I provide honest ratings and reviews on tech, toys, and consumer home goods that I've purchased and used. Reviews are based on hands-on testing and personal observations. All opinions and comments are my own.

Disclosure: ReviewedbyPhil is reader-supported. If you click on or buy something via an affiliate link on this site, I may earn a commission.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Crenova YG600 LED HD Projector Review

Crenova YG600 LED HD Projector Review

Buy it at Amazon: Crenova YG600 LED HD Projector [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Bright LED suitable for daytime viewing, but best in very dark settings. Great audio, color saturation, and contrast for its price class.

You'll receive the projector, remote control, 5ft power cable, 8" RCA input cable, 5 ft HDMI cable, and an instruction manual. The projector is fairly large weighing nearly 8 lbs and measuring 13"W x 9"L x 4"H. On the front of the projector is the 3" diameter lens which has a hard plastic cover cap. To its right you'll find the front IR receiver for the remote control and below that a push button release for the tilt foot which pops out the bottom. The tilt foot can raise the front of the projector up about 1-1/4" and can be adjusted by holding the release button and pushing the foot in part or all the way in.

On the top of the unit you have the power button, back button, source selector, menu key, and menu navigation keys. The large dial behind the lens controls its focus and the small dial is the keystone for adjusting pitch if the unit is tilted upward. On the back you have the power plug on the bottom left with the power switch about that. Then across the top is the VGA input, two HDMI inputs, two USB inputs with the left one also supplying 5V power, the AV/RCA input for the included cable, a headphone out port, microSD card slot, and rear IR receiver for the remote control. In the bottom right, the vent door over the fan is removable for cleaning, to prevent overheating. On the bottom are four rubber feet that are removable and reveal M3 mounting points for ceiling mounting brackets or racks. Note however, that there is no ¼" or 3/8" mounting hole for tripod mounting, so you'll need to have a flat surface to use the projector on if not ceiling mounting.

The remote requires 2 AAA batteries which are not included, and it has additional keys and functions like volume control, channel selection, play/pause, fast forward, and rewind. Since this unit needs to be plugged in to run and has a pretty short power cable, you'll typically need to run an extension cable unless you happen to have the perfect spot height and distance from your screen that also happens to be near an outlet. I was able to set up this projector in my living room, which is pretty small at 15x14, and project the image to fill a 120" screen. However, the projector is rated to go even larger, up to 200" given enough space (the distance would need to be around 18'). This projector is compatible with both front and rear projection screens because you can flip the image vertically and/or horizontally, depending on whether or not you've ceiling mounted the unit.

In very bright conditions, e.g. a room with all the lights on, or outdoors during the daytime, the projected image will appear pretty washed out given the ANSI lumens rating of around 200. However, with most of the lights off, the projection looked pretty good even with a little ambient light coming from in front of and behind the screen I was using. However, the projector is best viewed in pitch dark conditions e.g. nighttime with the lights off or in a darkened room with blackedout windows. The menu interface for browsing USB media and SD cards is quite basic, though the main menu allows you to choose video, music, photos, or text documents to open. And while the projector doesn't have WiFi capability, the HDMI and other input methods worked fine and allowed me to add WiFi streaming via a Chromecast, FiveTV stick, or Apple TV. I also appreciated the fact that I could power these mobile streaming devices using the 5V USB port (non-input) on the back. Note that when connecting an input to this projector, while it accepts input resolutions up to 1080p, the native output resolution is 1280 x 768 (720p) and downscales higher resolution video accordingly. That said, the image quality is a lot better than 480p projectors that I've used and has great color saturation and contrast for the price.

One of the things that surprised me about this projector is that the fan is fairly quiet. In fact, when watching a movie and sitting only a few feet in front of the projector, the fan noise was undetectable. The built-in stereo speaker was clear and loud with only a slight tinge of sounding boxy. The projection of the speaker was also very good in a small room (with the sound set to the 'Surround' setting there seemed to be a slight boost to volume) and there was little distortion at higher volume levels. For the best audio experience though, I recommend connecting an external speaker via the headphone jack using a standard 1/8" jack audio cable, though it doesn't support Dolby audio.

Overall, this projector does a great job with displaying high definition video in dark conditions with very good color, brightness, sound, and saturation. The built-in speaker does a fine job on its own and is perfectly suitable for movie nights, though if you use an external speaker you can bump up your experience a notch. The projector also works great for gaming or even business presentations since the HD resolution makes text fairly easy to read.

Buy it at Amazon: Crenova YG600 LED HD Projector [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Silkworld Quick Dry Mens Beach Short Swim Trunks Review

Silkworld Quick Dry Mens Beach Short Swim Trunks Review

Buy it at Amazon: Silkworld Quick Dry Mens Beach Short Swim Trunks [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Modern cut and fit, ample waist but not baggy, comfortable; made with durable quick-drying fabric.

The swim trunks come in about a dozen different color choices. They're made of a 100% machine-washable nylon fabric that is smooth with a bit of texture. The material is thicker/heavier than I expected, like wind breaker fabric, and opaque even when wet. However, it still manages to be quick drying.

There is no fly on the front of these shorts. Inside, you have a soft, mesh liner. The waistband is moderately stretchy and covers a range of about 3 inches. In the middle you have two reinforced button holes for the high contrast neon drawstring. On both sides are mesh-lined pockets that allow the water to drain through. On the back there is a Velcro pocket on the right-hand side.

If we take a close look at the stitching and seams on these, for the most part, the stitch is straight, even, and precise. Only upon close inspection would you notice slight unevenness at closure seams or the occasional loose thread end. According to the sizing chart, the Asian Medium which is the equivalent of a US men's extra-small for waist sizes 28-30" though I found it to be slightly oversized and a better range would be sizes 29-31". The outseam on the "Medium" size is 15.5 inches and the inseam measures 5 inches making these a thigh length short.

The fit was slightly loose for me but with the drawstring tied, managed to stay on securely. It fit much better on a 30" waist. The medium length cuts off just above the knee for a sporty look. As for drying time, after getting out of the water the shorts dried after about 10 minutes in 85 degree weather after toweling off. Overall, these swim trunk beach shorts have a nice modern cut and fit, with an ample waist without being baggy, are comfortable to wear, and made with durable quick-drying fabrics.

Buy it at Amazon: Silkworld Quick Dry Mens Beach Short Swim Trunks [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Separatec Basic Bamboo Fiber Dual Pouch Underwear Review

Separatec Basic Bamboo Fiber Dual Pouch Underwear Review

Buy it at Amazon: Separatec Basic Bamboo Fiber Dual Pouch Underwear [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Soft and silky, comfortable and breathable, great range of movement without bunching or sweat retention.

You'll receive 3 pairs of identical boxer briefs individually boxed. These boxer briefs are made with 95% Rayon 5% spandex and have a soft, silky, slighty slippery feel to them that glides onto your skin and stretches generously for a form-fitting breathable fit on nearly any body type. The material performs like sportswear and is derived from bamboo and pairs perfectly with an active lifestyle. The easy tear-off tags remove cleanly and quickly so you never have to deal with a scratchy piece of plasticky paper digging into your back.

Separatec's main feature is the dual-pouch system which segregates the male anatomy into two separate areas. The port hole access for the front pouch holds your penis away from the scrotum, which sits cradled in the lower support pouch. This two pouch system encourages air flow and reduces heat and moisture buildup. The low-profile seams are few and barely noticeable against the skin, and the silk-like feel almost feels like wearing nothing at all. The front flap of the pouch lifts up from the bottom for convenient access to relieve yourself when needed. Compared to Separatec's Everyday collection that I reviewed previously, these have a slightly shorter waistband, more modest branding, and performed better at wicking away perspiration making them are a great choice for warmer weather.

Overall, I found Separatec's basic bamboo fiber boxer briefs to be super soft and comfy while allowing for plenty of freedom of movement without bunching, riding up, or causing any uncomfortable stickiness.

Buy it at Amazon: Separatec Basic Bamboo Fiber Dual Pouch Underwear [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, August 31, 2018

Ulikit Corner L-Shaped Computer Desk Review

Ulikit Corner L-Shaped Computer Desk Review

Buy it at Amazon: Ulikit Corner L-Shaped Computer Desk [Affiliate Link] UPDATED: All discount codes are gone and the promotional period mentioned in the video is now finished.

Takeaway: Clean modern look with natural wood grain pattern, easy assembly, lightweight but sturdy and durable under a decent load.

The desk arrives flat packed so there will be some assembly required. The frame of the deck is all hollow steel bars that are pre-drilled and threaded for easy assembly with the included hardware. The desktop surface is made of wood with a glossy black veneer finish. All the parts in the box are either marked directly on the part or on the bag they're contained in, so in order to keep track of which part is which, don't unwrap them until you're ready to use it during assembly. The pack of hardware also includes a small screwdriver and wrench that you'll need for the assembly. You may also need a rubber mallet which is not included.

