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.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Meterk Automatic Wire Stripper and Crimper Tool Set Review

Meterk Automatic Wire Stripper and Crimper Tool Set Review

Buy it at Amazon: Meterk Automatic Wire Stripper and Crimper Tool Set [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Adjustable tension, quick wire stripping, secure crimps w/good leverage.

The tools come in a zipper carry case and include the wire stripper too, crimper, and hex screwdriver. The set also includes 3 additional sets of dies for different sized connector diameters. On the wire stripper there are some extra functions in the handle like a wire cutter, insulated wire crimper, and non-insulated wire crimper.

To strip a wire, insert it horizontally between the teeth, then simply squeeze the handles together and it will strip and remove the cut insulation. The teeth on the crimper are adjustable in tension for wire from 10 to 24 gauge (thickness). Be sure not to apply too much tension as this can cause the stripper to cut too deeply damaging the wire under the insulation or even cut through it. The stripper has a strip length gauge so you can set the length of the stripped portion of wire from ¼" to 5/8" to ensure all your wires are stripped the same amount. I found this plastic piece to be a little flimsy/short but if you take your time, it suits its purpose. The cutter in the handle works well for rough cutting wire ends. The crimper in the stripper handle is a bit difficult to use since you have to squeeze really hard, so I use the dedicated crimping tool instead.

Since the dies are interchangeable, each section is marked or color coded to indicate the diameter of the connector to be crimped. The dies are easily changed using the included hex screwdriver (which is also reversible to a Phillips-head screwdriver). These crimping pliers are ratcheting and have good leverage that make crimping easy. The positive stop feature allows it to keep its grip on the connector/wire even if you let go of the handle. You'll have to squeeze until the crimp is completed before it will release. With this ratcheting crimper the crimps are quick, easy, and secure. Overall, for the whole tool set works well and is useful for different wire types and terminal sizes.

Buy it at Amazon: Meterk Automatic Wire Stripper and Crimper Tool Set [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

808 Audio EarCanz Tru Wireless Earbuds Review

808 Audio EarCanz Tru Wireless Earbuds Review

Buy it at Amazon: 808 Audio EarCanz Tru Wireless Earbuds [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Bright/balanced audio, good isolation, stay in place, but occasional connection issues and lack bass, charging case.

You'll receive the true wireless earbuds with a semi-rigid clamshell carrying case, a split microUSB charging cable, two additional sets of silicone eartips and wing stabilizers, a pair of plastic earhooks and a quickstart guide. The earbuds are compact and lightweight and measure about 1" long and 1" wide. The earbuds come pre-installed with the medium size silicone eartips and stabilizing wings, but there are small and large sets included so you can find the right fit. The plastic ear hooks are optional if you're having trouble getting these to stay in your ears during physical activity like running, but I didn't have a problem with them falling out of my ears and the wing stabilizers seemed to do a decent job keeping them in place.

The earbuds don't charge wirelessly in a battery case like many other true wireless headphones. You'll still have to charge via a microUSB cable, although with the split bale you can charge both using a single USB port. A fully charge will last about 3 hours of listening time depending on playback volume. When you power on the right earpiece and then the left, they'll pair to each other automatically. Then you can pair the right earpiece to your phone. However, either earpiece can be used independently too; to place one of the ear buds into paring mode, hold down the power button for a few extra seconds when powering on until the unit beeps, then let go and it will be in individual paring mode. In general, the earbuds paired with each other automatically every time, though on a few occasions I have had them disconnect from each other so that sound was only coming out of one earpiece. Powering them off and on again helped reset them and correct the problem.

The sound from the earbuds is decent. It's mostly balanced though skews a bit bright so cymbals can sound harsh and female vocals may carry extra sibilance. The bass and mid bass ranges are clear and present but without very heavy low bass. Passive noise isolation also is pretty good when you're listening at moderate volumes, but at low volumes and quiet passages, there was a lot of static and white noise. The power button also doubles as the play/pause, with a single press, and next track, with a double press, for music playback control. You can also answer and hang up calls with a single press when paired with a mobile phone. However, there's no volume control on the earbuds. These earbuds are sweatproof but don't have an advertised IPX rating. That said, I have rinsed them off under the tap and they still seem to work fine.

Overall, these are a decent sounding pair of true wireless earbuds. They don't have all the bells and whistles like wireless charging or a battery case so you'll have to find a way to charge them every 3 hours or so, but so the convenience of not having to deal with a tangled neck cable, these aren't too bad.

Buy it at Amazon: 808 Audio EarCanz Tru Wireless Earbuds [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, February 26, 2018

XYUN Mesh Laundry Bags Review

XYUN Mesh Laundry Bags Review

Buy it at Amazon: XYUN Mesh Laundry Bags [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Helps separate your wash easily, stand up to machine wash/dry cycles, non-shrinking.

You'll receive four mesh polyester laundry bags and two lingerie bags. Of the four bags, the smallest is 11" x 16" color coded yellow, then you have two medium size 15" x 20" color coded green, and a large 19" x 24" colored blue. The lingerie bags are pink cylinders. The bag measures 12" with an 8" diameter and the tote is 6" with a 6.5" diameter and plastic top/bottom supports to keep its shape.

The materials used for the mesh are sturdy and durable. They stood up fine in my top load washer on the "intensive" cycle and the dryer on high heat without tearing or shrinking. However, since they are made of mesh you need to be careful of clothing with Velcro (like men's swim trunks) as the hooks can grab and create pulls in the material. All the seams are stitched on the interior and clean without any loose threads. The zipper pulls used are plastic but are smooth sliding and be hidden under the elastic tabs at the end of the zippers, so they won't get caught or damaged in the wash. These laundry bags do a nice job separating your clothing in the wash for things that get easily tangled, lost, or stretched like stockings, underwear, socks, and lingerie. Overall, these bags are pretty heavy duty and work exactly as advertised. You can even use them for packing and storage to separate categories of items.

Buy it at Amazon: XYUN Mesh Laundry Bags [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, February 23, 2018

Anmade Mini DLP Pico Projector Review

Anmade Mini DLP Pico Projector Review

Buy it at Amazon: Anmade Mini DLP Pico Projector [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Clear picture, compact and portable, use w/BT speaker for better audio, avg battery life.

The mini DLP projector comes with a USB power cable, a wall adapter power cable, a mini tripod, remote control, and an instruction manual. I also received a 1GB microSD card shipped separately which contained a software update.

