly comfortable to wear with a decent battery life. The charger case comes in handy since you can charge them up automatically between uses and also use it as an emergency charger for your phone.

Buy it at Amazon: S2 True Wireless Earbud Earphones [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Aklot Acousto-Electric Ukulele Review

Aklot Acousto-Electric Ukulele Review

Buy it at Amazon: Aklot Acousto-Electric Ukulele [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Great starter uke, sounds beautiful, acousto-electric version best of both worlds.

This ukulele comes with a bunch of accessories: a fabric carrying case, a neck strap, an extra set of nylon strings, both a felt and a plastic pick, a microfiber polishing cloth, and a starter booklet. The body of it is made from solid mahogany that is both beautiful and durable. The fret board and bridge are nicely constructed and sturdy. This is my first ukulele and not really having that much experience with stringed instruments before (I play the piano) I wanted the get something that was good for beginners. The "electric" version was a great option because it also functions as an acoustic uke. It also has a built-in tuner which is super easy to use. The instrument came with two CR2032 coin cell batteries which are installed next tot he 1/4" output jack (face down in the receptacle). This powers both the onboard tuner and the pre-amp for using the ukulele as an electric instrument with an amplifier or PA system. The sound, either way, is quite good with clear, warm tones. The action is supposed to be "low," though without having any basis of comparison, I still found it a bit of a challenge in the beginning to press the strings down all the way against the fret board to make a clear note (without buzzing). Perhaps it's just an issue of finger strength though since I'm not used to playing it yet.

Tuning the ukulele for the first time went quickly and the tuner LCD turns a nice bright green so you know when you've hit the sweet spot. I did find with the new strings I had to end up tuning the strings, especially the 'C' and 'A' string every few minutes because the nylon string would stretch and the note would go flat. But with the worm-drive tuning pegs I didn't have to worry about the strings loosening on their own from lost tension. It took about a week for the strings to settle, and now I only have to tweak the tuning a little before practicing/playing. Although the ukulele has pre-installed strap buttons for an over the shoulder strap, the included strap doesn't actually used them; instead it wraps around the bottom of the uke and hooks into the sound hole, so it would work with ukes without the strap buttons too.

The little starter booklet was helpful in understanding how to read the ukulele tabs, which is very different from the sheet music that I'm used to. The instructional videos on the Aklot website basically go through the instruction booklet tips. It's helpful for a first-timer, despite the robotic voiceover and the poor English grammar, sentence structure, and word usage. The videos/booklet certainly could be better executed, but they're short and worth a read/watch. It took a couple hours of practice to get the hang of strumming vs plucking and getting the fingering down for a few basic chords, but I can get through the booklet's beginner songs like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer without much difficulty. One thing to note is that if you want to use the ukulele with an amp/speaker remember to turn off the tuner. The sound will not transmit through the cable (not included) if the the tuner is on. You can also adjust the bass, middle, and treble range output from the tuner control panel when using it as an electric uke. The amp is a great way to have a concert with a large gathering or play outdoors because it can produce the sounds much louder, but I like that you can switch to acoustic for more intimate settings and practice sessions.

Overall, for my first ukulele purchase, I'm completely satisfied with the product so far. The instrument sounds great, feels nicely constructed, and is fun to play.

Buy it at Amazon: Aklot Acousto-Electric Ukulele [Affiliate Link]
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