Included is a multi-page set of illustrated instructions, without words. Although it may look a bit daunting, it's actually pretty straight forward and if you watch my full review video, I'll show you exactly how to put it together. Assembly takes less than an hour if doing it alone but may go fater with some help. When fully assembled, you'll have one spare piece of each of the bolts and nut. The finish of the surface of the desk is glossy and slightly rough with a wood grain pattern. The desk feels pretty lightweight and is easily picked up and moved by two people but can also support at least 30 lbs or more. In my setup, I have my computer LCD monitor, with keyboard in front, mouse, printer, speakers, and other accessories on the long side and still have plenty of room on the short side to use. The length of the long side is about 66" to the wall and the length of the short side is about 48" to the wall; the height from the floor is about 29". I now have plenty of addition work space from the angled side of the desk that I can easily turn to when not working on the computer. The one thing about the open back design is that all your cables will be visible underneath so if that's going to bother you, it's worth implementing some sort of cable management and organization to hide it. I also like that my office chair can slide completely under the desk, including the arms.

Overall, this is computer desk is functional, feels durable, has a clean look and style, and was easily assembled in less than an hour. It gives me plenty of room to work with on top and space underneath for the computer or short file cabinet.

Buy it at Amazon: Ulikit Corner L-Shaped Computer Desk [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

HiCool 120 Inch Portable Fabric Projection Screen Review

HiCool 120 Inch Portable Fabric Projection Screen Review

Buy it at Amazon: HiCool 120 Inch Portable Fabric Projection Screen [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Large screen size, lighweight, good quality, easy to set up but doesn't always stay "square."

You'll receive the movie screen, two nylon cords, 16 damage-free double-sided stick tapes, and 16 plastic hanging hooks. The nylon cords are about 17' long each but have frayed ends because they don't come sealed. However, it's simple enough to use a small torch of stick lighter to melt the ends preventing them from unraveling on you.

The projector screen is lightweight and only weighs about 2 pounds. It has a 1-1/4" black fabric border and stretchy white interior made of 92% Polyster, 8% Spandex like that of sports and athletic wear. The border is not as stretchy though and is made of a stiffer material. The corners are only partially finished and remain open on the ends, so I had to close them off with a needle and thread although it's not expressly necessary unless you're worried about it fraying. The metal grommets are spaced about every 2 feet. Since the screen is fabric, you can clean it with mild detergent or a damp cloth. However, the screen needs to remain white to be useful so machine washing is not recommended, and you should avoid allowing it to come into contact with anything that may stain it or rub off color. The material is opaque enough so you can't see through it, but will allow for both front and rear projection for viewing movies.

For me, I don't really have a lot of wall space, so I ended up hanging the screen on a lightweight aluminum frame using the cords. This worked okay, although my frame was a tad small for the dimensions (despite being marketed as a 120" frame). I imagine it's probably a bit tricky to find the right space and anchor points to hang this outdoors using the cords. Also, keep in mind if hanging on the wall using the mounting hooks, make sure they pull the screen outward towards the borders, rather than installing all the hooks face "up." I did appreciate that the included double-sided tape is the damage-free kind that stretches to release and won't rip the paint off your walls.

When fully open, the screen measures 105"W x 65"L making the visible diagonal 120" (not including the black border). Even without being pulled completely taught, the screen performed well on the frame. There were very few wrinkles where properly stretched, giving my projected image bright colors and a smooth surface to display on. Just be aware that 120" requires most mini projectors to be placed 16-18' away from the screen, so if your room isn't large enough the projected image won't fill the screen. When viewed from the opposite side of the screen from where the projector is located you can watch the projected video/images clearly, although the brightness will be slightly dimmer. You'll also have to make sure to change the settings in the projector to flip the image horizontally, otherwise you'll see a mirror image when rear projecting.

Overall, the projector screen worked pretty well with my mini LED DLP projector. The colors were bright and properly reproduced, the screen is lightweight making it easy to transport, and it was quick to set up with either the ropes or wall hangers, as long as you have something to hang it on and a large enough space. I do wish it came with a better carrying bag than the plastic ziplock to keep it clean and protected, but a clean bag or box should do the trick.

Buy it at Amazon: HiCool 120 Inch Portable Fabric Projection Screen [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, August 27, 2018

Three Gun Boxer Briefs Review

Three Gun Boxer Briefs Review

Buy it at Amazon: Three Gun Boxer Briefs [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Nicely cut and fit, with a low profile, ample contour pouch, unnoticeable seams, and smooth breathable fabric.

In each set, you'll receive 4 pairs of boxer shorts. I received an apple green, sky blue, and 2 pairs of the black colors, but these also come in navy, grey, and white as well. The material these are made of is a 96% cotton 4% spandex blend. These have a very soft, comfortable feel and a fly-less contour pouch. The 1-3/8" elastic waistband is smooth and extra stretchy for durability and wear-resistance over time. The underwear itself is quite elastic too, even at the cuff at the thigh, to conform to most body shapes and sizes while remaining mostly opaque and retaining its shape and breathability when stretched. The seams are sewn straight and smooth and as a result, you don't feel them against your skin, making these super comfy to wear. The back of the underwear does not have any contouring nor provides any lift.

I wear the Asian "Large" size which fits like a US men's small (waist sizes 28-30"). They fit fine on my 28" waist with less than a finger's width of looseness. On the sides, they tended to wrinkle slightly since they pull up just a little on the hips, however, don't ride up too much in the front and back. Mobility in these boxer briefs was good with plenty of freedom to move around in. The single stitch in the back on the waistband was non-irritating and the small fabric tag didn't scratch or rub either. Also, the lack of contouring forthe rear may end up flattening out your backside profile.

While I liked the bright neon colors of the greena nd blue pair, the black style had a more casual and classic look. Because these underwear are made of mostly cotton, they do retain some body heat and perspiration, so aren't great for intensive sports or working out. However, their breathability makes them well-suited for every season casual wear. All colors are machine washable in warm water but should be hang dried rather than tumble dried. Overall, a decently flattering and comfortable fitting pair of boxer shorts.

Buy it at Amazon: Three Gun Boxer Briefs [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, August 24, 2018

AUAG Immersion Sous Vide Cooker Review

AUAG Immersion Sous Vide Cooker Review

Buy it at Amazon: AUAG Immersion Sous Vide Cooker [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Precise temperatures, easy operation and cleaning, built-in safety shutoff; delicious results.

You'll receive the sous vide cooker, GFCI power cable, and an instruction manual. The sous vide cooker is made mostly of plastic and measures 14" long and 3" in diameter, not including the clamp. The clamp extends out about an inch and a half. The clamp is wide enough to accommodate containers with walls as thick as 1" though it opens as wide as 3" for ease of installation. It even has a silicone pad at the tip to help grip your container and protect your cookware from scratches. The bottom black portion of the sous vide cooker can be removed for cleaning by twisting clockwise towards the unlock symbol then, squeezing the clamp and pulling straight down. Inside you have the heating coil, pump impeller, and temperature and water level sensors. To re-assemble, line up the horizontal min and max water level markings on the cover with the lock symbol and twist counter-clockwise to lock. This unit has a status LED indicator on the front, a touchscreen LCD screen on top, a settings scroll ring, and power input on the back.

The power cable is 5 ft long and has a built-in GFCI safety module that will trip the circuit to cut off power if a ground fault occurs, that is, if the electrical circuit accidentally comes into contact with water, the unit will stop the flow of electricity to protect you from electrocution. The unit simply clamps onto the side of a pot or heat proof container filled with water. Anything that can be used on the stovetop and can hold over 3" water works well, like a large soup pot, though I found that with very tall containers, taller than the length of the clamp, the cooker tends to tilt precariously towards the water.

The unit is pretty simple to operate, although the instructions were a bit tedious to read through. The LED status light will show different colors for standby, preheat, target temp reached, and keep warm (white, orange, green, blue). The touchscreen on top of the unit works well and is responsive, but could be a tad brighter. It's also only viewable from certain angles so you can't read it from the side or back. The settings scroll wheel makes it easy to make quick adjustments of time, temperature, and pre-set mode selection. The temperature increments are fairly exact allowing for 0.1° changes per scroll click in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. The max cooking time is 99 hours and 59 minutes. You can also lock the touchscreen to prevent accident changes or cancellation during cooking. While there are many pre-set modes for different kinds of foods, you can also make adjustment to those settings after selecting it to customize and cook your food how you like it; just note that your customizations will not be saved to the pre-set and you'll have to make the same adjustments each time.

When testing the accuracy of the sous vide's thermometer, the reading seemed to run a little high when compared to both a calibrated instant read thermometer and analog meat thermometer. Fortunately you can manually adjust the offset for temperature reading but only when the display is shown in Celsius (tap and hold clock and thermometer icons), however, the setting will convert over to the Fahrenheit measurement as well.

I've tried a number of sous vide recipes with this machine and so far its yielded amazing and delicious results. With sous vide cooking, as long as the temperature can be held steady and is accurate and your food is properly sealed before putting in the water bath, it's hard to go wrong. One thing to note is that after the cooking timer runs out, the unit goes into at about 104°F or 40°C for up to 2 hours. After that it automatically shuts off. Also, since it cannot connect to your phone or WiFi, you can't get remote notifications when the food is done cooking so you do have to be around to monitor the device.