The projector has a glossy black finish on top and measures 6"W x 3"L x 3/4"H. The outer frame is aluminum and the bottom has a really cool pixel pattern as well as the fan exhaust and 1/4"-20 thread hole for mounting to a tripod. You can use any standard tripod and not just the mini one that's included. On the front, the projector lens is on the long side, then to its left is the focus wheel for adjusting the image focus. On the back is the external speaker, power button, HDMI in, headphone audio out, DC power port, USB input, pinhole reset, and microSD card slot. There are no physical playback controls on the body of the unit, so be sure not to lose the remote control. When you plug the unit it, it will start charging the internal battery and the LED indicator on the top just below the logo will flash red. On a full charge the player can last about 2 hours of playback, so make sure to plug it in or use a portable battery pack if you're watching a long movie where you won't have access to an outlet. The length of the wall adapter cable is 6.5' but the USB cable is about 40". It's just a shame it uses a barrel style plug rather than a more standard microUSB connector for the power.

The projector is quick to boot up and comes pre-loaded Android OS 4.4.4, and the interface is similar to a tablet or smartphone. It has built-in WiFi that you can use to connect to your home WiFi network and Bluetooth capability as well so you can stream the audio to a speaker or headphones. Using the remote to navigate the interface is fairly easy, though sometimes when you can't find your position, you have to bring up the cursor on the screen by pressing the 'mouse' button on the remote. Using a wireless keyboard/mouse make things much easier and the single USB port is expandable with a USB hub (not included) for adding multiple devices. The remote also lets you change the volume and adjust the screen keystone if to square up the image, but you can do this from the settings menu as well. It also has a pretty good auto-keystone calibration that detects the tilt of the projector and adjusts keystone automatically.

Out of the box, I wasn't able to get the Google Play Store to work which prevented me from downloading apps through it. Thankfully, the vendor sent me the software update on an SD card and it was easy to perform. After the update, the Google Play Store seems to work fine. When installing apps, be mindful of ones that require swiping (for scrolling etc.) because you may not be able to execute all the commands with just the included remote.

The 100ANSI lumen brightness of this projector makes the image hard to see in a brightly lit room, but once the lights are dimmed or if used in complete darkness the image is of decent quality. The image brightness will decrease as you increase the projected image size by moving the projector farther away from your screen. Adjusting the focus is easy with the focus wheel although text also becomes somewhat blurry at larger display dimensions (greater than 50" diagonal) as the native output resolution for this projector is only 480p. Therefore, individual pixels may be visible at larger display sizes. It can, however, accept input resolutions of up to 1080p but steps down the quality in the projection. The color depth and contrast are better than I expected and images were clear and crisp. The onboard audio, however, is small and boxy. If you're sitting close to the projector the volume gets loud enough to drown out the fan noise but it won't be adequate for a larger crowd. You're better off wiring to a speaker/home theater system or streaming to a Bluetooth device. I was pretty impressed that there was very little noticeable lag between audio and picture when using Bluetooth headphones/speakers, even while streaming video from the internet from the YouTube and Netflix apps. There was virtually no delay/lag in the audio when playing videos via WiFi, USB, SD card, or HDMI.

If you have an Android phone you can cast your screen wirelessly to the projector too (I didn't have an iOS device to test with), but note that there may be a slight delay between what happens on your phone and the image and sound that appears on the projector screen. With two wireless transfers to consider (one to your phone and then to the projector and perhaps a third to a BT speaker) this can create a significant delay that makes video and audio choppy, out-of-sync, and garbled. Wireless screen sharing is best reserved for displaying photos or slideshows for work presentations.

Overall, I think you get the best resolution, brightness, and saturation at 50" and under, but the projector still displays a really nice image even at large dimensions of up to 120" diagonal (~13' from the screen). It works extremely well as a WiFi streaming video player and when paired with a Bluetooth home theater system makes for a pretty awesome movie night or gaming experience.

Buy it at Amazon: Anmade Mini DLP Pico Projector [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Noah Group Megatron Metal Bed Frame Assembly and Review

Noah Group Megatron Metal Bed Frame Assembly and Review

Buy it at Amazon: Noah Group Megatron Metal Bed Frame [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Sturdy, straightforward assembly, a few cosmetic defects but don't see them anyway.

The bed requires assembly that took me about 40 minutes with relatively little frustration. Be sure to check to contents of the box against the parts list on the instructions to verify that you have everything you need to assemble the frame before getting started. One thing to keep in mind when putting the bed together is that there are specific orientations for the feet, and sides of the frame to make sure you can mount all the slats and bars correctly. The 20 slats were thinner and narrower than I expected, and all the pieces are hollow which keeps the frame fairly lightweight at about 50 lbs. One of things I didn't like about this frame was that some of the bars had scratches/scrapes on them where the pieces were touching in the box. One of the plastic feet was also loose/cracked but still usable. These cosmetic defects haven't affected the frame structurally and in general I don't mind because I never see the flaws as they're hidden under the bed.

During assembly the trickiest part was lining up the holes for the screws to go through when attaching pieces together. I'd say 80% of the screws fit just fine with the other 20% needing a little wiggling and a few turns from the Allen wrench to get through. For the head and foot struts, I found that the bars that go into the foot bracket sometimes fit better when I flipped them over. I think those pieces may have a "top " and "bottom" that lets them fit and have the holes line up properly. The slats for the mattress don't screw into the frame. They simply slide into holder brackets but they're secure and don't move around. This also makes the frame easy to disassemble if you need to move it. While the slats seem durable enough, but I'd be cautious of putting too much weight in the middle of a single bar during assembly because others have reported that these could bend.

When used with a memory foam mattress, like the one I have, there's very little stress, motion, and movement transfer to the frame itself. Even when jumping on the bed, trying to shake it, and moving it around the room, the frame remained silent and structurally sound. With a traditional innerspring mattress things may be a little more dicey especially if you don't use a box spring or plywood over the slats to even out the pressure on individual bars.

My mattress weighs about 150 lbs and I weigh about 125 lbs; I typically sleep on one side of the bed (not in the middle), and I haven't had any issues with the bedframe so far (been using it for a month). Overall it seems pretty solid. I like the construction quality, although it took a little longer to assemble than expected. Cosmetic defects aside, I didn't have any major issues with mine. I expect it to last with my mattress, but I'll update this review if the frame starts to fail or if I have other issues.

Buy it at Amazon: Noah Group Megatron Metal Bed Frame [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Stainless Steel Folding Lotus Steamer Basket with Handle Review

Stainless Steel Lotus Steamer Basket with Handle (GA HomeFavor) Review

Buy it at Amazon: Stainless Steel Folding Lotus Steamer Basket with Handle [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Compact, non-stick cookware safe, works well, easy to clean.

