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

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

Thursday, 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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