Overall, I was completely satisfied with the results achievable with this sous vide cooker. It's easy to adjust and set, simple to use, and with a few tweaks accurately warms your food within fractions of degrees of your target temperature. With a little bit of pre-prep, it'll take some of the work and guesswork out of cooking delicious restaurant-quality food.

Buy it at Amazon: AUAG Immersion Sous Vide Cooker [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

MOZA Mini Mi Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer Review

MOZA Mini Mi Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer Review

Buy it at Amazon: MOZA Mini Mi Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Lightweight, fully featured, good stabilization, though app is a bit finicky

You'll receive the gimbal in semi-rigid clamshell carry case, a flat microUSB charging cable, a mini tripod, and an instruction manual. The gimbal handle and arms are made of a lightweight yet hard, durable plastic. The handle has a flattened, wide 7" long handle that's easier to hold onto than a skinny cylinder, even without rubber grip pads. The unit contains a rechargeable Li-ion battery that takes about 4 hours to charge via the USB port near the bottom and powers the gimbal for about 10 hours of continuous use. On the side of the handle facing you are the onboard controls. There's a 4-directional joystick for controlling pan, tilt, and roll, of the gimbal, 4 LED lights to indicate battery life and mode, a click and scroll wheel for menu navigation, shutter button, and the power button is off to the right hand side. There are four ¼"-20 mounting points on this gimbal: one on the bottom, one on the back of the handle, and one on either side of the phone grip. These are great for attaching accessories like the mini tripod, extra lights, microphones, etc. One feature that this gimbal doesn't have that we've become accustomed to on other gimbals is a trigger button on the other side, but I found that I didn't miss it much.

While the plastic doesn't feel as durable as metal, it is remarkably lightweight weighing just over 1 lb without a phone. Even with the max payload of 10.5 oz added, it's still under 2 lbs and isn't that tiring to hold over longer recording sessions as heavier gimbals might be. There are two ways to charge your phone while using this gimbal. The phone mount grip has integrated wireless Qi charging (for supported phones), however, for phones without wireless charging there is a full-size USB port on the underside of the tilt arm so you can charge your phone with its cable. The grip mount expands to accommodate smartphones up to 3.25" in width. It'll also accept adapters for stabilizing action cameras like the GoPro.

For most larger phones, I found the grip mount to be a tight fit so even if you use a slim case, you might have to take it off to mount your phone, like I did with the LG G5. The max payload for this gimbal is 300 grams or about 10.5 oz. Its relatively quick and straightforward to balance the roll and tilt of the phone prior to turning the gimbal on. This will alleviate the stress on the motor which imrpoves battery life and reduces wear and tear on the motors. The mount can also be rotated into portrait mode for taking panoramic photos and Instagram photos/videos.

Before first use, I chose to update the firmware on the gimbal, which was pretty simple and only took a few minutes. The MOZA Genie app, while still under development, is fairly functional with only a few blips in operation (and sporadic crashing). The biggest complaint that most folks have is that the subject tracking feature hadn't been operational, however, as of mid-August, 2018 I was able to use this feature successfully on both Android and iOS, although occasionally the tracking would "lose" the subject on the Android phone. When turning on the gimbal, the default mode is Pan/Yaw-Follow which allows the camera to follow the movement of the gimbal when turning left and right but locks the tilt and roll axes.

One of the things I found tricky about this gimbal is the combination of button clicks to perform specific actions. Nearly every button has multiple actions depending on how many times you click it. So for example, clicking the left button twice toggles on and off the pan or yaw-axis lock, while clicking it three times toggles the tilt or pitch-axis lock. Then if you long press the left button, this toggles the roll-axis lock. Whenever an axis is locked, you can use the joystick to change its position, or manually positioning it along the locked axis. You can control the speed of the movement based on how far you move the joystick from center, so small movements move the gimbal slowly while fully pressing in the direction will move the gimbal quickly.

There's also a Sports mode which allows to gimbal yaw motor to react more quickly to follow fast moving subjects, a selfie-mode, a quick re-center command, and "inception" or vertigo mode. So it's a lot of function/key combinations to remember if you don't end up using the gimbal that often. There are also some limitations to the tilt and roll compensations. For panning you get 360° rotation, but for roll you'll only get 165° and for tilt 310°.

The MOZA Genie app allows you to pair your phone to the gimbal via Bluetooth, so you can control it remotely rather than using the controls on the handle, but it can be finicky and some phone models may not be fully supported. If you are able to use the app it'll allow you to adjust gimbal and camera settings on the fly like motor speed and follow smoothness. You can also adjust focus and zoom using the scroll wheel. Again there are plenty of other key combinations to learn that are specific to controlling the app if you're connected via Bluetooth.

Overall, the MOZA Mini-Mi is a decently fully featured handheld gimbal for smartphones that stabilizes well and has a lot of options for different users from beginner to professional. It's also inexpensive compared to other gimbal options out there with less competitive features/performance making it a good choice for filmmakers on a budget who shoot with their smartphones.

Buy it at Amazon: MOZA Mini Mi Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Awake Lion Sous Vide Immersion Cooker Review

Awake Lion Sous Vide Immersion Cooker Review

Buy it at Amazon: Awake Lion Sous Vide Immersion Cooker [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to use, a cinch to clean; but fine adjustments to temperature are not possible, especially in F. Still makes amazing restaurant quality food.

If you're not familiar with sous vide, it's a method of cooking food in a vacuum sealed bag to a precise temperature using a water bath. The reason you'd want to do this is that the food will always finish at the precise temperature and doneness all the way through since it would be impossible to overcook anything in a water bath that never exceeds your finish temperature. The sous vide machine is the temperature controller and heater for the water bath and my review will explain to you exactly the kinds of results you can expect with this unit.

You'll receive the immersion sous vide cooker, a clear plastic pump cover, an instruction manual, and a short cookbook. The bottom portion of the immersion cooker is made of stainless steel while the top portion is made of plastic and cannot be submerged. The length of the unit is 14.5", 15" with the pump cover and the diameter of the tube is 2-1/4". This plastic propeller is the water pump impeller which needs to be covered by the pump cover during operation. The pump cover has three teeth on it to catch on the tube but note that they are different sizes so it only goes on one way, you'll need to line up the arrow which is directly below the min and max water lines to the ridge on the pump cover and then twist to lock it in place. The immersion cooker is held in place in the water bath by this strong plastic side clamp. The inside of the clamp has a silicone pad on it to 1. Help grip the container better and two prevent scratches to your cookware. The maximum thickness of the vessel wall is 3/8". The 6-3/8" metal housing over the heating element can be removed for cleaning if necessary. Simply turn towards the unlock symbol and pull straight down. When reassembling, make sure to line up the arrow with the lock symbol, then turn counter clockwise.

On top of the unit you have the touchscreen display and controls, which measures 3" by 2.5". The power cord is about 50" long and has a 3-prong grounded plug. The sous vide machine is pretty simple to use and operate. Just clamp it to a pot or heat proof vessel filled with water (the water bath). Anything that can be used on a stovetop and can hold over 2.5" water should work fine, like a large stock pot. The water should be above the minimum water level line and below the max level line. I've used large stock pots, but the Rubbermaid 12 Qt Food Storage container works well too, a favorite vessel of sous vide chefs. The unit enters standby mode when plugged in (red LED above the screen) and the temperature units will show on the screen. If you want to change the unit of measure from Celsius to Fahrenheit or vice versa, touch and hold the power button for 3 seconds. Initially I thought my screen was a bit scratched up out of the box, but then I realized it's actually got a thin blue plastic protective film over it. I decided to leave it on to keep the screen clean and prevent actual scratches, but if you don't like how it looks, you can certainly peel it off.

To turn the unit on, just tap the power button and it'll display the last settings that you used. The large blinking numbers up top is the target temperature which in Fahrenheit can be adjusted in 5 degree from 0°F to 194°F using the plus and minus buttons on the left. In Celsius adjustments are made in 0.5° increments up to 90°C. Then to lock the target temperature and adjust the time, tap the gear icon. Set the hours and minutes separately using the plus and minus keys and tapping the gear icon to save each setting. The maximum cooking time that can be set is 99 hours and 59 minutes. Once you have the settings you want, tap the power icon to begin heating the water bath. It takes a while to heat up the water bath to your target temperature, and on average it takes 1 minute to raise the water temperature in 8-10 quarts of water 3-4 degrees. If you need to change your settings on the fly, you can hold the gear icon and make any adjustments before tapping the power button to continue. If you want to stop cooking, just press and hold the power button. When checking the accuracy of the sous vide's temperature I found that it was consistently about 2 degrees above my calibrated instant read thermometer. This was true using multiple thermometers like this instant read which is showing 108°F which the unit shows 110°F. In Celsius, it was reading about 0.6 degrees above the instant read thermometer, so it seems the calibration of the sous vide simply runs a bit high. That's preferable to running on the low side as the actual finishing temperature of your food will be a couple degrees lower than you set, limiting the chance that your food will be overcooked.