This stainless steel steamer basket has a 7" diameter when folded up and a 3.5" height. The plastic handle on top is extendable an additional 1.5". The leaves of the basket open up to a width of 11" and have small perforations. On the bottom are three fold out legs that allow up to 1.5" of water underneath the basket. The feet on them have silicone rubber pads on them so they won't scratch your non-stick cookware. The plastic piece in the middle is hard plastic though, like the handle. The steamer basket is lightweight and the handle lets you remove it from your pots and pans easily. Let's try it out in my non-stick flat bottomed wok. After adding a little water, I can place the steamer into the pan and add some pork buns to be steamed. So there they are steaming away; the perforations allow the food to be steamed on all sides. Although the handle is plastic, you'll still want to use gloves when lifting it out of the hot pan as the surfaces may be hot and the steam itself could burn you. After a minute of cooling down it's safe to touch the handle and remove your food. None of the plastic seems to have been affected by the heat, although your food only comes in contact with the steel parts of the basket. The food also releases easily and doesn't stick to the metal. The steamer basket stores compactly, is easy and convenient to use, and works well.

Buy it at Amazon: Stainless Steel Folding Lotus Steamer Basket with Handle [Affiliate Link]
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Beelink BT3 Mini PC Review

Beelink BT3 Mini PC Review

Buy it at Amazon: Beelink BT3 Mini PC [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Responsive, fully functional, tiny, and silent PC for basic computing/productivity.

You'll receive the mini PC, a metal mounting bracket with hardware, an AC Power adapter, a long and short HDMI cable, and a couple brief manuals. The mini PC is constructed with a lightweight plastic housing and is small and compact measuring 4.5" square by 1" tall. It weighs only 10 oz. On the right hand side is a full size SD card slot and two USB 2.0 ports. On the back is the power button, power input port, USB 3.0 port, HDMI out, Ethernet jack, headphone out port, and pinhole reset button. Then on the right you have a VGA outport. On the bottom are 4 rubber feet and two screw holes for use with the mounting bracket. There is on board speaker.

Inside, the PC is running on a 64-bit Intel Atom x5 processor, with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB storage space. It's also got built-in a/b/g/n dual band WiFi receiver and Bluetooth 4.0. All you need for setup is a monitor/TV for a display and a USB keyboard and mouse. This PC comes pre-installed with Windows 10 Home edition and setup takes about 10 minutes. About half of the 32 GB storage space is taken up by the operating system, you can however expand the memory up to 128 GB using the full size SD card slot. This doesn't however, let you install the latest Windows 10 update (Fall Creators Edition). After installing all necessary security updates and loading Microsoft Office, I had a little less than 5 GB of the primary hard drive remaining so there's not much room for other programs on the main drive.

In general the processes are responsive though can be a bit sluggish (3-5 seconds loading time), especially if you are running multiple programs at the same time. Browsing webpages, watching streaming video content, and launching productivity apps like Microsoft Word and Excel worked fine overall. I did notice that the internet speed was much slower over WiFi than with my other devices, but this is perhaps more due to its distance from my router than a hardware limitation. The PC is also completely silent when running because there is no fan or spinning hard drive. This makes it great for recording audio as it minimizes background noise.

Overall, this mini PC should work well for your basic computing needs. You can get online, run a few apps, and maybe play a few casual games. It won't be able to handle intense computing like photo and video editing or 3D rendering, but if you need a simple workstation to browse the web or control smart home devices, this should work just fine.

Buy it at Amazon: Beelink BT3 Mini PC [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

EMS Ab and Bicep Muscle Stimulator Workout Pads Review

EMS Ab and Bicep Muscle Stimulator Workout Pads Review

Buy it at Amazon: EMS Ab and Bicep Muscle Stimulator Workout Pads [Affiliate Link]
Not in stock? Try this one from Gearbest: http://bit.ly/2MOTSca [Gearbest Affiliate Product Link]

Takeaway: Good for toning/massaging muscle, strong EMS pulses, battery sometimes comes loose.

You'll receive three pieces in this set individually boxed. There's a large ab trainer pad and two bicep trainers. All the units are made of semi-rigid, flexible silicone. On the backs are the electrical stimulation points marked and templated to fit the gel pads in silver. The square box is the control unit which accepts the included CR2032 coin cell battery with each unit. You'll get a plastic 'key' to open the battery door, but if you lose it you can also use a coin. The battery is installed flat or positive side up and you should hear a beep if it is seated correctly (the door will close even if the battery isn't properly seated, but the unit won't turn on). The cardboard pads are for storage after applying the conductive sticky pads. You can store everything in the included ziptop bag, although my bags started to come apart at the side seams rather quickly. The spandex/neoprene belts are worn over the units to keep them in place and maintain good skin contact with the gel pads.

The instruction manual is pretty clear and illustrated, but note that the English section starts about halfway through the booklet. The control interface only has a plus and minus button to control the impulse intensity and on/off. The unit turns on as soon as you press the '+' button and starts at level 1, but can go up to level 20. The '-' button decreases the level and if you press and hold it, turns the unit off. Installing the gel pads for the units only takes a couple minutes. You just have to be careful not to let the pads fold onto themselves and try not to touch the sticky parts too much with your fingers during application.

Since I have a busy schedule, I don't really have much time to work out at all. I use these machines at my desk while I'm working and each one runs for about 15 minutes. I can control the intensity and the bicep pads can also be used on other parts of your body like legs and back. For me, I currently use the ab trainer at about level 10 out of 20. The EMS pulses are moderately intense and at 20 can feel somewhat painful. The 'workout session' cycles through a number of different patterned pulses which range from short quick bursts to longer kneading contractions. With the ab trainer, it is slim enough to wear and use under a shirt. However, the bicep trainers are harder to use under clothing and the electrical pulses tends to run down my arm and shake it or contract my hand and fingers. This prevents me from using my hands while the bicep trainers are in use, so plan accordingly.

For me, I found that after 6 weeks of use about every other day, I did gain some muscle definition in my abs and got a very modest increase in mass in my bicep circumference (1/8"). The results occurred in absence of any other type of directed muscle training for these muscle groups. I wouldn't say that the EMS trainers are particularly good for weight loss as you don't burn a significant number of calories when using them. Their primary use in rehabilitation and physical therapy is to prevent muscle atrophy. They do induce very real fatigue after you use them though, so I recommend taking breaks between uses to recover.