While preheating the LED indicator on top will be a solid color but when it reaches the target temperature, the LED starts flashing (the unit beeps as well) and the cook timer will start to countdown immediately. So far I've made several dishes withe the sous vide including sirloin steak, soft cooked eggs, and chicken breast. All of the food came out tender, moist, and full of flavor. I didn't try any of the recipes in the cookbook as it is quite limited, but searching online for recipes turns out hundreds for you to choose from. Overall, I was pretty happy with the cooking results of the Awake Lion sous vide cooker. Even though you can't set the temperature precisely down to the degree or even fraction of a degree that other brand immersion sous vide cookers can, the results of using the machine for cooking were quite good and the meals we've made with it so far were amazing. At least the temperature readings run a little high, so the possibility of overcooking is minimized and for most foods this won't be an issue anyway. It's easy to use and clean and you can certainly make some tasty and enjoyable meals with it.

Buy it at Amazon: Awake Lion Sous Vide Immersion Cooker [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, August 13, 2018

FiveHome WiFi Extender Repeater w/LAN port Review

FiveHome WiFi Extender Repeater w/LAN port Review

Buy it at Amazon: FiveHome WiFi Extender Repeater w/LAN port [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Quick and simple to setup, extends WiFi and improves signal from host router but only at close-medium range.

You'll receive the Range Extender, an instruction manual, and reset pin taped to the user manual. The range extender is a lightweight plastic box that simply plugs into any wall outlet in range of your existing WiFi signal. It measures about 3" square and will stick out about 1-1/4" from the wall when plugged in. On the left and right hand side are two antennae which can be swiveled into the up position. On the front of the unit is a WPS one-touch setup button and 4 LEDs for the different functions: Extender, WiFi, LAN, and Power. On the back is some information about the network settings including the IP address, network name, default login, and MAC address. This unit can be used in outlets with 100-240V and 50-60Hz.

The extender should be basically plug-and-play. It can be setup via WPS or direct connection to the extender's WiFi. When setting up with WPS, the extender will use the same network name as the host router like a mesh network. However, with direct connection setup, the extender SSID name cannot be the same as the host network SSID. Once successfully connected, if you want to change the network settings on the extender, you will have to reset the extender using the reset pin tool.

After setup, you're free to move the extender to any room to improve the WiFi signal and connection speeds, as long as it's still in range of your host router. I found that the extend was able to improve the WiFi signal srength in some locations of my house. In general, the signal had to already be around 70-80% strength in order for the extender to make a good connection. When signal strength from the host router dropped to 65% or lower, the extender had trouble maintaining a reliable connection to it. The other thing this unit does is give me access to an Ethernet port without running cable throughout my home and this feature worked well. Overall, the WiFi extender was super quick and simple to setup on my network. It improved the overall signal strength of the WiFi on the second floor of my home, one story away from where the router is located, although it wasn't powerful enough to bring the signal down to the basement.

Buy it at Amazon: FiveHome WiFi Extender Repeater w/LAN port [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Vogyal Blue White Red Stripe Swim Trunks Review

Vogyal Blue White Red Stripe Swim Trunks Review

Buy it at Amazon: Vogyal Blue White Red Stripe Swim Trunks [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Nice cut/fit, comfortable, quick-drying, though not every stitch is perfectly hidden or aligned.

These swim trunks made of a 100% opaque nylon fabric that's thin, lightweight, and quick-drying. The outseam on this "Medium" size is 15 inches and the inseam measures 3 inches making these a mid-thigh length short. There is no fly on the front of these shorts. Inside, you have a soft, fine mesh liner. The tag here is an Asian "Medium" which is the equivalent of a US men's XS. The waistband is pretty stretchy and covers a range of about 3 inches (28-30"). In the middle you have two reinforced button holes for the drawstring. On either side there are decent sized mesh-lined pockets that allow the water to drain out through the inside. On the back there are no pockets.

If we take a close look at the stitching and seams on these, at the leg cuffs there's a little bit of an uneven stitch at the point where the two thread ends meet. It's not egregious, but looks a little sloppy up close. Some of the lines are also not exactly flush giving a slightly "off" appearance under scrutiny. However, most of the stitching seems alright on the outside and there were no big "mistakes." Inside, I found a few long thread tails that I had to snip with a sharp pair of scissors. Also, after washing, the unfinished materil edges started to fray slightly, though I expect the seams to hold for at least a season or two. One other thing I should mention is that these should be laundered separately, at least the first couple times, because the red color might bleed a little initially. I found that the mesh liner edges were a little pink after the first wash. However, it's on the inside and you won't see it, but you'll want to avoid staining your other clothing so wash it by itself the frist couple times.

The US XS size fits fit nicely on my 29" waist. It wasn't too tight nor too loose with the drawstring tied. The medium length cut off a few inches above my knees for a fun, sporty look that's still fairly conservative. After getting out of the pool, the swim shorts dried quickly, after about 15-20 minutes in 90 degree heat. Overall, these swim trunks are a nice cut and fit, are comfortable and quick-drying, and are decently made even if the lines for every stitch aren't perfectly hidden or aligned.

Buy it at Amazon: Vogyal Blue White Red Stripe Swim Trunks [Affiliate Link]
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Silkworld Swim Trunks Style 0714 Navy Blue Fish Review

Silkworld Swim Trunks Style 0714 Navy Blue Fish Review

Buy it at Amazon: Silkworld Swim Trunks Style 0714 Navy Blue Fish [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Fun style and print, comfortable, and well-made.

While the style is called navy blue fish, the printed animals are clearly sharks (though technically also "fish"). The trunks are made of a 100% thin and lightweight nylon that's opaque and quick drying. The outseam on this Asian "Large" size is 16 inches and the inseam measures 5 inches making these a mid-thigh length short. In the front you have a false fly-stitch that does not open nor pass through. At the center of the waist you have two metal grommets that feed the drawstring intot he waistband and inside you have a 100% polyester mesh lining with small holes.

The Asian Large size according to Amazon is the equivalent of a US men's Small (30-32"). The waist band is fairly stretchy and expands about 3 inches. On either side there are decently sized mesh-lined pockets and on the back there is one Velcro-flap pocket which despite not having a bleeder hole still allows water to drain through the fabric. If we take a close look at the stitching and seams on these, they're smooth, straight, and even without loose threads. On a 31" waist, the size I received wasn't too tight nor too loose and the drawstring allowed the swim suit to stay on when swimming and diving. The medium short length cut off just below mid-thigh above the knee and wasn't as long as board shorts would be.

After getting out of the pool, the swim shorts dried quickly, after 15 or so minutes in 90 degree weather. Overall, these swim trunks have a fun style and print, were comfortable, and are well-made.

Buy it at Amazon: Silkworld Swim Trunks Style 0714 Navy Blue Fish [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

AUAG Gaming Racing Chair Review

AUAG Gaming Racing Chair Review

Buy it at Amazon: AUAG Gaming Racing Chair [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Comfortable, cool look/style, wide seat and shoulders, easy to assemble but plastic covers are a bit cheap.

This chair requires a bit of assembly on arrival, but it's actually pretty straight forward. You'll receive the chair back and seat, neck pillow, lumbar pillow, 5 plastic caster wheels, two arm bracket covers, the seat adjustment assembly, hydraulic piston, 3-piece piston cover, two arm rests, ABS plastic wheel spoke, a bag of screws with an Allen wrench/screwdriver, and an illustrated instruction sheet. The instructions are fairly simple to follow, even though they don't have don't have any words. Watch the review video above for full assembly instructions. Although the wheels of this chair are plastic with metal stems and lightweight, they're hard and feel pretty durable.

A few tips for assembly: While the arm rests are not labeled left and right, the wider portion of the arm rest should face front with the slightly narrower end facing the back of the chair. When attaching the back to the lower portion of the seat, start on the right hand side with the fixed position metal bracket and tighten those two bolts only about 75% of the way; you'll want a bit of wiggle room to work on the other side. On the left side of the chair, line up the bracket with the two bolt holes and insert two silver bolts. Then tighten them all the way. Once fully tight, you can go back to the other side and tighten those bolts as well. One thing to look out for is that the plastic covers over the metal brackets is a little fragile. In fact there was a small crack in one of the covers that didn't affect performance but was noticeable up close. The other defect I encountered is that one of the screw holes for the plastic covers was not threaded, an oversight that happened during manufacturing, though I was assured by the vendor this was a one-off mistake. Luckily I had a tap/die set and was able to cut the 3 or 4 threads needed to complete the assembly. The thread size is #4-40 for the small black screws.

The chair's material is a PU composite leather but has a very convincing look and feel. The seams on the chair are nicely stitched in even, neat, straight lines. The seat is a racecar style bucket seat that is nice and wide at the legs and at shoulder level. The wheels roll smoothly, even over an area rug, but performs better on hard floors. The chair itself is pretty comfortable, though gets a little hot because of the leather material as it tends to retain and reflect some heat from your body. The lumbar support and neck pillow provide added support for common stress points. The lumbar pillow can be adjusted up and down on the seat by simply sliding it. The seat back can be adjusted and reclined to a full horizontal position as well, and you can also raise and lower the seat using the lower lever under the chair. While seated in the chair, there's a bit of give to the back for rocking and you can lock the rocking ability by pushing in the height adjustment lever and pull it out to unlock it. You can also adjust the amount of rock by tightening the spring on the bottom of the chair by twisting the large plastic knob. Overall, this gaming chair is quite comfortable and gives you a lot of room and freedom, but because the fabric doesn't breathe well, you may feel a little hot or sweaty if you sit in it for a long time on a warm day.