The bicep pads are also quite nice as muscle massagers for other parts of your body and can work some tension out of your muscles if you're experiencing pain or soreness. Overall, these EMS units are pretty effective muscle stimulators. The contractions are strong and they're easy to apply and remove. They seems to help a little with muscle toning and preventing muscle loss, though for significant weight loss and large muscle gains you will need to implement a good diet and strength training plan.

Buy it at Amazon: EMS Ab and Bicep Muscle Stimulator Workout Pads [Affiliate Link]
Not in stock? Try this one from Gearbest: http://bit.ly/2MOTSca [Gearbest Affiliate Product Link]
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Monday, February 19, 2018

Antop Indoor Curved HDTV Antenna AT-211B Review

Antop Indoor Curved HDTV Antenna AT-211B Review

Buy it at Amazon: Antop Indoor Curved HDTV Antenna AT-211B [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Good reception in my area, plenty of channels when placed near a window.

You'll receive the antenna with 10' integrated coaxial cable, instruction manual, and a wall adapter. The anntena cable has an integrated 'smart pass amplifier' that enables this receiver to receive signals at a farther distance of up to 40-50 miles from the source, but it needs to be plugged into a wall and switched on to operate. When the filter is off, the LED light will be yellow indicating normal reception and when it's on the indicator will be green indicating boosted reception. The antenna itself has a plastic body that's curved and measures 4.5" x 9". There are two telescoping rabbit ears that extend up to 20.5" and are rotatable 180 degrees. The antenna also features a built-in 3G and 4G filter to reduce or eliminate interference from cellular phones. I used the antenna with a mini TV tuner on my tablet and computer and I was able to get about 40-45 channels depending on the location in my house. The best reception came from the second floor near a north facing window (towards the NY metro area). The video and audio quality are decent depending on the signal strength of each channel though things like the weather and other electrical devices can cause interference. Occasionally, there is some digital distortion/noise in the image and/or audio. The antenna also worked fine on my HDTV when set to antenna as the source and running the auto-scan. Overall, the HDTV antenna was easy to set up and basically plug-and-play. It performed well in my area which is close to two metro areas with plenty of broadcast towers and while not as reliable a solution for cord cutting as streaming content over the internet, these broadcasts are free and will work even if your internet goes out or the connection is slow.

Buy it at Amazon: Antop Indoor Curved HDTV Antenna AT-211B [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, February 16, 2018

Tantan Smart WiFi Outlet Wireless Socket Plug Review

Tantan Smart WiFi Outlet Wireless Socket Plug Review

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

Takeaway: Works well w/Alexa, control from anywhere w/internet connection, a bit large, shows power usage.

You'll receive the WiFi outlet and a brief instruction manual. The outlet has a plastic housing and measures 2-3/8" square and 1-1/4" thick. It has a three prong grounded plug and a single power button on the left hand side with an embedded status LED. The outlet can handle up to 2200 W and 10A draw. The unit is a bit large and plugging it into a two outlet panel will block the second outlet. The trade-off is that you get power usage monitoring, which the smaller smart outlets generally don't support. If you use this outlet in the "bottom" outlet of a dual outlet panel it only blocks the ground pin, so potentially you could still use the upper socket with a two-prong plug.

To set up the socket on your home WiFi network and control it, you'll need to download and install the Smart Life app to a mobile device. Set up for the outlet took only a few minutes and is painless. In the app you can name the plug to its "call out" name for Alexa which also makes it easy to identify which outlet you are controlling. The app can turn the outlet on/off, set a schedule, or start a countdown timer for on and off. The usage statistics show current voltage, current draw and Watt consumption which you can track over time.

With an Alexa enabled device, like the Echo Dot, you can use Alexa voice commands to turn on and off the power to the outlet. Just make sure you have the Smart Life skill enabled in your Alexa app and run discovery mode to add the outlet to your list of devices. The outlet works just fine and lets me control the outlet from anywhere with an internet connection using the app. Or when I'm at home, I can use Alexa voice commands to turn it on or off. If they can make these a little smaller (or a different shape) so two can fit an dual outlet panel together that would be ideal.

Buy it at Amazon: Tantan Smart WiFi Outlet Wireless Socket Plug [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Coctione Electric Water Boiler Kettle Review

Coctione Electric Water Boiler Kettle Review

Buy it at Amazon: Coctione Electric Water Boiler Kettle [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Boils water fast, keeps warm for a long time, shuts off automatically.

You'll receive the kettle and the electric base plate. The kettle has a plastic handle, base, and exterior body but the inside of the carafe is all tempered glass and stainless steel. The carafe measures 9.5" tall, and has a 6.5" diameter (excluding the 3" of the protruding handle). On top is a plastic lid with a stainless steel facade and spring latch to open it. Inside there's a mesh filter for the pour spout. As the lid is well above the max fill line your water is never touching any plastic. Around the base is a stainless steel accent ring with the brand name stamped on it. The outer plastic shell is insulated from the inner glass pitcher with an air gap so that the exterior doesn't get as hot as the contents of the kettle which reduces the likelihood of burns if you touch the outside while the unit is on. The kettle weighs about 40 oz when empty, or about 2.5 lbs but is quite heavy when full (about 5 lbs). The electric base measures 8" x 6.75" x 1.25" tall. It has a glossy glass surface with touch buttons and in the middle is the heating coil which the kettle sits atop. The power cord is 28" long and heavy duty.

The maximum amount of liquid you can heat is 1.7 liters or about 7 cups. To boil the contents of the kettle, touch the power button and it will be set to boil. Note that touching the power button will always boil the water, even if you press the keep warm settings afterward. If you don't want the contents to boil, for example heating cold milk to 40° C, simply press the keep warm button to cycle to the temperature you want and do not press the power button (which they should have just labeled 'boil'). I've been using the kettle daily for several weeks and it works really as. The cold water from my tap is usually around 60° F and it takes just under 8 minutes to reach a rolling boil. I like that the kettle shuts itself off after boiling so that it won't boil dry and I don't have to watch the unit the whole time. The kettle lights up with a blue LED while heating to let you know when it's on. After boiling, if you want the kettle to keep the water warm, tap the keep 'warm button' and you can cycle through the options of 90°, 80°, 70°, and 40° C. There aren't any Fahrenheit markings. The keep warm settings automatically shuts off after 6 hours (you can't choose the amount of time) but I did find that if I removed the kettle from the plate and replaced it while in the keep warm mode this seemed to 'reset' the clock and it would keep warm for an additional 6 hours after replacing the kettle on the heating coil. If the kettle is dry or close to empty, you don't want the hot plate on for this long as its a fire risk so you should turn off the keep warm mode.