Buy it at Amazon: AUAG Gaming Racing Chair [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Zen Bidet Cascada-350 Sink Installed Bidet Sprayer Review

Zen Bidet Cascada-350 Sink Installed Bidet Sprayer Review

Buy it at Amazon: Zen Bidet Cascada-350 Sink Installed Bidet Sprayer [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Durable all-metal construction, easy to install, strong or gentle spray.

You'll receive the bidet sprayer head, 2-way diverter, a female thread adapter, a male thread adapter, two rubber washers, a sprayer hanging bracket, wall mounting hardware, a roll of plumber's tape, an all metal 5.5' flexible hose, and a set of illustrated instructions. The instructions are well-written and easy to follow with helpful tips, so be sure to read them completely before beginning installation. The way this bidet sprayer works is the diverter will connect to your bathroom sink faucet in place of the typical aerator. The hose connection on the right attaches to the bidet hose and sprayer, while on the bottom you have a faucet aerator, so you can continue to use the sink faucet. The lever on the left allows you to switch the water flow between the faucet on the bottom and the bidet sprayer.

The kit comes with rubber washers to be used at all the connections, so the plumber's tape is not expressly necessary, but you can use it if you experience any leaking. Note that some faucets may require use of an adapter for the diverter to fit the faucet and the kit includes an M24x1 and F22x1 thread adapters. If you need a different size adapter for your sink, reach out to Zen Bidet and they'll either send you the adapter you need or help you find a vendor where you can purchase one. Installation takes only a few minutes and requires no plumbing experience or knowledge. Just make sure your sink tap is off before starting.

With the diverter lever in the up position, when the water is turned on, it will dispense from the faucet on the bottom of the diverter. Moving the lever to the down position cuts off water flow to the aerator and switches it to the bidet. To activate the bidet, press down on the thumb trigger; to stop the flow of water, simply let go of the trigger. There are two ways to adjust the pressure of the bidet spray. One is press the trigger only partway rather than fully, for a gently spray versus a hard spray, and the other is to change the water pressure at the tap. You can also adjust the temperature by using the faucet's mixer or turning on the hot water tap. If you want to use both the faucet and the sprayer at the same time, you can set the diverter level in the middle.

You can store/hang the bidet sprayer head nearby the toilet using the hanging bracket by either wall mounting it or hanging the bracket off the side of the toilet tank. The sprayer is also useful for cleaning your tub or shower or even giving your pets or children a bath. It can be attached to many standard kitchen sink faucets as well, using the same adapters, to add a convenient sprayer for washing dishes if your sink doesn't already have one.

Overall the bidet sprayer is well-made, easy to install, and hygienic. It'll save you money on toilet paper and leave you feeling fresh and clean. You can retrofit almost any sink faucet and still be able to use it to wash your hands after washing up.

Buy it at Amazon: Zen Bidet Cascada-350 Sink Installed Bidet Sprayer [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Ti-Muses Earbuds Tiamat's Newest True Wireless Bluetooth Earphones (WA-01) Review

Ti-Muses Earbuds Tiamat's Newest True Wireless Bluetooth Earphones (WA-01) Review

Buy it at Amazon: Ti-Muses Earbuds Tiamat's Newest True Wireless Bluetooth Earphones (WA-01) [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Affordable truly wireless earphones with decent sound quality, but has connectivity and video sync issues.

You'll receive the earbuds in a small charging case, an instruction manual, microusb charging cable, and three sets of extra silicone ear tips. The case is a small pillbox cylinder shape and has a soft silicone exterior and transparent acrylic lid. The lid is magnetic and simply lifts off. Inside the two earbuds are simply gravity seated in their wireless charging slots. Pressing the silver button in the middle will display the battery life of the case using four leds, each light representing 25% of charge remaining. The case charges via microUSB but is also equipped with Qi wireless charging, so if you have a wireless charging base you can simply set the case down on the pad and it will, start charging as well. The case takes about 2 hours to fully charge and can charge both earbuds fully up to 5 times.

The ear buds come preinstalled with a set of medium eartips but you can easily replace them with the extra small, medium, or large ear tips. The earbuds are clearly labeled ‘L' and ‘R' for left and right. On the outside face is a single power/multifunction button and pinhole mic. The earbuds are sweat and water resistant (IPX5) but cannot be completely submerged in water. The earbuds pair with each other automatically when powered on. The left earbud will always be the primary one that pairs with your phone. Once paired, you'll hear a confirmation message and your phone will stream the audio from music and video files through the earbuds.

During playback you can start or pause playback be single pressing the power button on either earpiece. To skip to the next track short press the power button twice. Because each earpiece is equipped with a microphone, you can also answer incoming calls by short pressing the power button, and you can hangup the call by pressing the button at any time during the call. On a full charge, each earbud can play continuously for about 3 hours depending on playback volume and will start beeping when the battery is low. To charge them, simply place them back in the case and they will turn off automatically. Charging the earbuds takes about 1hr.

Performance wise the audio quality of the earbuds is clear and nicely balanced. The sound stage is fairly narrow, but I was pleasantly surprised with the bass response which was able to produce mid and low bass ranges with good definition although the higher registers tended to sound somewhat thin making distortion in the treble ranges noticeable at louder volumes. With a good seal the passive noise isolation is pretty decent, allowing you to block out most external noise at moderate volumes. My one complaint is that at lower volumes I can hear a bit of signal noise buzzing in the background of the right earbud, which is pretty obvious between tracks, but for the most part it's unnoticeable during playback. There is no volume control on the earbuds so that needs to be controlled through your phone. These earbuds aren't perfect for watching video because the sync lag is fairly apparent resulting in a delay in audio from the video. I also occasionally experienced disconnections which resulted in playback coming through my phone speakers for a few seconds until the earbuds reconnected with the phone. This happened primarily when one or both earbuds were low on battery. The earbuds can also be used singly with mono output.

Overall, for a budget set of true wireless earphones, I think these performed pretty nicely. With decent sounding audio quality, convenient wireless charging for both the earbuds and the case, and a compact form factor; perfect for workouts and leisure listening. These aren't great for watching video though, and the battery life on a single charge isn't great for all day listening though and you would need to charge a few times during the day if you plan to listen for extended periods of time.

Buy it at Amazon: Ti-Muses Earbuds Tiamat's Newest True Wireless Bluetooth Earphones (WA-01) [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, July 20, 2018

Barrel Shape Electric Wine Dispensing Decanter Pump Review

Barrel Shape Electric Wine Dispensing Decanter Pump Review

Buy it at Amazon: Barrel Shape Electric Wine Dispensing Decanter Pump [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Budget friendly, good aeration, quiet operation, but spatters when you reach the end of the wine.

You'll receive the pump unit and an instruction manual. This electric wine decanter pump is a bit larger than other ones that I own. It has a 2.5" diameter and measures 7" from the cork to the top and 10.5" including the telescoping intake tube when retracted. The barrel on top houses the motor and the battery bay. The unit requires 4 AA batteries which are loaded in the bay on the back. On the front side are the pump button and dispensing nozzle which is a short ¾". The telescoping intake tube on the bottom is permanently attached and extends up to 10.5". This makes the pump suitable for use on a variety of bottle sizes. Before first use, you should clean the unit by running plain water through it using a finished wine bottle. Simply press the dispense button to run the pump and draw the liquid through the unit and release the button to stop the flow of liquid.

One thing to note is that the plastic cork end doesn't have a rubber seal on it so when placed in a bottle, it may not seal entirely, and you also don't want to force the cork into the bottle neck as it may be difficult to remove later on or you could damage the plastic. This means that the pump will not be spill proof and will also no preserve your wine if left on the bottle as it allows air the exchange into the bottle over time. When you use this dispenser with wine and especially red wine you'll notice that it adds a lot of air bubbles to the wine and makes it a bit frothy. This is how the pump aerates the wine to open up its bouquet and flavors for a deeper, fuller taste and takes the place of opening the bottle of wine and transferring to a decanter the breathe for 30 minutes before drinking. Because the intake tube goes straight down from the center of the neck, with traditional wine bottles, you won't be able to pump any wine past the punt, or the raised dome at the bottom of the bottle. This helps you avoid adding sediments to your glass.

For me, I prefer my wine aerated as I feel it tends to make the flavors more intense while softening the edges and results in a smoother mouthfeel compared to the same wine that hasn't been aerated. The pump is also a fun and unique shape making it an interesting conversation piece. I found it also reduces the chance of drips, spills, and splashes when serving wine. Just make sure you hold the glass up to the dispenser and don't dispense all the way so that you draw in air, otherwise it tends to spatter and splash at the every end.

Buy it at Amazon: Barrel Shape Electric Wine Dispensing Decanter Pump [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, July 12, 2018

More Dental Lab Custom Bruxism Night Guard Review

More Dental Lab Custom Bruxism Night Guard Review

Buy it at Amazon: More Dental Lab Custom Bruxism Night Guard [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to create custom mold of your teeth for a highly durable and perfectly fitting bruxism night guard. Quick turnaround and affordable.