A quick note about maintenance, my kettle tends to pick up 'rainbow' spots on the inside of the stainless steel base over time. This discoloration is scaling from mineral deposits if you have hard water and can build up each time you boil water. It is easy to remove though with a few drops of lemon juice. Just rub the lemon juice into the spots and allow to sit for 30 seconds before wiping it up, and I found that the spots are easily removed. I do this about once a week since I use the kettle often.

Overall, the kettle works great. It boils a lot of water quickly and can keep it at a specified temperature for a decently long period of time. It's also safe to touch the outside of the kettle (plastic portion only, it's all glass near the top) even after it reaches boiling temperature.

Buy it at Amazon: Coctione Electric Water Boiler Kettle [Affiliate Link]
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GoolRC T47 Foldable Drone w/Gravity Remote Control Review

GoolRC T47 Foldable Drone w/Gravity Remote Control Review

Buy it at Amazon: GoolRC T47 Foldable Drone w/Gravity Remote Control [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Compact/portable, easy gravity controls, stable hovering, but short battery life.

You'll receive the drone in a rigid clamshell case. Inside you'll find the drone, a remote controller, a USB charging cable, and two re-chargeable batteries. You'll also receive an instruction manual. The drone is small and lightweight measuring 5.5"L x 2.75"W x 1"H when folded up. The fan blades fold out from the sides and the footprint is 8"W x 7"L. On top is a single power button for turning the drone on and off. On the bottom is the battery bay which simply gets seated in the compartment and slid up until it locks. There's also a 720p camera on the front that is adjustable up to 90 degrees.

The remote control requires 2 AAA batteries which are not included. The controls are interesting because they are gravity sensing and you control the panning of the drone by tilting your hand forward, back, left or right. Starting up the drone was a bit tricky, though once you get the sequence down is quick. Pressing up/down on the joystick will cause the drone to rise/descend and left and right rotates the drone. The bottom button on the remote is the emergency stop which kills the rotors. Be careful when doing this as the drone will drop out of the sky like a stone. The left button toggles on and off the front and back lights. The trigger button in the front changes the speed/power mode level from low to medium to high. The top button enters the drone into headless mode and the remote will beep while the lights on the drone flash to let you know when you're in this mode. Although it took a little getting used to, I actually like it a lot better than the traditional two joystick remote control as it's a bit more intuitive.

The other way you can control the drone is using the GoolRC mobile app. After turning on the drone, go into the phone's WiFi settings and connect to the UAV wireless network. Then launch the app and click connect. The drone's camera feed should show on your phone's screen. The virtual joysticks work just like a regular dual joystick remote. The camera and video buttons in the app activate the camera shutter for taking photos and movies and you can also perform 360 flips in the app, features that are not on the gravity remote. If you want to get all the features out of the drone, you'll have to use the mobile app but even without the camera features and 360 flip, flying with the gravity remote is pretty fun too. I also really like that it folds up compactly, is very stable during flight, and easy to get a hang of.

Buy it at Amazon: GoolRC T47 Foldable Drone w/Gravity Remote Control [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Elixir Popup Garden Bag Review

The Elixir Popup Garden Bag Review

Buy it at Amazon: The Elixir Popup Garden Bag [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Folds compactly for storage, thin, lightweight fabric for light-duty uses

The pop up bag arrives flattened and consists of a large wire spring wrapped in polyester fabric. On the bottom of it are two Velcro tabs that hold the bin closed and once undone the bag will automatically expand to full size. The inside of the bag is lined with a PVC plastic layer that is a bit more durable than the outer fabric and supposed to be water and mildew resistant giving it a somewhat stiff texture.

The diameter of the bag is about 16" and only a few inches tall when flattened. At the full height it is 17" tall which comes just about up to my knee. There are handles on either side of the bag for carrying and the bag itself is very lightweight. The bag can be used in a variety of ways, for example, as a laundry hamper, recycle bin, or of course as a garden debris bag for leaves and grass clippings. The capacity of the bag is 10 gallons, though the weight limit seems to be about 12 or so pounds before the fabric seems to strain. I wouldn't overfill the bag with heavy materials because of the lightweight nature of the fabric and stitching. In fact, one of the things you have to be careful of it to not put sharp objects like broken glass, rocks, sharp sticks, or exposed metal edges in the bag as these could puncture or tear the lining, as I found out fairly quickly. For light garden cleanup of leaves and weeds, this pop-up bag does fine and takes up much less space than a traditional garbage bin and is not as heavy. It also folds up quickly and can be stored compactly. However, because the thin fabric isn't super durable, you should reserve this bag for light duty jobs.

Buy it at Amazon: The Elixir Popup Garden Bag [Affiliate Link]
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PowerExtra NP-FW50 Batteries w/Dual Charger for Sony Cameras Review

PowerExtra NP-FW50 Batteries w/Dual Charger for Sony Cameras Review

Buy it at Amazon: PowerExtra NP-FW50 Batteries w/Dual Charger for Sony Cameras [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Works with Sony a6300, last 30-45 mins each when recording 4K, charge quickly.

You'll receive the dual battery charger, two batteries, and a cleaning cloth. The charger is made of plastic and has two charging bays. They are labeled CH1 and CH2 which correspond to the left and right sides of the LCD display. On the back of the charger is a built-in USB cable to power the unit that stows neatly in the bottom; it measures about 7" long. At the top of the charger is a microUSB input port for use with a longer cable or backup in case the built-in cable fails. It takes a couple hours to charge two batteries fully from completely dead.

Compared with the NP-FW50 battery that came with my Sony a6300, these batteries are physically identical, but the capacity is supposedly higher at 1500 mAh versus the OEM 1020 mAh capacity. However, I didn't find that they last much longer than the OEM battery; I get about 30-45 mins of continuous 4K recording time from each battery. I've been using them daily for a little over a month. For charging, just remember to press the battery all the way into the bay until it clicks. While charging, the LCD lights up and there will be an animation for each battery's progress. When charging is complete, the LED shuts off and the batteries show all four bars. Both the batteries work fine in my Sony a6300 as replacements. These batteries have been really helpful in extending my shooting sessions, and I can charge two batteries (including my OEM one) while shooting with the third.

Buy it at Amazon: PowerExtra NP-FW50 Batteries w/Dual Charger for Sony Cameras [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

WingHome Game Trail Camera Review

WingHome Game Trail Camera Review

Buy it at Amazon: WingHome Game Trail Camera [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Compact, durable, takes clear photos at night and during day, motion capture, long run time.

I was pretty excited to try out this game trail camera as I wanted to use it as an outdoor wildlife/security camera in my backyard. Setting up the camera was easy and straightforward using the 'Setup' mode, Menu key, and menu navigation keys. There are two modes, hunting and security. Hunting only takes photos while security takes photos and video. Both are triggered by the motion sensor and do not record continuously. The unit consists of a plastic waterproof housing that has the camera and controls inside a gasket sealed chamber. You'll also need to install 12 AA batteries inside which are not included with the purchase. However, you can use either Alkaline or re-chargeable Ni-MH batteries. The unit has several mounting options including using the supplied 6 ft nylon strap, a tripod, or another standard 1/4"-20 threaded mounting system. There's a mount hole on the back and at the bottom. I also liked that you have the option to power the camera using a wired DC connection as there is a port on the bottom covered by a rubber door. The camouflage exterior makes it blend into the background when strapped to a tree and the camera triggers silently and without any lights. It accepts a full size SD card up to 32 GB and you can transfer files directly to your computer using the included miniUSB cable.

On front is the camera, a motion sensor, and infrared lights. The infrared lights allow the camera to capture photos and video at night in the darkest of conditions. The images are black and white though and if the subject is very close to the lens, it just shows up as a white shape. It photographs best when the subject is 6 or more feet away. It rained overnight during my first test run with the camera strapped to a tree outside, and the camera is still working great. Overall this camera has all the features that I wanted. It's portable, durable, waterproof, and takes good photos during the day and at night.

Buy it at Amazon: WingHome Game Trail Camera [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, February 12, 2018

Angleizer Template Measuring Ruler Tool Review

Angleizer Template Measuring Ruler Tool Review

Buy it at Amazon: Angleizer Template Measuring Ruler Tool [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Durable metal construction, easy to set/adjust, works well for variety of projects.

The angleizer comes in a microfiber drawstring carrying bag. This tool helps with measuring lengths and angles for different shapes including squares, rectangles, and triangles for a variety of projects. The construction is a little nicer than the typical cheap plastic ones since it is made entirely of metal. The tightening knobs at each juncture are made from a lightweight machined aluminum and the ruler portions are made from black painted steel with high contrast white numbers and markers so you can read the measurements easily. The nice part about that is it won't crack, snap, or rust. The two long sides of the rule can measure out to 10", but have an overall length of 12". The two shorter sides measure out 2-3/8" from center in both directions and have an overall length of 7". Centimeters are also marked on the rulers. It's simple to change the angle and positions of the rules to fit corners and different shapes making it useful for templating and cutting. I use it for wood working, masonry, and tiling, and it works exactly as described.

Buy it at Amazon: Angleizer Template Measuring Ruler Tool [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, February 9, 2018

Paperback Book: I Love It When You Tickle My Pickle

Paperback Book: I Love It When You Tickle My Pickle

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Takeaway: Inspirational/romantic quotes about love w/fun, fill-in-the-blank phrases.

This book is basically a mix between inspirational romantic quotes and a Mad Libs style fill-in-the-blanks of appreciative and loving comments that you can complete to give to you partner. The first page has a spot for to and from followed by 56 pages of quotes, sayings, and fill-in sentences. As the title suggests, you can be as creative, suggestive, or naughty with your statements for humorous or mushy-gushy depending on your audience. While it's designed to be for one partner to fill out for the other, it might be fun to take turns filling out the different quotes together. The fill-ins and quotes aren't always on back-to-back pages and there are more quotes than fill-ins in this book, but there's also plenty of space around the quotes to write, draw, or decorate the pages with your own text and artwork. The pages are rather plain and the last page is completely blank so you can write out a love note or letter to the recipient. You could even go full on scrapbook and paste in photos, add stickers, washi tape, etc. The point is, the book is customize-able however you wish to make a uniquely personal memento. Overall, I think it's a great and fun gift for couples to give to one another or work on together whether for an anniversary, Valentine's day, or just because.

Buy it at Amazon: Paperback Book: I Love It When You Tickle My Pickle [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Non-stick French Bread Baguette Pan Review

Non-stick French Bread Baguette Pan Review

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Takeaway: Lightweight, makes crunchy, airy baguettes, easy to clean.

The baguette bread pan is made of carbon steel alloy and has a non-stick coating. The pan measures 15"W x 13"L x 1"H and has 4 wells that measure 3" across so you can make 4 baguettes at a time. The pan is sturdy and just a little bit flexible, but does not deform easily. The small perforations in the pan allow moisture to escape, so the loaves brown and crisp evenly. This helps give the loaves a light, airy interior and a crunchy crust.

I use a no-knead French baguette recipe which works great with this pan. I'll include it at the end of this review. Since the no-knead dough tends to be quite slack, I line the pan with parchment paper so the dough won't get stuck in the perforations. This works pretty well for me, although you don't get the fine studding on the bottom of the loaves, and you do need to remove the paper a few minutes into the bake so it doesn't burn or prevent moisture from escaping the bottom of the loaf. The baguettes come out fantastic with a nice crunchy crust and light and fluffy inside. The dough doesn't stick to the pan and it cleans up easily with a bit of soap and warm water.

French Baguette Recipe - This recipe makes four small 1-1/2" baguettes or two larger 2-1/2" loaves.
1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1-1/2 cup room temperature water
1-3/4 tsp salt
18 oz All-purpose flour

1. Add all the ingredients to a large mixing bowl, stirring after each addition.
2. Stir the flour in slowly using a wooden spoon until the dough comes together and pulls cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set somewhere warm for 12-16 hours until doubled in volume.
3. The dough will look quite wet at the end of the rise. Flour your work surface generously and dust your hands with flour before turning out the dough on your work surface.
4. Divide the dough into 2 or 4 equal amounts for 2 large or 4 small loaves.
5. Flatten each section into an oval or rectangle.
6. Fold the dough in half lengthwise and press to the seal the edge. Repeat the fold and seal a second time.
7. With the seam side down, roll the of dough into a 15" log and transfer to one of the wells of the baguette pan on a piece of parchment paper.
8. Cover with plastic wrap for 1 1/2 hours and allow to rise.
9. Pre-heat your oven to 450°F.
10. On the bottom of your oven rack, fill a tray or cookie sheet with 3 cups of hot water to create steam in the oven.
11. Just before putting the loaves in the oven, use a razor blade to slash the tops of the dough 3 to 4 times each.
12. Generously spray or brush the tops with warm water. Remove parchment paper 5 minutes into baking and spray the loaves with water again for a crunchier crust.
13. Bake for total of 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top. Allow to cool completely before cutting and serving. Consume within 12 hours for best taste and texture.