For a limited time, clip the $10 coupon at Amazon when adding to your cart for instant savings at checkout! Amazon Affiliate Product Link: http://geni.us/3uwRYO

More Dental Lab customer service e-mail: moredentallab@gmail.com

With your order, you'll get a plastic tote with everything you need to make an exact mold of your teeth and send in for More Dental Lab to create your custom night guard. You should receive two tubs of blue molding putty, two tubs of white molding putty, a large and medium size mold tray, a set of detailed instructions, and a mailer envelope to send the finished mold. The instructions for making the mold are clearly printed in easy-to-follow steps and illustrated to help ensure you take a quality impression of your teeth. At the bottom of the instructions is a return card that you need to fill out so More Dental Labs can match your impression to your order and where you'll also select your preferred night guard material type.

Be sure to read the directions carefully and follow them exactly for best result. Taking the impression only takes a few minutes but there's a few things you should keep in mind. There are two sets of impression blue for taking the impression (one blue and one white for each set), which gives you two tries to get a good mold of your teeth. If you need more putty, contact More Dental Lab by e-mail for help: moredentallab@gmail.com. Also, while the instructions indicate you should knead the putty for 80-90 seconds, the material may set faster in warmer ambient room temperatures, so use a stop watch to keep track of time and as soon as the material is one solid color you'll want to move on to the next step.

On the first attempt, I kneaded the putty for the full 90 seconds, but it was about 94°F that day and by the time we were ready to press the mold onto the teeth, the putty had hardened. The second time around, I found 30 seconds of kneading was sufficient to combine the putty thoroughly. When removing the mold, pull firmly as it may feel stuck or take more force than you expect. E-mail More Dental Lab with the information on your return card and they will send you a pre-paid shipping label for your parcel. You may also receive a commercial invoice which you should include on the clear envelope on the front of the mailer. There are three material types that you can choose for your night guard, soft, hard, and extra durable.

I selected the extra durable material which is a clear acrylic type plastic. Compared to the night guard from my dentist, it's pretty similar except that it doesn't have the metal posts embedded in it that help it grip your teeth. The More Dental Labs night guard is also a little softer and slightly flexible while being quite dense, whereas the dentist supplied night guard is harder and not flexible at all. I also have here a soft silicone rubber type night guard (dentist supplied) which is a very flexible one but a little thicker than either of the hard versions. While I don't know for sure, I imagine this would be the material used if selecting the "soft" night guard from More Dental Lab. Their "hard" night guard is supposed to use a thinner material.

The new night guard fits perfectly and comes about halfway up the teeth and not up to the gum line. The fit is snug and they don't slide off your teeth at night. They're also pretty comfortable without any pressure points that can cause jaw pain. The night guard works great for protecting your teeth at night from grinding. Overall, the molding process was straight forward and the mold came out really nice with good quality. Turnaround time was about the same as the dentist's office but at a fraction of the price. There's also a 1 year warranty included with your purchase.

Buy it at Amazon: More Dental Lab Custom Bruxism Night Guard [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Cute Silicone Tea Infusers from Free Walker Review

Cute Silicone Tea Infusers from Free Walker Review

Buy it at Amazon: Cute Silicone Tea Infusers from Free Walker [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Easy to use and clean tea infusers, super cute shapes, but may not fit on all cups/mugs.

You'll receive the following 5 tea infuser shapes: a cute owl tea ball with silicone string, a sleepy-eyed three-toed sloth, a relaxed figurine, a friendly looking smiling shark, and a manatee (mana-tea?) infuser. Each infuser splits in half and has a lower portion where you'll put your loose tea leaves. The silicone rubber is flexible, squishy, and heat-resistant. They won't melt in hot water and don't impart any off-flavors or leech chemicals into your tea. The upper and lower halves snap together with a flexible seal that holds pretty well and won't come apart inadvertently. The capacity of each infuser varies due to their shapes. With the exception of the owl which is used like a standard tea bag or tea ball, the infusers are designed to hang onto the side of your teacup or mug. However, if you have a cup with a flared lip/rim you may find that the strainer of some tea infusers won't be fully submerged. I found this to be true of the relaxed figure and shark infusers when using a coffee cup with an outwardly flared lip. Using different glasses can alleviate the issue. The shark is suited best for a goblet shaped glass with an inward curving rim, which allows the entire strainer portion to be submerged in hot water, because the mouth of the shark is slanted inward slightly. The tea infusers are quite effective allowing water to flow in and out of the strainer portion quickly brewing your tea in just a few minutes.

Overall, these tea infusers are easy to use and clean and super cute, but the hanging ones may not work with every style cup or mug depending on the shape and thickness of the rim at the top. However, for glasses where you can't hang infusers, you can always use the owl by simply dropping it in your cup.

Buy it at Amazon: Cute Silicone Tea Infusers from Free Walker [Affiliate Link]
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FiveHome 12-piece BBQ Grill Tools Set Review

FiveHome 12-piece BBQ Grill Tools Set Review

Buy it at Amazon: FiveHome 12-piece BBQ Grill Tools Set [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Versatile, durable, and functional grill tools in a handy travel case.

The FiveHome barbeque grill tools set comes in a hard metal briefcase carrier. The case itself measures 18"L x 8"W x 3"H. There are two metal latches on the front that keep the lid secured. Inside you'll find 12 tools organized and strapped in by Velcro and elastic bands. All the tools are made of corrosion-resistant stainless steel. You'll receive a spatula, a set of tongs, grill cleaning brush with brass bristles and scraper, a long handled steak knife, two-prong grill fork, high-temp silicone basting brush, three large skewers, and three small skewers. Each tool measures about 17.5" long and most tools have hollow handles that measure about 6.5" long; this makes them lightweight but also prone to denting (mine have a few dings already). On the spatula head there's a built-in bottle opener, drain slots of greasy foods, a large toothed area for tenderizing meat, and a serrated blade section for cutting. Each tool is stamped with the FiveHome logo and at the end of the handles are hanging rings if you want to hang the tools rather than putting them back in the case.

While all the skewers are the same length, the small size ones are about half the width of the larger one and these are suitable for smaller chunks and delicate foods like vegetables. All the skewers have removeable slider disc plates that slide along the entire length of the skewer to help you remove the food from the skewer after cooking. On the small skewers the plates slide off the back when you need to remove them for cleaning and when you slide them forward they lock at the tip and won't slide off. On the large skewers, the rings cannot slide off the back, but slide it forward and you should be able to remove it.

The bristles on the grill brush did a nice job scraping off brunt debris, and I didn't notice any of the bristles shedding or getting stuck to the grill. Always check when using a metal bristle brush for loose or shedding bristles, so they don't end up in your food. The spatula is nice and wide which makes it handy for flipping large burger patties. The tongs allow you to easily grip large pieces of food like the chicken and steak. I also found them useful for repositioning my grill mats. The basting brush worked great for adding extra marinade and sauce to your food while cooking and the silicone is able to withstand the high temperatures without melting. The tips on the skewers are pointed but not sharp enough to pierce your skin so it's relatively safe when adding meats and vegetables, even if you end up poking your hand. The knife is super sharp out of the box so be careful using it. My favorite feature of the skewers is the sliding disc which makes removing the food on it super easy.

With this set, you can prepare just about any BBQ meal from chicken, to steak, burgers, and kabobs. The travel case is convenient for taking the set along to picnic grounds and tailgate parties.

Buy it at Amazon: FiveHome 12-piece BBQ Grill Tools Set [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, June 25, 2018

Holrbos Portable Travel Blanket Review

Holrbos Portable Travel Blanket Review

Buy it at Amazon: Holrbos Portable Travel Blanket [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Waterproof, lightweight, quick drying; easy to layout and pack up.

You'll receive the blanket in a nylon carrying case, a clip on keychain lanyard, and a metal carabiner clip with integrated bottle opener. Inside the case are 4 nylon plastic stakes and the pocket blanket. Rolled up it's about the size of a soda can and weighs about 9 oz (10.5 oz with the stakes). The carabiner lets you easily carry the blanket on your belt or backpack hands-free. Unfolding, laying out, and staking the blanket takes only a minute. The blanket comes in three colors: blue, green, and red. The colored portion of the blanket is limited to the 4 corners on the top side and the carrying case, and the rest of the blanket is a solid black color.

At each corner is a nylon fabric loop for you to insert each of the corner stakes. The stakes have hooks at the top to keep the loop and blanket firmly staked down. In addition, each colored corner acts as a pocket where you can store your belongings or use weights in like sand, rather than the stakes, to hold the blanket down for use on the beach and other loose surfaces. When fully open, the blanket measures 56"W x 83"L. For me, it's more than enough room to lie down and relax on since I'm 5'4". When seated two or more people can fit comfortably (Holrbos advertises up to 5). The material used for the blanket is a durable rip-stop nylon which is a polyester fabric that's tear and puncture resistant. The material is also 100% waterproof allowing water to roll off and quick drying. This makes the blanket a good option for picnics and beaches. You can also use it in a pinch as a rain cover to keep your belongings dry when wet weather strikes.

When it's time to pack up, the blanket folds back down into pocket-able size quickly. Just be sure to roll and squeeze any trapped air out before placing it in the bag. The material is easy to clean by simply wiping down with a damp rag and is also machine washable on the delicate cycle and dries quickly when hang-dried. The Holrbos pocket blanket is a great alternative to using traditional picnic and beach blankets which trap sand and take a long time to dry.

Buy it at Amazon: Holrbos Portable Travel Blanket [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Ol Olive Oil Sprayer Review

Ol Olive Oil Sprayer Review

Buy it at Amazon: Ol Olive Oil Sprayer [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Sprays a fine mist with thin liquids, but oil comes out as a thin stream.

The oil sprayer bottle is made of glass while the cap and pump has a metal exterior over a plastic core. The entire unit measures 7" tall while the glass bottle is 4.5". Just under the spray nozzle is the word Öl which is German for oil. On the back of the cap is the single button for pumping and spraying the contents of the bottle. Inside the feed tube goes all the way to the bottom of the bottle. The cap simply twists off for filling, however, the opening of the bottle is very small so you may want to use a funnel to avoid spilling.

The first time you use it, you'll need to press the pump a couple times to draw the oil into the tube. While the first couple sprays were nice and wide using regular olive oil, almost immediately the spray turned into a thin stream of oil, so it's not really aspirating the oil as much as shooting a single thin stream. I was hoping for a wide spray that would cover food with a mist of oil rather than a concentrated blot of oil in one spot. After several uses, it was clear that this would not work for oil distribution. It just isn't be able to deliver a fine mist like an aerosol sprayer. I think that the oil is simply too thick for the spray nozzle because if I fill the sprayer with plain water, I'm able to get a fine mist. In my opinion it doesn't reason do what it's supposed to, but unless you can find very thin oil, I don't think it will be able to replace an aerosol spray with this product. This is the third oil sprayer that I've tried in addition to the Misto and the Evo oil sprayer. None of them have worked out over the long term. the Misto worked great for a few months before the nozzle got gummed up and turned into a thin stream, much like this one and the Evo. The Evo works inconsistently, sometimes delivering a spray and other times a stream, but delivers a lot of oil per pump and wasn't the ideal solution for me either. the search continues!

Buy it at Amazon: Ol Olive Oil Sprayer [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Maono Lavalier Lapel Microphone Review

Maono Lavalier Lapel Microphone Review

Buy it at Amazon: Maono Lavalier Lapel Microphone [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Boosts speaker audio and reduces ambient noise, but can add line noise or too much gain which causes distortion.

You'll receive a spare LR44H coin cell battery, 2 foam wind screens, a ¼" microphone jack, metal alligator shirt clip, and the microphone with built-in TRRS/TRS switch for using different devices. You'll also receive a faux leather carrying case and an instruction manual. You'll find the second foam wind screen in the carrying case and a battery is pre-installed in the mic. The 1/4" mic plug is an adapter that connects to the built-in 1/8" (3.5mm) mic jack. This is a TRRS (4-pin) plug that can be used with mobile phones but can also be switched to TRS (3-pin) for other devices (e.g. computers, laptops, and digital cameras). The foam windscreen slips over the end of the microphone to reduce ambient noise and wind noise when recording. It's a little tight at first so you have to pull and stretch it out a bit to get it on. The alligator clip snaps onto the mic collar just below the wind screen. The in-line switch is fairly large for what it does, but it's made of a durable/lightweight aluminum metal and has an integrated shirt/belt clip. The length of the cable from the mic to the switch is 4 ft and the remaining length is just over 15 ft for about 19 total feet of cable from the plug to the mic.

The switch only needs to be on when using the mic with TRS devices. When using TRRS devices like smartphones, you do not have to turn the switch on and therefore it won't run down the battery. If using with a digital camera, like a DSLR or mirrorless camera, remember to turn the switch on otherwise it won't pick up any sound. When using the Maono lapel mic with my Sony a6300, the Maono mic offers a more focused sound which captures my voice better and more loudly, versus the on-board mic on the camera. There's also a bit less of the ambient background noise, however, there's a slight hum of line noise. When I tried the mic with my smartphone (with the switch in the OFF position and wearing in the same position) the microphone didn't perform as well, in terms of audio quality. While my voice captured sounded louder, there was significant distortion and clipping making the audio sound constrained and buzzy. I was able to somewhat alleviate this by moving the mic lower on my body, but this might look strange or awkward depending on what you're wearing.

Overall, the Maono mic does a nice job boosting the audio of the person speaking and reducing ambient noise when it's used as a lapel mic. However, performance was inconsistent across devices with the same placement. There was a tiny bit of line noise creeping in with TRRS devices like my camera and noticeable distortion and buzzing with my smartphone when positioned on my collar.

Buy it at Amazon: Maono Lavalier Lapel Microphone [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Yinenn PEVA Shower Curtain Liner Review

Yinenn PEVA Shower Curtain Liner Review

Buy it at Amazon: Yinenn PEVA Shower Curtain Liner [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Impermeable, mold-resistant, and durable; includes stainless steel hanging rings.

You'll receive the shower curtain and a pack of 12 stainless steel curtain ring hangers. The curtain is made from 100% PEVA plastic, a kind of polyethylene vinyl. The listed size of it is 72" x 72" which is pretty accurate to the actual measurements. Along the top are 12 metal stainless steel grommets and at the bottom there are several small magnet weights to hold the curtain to your tub. The magnets are not so strong that they stick to each other.

The curtain hooks measure 2.5" long and have a 5 ball bearings that rotate freely, allowing you to slide the rings smoothly along your curtain rod. To open the ring, squeeze gently and move the inner bar out of the catch. These rings were easy to attach to my curtain rod, although I did need to stretch the opening a bit to get the ring onto the rod. The diameter of the top of the ring is 1.5" which should accommodate most shower curtain rods. Once attached to the rod the curtain slide smoothly along the rod without a problem, and because the rings are completely closed, the curtain can't fall off out of them nor will they accidentally dislodge from the rod. It has good strength too and won't tear easily even if you're a little rough when opening and closing the curtain. The magnets do indeed stick to a metal core tub to prevent water from spraying out.

The plastic material is pretty thick and durable with a clear, yet slightly opaque color. There's no plasticky smell from the curtain like a pure vinyl shower curtain might have. The curtain is slightly less flexible than I expected and the material is somewhat stiff in that it crinkles easily but the weights help pull and straighten it out. The thickness is about 6 mil, similar to the plastic sheeting used in hoop style greenhouses. The curtain is wide enough to provide full coverage of my tub and shower and doesn't let the water escape keeping my floors nice and dry. The PEVA material is water resistant, mold resistant, and completely impermeable, making it less likely to harbor any harmful bacteria that might grow in wet conditions. Water repels and drains down easily via gravity allowing it dry quickly and avoid mold growth, and it's also easily wiped clean with a sponge of damp cloth. Overall, this shower curtain liner has performed well within my expectations over the past month and so far hasn't ripped, torn, or gotten moldy. For increased privacy, use it with an external decorative shower curtain as a second layer that will hang outside of the tub.

Buy it at Amazon: Yinenn PEVA Shower Curtain Liner [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Sens8 All-in-one Home Security System Review

Sens8 All-in-one Home Security System Review

Buy it at Amazon: Sens8 All-in-one Home Security System [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Records video and alerts you with it detects unusual activity, able to monitor remotely, free cloud backup sync.

You'll receive the sensor tower, a power adapter, 5' USB power cable, and an instruction manual. The Sens8 unit measures about 2.75" square and 7.25" tall. It has a futuristic geometric hourglass shape and metalized powder aluminum finish. On top is a loudspeaker, thermometer, and light and humidity sensors. On the front is a 1080p camera lens with night vision infrared lights, and below that you have the motion detector sensor. On the back is the power button just below the logo, and on the bottom is the power port, microphone, and reset button.

The unit is really simple to setup and only takes a few minutes. After downloading the Sens8 app to a mobile device, register your e-mail and then go to the ‘Me' menu to add the Sens8 to your profile. Simply follow the on-screen instructions which only takes a minutes. After the unit is added to your profile, you can start using your Sens8 for remote monitoring from anywhere you have an internet connection. However, you may need to update the firmware in the app in order to get the latest features and bug fixes. The Sens8 has a couple of different ways it can monitor your home and send you alerts about important events. The first is the camera, which can be viewed live at any time via the app. During live view you can take still photos, listen to the audio from the video feed, or transmit audio to the Sens8 using the microphone on your mobile device. You cannot, however, trigger remote video recording. In order for the camera to record video, you have to "arm" the Sens8 either manually or by setting a schedule. The scheduler lets you add any number of blocks of time when you want the unit armed with the option to repeat that schedule on any day of the week. You can also have the Sens8 detect the location of your smartphone and auto-arm when you are not home, provided you take your phone with you.