Buy it at Amazon: Non-stick French Bread Baguette Pan [Affiliate Link]
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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

PlusMart Inflatable Travel Pillow Review

PlusMart Inflatable Travel Pillow Review

Buy it at Amazon: PlusMart Inflatable Travel Pillow [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Soft, compact, easy to inflate; firm yet comfortable cushion pillow for long trips.

The travel pillow and sleep set come in a soft, microfiber drawstring bag. Inside are an eyemask in another drawstring bag, a set of earplugs in a hard plastic case, and the travel pillow. The pillow is made from the same, velvety plush material as the carrying bag and is smooth and soft to the touch. The eyemask is simpler, a foam pad with elastic band. It measures 9" wide and 3.5" tall. When wearing it, it's lightweight and comfortable once you adjust the tightness of the band. There's just a tiny bit of light bleed on the bottom near the nose pad.

The inflatable pillow is U-shaped and has a large fill nozzle on the top right hand side. It has a built-in air pump in the corner, so you don't have to inflate it by breath. The cap must be open to use the pump and it takes about 60 full presses to inflate fully which only takes a minute. This nozzle has a leak-stop valve that prevents air from escaping the inner tube until you press the release flap down in the middle of the valve. When inflated, the pillow is soft and cushy and easily worn around your neck. It has a neck strap which you use to secure the other side. The pillow provides a soft supportive surface for you to lay your head on or rest your neck while travelling. It's much more comfortable than leaning up against a window, backpack, or someone's shoulder, so you'll be less likely to wake up with a sore neck. When you're done, it deflates quickly and packs up compactly. So far, I haven't had a problem with any leaks, and I've really enjoyed using it on planes and long car trips.

Buy it at Amazon: PlusMart Inflatable Travel Pillow [Affiliate Link]
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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Nonzers iPhone X Tempered Glass Screen Protector Review

Nonzers iPhone X Tempered Glass Screen Protector Review

Buy it at Amazon: Nonzers iPhone X Tempered Glass Screen Protector [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Thin, simple to install, protective and durable.

You'll receive two glass screen protectors and two sets of the application accessories. In the accessories pouch you'll find a microfiber cleaning cloth, an alcohol wipe, and dust and application guide stickers. The glass screen protector is pretty thin and very clear. I wasn't able to scratch the glass surface using a pen or a set of keys which it will probably encouter in a pocket or bag at some point.

Installation is pretty quick using the included accessories. The only trouble I had was getting the guide stickers to stay on the glass when I was using them to "save" the position of the screen before sticking it down. The plastic film on the back of the protector was stuck on pretty tight and pulling it off unseated the guide stickers more than once which was a bit annoying. But, once installed the glass protector performed flawlessly. The glass looks and feels just like the original iPhone screen and fits in most cases that don't already have a built-in screen protector. Just note that it's not an edge-to-edge screen protector and it may leave a bit of a gap between the edge of the glass and the case that you're using. The 3D touch and sensitivity do not appear to be affected at all by this extra layer. There's also a cutout on top to allow interference-free use of the front camera and sensors. When combined with a case, you'll have all-over protection for your iPhone X.

Buy it at Amazon: Nonzers iPhone X Tempered Glass Screen Protector [Affiliate Link]
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Monday, February 5, 2018

Silkworld Cotton Spandex Boxer Briefs Review

Silkworld Cotton Spandex Boxer Briefs Review

Buy it at Amazon: Silkworld Cotton Spandex Boxer Briefs [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Soft, comfy, a little stretchy, long length.

In the 4-pack you'll receive 4 colors: black, navy, light grey, and dark grey. The underwear is a traditional boxer brief cut with 1.25" tall elastic waistband, flat front, and some contouring on the backside. The material is 95% cotton and 5% spandex, so it has a soft, smooth feel that is somewhat stretchy like athletic wear, but not as slippery. The front pouch has a pass-through fly and the inseam on the boxers are a generous 4.5". The seams inside the underwear are few to maximize comfort and are soft to the touch.

I got the small size and it's a tiny bit loose on my waist. For reference I have a 28" waist and weigh 125 lbs. It's secure, but not snug. They come down to a few inches above the knee and sit fairly high on my waist. These boxers are comfortable, light, and form-fitting. The fabric feels smooth against the skin and allows for plenty of movement without bunching up. While not flashy in any sense, they have a clean, classic look and are great for every day wear.

Buy it at Amazon: Silkworld Cotton Spandex Boxer Briefs [Affiliate Link]
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Friday, February 2, 2018

Swagtron T8 Hoverboard Review

Swagtron T8 Hoverboard Review

Buy it at Amazon: Swagtron T8 Hoverboard [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Great for beginners/first-timers, max weight too low for some adults, moderate speed, easy to use.

You'll receive the hoverboard, AC power adapter, and an instruction manual. The manual has a lot of safety do's and don'ts so it's worth a read to familiarize yourself with how this particular unit works: the manual is illustrated and uses proper English grammar, spelling, and punctuation. The hoverboard is a single unit with a pivot joint in the middle so each half articulates independently about 10 degrees. The board measures 25"L x 6"W x 6"H. The body of the hoverboard is metal and since it has a lead-acid battery, the weight is fairly heavy at 26 lbs. The wheels on the hoverboard are solid rubber and compact. They feature brushed aluminum hub caps and are suitable for indoor and outdoor use.

On each rubberized footpad is a raised sensor switch that you have to step on for the hoverboard to detect you. In the middle is the logo printed on the metal housing. On the front edge you have the charging port, status LED, and power button. The charging port is protected by a small rubber door and uses a proprietary 2 prong connector, so if you lose the power adapter you'll have to get a replacement from the manufacturer. This board has a self-balancing feature that is 'on' by default. After you turn the unit on, it will balance itself to remain upright. If using this mode, it's best to stay on relatively flat and stable smooth surfaces during your ride. Self-balancing can be turned off by quickly pressing the power button once during startup. Out of the box, I did need to reset the balance calibration since the board appeared to be stabilizing weirdly. It's easy though and you just have to hold down the power button for a few extra seconds after balancing with a bubble level and turning the unit on.

Getting on the hoverboard for the first time wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. While I did feel a little shaky my first time, I felt reasonably safe and never once fell off the board. To move, you have to lean slightly forward/back, left, or right (for turning). In general it's not so much leaning as it is tiny shifts in your weight in any direction and after a few minutes controlling the board felt natural and straightforward. The minimum weight of the rider is 44 lbs and the max weight limit is 200 lbs, so for some adults this board may not be able to support their weight. There are also other restrictions like using it only in weather between 32°F and 104°F and avoiding overly rough terrain and sticking to relatively flat surfaces.