When armed, the unit record events when the motion detector is triggered. Each recording lasts 90 seconds and will backtrack 5 seconds prior to the motion event. If motion continues past 90 seconds, a new file will be created for that clip. There's no option to record a different length clip or continue the video file if there are back to back motion events, so one of the things that isn't super convenient is that you end up with a series of short clips rather than one longer video file. The video quality of the recorded footage is pretty good though with 1080p HD resolution that provides plenty of detail, even in pitch black conditions using the night vision mode. However the audio can sometimes sound a bit muffled and transmitted audio is boxy/staticky and at times, garbled.

The video files are saved locally to the Sens8 device which has 8 GB of internal storage, or enough for about 800 video clips (90 seconds each). The unit will automatically record over the oldest video files when the storage is full. You can link the Sens8 to your DropBox or Google Drive account for free cloud storage and automatic backing up of the video clips and it will upload them automatically in real time. This feature is great because it allows you to use a cloud storage solution that you may already have and you don't need to pay for yet another subscription for this service, unlike other security systems; free if you're already using DropBox or Google Drive. If you don't have a DropBox account, sign up for a free one using this referral link and you'll get a bonus 500 MB of storage when you sign up!

In addition to recording video and sending alerts to your mobile device, you can also have the Sens8 trigger a loud audible alarm/siren when it detects motion, a loud noise, or changes in temperature and humidity beyond a chosen threshold. These alerts are also useful if you want to use them to let you know when you may want to trigger other remote smart home devices like an air conditioner if the room gets too hot or dehumidifier if the humidity is too high. You can also turn the alarm on manually during live view to scare away intruders or speak to someone in the room using the talk feature. There are three alarm sounds to select from which sound off at a loud 95 decibels. The Sens8 includes a built-in backup battery (non-replaceable) which will keep the unit running for 90 minutes in case of a power outage as well you you'll be protected for a while even if the power goes out or the breaker is tripped.

You can also add multiple Sens8 units to your profiles to monitor multiple rooms and locations and share these devices with family members, so they can keep a lookout for you too. Overall, the Sens8 gives you a lot of ways for you to monitor your home while you're away from home for a bit of peace of mind.

Buy it at Amazon: Sens8 All-in-one Home Security System [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, June 8, 2018

Oittm Outdoor Smart WiFi Outlet (New 2018 Version) Review

Oittm Outdoor Smart WiFi Outlet Review

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

Takeaway: Easy to connect and control, reliable, works with Alexa.

You'll receive the outlet and a brief instruction manual. Last year, I reviewed the original Oittm outdoor outlet and the new version is a little bit different. The new one is slightly more compact, measuring 4.5" x 2.25" x 1.5". It has the same 7" three-prong grounded plug, now with a round shape, and a 3-prong receptacle on the bottom, newly covered by a rubber door. On the back you have the same hanging hole and added are rubber covers for the screw holes. The on/off switch on the front is now rubberized and less likely to stick versus the original hard plastic button. The max Watts rating has decreased slightly to 1875W from 2000W and only outputs 15Amps versus the original 16A. However, it remains IP44 rated for water resistance and should be able to handle wet outdoor conditions just as well and my older unit has been installed outdoor for nearly 6 months without a problem.

To use the WiFi remote control feature, you'll need to connect the device to your home WiFi network and use a mobile device with a control app. The manual recommends the Oittm Smart app, but since I'm already using Smart Life for most of my IoT devices, I use that instead. the unit only takes about a minute to setup and is super simple by following the on-screen directions in the app. The timer and remote functions are great for outdoor lighting installations like holiday or landscape lighting. The ability to track the electricity usage it nice for budgeting and tracking those kinds of stats when you have new devices. Overall, the outlet works exactly as I expected it to, and is pretty convenient to control remotely. Even if you don't use Alexa, you can control the outlet from anywhere there's an internet connection with your smartphone.

Buy it at Amazon: Oittm Outdoor Smart WiFi Outlet [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

FeiyuTech vimble 2 Smartphone Handheld Gimbal Review

FeiyuTech vimble 2 Smartphone Handheld Gimbal Review

Buy it at Amazon: FeiyuTech Vimble 2 Smartphone Handheld Gimbal [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Eliminates shaky movements and creates smooth motion video with your phone, but Bluetooth is unreliable and app crashes often.

The Vimble 2 comes in a semi-rigid zippered carrying case that's got a handle on one side, though no shoulder strap. Inside you'll find the gimbal, a wriststrap, a small tripod with ¼"-20 screw that can be attached to the bottom of the gimbal. When folded up, it extends the length of the handle by several inches allowing for a better two-handed grip and when open you can stand the gimbal up hands-free. In the zipper pocket you'll find the microUSB charging cable and instructions manuals in Chinese and English. On my unit, the tilt axis motor's metal accent cover wasn't adhered properly and had fallen off, though I was successfully able to stick it back on. Other than that, the construction is mostly a lightweight plastic, with a rubberized phone grip that can accommodate phones with widths of 2.25" to 3.25" and with max weight up to 210g. On the side against the motor is another rubber bumper for your phone to rest against. There's a microUSB port covered by a rubber door on top of the mounting arm that's supposed to allow you to charge your phone off the gimbal's battery, but it requires a special cable which is not included. All three axes have a limit of 320° rotation and cannot continuously rotate in the same direction past a certain point, so you won't be able to get 360° pans or revolutions and may encounter resistance or odd behavior from the gimbal in certain positions that approach those limits.

The mounting arm can be extended about 1.5cm to allow you to balance the roll-axis depending on the weight of the phone you use. The positions are marked so that you can easily set it to the same spot each time you attach your phone. The mounting bracket can also be rotated 90° to put your phone in portrait mode for filming vertical video and panoramic photos. On the handle are the LED status light, 4-way joystick for manipulating the position of your phone, a mode key, and a Bluetooth shutter/record key. On the right side is a slider that allows you to adjust the zoom of the camera when the gimbal is paired to your phone over Bluetooth and on the left hand side is the microUSB charging port for the gimbal's battery covered by a rubber door. Opposit the thumb controls is a trigger accessible with your index finger for locking the orientation of the camera. Towards the bottom of the handle is a small bridge where you can attach the wriststrap for extra security. In the hand, the gimbal is pretty light at 0.5 lb and is comfortable to hold and operate. Charging takes several hours, and when the battery is full, it can run for 5-10 hours depending on usage. This gimbal also serves as a selfie-stick with a telescoping handle that adds an extra 7 inches of reach while stabilizing. The column extends and retracts by simply pulling and pushing the pan axis motor in and out of the handle.

Due to the restrictive size of the phone mount, for most larger phones you'll find that you need to remove your phone case in order for it to fit in the bracket. Another issue I found was that due to the camera and charging port placement on my phone, I wasn't able to charge my phone in landscape mode while using the gimbal. In portrait mode, however, charging the phone would not have been an issue. Before turning on the gimbal, you may need to do some minor balancing by adjusting the side-to-side position of the mounting arm to get your phone as close to level as possible; however, it doesn't need to be perfect. You'll need to download the Vicool app and pair to it via Bluetooth if you want to use all the features of the gimbal. Unfortunately, I found the Bluetooth performance on the gimbal to be inconsistent, sometimes pairing, and sometimes not pairing and oftentimes disconnecting at some point during use. Some features are not available if the gimbal isn't connected to the app via Bluetooth either, for example zooming with the slider on the handle, using the onboard shutter for snapping photos or starting and stopping video. Bluetooth is also required for adjusting the gimbal and camera settings like motor power and speed, calibration, and wireless updating of the gimbal's firmware.

In addition to normal photo mode in the Vicool app, there's also a panoramic and time lapse photo mode. For time-lapse videos, you can setup the pan and tilt speeds in the auto rotation menu. The time-lapse function worked well and resulted in a pretty cool fast-forward style rotating video clip. The other feature that I though worked well was the face tracking feature, although your face has to be well lit and you should be at least several feet away from the camera otherwise it may not follow you correctly. One feature that didn't work at all during my testing was the object follow feature. You would think that because face tracking worked, this would work just as well, however, I couldn't get it to capture or follow any object and most of the time the app would just crash when I entered the mode. In general the app doesn't seem to be entirely stable most times and in addition to the Bluetooth connection cutting out, the app would also crash fairly reguarly, like in the middle of filming which was frustrating.

As for stabilization performance, the gimbal did a nice job with its primary function. There's a few quirks with setting the pan, yaw and tilt speeds just right and you have to try and avoid approaching the rotational limits otherwise the gimbal can change position unexpectedly, but with practice you can get pretty smooth shots. The deal breaker for the app though is that the video recorded in the app doesn't have great quality. The compression used dropped plenty of frames making footage look choppy. The video captured using the stock Android camera app with the gimbal was much smoother with a consistent frame rate, but the drawback is that you cannot use the onboard shutter and zoom controls. Overall, as a stabilizer the Vimble 2 will remove most of the shake and wobble from handheld filming with your phone. The Bluetooth connection isn't the best and the app could use a lot of work as it crashes a lot and doesn't capture great quality video. However, if you can live without the physical zoom and shutter controls, there's no reason why you can't use a different camera app while stabilizing with the gimbal.

Buy it at Amazon: FeiyuTech Vimble 2 Smartphone Handheld Gimbal [Affiliate Link]
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