I've used the board indoors and outdoors and as long as you have smooth, even surfaces to ride on like concrete, cement, hardwood etc. the board performs really well and feels very smooth. On natural terrain like dirt, grass, and gravel the board had more difficulty picking up speed, navigating the uneven surfaces, and made me feel like I had less control. Uneven or wavy asphalt also gave me a bit of trouble. Although the hoverboard can go up to 7 mph, I haven't yet gotten anywhere close to that speed. While a 30 degree incline may sound like it's pretty steep, it's actually a pretty gentle slope so be aware that the hoverboard will struggle to travel up even a slight hill. On a full charge, the hoverboard has a range of about 5.5 miles, and it take 4-5 hours to charge the battery fully. Thankfully, the lead-acid battery, like those found in your car, are less likely to explode or catch fire, but you still don't want to leave the unit charging unattended or overnight.

Overall, the hoverboard is pretty fun and not at all hard to get a hang of. Since I haven't been traveling very fast on it yet, I can't vouch for it as a transportation device. Especially since it might be a little bit of a challenge to find locations where you can use it with perfectly suitable terrain but smooth paved walkways, bike trails, and parking lots seem to be good venues for having a bit of fun on one of these. The one problem with it being used for commuting though is that it's pretty heavy, so you'll need to plan for how you'll be able to park or carry it around when you're not riding it.

Buy it at Amazon: Swagtron T8 Hoverboard [Affiliate Link]
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Vava Egg Shaped Kids Baby Night Light Review

Vava Egg Shaped Kids Baby Night Light Review

Buy it at Amazon: Vava Egg Shaped Kids Baby Night Light [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Cute nightlight, several modes, good range of brightness level/color temps, long run-time.

You'll receive the light, a microUSB charging cable, a small metal carabiner, and an instruction manual. This light is cutely egg-shaped and is made of plastic with a solid white base and a translucent white top. On the front you have the Vava logo and a small indicator LED and on the back you have the charging port hidden behind a rubber door. The unit takes about 5 hours to fully charge and the LED blinks blue quickly while charging. Once fully charged can last for up to 80 hours or about 10 consecutive nights at 8 hours each. What's nice about this night light is that once it is charged, it is portable and can be placed in different rooms and doesn't need to be near an outlet. It's also IP65 water resistant rated and is able to get wet.

On the bottom is the power button and rubber ring for hanging or carrying. To change the brightness of the light, tap and hold the top of the egg. The first touch will brighten while the second darkens. When the light reaches the desired brightness, just lift your hand. To change the color temperature of the light, tap and hold the logo on the front and it will change from a bright bluish white to a warm orangey yellow. Again, let go at the desired color. For both the brightness and color temp, the changes are quick so you don't have a lot of time to decide when to lift your hand/finger. You can put the light in standby (off) by tapping the top twice. The status light will be blinking blue to let you know you can wake the light by double tapping the top. If the unit is running low on battery the LED will slowly blink red.

There are a few "flashlight" modes for this light too. After the unit is powered on, short press the power button to switch the light to full brightness. In flashlight mode, the color temperature and brightness adjustments are disabled. A second click of the power button dims it to 50% brightness, a third press goes to 10%, and a 4th press puts it in a flashing emergency mode. To exit flashlight modes, double tap the top to return to regular operation.

Overall, this nightlight is pretty versatile. You can choose a range of brightness levels and color temperatures to suit your needs, it's portable and has a long battery life, and you can use it as a flashlight in a pinch.

Buy it at Amazon: Vava Egg Shaped Kids Baby Night Light [Affiliate Link]
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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Xgody D22 Android Smartphone Review

Xgody D22 Android Smartphone Review

Buy it at Amazon: Xgody D22 Android Smartphone [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: A decent budget phone for travel, doesn't have all the latest features, but it works fine.

In the package, you'll receive the smartphone, tempered glass screen protector, clear silicone skin, microUSB cable, power adapter, SIM card pin, instruction manual, and optional microSD card (I purchased the version that included the extra 16 GB card). The phone is made with a brushed aluminum housing and has some pretty sharp, though beveled, edges like the older generation iPhone 5 and 6. The size is similar to an iPhone Plus. It comes with a PET plastic film protector pre-installed, so if you want to use the glass screen protector, you should remove the entire plastic film screen protector rather than install over it. This phone does not have a remove-able battery, and it measures 3"W x 6"L x just over ¼" thick. The phone weighs 5.5 oz and the SIM and SDcard are loaded in the tray on the right hand side that pops out when you insert the SIM pin tool. This phone is compatible with GSM networks like AT&T and T-mobile but not CDMA like Verizon.

On the back is a 13 MP camera, flash, and fingerprint scanner. The rear camera has better than expected quality for a budget smartphone and the front camera which is 5 MP was serviceable for video chat/calls like Facetime, Hangouts, Messenger, and Skype. The phone charges via microUSB which I found to be a bit slow and the charger that comes with the phone tends to get really hot while charging. The Android 7.0 Nougat interface appears to be custom, or at least custom skinned. The size of the view-able screen is just under 5.5" and it is nice and bright but only has a 720p resolution. While this counts as HD, it's not as crisp as current generation flagship phones with 1080p or higher resolution displays. Even so, reading text isn't difficult and watching video in 720p is suitable. The external speaker on the bottom is adequate but not amazing. It doesn't get that loud and distorts at higher volumes. For a better listening experience, I recommend headphones or an external speaker for playing music and watching video.

The phone has 12 GB of usable internal memory (out of the advertised 16GB) and about 1 GB is used by the OS out of the box. However, by installing an SD card you can add up to 32 GB more storage space. With the 2RB RAM and Quadcore 1.3 GHz processor, launching most apps, video playback, and browsing the internet is quick and responsive. Sometimes there's a bit of lag when tapping on icons before an app launches and other times soft taps go unregistered so I found that firm presses are required in most cases. Call quality is decent and callers didn't have any trouble hearing me on voice/video calls. The battery life is so-so and you'll get 5-6 hours of screen on time on a full charge which you can stretch by dropping the brightness a little. The fingerprint unlock did work fine after registering several fingers and was a nice security feature, even though it requires a less secure backup method like pin, password, or pattern.

I use this phone as a backup device for international travel because I don't like to carry around my primary phone with all my stuff on it. It works great for that because it's unlocked and not too expensive if it gets lost, stolen, or damaged. It does enough of the features I need it to without distracting me from my actual vacation.

Buy it at Amazon: Xgody D22 Android Smartphone [Affiliate Link]
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